The Art of Giving

This is a time of year when people feel the urge to give to others. I love that this is the case !! I know that the holidays aren’t only about gift-giving. Trust me. At the same time, I appreciate any time people pause to think of others. If the holidays provide an environment for people to be more selfless and less focused on themselves, then I’m in.

I enjoy shopping for my wife because I am so grateful for her and it’s fun to get her something that matters from her wish list. She has traditionally taken care of our kids and does an amazing job. She is always equitable in who gets what and is also thoughtful. Our kids (adults) are older now, so there is less quantity and far more meaningful quality. In fact, my kids have adopted the practice of only getting me gifts that make me weepy. It’s a fairly low threshold, but it’s something I cherish.

At work, we traditionally do food drives, coat drives and pick a charity to support families with felt needs. We give our employees an opportunity to chip in, but there isn’t an expectation of mandatory participation. Inevitably, the giving is overflowing, and the amount of donations is humbling and overwhelming. You hear a general hum of positivity fill the hallways more this time of year and there is less grousing about the challenges of work.

Our exec group has had a practice of giving each other gifts which started years ago. We spend so much time together throughout each year and it’s a cool way to let your co-workers know they’re on your heart. A few people give the same things annually and it’s fun knowing these treats are coming. This past week, however, I was taken aback by two gifts I received.

Quick explanation . . .

I am a GIANT fan of all things Ted Lasso. I love the show and feel it may be the best HR show ever made without directly being about HR. In the show, Ted makes biscuits for his boss every day. So, to get a package of Ted Lasso sayings, a towel with the recipe for the biscuits, AND actual biscuits to try was so wonderful !! (NOTE: The biscuits are sooooooooo delicious. I would recommend you make some yourself. I plan to !!)

The other gift was a print filled with a montage of items from my hometown of Ada, Ohio. If you know me at all, you know that being from Ada means the world to me. I spent the most formative years of school there, and it will always be a place I will be connected to throughout my life.

I wanted you to have more of an explanation of these gifts because they reflect the art of what giving can do. Giving causes us to pause and think of others on purpose. It stops the pattern people have of primarily thinking about themselves and their needs first and foremost. Giving also shows your heart and opens you to be more vulnerable and open with people.

The art of giving should be a pattern of our lives year-round. We are all surrounded by people who have needs. Most need to be given the gift of time and acknowledgment. You can let them know they matter in who they are and what they contribute. Others may want the gift of attention. A time when they receive your entire focus without distraction. No phones, laptops, or screens. You are “there” when they are there.

You will also come across those who may be facing challenges, trials, or periods of a larger need. See how you can step in. You may have resources yourself or you can connect them with others who can lend a hand.

It’s imperative we all learn, and embrace the art of giving. Imagine how our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the world would look if we did !!

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.

M.C. Escher Was Right !!

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Vero Beach, Florida to meet with HR peers at the Treasure Coast HR Association. They were kind enough to gather and let me present a different look at human resources. I cherish any time I get a chance to do this because it gives me an opening to encourage folks who work in the same wonderful industry I do.

I made sure to build in some time to wander in and around Vero Beach for an extra few days. I had never been to the city, and I find it fulfilling to explore and see the areas of the world where I get to speak. I meandered through the shops in the quaint downtown, grabbed lunch at a local sandwich shop, and took a stroll down a boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I made sure to visit other local eateries and a brewery during my visit. The highlight of everything though was a visit to the Vero Beach Museum of Art !!

I do my best to visit art museums in every city I go to. Art fills my soul. To see the expressions of others using various mediums stretches my imagination. The pieces are all interesting in some way. I may not “get” what the artist was trying to capture, but those pieces are intriguing as well. Art isn’t something to agree with. It’s something to learn from.

I was especially geeked because the museum had a special exhibit of the works of Dutch artist, M.C. Escher. You may not recognize his name, but I guarantee you’d recognize his work. Instead of just walking from piece to piece, I was fortunate to join a tour with a docent who took the time to tell us about Escher and how he created his work. It was fascinating !!

I always assumed that Escher drew his compositions. I was absolutely floored to learn that he actually made prints by using wood cuttings and lithographs. The images that he captured he did backward !! It’s hard to grasp because the intricacies and level of detail are mind-blowing. To think he even saw these images in his mind is hard enough to understand. To take those thoughts and then create them in reverse is astonishing. There are no good words and it made me admire his work even more.

