Be a People Lifter

People are frustrating, aren’t they? Seriously. Everywhere you go you have people distracting you, pulling you down, or are just flat disappointing. It could be at home, while you’re driving, at work or even just milling around a public place.

A few weeks ago I went grocery shopping. Normally, my wife and I go together because we enjoy it and we can knock it out. I don’t know what was in the air, but it seemed like every single person was just in the way. A few people were using their carts like a life support system dragging their feet along behind. Others were staring at their screens oblivious to any movement happening around them.

At the end of each aisle, I was hoping for either a stop sign or a traffic signal. Instead, people jerked suddenly as each person’s cart narrowly missed from slamming into each other. As I wandered down each aisle with my list in hand, I felt like I was trying to maneuver through an unreasonable obstacle course. There were folks just standing and lost in contemplation and others checking out each label with incredible concentration. I could feel the pulse in my neck rise to an unhealthy level because of how no one was considering others. I felt they were acting as if the only person in the store was them.

I’ll skip how I glared at the various checkout lines which added another layer of what I perceived as ineptitude. I finally paid, went to my car and zoomed home. As I slammed the bags of groceries on the kitchen island while unloading them, I regaled my story and experience to my wife (recovering from total knee surgery.) She was patient in letting me dump my bucket, but when I finished she innocently asked, “Do you know what those other people were thinking or going through?”

She was spot on. I was so perplexed why others who were “in my way” weren’t thinking about others without realizing how selfish I was being myself. Her simple question deflated my self-righteousness and reframed my head. You see we tend to look at and talk about people in 3rd person. EVERYONE else is frustrating (not me). EVERYONE is just an unnecessary obstacle to me getting real work done (not me). I think you see where this is going . . .

I’m ashamed I let the circumstances around me get me so worked up. Instead of enjoying being in a crowd of strangers trying to accomplish a common goal, I thought they were a nuisance. Sound familiar? If you step back and listen to the conversations happening at work, at home, or out in public, you’ll hear people tearing each other down versus lifting them up. It’s easier. It makes us “feel good” to be above others, but it is the worst thing we can do.

We live in a day and age where demeaning others is valued far more than encouraging others. I don’t know when this happened but it’s awful. We are fortunate to have others in our lives. We truly are. We’re also fortunate to be surrounded by talented and unique people at work. In order for us to stem the divisiveness that tries to overcome every conversation, stop, pause, breathe, and then – lift others up.

You can do this. You know when others lift you up it brings joy and a break from what you’re normally experiencing. Being a people lifter takes more effort, energy, and intention to act against the tide of how most people treat and view others. Trust me, I try to be a people lifter most of the time. It’s draining but worth it.

I needed my wife’s simple admonition and I’m grateful she broke through the ugly approach I had taken that day. I needed someone to show me how to “break with” so I could “break through.” This week let this post be the “break with” for you and those around you. It’s time to be a people lifter – so we all can rise !!

Opposites

My wife and I are almost completely opposite people. We’ve known this since the first time we met. It’s almost hard to quantify that we came together because I’m an extreme extrovert and she’s a rational introvert. We were volunteers with Young Friends of the Zoo at the Cincinnati Zoo. I came to one meeting and volunteered to chair the group’s annual fundraiser. It didn’t seem too out of reach. The other volunteers were both grateful someone stepped up and shocked that I would ask to lead after just attending one meeting.

I tried to meet every. single. person at each monthly meeting to get to know them and encourage them to join in to pull off the fundraiser – The Beastly Ball. It was a costume party that happened around Halloween each year. My future wife was so put off by my overtness, she walked around the perimeter of the meeting space to avoid me.

As volunteers, we met offsite at a warehouse to design, create and build the massive decorations and sets for the ball. We transformed an empty industrial space into an Egyptian tomb. One evening as I was walking around to each group of people to thank them for coming and pitching in, Debbie stopped me and asked me what I was doing over the weekend. I replied, “Nothing.” She quickly asked, “Want to do ‘nothing’ together?” I was so startled that she took this bold step, and I was intrigued. I said, “That would be great.” It was the best decision I’ve ever made over 36 years ago !! (BTW – Our first date was going to see the epic movie – The Princess Bride.)

