Category Archives for "experiences"

More Than A Barber

Being a barber is about taking care of the people.

Anthony Hamilton

Late last week, I drove through Mt. Holly, NJ.  Mt. Holly (and Lumberton) was my hometown for 16 years of my life.  I drove past my old house on Glenwood Road in Lumberton.  I drove by my church (First Presbyterian Church) on Garden Street in Mt. Holly and my high school (Rancocas Valley Regional High School) on Jacksonville Road.  And I stopped on High Street to visit my old barber shop (Don’s Barber Shop).  As I stepped through the front door, my usual barber, Pat, smiled and said “Hello, Jon!”

I hadn’t been to Don’s Barber Shop in 16 (or more) years, and Pat still remembered me.  She even knew my name.

I climbed up into her chair (easier than I did that first haircut in the early 80s), and I asked her to give me a haircut.

Over the next 20-30 minutes, we caught up.  She told me about her 10-year-old granddaughter, and she asked about my parents and my brothers.  I showed her updated pictures of my family.  And Pat shared a few details about some of the people I knew from my time living in the area.

As I walked out, Pat offered me a pretzel rod.  The price of the haircut was a bargain, and I benefited with great conversation, great memories, and a great pretzel rod.  I quickly ran back to my car to retrieve a copy of my book, Rooftop Reflections.  I walked back in the store, and gave Pat a signed copy as a thank you.

At Don’s Barber Shop, you get more than a haircut.  You get a smile.  You get a strong sense of community and of belonging.  And you get reminder of the truly good things in life.

A Full Head, Heart, and Belly – Reflections on My Week of Leadership Development


My head is full.  My heart is very full.  And my belly is pretty full too.  This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.

Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world.  It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company.  My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.

It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:

  1. Teamwork can take you far.  As part of the experience, I was put on a team with five other participants.  We had the opportunity to work together on several assignments throughout the week, and I’m happy to say we were successful because we learned how to work together making the most of the different talents and skills we each brought with us.
  2. Being present is essential to get the most of our experiences and conversations.  We spent a lot of time learning to listen, learning to be assertive, and learning to coach.  These things are not effective if we are not fully engaged with others.
  3. Not everyone has my behavioral preferences and personality tendencies.  I must learn to be aware of how others recharge and respond to situations.  I must also learn to adapt my behaviors to lead more effectively.
  4. Getting feedback from others is crucial to helping me grow.  Before I left, I had several people from my office give me feedback through a 360 degree feedback survey.  I also received feedback from my teammates throughout the week.  Receiving feedback from others isn’t always easy.  It requires humility, open ears, and a willingness to analyze, adapt, and accept.  The feedback I received was encouraging and eye-opening.  It provided an opportunity to look in the mirror and discover more about me.
  5. Transparency opens the door to team growth.  Within a few hours, my team shared aspects of our past that influenced our leadership and life up until this week.  The stories shared led to more stories.  The stories bonded us together in a way I hadn’t expected.  By the end of the week, I not only had a team of colleagues – I had a team of friends and personal cheerleaders.  I now have people in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States who I grew close to me.  I know I’ll be able to connect with them when I have a leadership issue I need to navigate.
  6. My leadership will only get better when I let others lead.  I have a natural tendency to take on more than I should.  I fail to delegate and to pass off leadership to my team, because I want to make sure things are accomplished at my standard.  If I don’t let others lead, I’m doing a disservice to them, to me, and to my company.  As I head back to work today, I’ll be looking for ways to let others lead.
  7. I’m excited for the future of my company.  In my 20+ years with the company, I have never experienced this type of training.  I had the chance to rub shoulders with the up and coming leaders in the company, and they have so many great ideas which will propel our company forward into the future.

These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week.  I left the week exhausted.  I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon.  My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.

My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends.  The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.

My belly is full, because they kept feeding us.  Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort.  This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.

If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself.  This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.

When was the last time you invested in yourself?  How did you STRETCH as a result of this experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Stretch Quote – New Dimensions For Your Mind (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr)

Stretch Quote New Dimensions For Your Mind

A mind that is STRETCHED by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

If you are like me, you don’t always like new experiences.  This quote reminds me that new experiences are the catalyst for taking us to new dimensions.

What is something new you experienced recently?  How did this experience stretch you?