The docent took several minutes at a handful of the 160 works on display to help us look deeply at each one. I found myself falling headlong into the prints and ignoring what was going on around me. Escher didn’t consider himself a traditional artist because he felt they focused on beauty. He wanted to bring out “wonder” instead. His earlier work was more conventional while still being amazing capturing the scenery of his time living throughout Italy. As his career progressed, he began to design impossible and infinite works. When you look at them, there is no definite start or finish. They just move eternally.

After the tour ended, I took my time to go back through the exhibition and enjoy every single piece. You see, I think Escher captured the essence of life and work. Each of them are ever-moving, ever-changing continuums. There aren’t discernable starting points or conclusions. Once something is accomplished, it’s already changing into the next iteration.

We don’t recognize this reality because we strive for absolutes. We want things to have a clear start and a finite end. I understand this because we feel it gives work form and function. However, just like Escher’s lithographs and wood cuttings, work is infinite. Even if we try to take a slice out to focus on a portion of what’s in front of us, the movement continues in and around us.

I would encourage each of us to approach our days as if we were inserting ourselves inside an Escher work. Jump into the continuum and move freely to see where it takes you. Quit trying to control every moment of your day and see how the flow of everything is happening all around you. You need to believe me that understanding work is infinite will give you more fulfillment than trying to confine the occurrences in your environment.

I’m grateful I did some exploration in beautiful Vero Beach. I found an example of life’s continuum in an unexpected place. I think Escher would dig that !!

Just Turn It On !!

This month I quietly celebrated a career milestone by passing my 17th anniversary with the same company. I’m grateful beyond words that they took a chance on me so long ago. During my time there, I have been able to grow personally and professionally more than I could ever have imagined.

It started in a very interesting manner though . . .

During their selection process, a peer of mine, who was interviewing for the HR role herself, reached out to me. She told me there was a role she thought I’d be a great fit for. I didn’t know she was being considered. She didn’t tell me. I sent the company resumes of other HR pros I knew and then asked if I could be considered as well. The gentleman who turned out to be my future boss told me, “We were hoping you’d apply.”

My first interview was in a booth in a pizzeria. Kevin asked me how I felt about being in the restaurants and I replied, “Do I even need to go to my desk ??” Evidently, it was the right answer. I came back for a round of second interviews at the corporate office. As I was taken from office to office to meet the various executives, I noticed something. Lava lamps. Many of the offices had them and I started to get giddy.

If you know me at all, I have a handful of quirks. One of them is lava lamps. I have had at least one for over the past 30 years. I dig them and they give me peace because of their simplicity. To see them dotting the offices of people I hoped would be co-workers was a great sign. It was curious though that they were darkened and not doing what they were created for.

I was hired and I brought my ancient, yet reliable, lava lamp with purple goo with me on my first day. Before I even completed the mandatory HR paperwork for new hires, I plugged it in and did something radical . . . I turned it on !!

As people came to visit me in my new place, they noticed the blobs of the lava lamp easily moving up and down. Most of them said, “Cool lamp !!” The ones who had lava lamps in their offices even commented and I shared, “You know, yours can do this too.”

You see, I think lava lamps are reflective of how we see people and what we could do to alter that. When we meet people, we truly don’t take much time to get to know them. The vast majority of our work relationships are kept at a surface level at best. From that shallow vantage point, we make massive judgments about people. Those judgments may not always turn out to be positive either. People aren’t swayed or discouraged by this. It seems that investing time in others is never as important as real “work.”

It’s a shame that we’ve expected this level of shallowness to be the norm of our company culture. If we would do one simple thing and just turn them on, I think we’d see the incredible light, talent, and life each person innately has. We’d see that time invested unlocks who they are as a human and allows them to express themselves through their performance.

I believe in this so much that I give a lava lamp away every time I get to speak at HR and business events. A simple gift to spread the light helps reframe people’s perspectives and how they view others. I “require” people to send me a picture of the lava lamp fully lit in their workplace to make sure they keep the light going. In fact, I just got a note from an HR peer who said she still thinks of me because she received a lava lamp from me 10 years ago !!

If you come to my office now, I have five lava lamps going at all times and another four at home. I don’t feel I could seriously have enough of them (but my wife may disagree.)

This week, stop looking at just the exterior of the people you work with. Know that they’re just waiting for someone to help them flip their switch. Help them do that and be the one who allows their brilliance to shine every day !!

One Good Shot

This weekend I participated in an event I enjoy but don’t do very often. Our church had a golf scramble for anyone who wanted to jump in. I own some golf clubs but they are far from a championship set. I’ve used them for several years when I’m called upon to be in an outing for work, a charity, or just for fun. I’ve gone with some friends for a couple of rounds too, but they are few and far between.

