The 1st Pitch

On Sunday, I had both a life-affirming and a life-changing moment. I went to the Cincinnati Reds game to see a dear friend throw out the 1st pitch. Now, if you’re a sports fan at all, this is a bucket list item for most men. We grow up watching games and fantasize about taking the mound in front of a packed stadium waiting to “bring it” with a strike right across the plate.

Getting to see a friend have this opportunity would have been reason enough to go to the game. The story about the amazing man and his current situation makes it even more substantial. John and I have known each other for several years. Our kids are all around the same age, and we saw each other at school events from elementary school through high school. We were both also adult leaders in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Two of his sons were in the Troop where I was Scoutmaster for a few years and I loved seeing them and getting to spend time with John. On top of our paths crossing at school and scouting, John’s family lives a few blocks away from me. We’d see each other wandering around the streets on neighborhood walks and make sure to catch up every time.

John and I are also connected by two other important facets of our lives. We are both men of faith and we have shared how that is a driver of who we are as humans because it easily melded with our shared profession. You see, John and I are peers who both work in HR.

So, when I received the sobering news in 2022 that my friend had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), I was floored. It was hard for me to come to terms with this because John is one of the most approachable, friendly, encouraging, thoughtful, funny, and loving people I know. To receive the news of having a terminal disease ran contrary to the life that John willingly exudes with all he encounters.

The game on Sunday was to recognize Lou Gehrig Day throughout Major League Baseball. John shared several months ago that he was going to be the person throwing out the 1st pitch on this day. Everyone in the neighborhood who knows the family made plans to make sure they were there to watch and support John. A few weeks ago, John posted that his legs had been weakening as his condition progressed. I was wondering and praying that he’d be healthy enough to complete his dream.

As I entered the stadium with my daughter and family friends, Melanie said,
“There’s Mr. Barlow !!” I looked over and saw Ann and the kids (now adults) all huddled together and John in his wheelchair. I left my crew to go over in the hope of seeing him. I caught Ann’s attention first and gave her a rich hug. I worked over to John and his face lit up, as it does with everyone, when he saw me.

“Steve !! Just a second.” He slowly reached down and folded the footrest up and he stood. His arms spread wide and we embraced deeply and held each other. He leaned back and said, “I love you. You need to know that.”

I told him I loved him too, and how glad I was to see him and be there for the big event. He told me his plan was to shake off the sign that his son Thomas was going to give him before throwing his pitch. I told him that was perfect and I couldn’t wait to see it. John thanked me for coming and even said, “I knew you’d be here.”

I grabbed his hand tightly one more time, walked away, and wept. He didn’t see it and I know he wouldn’t have minded if he did. John has seen me weep often when talking about, or with, people I care for. My daughter knew I was going to be emotional. We went down to our seats and had a first-row view of John.

The stadium announcer gave a warm introduction of John and his family and he eagerly drove his wheelchair up to the top of the pitcher’s mound with two of his three sons. His third son took his place as catcher. The crowd was on their feet cheering with all they had. John stood, bent over to get his sign, shook it off, stood mightily, and threw the pitch. It made its way to home plate and was spot on. The cheers were resounding even louder for him after the pitch !!

He made his way off the field and the first thing he did was hug his wife Ann. He waved to the friends and family who came to see him succeed. The whole scenario couldn’t have been more perfect.

We stayed for the game and the Reds lost to the dreaded Cubs, but that didn’t seem to matter. Being there for my friend did.

John doesn’t know how many more days he’ll have of good health or even life. Honestly, neither do we. We do, however, have the ability to choose how we will face this life for the time we have it. I want to choose life as John has. In the midst of all he’s facing, he is upfront with his faith, present for his family, shares gratitude for every experience he has, and looks for the best in everyone. It’s not a show or an act. It’s who he is.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, today was life-affirming because of the time I had to talk with my dear friend before his adventure. It was also life-changing because it gave me perspective on how life can be full, rich, meaningful, and unapologetically filled with love and joy.

