Father, Human, Husband

With and without family

For a good part of the next two weeks or so, I’ll get to spend a lot of time with my immediate family.

There were times before, and there will be times after, when I do not get to see my wife and kids nearly as much. Sacrifices from other commitments – job, friends, hobbies – take away from that time.

Many of those sacrifices, however, make the time with family possible. All of them make the time with family that much sweeter… with or without the cotton candy.




anniversary_photoAn anniversary is an arbitrary milestone.  Just like we like round numbers (top 10 lists,  20th reunions, 40th birthdays…) we like to mark the annual passage of momentous events in our lives, even if it’s just a convenient way to mark another trip around the sun.

And yet… an anniversary is a great opportunity to take stock.  To be strategic instead of tactical.  To look fondly at what you’ve achieved, to think about how you can improve, and to look forward to what future anniversaries are like.  It’s a past, present, and future evaluation that makes you appreciate the occasion even more.

Take a wedding anniversary.  You can use it to look backwards: to remember your wedding day, to see where you’ve been and what you’ve built together, to reminisce about past celebrations.  Or you can revel in the now: to mark the occasion together with a nice dinner or a getaway, to share it privately or with friends and family.  Or you can use it to look towards the future: what your 20th, your 30th, or your 40th anniversary will be like, and what you want to do to get there.

Or better yet, you can do all three.

Father, Homeowner, Husband, Leadership, Marketer

Strategic vs Tactical

Our days are so full of tasks to complete, like quests in a never-ending role-playing game.

Laundry, dishes, decluttering, bills, groceries, straightening, meal prep, errands.

Emails, phone calls, status reports, one-on-one check-ins, presentation revisions, invoices.

Decisions, optimizations, quick fixes, interventions, assists, demonstrations, coordinations, deferments.

It’s both exhilarating and exhausting to check off items from the ever-growing to-do list, whether it’s explicitly written out before you or churning amorphously in your overloaded brain.

That’s why it’s so important to take a step back.  To climb a tree and make sure your team is swinging the machete in the right direction as you all hack through the jungle:

  • What are we trying to do?  Why are we doing it?
  • What does success look like?  Is there a metric, a milestone, a goal to shoot for?
  • Where do we want to be in 1, 3, 5, 10 years?  How do we get there?
  • Do all of us agree?

Whether it’s your family, your coworkers, your activity group, your circle of friends… one rarely hears of anyone accused of being “too strategic.”  Get away for a weekend.  Have an offsite.  Go on a retreat.  Meet for a drink.  And while you’re away from the checklists, figure out where you’re going.  Then you’ll find joy in having a progress bar to go along with your checklist.

Homeowner, Husband

Yard Work

I admit, I was once a fan of yard work, but it’s fallen by the wayside.  With so many other interesting distractions — you know, things like being with family and friends, or tackling the zillion other household chores that claw at one’s leisure time — work around the outside of the house has been low on the priority list.

Once upon a time, I derived a strong sense of satisfaction in getting out and mowing the lawn. In fact, I used to quietly mock the neighbors who paid for a lawn service, and missed out on the joy of knowing that hey, those trimmed hedges and that carefully spread mulch was your accomplishment.  I think growing up in Indiana, going to U-Pick blueberry farms and helping my dad around the yard, inspired a certain love of working with the land.

But as my body aged, suddenly outsourcing it all felt wiser.  Not to mention that the math favored it, too.  (“I’m paying hundreds of dollars to have mechanics fix my mowers each year?  And I could just pony up $40 every two weeks, AND get a few hours of my weekend back?  Shut up and take my money!”)

This weekend, however, was a little different.  Saturday, with the help of my father-in-law, we rebuilt the warping wooden steps on the side of the house and remounted the ceiling hooks for the front porch swing.  Sunday, my wife and I spent hours pole-sawing our way around the perimeter of our shed, cutting down and dragging away wayward branches that were scraping holes into its roof.  There were other minor tasks too, and a bazillion other things that we “probably should do.”  But it doesn’t matter.  The sense of accomplishment was there.

Mind you, I’m not about to come over to YOUR house and volunteer to rake YOUR leaves for a few hours this fall.  But I liked the reminder of how satisfying it is to take care of your house and your land, when they involve small tasks that you can get done in a morning.