We had four foursomes and my group went first. It included my dear friend Bob and the Rice brothers – Dave and James. My three teammates were more confident and accomplished than I was. I enjoy golf because you get to be outside for several hours mixed with conversations, laughter, and camaraderie. You see, I don’t go golfing with people who are highly competitive or take the game too seriously. That’s not because I don’t think you should approach the game that way, but I know my limitations and I just frustrate those types of players.

It’s been over two years since I pulled out my clubs. I actually took them to the garage and had to brush the dust off of them. I wasn’t even sure I had enough golf balls because I was sure to scatter some off one side of the course or another. I knew the day was going to go well when I discovered a windbreaker that was tucked away in my golf bag that I thought I had lost !! I know that has nothing to do with performing on the course, but it was at least one win for the day.

We did well off the first tee and all four of us had shots that went towards the hole. Then . . .

Let’s just say the remainder of the round was more of an adventure than trying to place among the top teams. If you’re a golfer, the goal is to shoot under par. The winning team shot 6 under par and our team was, well, 12 over par. I wasn’t discouraged though because we spent so much time enjoying being with each other.

There was one other thing that people hope for when they hit the links. On one of the holes where you can get the longest drive, I crushed my tee shot. If faded to the right but landed just on the fringe of the fairway and therefore counted in the contest. I had one good shot. It was the kind of shot that gives you the encouragement to tell yourself you should continue to play golf once again. My massive stroke only lasted for mere moments because a player in the next foursome outdrove me.

Isn’t that astonishing? Is it that simple?

Yes, it is. Having a small success is far more impactful than a series of failures. We focus far more on our shortcomings than our successes and I think we should turn that around. If you have “one good shot,” there’s an opportunity to have another one, then another, and then another.

This week take a look for your small successes and then build on them. At the same time, look for the good shots others make as well. Over time, you’ll see that you are far more accomplished than you ever thought !!

Don’t Be a Gazelle

I grew up watching the fantastic TV show – Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. It was an amazing show because they went around the globe showing the reality of the natural world which I was oblivious to. Mind you, this was long before the personal computer or the internet were even ideas. It was a program we’d watch as a family on a weekly basis.

I remember watching in fascination the life of the African Savannah. The animals ranged from giraffes, elephants, hyenas, cheetahs, and gazelles. There was an episode showing how the cheetahs would hunt for their prey and I was glued to the screen. When the gazelles stayed in their herd, the cats couldn’t attack. There was strength in numbers. Inevitably though, there would be one gazelle innocently eating tall grass without noticing the herd had wandered off leaving them alone.

All of a sudden, the chase was on. The cheetah had been patient, and now it leaped into action. The young gazelle was quick and darted back and forth to elude the cheetah. In the end, it didn’t end well for the gazelle. The cheetah overcame its prey.

The lesson I took away from this was to make sure I was never isolated. I understand the natural interaction of hunter and hunted in the animal kingdom is a matter of survival. These types of chases are going to occur all the time.

Isolation though has become a choice lately. I’ve noticed a crack in the foundation of social media in its various forms. I remember having a conversation with my brother and sister-in-law back in 2007 about joining this new platform called Twitter. They had joined and thought it was something I’d enjoy. I was skeptical and didn’t see the point. I checked it out and decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did because it opened the world of others from my profession I didn’t know even existed.

I also chose to be more visible and active on other platforms including, Linked In, Instagram, and Facebook. Since then, platforms have come and gone. They’ve evolved or devolved as the years have passed. There have been ebbs and flows on each one that have influenced the decision for people to participate in them or not. I remember the period of “shaming” that occurred as well chastising peers for not using social media.

Through it all, I have chosen to remain active. There is one primary reason for this – the people. Please understand when I say this I’m including those who differ from me in their thoughts, content, and approaches to the medium. I also have thousands of people who share some common thread binding us together. It’s like having a global “herd” of connections.

Over the past few years, and especially this year, I’ve seen people choose to drop away from one platform or another. Some have chosen to disconnect altogether. I’m saddened by this and yet understand. No one should be forced to participate in a forum where they feel it runs contrary to their beliefs. Blind conformity is never a good reason to be involved anywhere.

At the same time, I’m concerned because I sense a growing movement of isolation is what is occurring. The robust friendships and connections I’ve built over the years are waning and are possibly going to disappear because we aren’t together on this platform or that. Social media eliminated the barriers of time zones and geography. We could connect with the punch of a Return key on our laptop or phone. The vast majority of people I’ve come to know over the years have been virtual connections. It’s very cool when we’ve had the chance to meet in person and I cherish that. The in-person connections, however, are the exception versus the rule.