May that be true for anyone who reads this. Embrace life. Embrace each other. Weep at times. Laugh always. Each day has meaning. Make that happen on purpose and take the mound !!

I Still Haven’t Found . . .

If you didn’t know, I’m a gigantic fan of the band U2. I have been following them since their beginning and have all their music including some rare bootleg CDs. When they first came out it coincided with the end of my high school and the beginning of my university years. Right after I graduated from college, their seminal album The Joshua Tree came out. It was full of hit singles including the hypnotic – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

The lyrics depict someone who continues to search for love, faith, and meaning in their lives. No matter what they attain, they remain in a searching mode. There seems to be an endless yearning that can never be filled. It’s an eerie reflection of the majority of people I know. There never seems to be a plateau or a sense of contentment. That is concerning.

I’m a person who is at peace most of the time. Sure, I experience uncertainty, challenges, frustrations, and disappointments. That doesn’t change my level of contentment. That’s because there are also endless opportunities, people to meet, and adventures to take. I like that life is complicated and unpredictable. You could say that I’m content with the ebbs and flows of what each day brings.

This past weekend I woke up early in the morning and drove up to hang out with my daughter. No agenda. No plan. We both love coffee shops and she took me to one I’ve been wanting to try. It’s a one-minute drive from her house. It was wonderful !! We enjoyed coffee, pastries, and unhurried conversation. After that, we ventured to visit the NCAA Museum in downtown Indianapolis. It was fun and we even got to check out our vertical leap !! (Let’s just say we didn’t set records.)

We then went to check out cool shops in the Fountain Square neighborhood including a sweet vinyl record store. Lunch was still on the horizon and she took me to a diner known for its sublime, greasy double cheeseburgers !! The decor was straight from the 1950’s and they still only accept cash payments. As we enjoyed our burgers, we people watched and listened to the murmur of great interactions at the other tables throughout the restaurant. To help digest our massive intake, we decided to walk around another neighborhood which happened to have another vinyl store !!

As if this wasn’t enough to fill our day, Melanie took me to a local brewery where we enjoyed an adult beverage. One half of the establishment was a bar/restaurant and the other half was where you could throw axes for fun !! We love checking out craft beer options and I found a gem by getting a Circus Peanut flavored brew. It was amazing. We were winding down and we decided to head back to her place just to hang out and watch some college basketball.

On the surface, there’s nothing overly unique about our day. However, how cool is it that my daughter still likes to just hang out with her dad? How wonderful is it that we had time just to talk about life and see how each other are doing? Playing together, walking for miles, stepping in and out of local shops and exploring off the beaten path locations. Nothing planned. Everything gained.

You see, the reason I’ve found what I’m looking for is that I cherish the time I have with other people. You never know what’s going to happen or be discussed. Each interaction is a chance to learn something new or work through a situation. It’s all in how you frame life. I’m content and still eager to see what lies ahead.

How about you ??

For some inspiration as you reflect, here’s the incredible song to get you started.

What’s Next ??!!

This Wednesday is the next milestone I am fortunate enough to experience in this journey we call “life.” I’m turning the clock over to another decade !! Now, I understand that aging isn’t exactly an accomplishment. Time moves forward whether we want it to or not. However, in my family line reaching 60 is an accomplishment !!

My biological father passed away at age 26. His brother passed away in his early 40’s and his other brother made it to his late 60’s. Therefore, I am truly grateful when I get to start yet another year roaming the planet.

What does the next decade hold? I honestly don’t know, and I’m comfortable with things being unknown. I’m relatively healthy and active. Work has never been this exciting, robust, and creative !! My wife and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage in October, and our adults are successful as they learn how to live their lives and careers.

I’ve never been a person who had to have the next steps of life planned out or predetermined. The truth is when things are overly scheduled and structured, I get a bit itchy. I am far more comfortable with spontaneity and going with the flow of whatever presents itself. Ironically, my approach to life makes my wife itchy. That’s one of the many reasons we’ve been successful as a couple. We balance each other in almost every aspect of our lives together.