Fast forward to the present day . . .

Just recently Debbie had a total knee replacement. Everything went well and she’s been recovering magnificently. As one who cherishes abiding by the rules and valuing structure, she’s the perfect patient. Now that things have been progressing, we took advice from our daughter who’s an Occupational Therapist to go mall walking. We’re also old enough now that mall walking isn’t out of the norm !!

Debbie went walking a few times during the day while I was at work. She asked me to start walking with her, and I needed to have a way to be more consistent in making sure I stayed healthy. I was geeked to join in. I went a few times on my own to get the feel for it.

The first time we went to the mall as a couple we entered through the set of double doors and were set to go – she started walking to the right and I went to the left. We took a few steps and paused. She said, “I like to go this way,” showing the path she had followed the few times she went without me. I explained that I was following the path I liked. We shrugged our shoulders and then commenced to walk in opposite directions. It fits us perfectly.

I share this because if we truly want to value diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging then we need to come to terms that none of us are the same. And, we shouldn’t be. It’s okay to be opposites and still be connected to each other on purpose. So, embrace your uniqueness and be cool with who you are AND who others are. It works !!

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 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 !!

Community Builds Community

This past week something very cool happened. A young man posted a question on Linked In asking whether one should be an HR generalist or an HR specialist. It caught my attention because he was kind enough to pull a quote from my book – HR on Purpose !!

I wanted to make sure to respond. This wasn’t because he quoted my book. I try to look at the posts of my peers and do my best to acknowledge them and respond. I think we misconstrue social media as only a series of highlights, and we miss that people want to have conversations. I reached out to Shomari and offered to have a real chat on the phone or virtually. He was kind enough to agree to this when something magical occurred. Other peers who commented on his original post wanted to come together and be included in our call as well.

We set a date and a time which was a bit of a challenge because we live in three different time zones. Through the wonderful world of technology, we made it happen. Shomari had put together a list of preparatory questions he wanted to make sure to cover. Four of us were on a Zoom call and the hour we spent together was wonderful. Several opinions were shared along with much laughter. In fact, one person on the call said she loved that we laughed because she said she doesn’t do this nearly enough as she should. That warmed my heart.

The key takeaway from the four of us convening was not the content or approaches we discussed. Instead, it was something truly revealing. The three others who joined me expressed how much they valued getting together and talking to their peers. Building the foundations of a community between peers was the wonderful outcome. That too warmed my heart. Anytime I see the light come on when peers understand how much better work and life is by having a community, I’m filled with joy. Literally.

I had spent the first several years alone as an HR practitioner. I kept my head down and didn’t even think about peers who also practiced HR. I never reached out to others and others didn’t reach out to me. It didn’t make work fun by any means. Once my eyes were open to connect with others, my career took off personally and professionally. After I saw the benefits of having my own community, I was compelled to make sure that others became connected as well.

Despite my best efforts to date, I find that a significant portion of HR professionals remain isolated. I don’t understand it but I’m not defeated in the least. I’m encouraged that opportunities like the one from last week will continue to present themselves. When they do, I plan to fully jump in. What I’d love to see though, is for others to do the same.

We’re a stronger and more relevant profession when we’re intentionally connected. Many of the social media platforms which brought many of us together years ago are evolving or deteriorating which is pushing people back into the shadows. We can’t allow this to occur !! I know many others who are also community builders around the globe. They continue to do amazing work, and they’re doing all they can to make sure communities are growing and remain sustainable.

I heard the phrase – Community Builds Community – this week, and it is absolutely true.

As we head into 2024, please join in. Know that if you’re in HR then I consider you as part of my community already. Since you’re already “connected,” then take the next step to reach out to others, and let’s make more of this activity occur. It will make a difference to people personally and it will help our companies grow and thrive !! Community builds community.

BTW – Shomari is staying in touch with the three of us and figuring out how we can keep talking and networking. I’m geeked to be included and we’ll see where his efforts go.

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 !!

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 !!