I don’t have a solution or a call to action to offer. That isn’t typically how I like to write. I’m hoping that staying the course and doing my best to continue, create and foster connections will stem the tide of people dropping away. I’m not sure it will.

I do know this . . .

We are better together than if we’re isolated.

I want to see people around the world come together to learn from each other, have intentional conversations, and improve the world of work and the world in general. We were created to be together and be a community. The forum doesn’t matter to me. Staying connected does.

I hope you step in with me.

I Wonder . . .

This weekend my wife and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary !! It’s an incredible blessing to have her in my life for all of these years and we look forward to many, many more. My wife has been willing to tag along with me throughout our time together because I have this insatiable need to surround myself with people. You need to understand that this stretches her past her comfort zone on a regular basis. However, she knows that it comes with being tethered to me.

Not only do I enjoy being around others, I like observing how they interact. You can catch snippets of conversations, and I wonder what the rest of their stories are. I am truly intrigued. It’s a genuine interest because I feel there are countless experiences that would be shared. You could learn so much more than you know about how people live, what they believe, how they view the world, and more.

Just this weekend, Debbie and I went to the wedding of a family friend, and the room was filled with a handful of people we knew. The majority of those attending though were strangers. It didn’t inhibit the celebration because the people were tied in some way to either the bride or the groom. While we were at the ceremony taking place in a beautiful center in an expansive park, the park’s grounds were teeming with students taking pictures for homecoming. Another family paraded by decked out in their best apparel for a quinceañera with everyone smiling.

After the ceremony, people milled around for a happy hour and snacks. Dinner followed and the room filled with the noise and clatter of a myriad of conversations happening everywhere. Our table was no different. As I was engaged with the familiar friends in our assigned seats, I tried to capture what was happening around me. I wondered what was being shared.

You see, I believe in people and feel every single person has something to offer. I’m sure of it. I don’t feel there are those who are boring or not worth my time. And, when you stop and think about it, there are far more people you don’t know versus those that you do. Our circle of humans is not as vast as we think. We all have a capacity of how many relationships we can manage and interact with and that’s normal. It’s not possible to know everyone. However, the world is filled with people I’m eager to meet.

We have an opportunity to expand our reach to those we know by making sure that those we work with are not isolated or untethered. They can be assured they’re connected to you as at least one person in that environment. At the same time, when you have chance encounters with new people, pause and take time to chat. Make the time to see who they are. Be an unexpected connection. You never know where it will lead.

I plan to continue to observe people and connect when I can. There are so many humans to meet. It will be fascinating to see what happens. I wonder . . .

Become a Lead Singer !!

A few weeks ago one of my best friends and I saw a fave band of mine from the early 2000’s – CAKE. They played at an outdoor venue where you had to stand for the entire show. There were 3 rows of “VIP seats,” but they stood as well.   The band was tight and their musicianship was astonishing !!

The people who came to see CAKE were anxious for them to hit the stage. You could hear the hum of a murmur wondering when we’d see the band. Now, if you aren’t familiar with their music, they’re truly unique. The band has a lead singer who “sings” while sometimes talking through the songs and playing a rhythm guitar. The lead guitarist is a genius who drops incredible hooks while strumming every note. A bassist and a drummer provided a solid background foundation for each tune. Their work blended in seamlessly. In addition, there’s a true artist who plays a solo trumpet, keyboard, and ancillary percussion. He’s amazing !!

Everyone throughout the venue sang all the songs we knew and if you stumbled through the lyrics, your fellow concertgoers didn’t care and didn’t correct you. The idea of having a shared experience was far more the focus than being accurate or correct. If you swayed or madly danced, it was fine. Everyone was in sync. The lead singer led several crowd sing-a-longs with ease. He didn’t have to coerce the masses to perform. They were eager for the opportunity !!

You’ll have to trust me that when he split the crowd in two to sing the fab song – Sick of You – it was magic. People who would most likely never sing in public or take a stage belted out their part with ease. Men and women, younger and older, fans or curious concert attendees sang. Not one person stood there quietly. Not. One.

Now, this isn’t a concert review. It’s an observation.

 What if we could make our company culture have this same vibe ?? Everyone comes to work with anticipation about the day ahead. Your co-workers are geeked to see you and are actually elated that you are. No one harps on mistakes that are made. There’s a sense of camaraderie where people lean in and make sure everyone succeeds.