I do know this. I am going to continue to look forward to what’s next. I do this with anticipation, curiosity, joy, and positivity. I don’t really see another option. I know that I’ll meet new people in the coming years. I know that I’ll get to visit and explore different areas of the world, and I hope to get to meet and connect with more HR peers. I’m sure that I’ll make that transition from work to retirement sooner rather than later. That only means new adventures are just around the corner.

I know these exciting opportunities will present themselves because in looking back over my prior 59 years, I cherish the amazing things that have already happened. I never thought I’d ever be an author growing up, and now I’ve written three books. I could never have imagined speaking in front of any group, and yet I’ve taken the stage to speak to thousands of people. I never anticipated I’d find the love of my life and be blessed with two amazing kids. And yet, we continue to enjoy each other as time marches ahead.

I couldn’t have understood that I was led into the field of Human Resources which has fit me like a glove for my entire career. I’ve been fortunate to connect with peers from every type and size of industry around the globe. Literally !! I’ve had the opportunity to work with and impact thousands of employees for 37+ years. How amazing is that?

Not one of these experiences was part of a wish list or a vision board. (remember those?) I also don’t think that my life is a series of happenstance. I’m a man of faith and I trust that whatever comes throughout my life happened on purpose.

So, what’s next ?? I’m not sure, but I’m geeked to see how it all plays out.

The Sun Still Rises

This Thanksgiving my wife, mother, and I visited my brother Mark in Knoxville, Tennessee. My sister-in-law Kathi’s parents also joined in as well as my three nephews and their families. It was a joy to be able to hang out together for a few days.

My brother and I have always been close. We are both tall, have a boisterous laugh, and we love being together. I cherished it when we lived closer to each other because we would make time to see one another. The moment we embraced this past week, it instantly melted the distance and miles away. It was just a few minutes before we started cracking up with laughter.

My brother has been very successful personally and professionally. I’ve always been proud of all he’s accomplished. As many similarities as we have, there is one difference that stands out. I’ve lived in the same house with my immediate family since 1991. My brother has not. His jobs have taken him all over the Midwest and the South. Most recently, he left the confines of suburbia to move to the country and land on a sprawling 10-acre plot.

It’s a wonderful piece of land that has boundaries of trees around three sides. You can wander for hours and hours in the woods and get lost in your thoughts. He and Kathi were intentional in clearing the land to have an unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. It’s truly breathtaking. One of the daily highlights of this view is how the sunrise occurs.

I made sure to wake up early every day to go out to the back porch to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, read my Bible, and practice my German. The additional benefit was that I was greeted by the sun rising magnificently over the mountains. The light first started by changing the hue of the sky. Brilliant colors shot across the horizon, and it’s as if a switch was then flipped on as the sun broke over the mountains in the distance.

I took pictures each morning so I could capture what I saw, and refer to them after I left. I wanted the reminder because I think we need to remember the sun still rises every day.

Too often, we are consumed with every possible distraction that frames our basic day. We get buried by so many things we forget to look up. We miss the awe of what a sunrise brings. How would your day go if the first thing you did was have your breath taken away? I think it would be drastically better !!

We also have an opportunity to be a sunrise for others. If they missed the light breaking over the horizon, then we could provide that spark that breaks through any darkness or despair threatening to swallow them. We can’t afford to forget the daily sunrise. We just can’t.

This week pause before rushing out the door or heading to your laptop. You have the time. You truly do. Start the day looking up toward the horizon. Take a deep breath and start your day with awe. It’s worth the time to remember the sun still rises.

A Bag of Apples

I’m a greeter. Always have been since I can remember. I grew up in a small town in Ohio where I saw my mom and dad greet every person by name. When I’d go to school or walk uptown, I would greet almost everyone because that’s what you did. If anyone ever drove by, you’d give them a wave whether you knew them or not.

Heading to college, I made sure to dive in to meet my classmates in my dorm and most of my classes if they were willing to let me. When I was a college senior, my friends hated walking to and from class with me because it would take extra time since I’d say “Hi !!” to everyone including their name. Entering the world of work, I tried to incorporate this practice but found that people became more resistant to this. There was this sense that you greeted people IF you had business to do with each other or to be polite. This led to the pit of casually greeting people without really meaning it.

I struggled because I didn’t see the point of the drive-by greeting. It was, and still is, vapid and insincere. I could tell people were thinking of other things that were “far more important” than greeting one another. For a while, I was a bit forlorn of the work and adult world being so comfortable with being impersonal. Only for a while. I decided after about a month in my first job to be intentional about greeting once again and I haven’t stopped since – 37+ years later.

In fact, I doubled down on this habit. I did all I could to meet folks, remember their name, and then make sure to touch base with them every time our paths crossed at work. I wasn’t quite fulfilled so I started volunteering at the Cincinnati Zoo with a group of wonderful humans called the Young Friends of the Zoo. I stepped up to be the chair of the group’s primary fundraiser at my first meeting with one catch. I wanted to give an announcement at each meeting about our efforts and then meet everyone who attended. I met my future wife at this group who, by the way, thought it was annoying that I wanted to meet everyone. She would avoid me on purpose, but I wore her down and I’m grateful I did !!

I took my greeting mission to the HR Roundtable I began facilitating 23 years ago. I would stand outside to greet each person who chose to attend get to know them, and thank them for making the time. This transferred to the HR chapter when I started going there and stepped into leadership. I continue to expand my greeting initiative whenever I go to HR conferences locally, regionally, at State events, and of course at the massive Annual Conference.

I’ve also been greeting at my church over this same time because my bucket is never filled. There’s always a new face to meet. What’s intriguing is to see people’s reactions when they know they’re truly noticed and acknowledged and that someone is geeked to see them. It’s a joy to make a genuine connection. You don’t know how it lands with those I greet, but that doesn’t deter me.

Then, there’s this weekend. There’s a girl at my church who I’ve known since she was very young and now she’s nearing middle school. Her name is Avalee and she is always bashful and shy when she comes to the door. I make sure she especially gets a greeting !! She’s intelligent, a burgeoning swimmer, and has a big heart. She came up to the door and handed me a brown lunch bag that was ornately decorated and bursting at the seams.

“What’s this?” I asked. “We went to an apple orchard yesterday, and I picked these for you,” she replied. I was speechless. I thanked her as she went past me with her ever-present Mom and Grandmother. I was floored by her simple gesture. I was making sure her family was cordially greeted, and she broke through with an unexpected return.

It’s that simple.

We are surrounded by a sea of humanity each and every day. If I had to guess, we either feel people are in the way of the task we have our mind set on or we feel that greeting each other is a polite nuisance. How sad is that?

I know I’m wired this way and I’m not expecting others to mimic my overt sense of wanting to meet every person possible. However, you can slow down and understand that the people around you are there for a reason. Your simple greeting could lead to a loving gesture. It may leave a lasting impression or be one spark of light that is needed to break through just at the right time. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place? I know it would and I hope you give it a try !!

A Blank Page

I remember having a conversation over 15 years ago with a friend who encouraged me to take my HR Net forum which was driven by emails and develop a thing called a “blog.” I researched what he suggested and felt my approach was fine, so I didn’t pursue it. Little did I know that four years later I would have a blog myself that I’ve enjoyed writing for 11+ years now.

My wife and I were driving back today from a gathering with family friends after watching my beloved Cincinnati Bengals open the 2023-24 NFL season poorly. She asked, “Are you going to write something tonight?” I responded, “I’m not sure what to say.” That was the truth. No keen idea came to mind. Work has been full lately with the normal challenges one faces day to day. Nothing seemed to stand out or felt significant. I hadn’t had any “aha” experiences that jostled any creative juices.

I faced a blank page.