There’s a “lead singer” who captures the vibe of the workplace and together the organization performs a mix of hits and rare deep cuts.   Sound out of reach ?? I don’t think it is. The key is our approach and how we view people. If we could look out on our “crowd” and get them to all sing along, imagine how fulfilling our days would be.

Aren’t you tired of always trying to repair and fix the multitude of factions that break out in the workplace? Is this all you think HR and leadership have to offer? It would be easy to think so because we swim in this mess daily. We’re so used to the constant fragmentation of people we don’t even look for a solution. We just exhale a deep sigh, drop our shoulders, and dive in.

It’s never worked and we may experience minor successes here and there, but it will be short-lived. I think it’s time we took the concert approach and become lead singers in our organizations. We know the songs and we can rally our fellow musicians to play the notes in the correct order to pull everyone together. You can emphasize that they play their part and their instrument because that is the skill and talent they bring to their role and the company.

It’s possible and it works. Time to step up to the microphone, raise your hands, and reach out to the people eager to follow and participate. Take the lead !!

To get you started, here’s a slice of Cake !!

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 !!

The Case for Balance

The afternoon started well. My wife and I were excited to get out of the house and head to downtown and meander around Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. We have gone to the festival for decades. It’s the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world next to Munich !! The weather was magnificent. The skies were bright blue with some wispy clouds here and there. Mostly we had bright sunshine lighting the way.

We parked several blocks away and were making our way to the actual festival surrounded by people also heading in the same direction. We moved with ease for about four blocks until we passed the official area sectioned off for the event. The flow came to an abrupt halt and we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers all taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the gathering celebrating German heritage.

I was IN my element. Debbie was not. Whenever I can immerse myself in the midst of a giant throng of people, I feel at ease. It helps that I’m a tall person who can easily see above the crowd and make out where I can go. My wife is taller than average, so that isn’t an issue. She often says she can spot me as I make my way around so she rarely feels lost.

We attempted to make the same movements everyone else was trying to make all at the same time. You try to take in the different food and drink booths to both see what they’re offering and try to decide what you’d like to purchase. Off of the primary street of 5th Avenue are side streets also filled with booths, bands, and places to sit and eat. Remember, there are literally thousands of people in this relatively small six to eight-block area. This is not typically what happens in downtown Cincinnati. We’re not Manhattan.

I love taking in the energy, listening to the various conversations, and throwing myself deeply into one of my favorite activities – people-watching. I can lose myself in trying to take in every moment and interaction. It’s like an endless funnel of stimulation. My wife enjoys the same thing . . . for awhile.

She loves going to events and prefers we have a plan and a purpose while going. She wants to see everything and also make sure we actually eat and drink. Those are critical, but she needs to pull me out of the “people cloud” to keep me focused to make sure those activities actually occur. I would be content just wandering and watching. She is also very aware of her environment and reminds me to look down so I don’t miss steps, weave into oncoming traffic, or run into other people.

We did make our way through the mass of humanity as we went down one side of the line of booths. We also made some stops to get those essential sustenance items including sausages, adult beverages, and the must-have cream puff !! Fortunately, we also had an oasis provided by the Chamber of Commerce. We could step away from the melee and enjoy some shade and have a place to rest and sit.

After we had a respite in our oasis, I felt the urge to jump back out into the fray. We just participated in the World’s Largest Chicken Dance (it’s a mandatory experience of Oktoberfest), and my wife was hesitant but obliged. We were going to get a few other items to eat and drink. What we didn’t count on was that the crowd had multiplied. It seemed like it had tripled at least.

It was a bit difficult working our way through the horde when we first arrived. Now, it was moving at a snail’s pace. You were lucky if you happened to get into a stream of people who weren’t standing in lines. We had gone about a block when I saw the “look” from my wife. We moved off to the side and I asked if she wanted to head back to our oasis while I went back into the swarm of humans.

She seemed relieved and said she would. I wasn’t upset or disappointed. We know how each other ticks. We’ve been in each other’s lives for 35+ years and we’ve learned a very important factor.

We balance each other.

She is more introspective while I’m someone who thrives by being surrounded by others. It’s more than being extroverted or introverted. Those are facts and that’s one of the many facets that makes us who we are. Instead of trying to shape one another into our particular approach to life, we have a natural push and pull that meets in the middle more often than not.

Our relationship is how I wish all relationships would work – especially in the workplace. Instead of everyone trying to make others assimilate to their own approach, we should allow for balance. We need to quit getting frustrated when others aren’t like us and come to terms that we will never be alike. We shouldn’t be. There’s far more value to each person living as who they are.

This week look for balance in the interactions you encounter. You’ll find that it’s much healthier when you do !!