When you write on a regular basis, a blank page can be either a friend or an enemy. You want to share something that is inspirational, life-changing, and memorable. However, you see an open white page daring you to type the first word. It can make you freeze, halt, and even become discouraged. It’s more than having writer’s block. It’s as if the page stares back at you mockingly knowing it’s going to win. Keeping you silent will give the page another victory and keep any form, thought, notion, or idea locked away yet again. Life continues its normal set of interactions. Nothing fresh is shared. Ugh.

However, a blank page is also an opportunity to just toss something out to be considered. It may not necessarily be a new idea or something earth-shattering. But, once it’s typed it can be read. Once it’s read, it can cause whoever reads it to take it in, question it, agree with what’s presented, or challenge it. The thoughts are no longer hidden or in the shadows. They’re in the open and invite others in.

If we take a blank page as something to work from and create, then we at least have the chance to alter the norm. We give room for the work we do to be altered, tweaked, improved, or dismantled. Getting ideas out into an open forum calls people to give their attention and peak their interest. Filling a blank page may give people the impetus to no longer be stuck, stagnant, or mired in inertia.

I encourage you to not dread the blank pages you face. Instead, see them as a catalyst to unleash what’s flowing in your mind. Take the countless thoughts that pull you in so many ways and get them down on paper or on a screen. If you choose to share them, great. If you don’t, at least they get out and give you space to let the other gems floating in the background a chance to move up and get your attention.

A blank page is a good thing. You never know what is waiting to come forth. It may change the world !!

Fix You

A situation recently occurred that I can’t shake. I share about my family often, and I’m fortunate to have such an amazing, supportive wife and incredible kids. They are well on their adulting ways which is a new parenting adventure itself. It’s wonderful to take the steps of life together including the highs and lows, the joys and challenges.

Our son lives in the greater San Diego area while my wife and I are in Ohio. Having him thousands of miles away has its downside because it would be great to see him in person more easily and often. However, I’m also geeked he is in a place where he can stretch boundaries and make a life for himself. One thing Josh won’t readily admit is that he and I are more alike than not. He is creative, emotional, passionate, and talkative and struggles when he feels confined by authority (just like the author of this post).

We have an agreement that if he ever feels like he’s going to lose it, I’m his first call before he reacts. Please don’t think he’s ready to pop at any random moment. Sometimes, the emotions just build up and I’d rather be a safe outlet than have that release be detrimental to him or others. I’m proud of him and love him more than I can express. So, if I get a call that doesn’t quite fit my time zone but it fits his, I pick up the phone.

A few weeks ago that happened. He called me as both his Dad and his HR counsel. His work situation isn’t good. He works for a branch of a nationally known bank for a difficult manager. Please understand every time we talk about his work environment, I make sure to talk about what he’s facing AND his part in it. It’s too easy to have him, or someone at work, just complain about their supervisor. Everyone does this to some extent at some time. You need to make sure to see if there is an issue or if it’s a mismatch of styles and approaches.

In his current job, he’s hit both. The branch has the highest turnover of all branches for people in his role. He has stuck with them through all of this and has the most tenure even though it’s only a little over one year. I won’t go into details of why I received his call because he’s going to work through it – as he should personally and professionally.

The part of the conversation that broke me was that he was two words into the call, “Hi Dad . . .” when he burst into tears. The kind of crying where you can’t catch your breath. I felt helpless sitting at my desk knowing I couldn’t get to him and embrace him for comfort.

“You told me to call you. I don’t want to f&*#ing go back to work. I just don’t. I can’t take it anymore,” he was able to get out between the sobs.

“You don’t have to. You can walk out. I don’t know that you should, but you have that ability. Before you do that, tell me what’s going on,” I inquired.

Fifteen minutes later, we landed in a good place and he went back to work. Even though the call was so emotionally charged, I was grateful he reached out to me first. I got another call a few weeks later because of another incident. He shared what happened and we went through more time together calmly so he could continue to move forward. I’m not sure where this will land, but I hope he leaves this situation with a challenging manager to find another opportunity where he can apply himself. I know it’s just around the corner if he takes the first step.

No one wants to see their children struggle. Life is tough. It will have struggles. No one is exempt from this. You wonder if you’re making enough of a difference and an impact to make sure they know they are loved and supported. Not just with words, but with actions and behavior.

I share this story because I know I go to work with a multitude of others who are also working through “life” in various ways. It may involve children, parents, finances, decisions, disappointments, etc. Regardless of what is in front of everyone, they bring what they’re facing to their jobs. They do their best to put those interactions aside to focus on their work. Most of us mask things enough as to not let others in because we don’t want to burden them with our “stuff.” I get that. However, to be flippant, ignorant, or dismissive of what others have going on is unacceptable.

We can’t pretend we’re interested in the well-being or mental health of others if we ignore what people are experiencing. It’s naive and narrow-minded. I’m not going to give you a method, approach, or steps to follow because I don’t have the context and knowledge of the people you’re around. This is only a request for all of us to be more conscientious and aware that the work people do is literally a very, very small portion of their lives. It may be where we interact, but it is strongly influenced and swayed by life’s circumstances.

Just knowing you’re available to genuinely be present for others is enough. It’s a start many long for because too few have that assurance. You need to be that “first call” like I am for Josh for others. It makes a huge difference !!

After the first call, Josh texted my wife and me to thank us for being there for him. He shared a song that he said he plays to remind him of this truth. He said it gets him through because it’s how life has been so far. He knows we are always his “home” even though we’re miles apart. He shared the link in the text and I began to weep. These weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of love and support.

Be there for others. It’s who we are as humans.

Here’s the song from Coldplay . . .

Unhurried Conversations

This past weekend I traveled up the road for two hours to my hometown. I was there to visit my Mom and help her with some tasks. We’re at the stage of life where I’m now the trustee of all her financial decisions. Quick note – my mom is 84 and is in excellent health !! She is far more active than most people I know.

I know whenever I visit there will be places where I can lend a hand. I love doing it and am grateful to have such a healthy relationship with my mom. I’m fortunate to say I have healthy relationships with my extended family. I tend to see more relatives from my mom’s side, but it’s true with my stepdad’s side of the family too. My relatives from my biological dad’s side of the family are scattered all over the globe. We connect every so often and it’s wonderful as well. I don’t take this for granted. I’m well aware of many people who don’t have healthy or strong relationships with those in their lives. It touches my heart and I wish it wasn’t the case for anyone.

Mom and dad have had some rental homes for decades and she’s trying to get them sold now that my dad passed in 2020. So, after signing papers at the local law firm’s office, meeting the new landlords, and signing papers at the local bank, we squeezed in some other errands and items she wanted to be attended to. The entire time I was with my mom we were talking. We talked about the work at hand, my job, my wife’s job, our kids, and life in general.

There has always been an ease in talking with my mom. This is not only true with me and our family, but with every person she encounters. It’s almost as if you feel compelled to share openly with her. No matter who she’s with, they get her full attention and interest. She never states something and then moves on before a response is given. Time seems to stand still for her when it comes to other people. Even though she has the next “thing” to do, the person engaging in a conversation with her would never know it.

The best time where we chat is over meals. There’s a regular cadence of getting the meal ready, saying a prayer over the food and for things happening in our lives, and then we dig in. She may be one of the best cooks on the planet. I know I’m biased, but her home cooking is always on point. We talk and talk even though we know other tasks need to be addressed later in the day. And, of course, you end with a dessert of some sort because she has the most enormous sweet tooth. Saying “no” isn’t even an option.

After a magnificent dinner of Irish Stew, we cleared the table because my aunts and uncles were coming over for the Friday night tradition of playing dominoes. My aunts and uncles are also in their 80s now. They didn’t know I was visiting and there was true joy, warm embraces, and a gentle kiss when we saw each other. I headed into the dining room to start playing when my mom grabbed my arm and said, “We visit first.” So, everyone went to the living room and an unhurried conversation ensued. It was glorious !!

We covered the obligatory “catch-up” items since we don’t see each other regularly. Then we easily transitioned to talking about what was happening in their lives. I was a keen observer who chimed in every so often but spent more time listening and enjoying hearing them share with each other. There was laughter, friendly poking at each other, and also updates on concerns about the health of family and friends. (Remember, they’re in their 80s.)

After about 45 minutes, my mom said, “Well, Steve was hopeful he’d get to join in our weekly dominoes game.” And, it was on !! How cool is it that I got to play a game with my mom and my aunts and uncles? There are 13 rounds in a full game of Mexican Train and I hadn’t laughed so hard during several ooh’s, aah’s and “Why did you play that there Steven?” The game flew by and we ended with the mandatory dessert and coffee. We had cherry pie for Februcherry (insert groan here) and vanilla ice cream.

The unhurried conversation flowed throughout the hours while we played the game. It was a thread keeping everything knit together. The ribbing of who was in what place was also wonderful. I ended up in 4th place out of the six of us and it didn’t matter at all. Having meaningful time with my family was what mattered.

The time at home was a reminder of the value of slowing down, paying attention, and enjoying each word that is spoken and shared. In our world, we spend far too much time sprinting from task to task like a giant pinball. Nothing, and no one, gets our total focus or time because we tell ourselves if we dare to alter our lightspeed life, then our world will fall into utter chaos.

IT JUST ISN’T TRUE !! (and it never has been)

I don’t know how long or how many times I’ll get to see my mom and aunts and uncles over the coming years in the future. I hope there are many more times versus fewer. We’re not guaranteed a certain amount of time on this planet. I wish we were, but it’s a true unknown.

Since that’s our reality, I’m going to be more conscientious and spend my time like I did this weekend. I’ve learned from my mom. I cherish unhurried conversations and do my best to have them with everyone every time we meet. Nothing is more important to me than giving others my time. Nothing.

This week slow down. You can and you should. There is an unhurried conversation waiting for you to initiate or join in. Life is too short to miss these. Be unhurried.

All We Have Is . . .

This past weekend I was back in my hometown of Ada, Ohio. I know I write about this tiny village often and it may seem that I romanticize it at times. I’m good with that. I’ve had far more amazing experiences there than most other places.

You see, a combination of two events collided all at once. The first was the 109th Farmers & Merchants Picnic, the longest consecutively running festival in Ohio. It brings the entire town together at the only park for a full day of activities ranging from an opening parade to people playing Bingo to a tractor pull. The park teemed with people of all ages visiting with each other and taking in everything they could. The weather was a bit cloudy and cool so more people were drawn out to enjoy the picnic.

The second event was my 40th High School reunion !! 40 years.

I graduated as a member of the Class of 1982 from Ada High School. I have fond feelings and memories of my classmates and my time in high school. There were 73 people in my class. I know this is considered small by many, but it was the perfect size for me. It was the kind of school where you could participate in as much as you chose. I was in everything. I mean it. Everything. Clubs, sports, choir, and all things academic. I thought that was normal because many of my classmates did the same things.

Now, when it comes to reunions, many thoughts pass through your head. You wonder who’s going to come. You wonder what people will look like, where they live, what they do, and how they’re doing. I mean it’s been four decades since we graduated !! I know that I’ve had a ton of “life” that has occurred and I’m sure my friends had as well.

I have gone to a few of the 5-year gatherings after graduation, but not all of them. I felt pulled this time to be there . . . and I’m so glad I did.

We met at the house of one of our classmates. She had hosted before and it was just the perfect place because it gave us the chance to be relaxed and informal which fits our class to a tee. We even had a potluck dinner which is a staple of most small towns. Again, an inviting way to reconnect and catch up.

What was even better was that 40 years laid the path for genuine, incredible joy and affection when we saw each other. As each classmate made their way to the patio in the backyard you saw smiles that stretched across each face followed by a long, warm embrace. That was before one word or story was shared. We were just glad to see each other once again.

What we had come to realize is that we all had one thing in common . . . time.

Time is the only connecting fabric of every human life. It can be our friend and our enemy. It can be something we’re blessed with, or it can be cut short. Time, and only time, is our common bond as people.

The question you have to ask is – What do you do with the amount of time you get to experience during your lifetime?

I think my classmates have come to terms with this and it only took 40 years !! We didn’t spend time being comparative. We didn’t spend time judging whether or not someone was “successful.” Instead, we savored every moment we had and listened to all that had happened to each of us since the last time we were together. People shared joys, challenges, and rich anecdotes. Each of us talked about the addition and loss of family members over the years. We also took time to see if we could recall and locate those that weren’t able to come to the reunion. We did this because we missed them and hoped they had been able to join in.

The majority of our time together was filled with laughter. That was perfect because no matter what we had gone through since 1982, joy was where we landed. We committed to staying in touch with each other, and I’m hopeful we do until we meet for our 50th reunion in 10 years.

We all have the opportunity to be mindful of the time we’re given. I hope you have decades and decades of time to share with others. That would be a blessing. But, don’t take it for granted. Don’t wait 40 years to realize that every moment you have can be cherished.

Remember . . . all we have is . . . time.

What’s Stopping You ??

This rainy Sunday gave me some time to jump into another writing exercise. I’ve decided to write another book which would make three for me. I’m anxious and eager at the same time. I don’t take anything for granted in starting this. It’s both exhilarating and daunting because I’m sure I’ll hit some patches where it will get slow and challenging to push through.

Writing a book was not in my line of sight in the past. I was encouraged by several people to give it a shot after doing public speaking at conferences for years. It sounded like an insurmountable challenge and I ignored the suggestions from others. On top of that, internal voices of doubt also kept me from moving forward. I came up with countless excuses of why and how I couldn’t write an entire book.

Finally, one day I took my laptop down to my favorite lunch haunt and told myself that if I could type one chapter of new material, I could write a book. I started typing. The words began to flow from the ideas I had, and then at the end of lunch, I had a chapter. I was geeked to have taken the step to break through my doubts, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Do you have something that’s been nagging for you to accomplish or attempt? I’m sure there is. It doesn’t have to be a book. It could be something monumental or something simple. There’s no set list of what you can do in your life personally or professionally. Too often, however, the same doubt that held me back is the same for others. It takes an intentional effort to break through this wall which will appear to be impossible to do.

The truth is it takes more energy to be inactive than it does to be active.

We believe just the opposite. We convince ourselves that the energy, knowledge, talent, etc. to take the first step is too much. So, we sit and start to have feelings of regret which only piles on our ability to move. Soon we’re stagnant and unsure we can ever reach those accomplishments which had filled our hearts and imagination. As time continues to naturally flow by, we are less and less likely to attempt anything.

Let me encourage you to turn that around !! You see, the only certainty in life is time. We hope we will have decades and decades to live a full life, and I hope that is the case. However, there is no guarantee. Thinking we have endless time ahead of us is a positive way to approach life, but it also gives us a reason to procrastinate. Please note that I live in the hope I have many years ahead of me. There’s nothing at this time to show me that isn’t true.

I just don’t want to live hoping the accomplishments that could be ahead of me will fall into place by themselves. I will never have “enough” time or a big amount of time with nothing pulling at me for my attention. It just isn’t how we experience daily living.

This week pause for just a bit. Reflect and write down those things you would like to accomplish. The list you feel you’ve been unable to get to. If you want to change jobs, what steps do you need to take to make that happen? If you want to make more of an impact in what you do in your current role, who do you need to collaborate with for it to become a reality? If you want to travel to a location you’ve always wanted to see, what budget can you put aside in order to save and reach that destination? If you had people encourage you to write a book . . .

I think you get what I mean. It’s time to quit living in quicksand. It’s time to see what’s stopping you and then see how you can take that first, difficult step. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you do !!