All Things New – January 31, 2015

Too often we let the world pass us by.  We fall into the trap of the same-old, same-old.  We fail to notice what is new right around us.

I don’t want this to be the case for me, and I don’t want it to be the case for you either.

With this in mind, here are some of the NEW things I experienced this week:

  • Speak Pipe
    • Take a look at the blog, and you may notice something new.  I added Speak Pipe which means you can now leave me a voice mail.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Perhaps, you’ll even answer today’s question by leaving me a voice mail message.  Just hit “Send Voicemail” on the right side of the screen.

  • Life Redesigned Podcast with Lily Kreitinger
    • I’ve only listened to one episode so far of this brand new podcast.  Lily has been a friend for a while now.  I believe we met virtually through Chris LoCurto’s blog several years ago.  She is just getting her podcast off the ground, and I’m sure she would love a visit from you.  She’s also a fantastic designer and life plan coach.  Click here to get to her podcast page.

  • Daddy Press
    • Last weekend, I had the honor and privilege of writing an article for a new on-line magazine for Dads.  Stop by and read my article – 5 Ideas For Teaching Our Sons – then check out the rest of the magazine.

These are just a few of the NEW things I experienced this week.  Now it’s your turn!

What NEW thing did you experience this week?

All Things New

It’s a new year!  (It’s January 17th.  I can still say that, right?)

Too often we let the world pass us by.  We fall into the trap of the same-old, same-old.  We fail to notice what is new right around us.

I don’t want this to be the case for me, and I don’t want it to be the case for you either.

With this in mind, here are some of the NEW things I experienced this week:

  • The Brand You Podcast with Mike Kim
    • I’ve been reading Mike’s blog for several months, but I didn’t start listening to his podcast until this week.  Wow!  Another fantastic listen.  I tuned in to get ideas for helping my wife with her life coaching business.  I think this podcast will be helpful.
  • Restoring a backup to your Mac is easy if you know the file structure. 
    • I spent several hours Thursday night and Friday trying to restore information to our Mac from an external hard drive.  I don’t use this machine very often, so I’m not very familiar with how the Mac is set up.  Our Mac was running very slowly.  We added virus protection which found 5 or 6 pieces of malware.  We added memory.  And we wiped the machine clean.  When I went to restore the files, it appeared that the backup didn’t backup some very important documents.  After hours of trying things out myself, I took the machine to The Geek Squad at our local Best Buy.  Within minutes, Ryan (the Geek Squad member who helped me) had located the missing files on our external hard drive, and we were back in business.  Watching Ryan as he navigated around our Mac taught me some new things.
  • Networking With Purpose Live with John Corcoran, Mark Sieverkropp, and Matt McWilliams
    • I was talking to a friend the other day about building my e-mail list.  He asked me why I wanted to do this.  He didn’t think it was necessary.  When I mentioned that I would like to take my next book project up a notch, he nodded his head in agreement that a bigger e-mail list is important.  I don’t want to grow my network just to be rich and famous.  I have a purpose for wanting to get my material in the hands of a larger audience.  For this reason, I’m excited about this event coming up February 10th.  The event features three dynamic practitioners who are sure to provide great information for growing your network.  Click here to find out more and register for yourself.

These are just a few of the NEW things I experienced this week.  Now it’s your turn!

What NEW thing did you experience this week?

God-Given Appointments

A Hispanic woman and her three small children set out on a long journey to a city forty miles away.  They had one large suitcase with rollers which contained all their belongings.  They didn’t have a car or a cell phone.  They simply had their suitcase and their tiny legs.  She had just enough money to pay a taxi to get to them to the city.  She couldn’t call a taxi though without a cell phone, so they set out on their journey walking along an old railroad track that had been converted to a recreational path where bikers, runners, and walkers could be found in multitudes especially on beautiful, sunny days.  Secretly, the woman hoped she would find someone who could help.

Shortly after beginning the journey, she saw a woman on a bicycle approaching from the other direction.  As the bicyclist came closer, the Hispanic woman began waving her arms in an effort to get her to stop.  It was not hard to miss the waving arms and the three small children, but the woman on the bicycle stared straight ahead and even appeared to speed up as she passed the Hispanic woman and her three kids.

Not giving up, the family continued down the trail.  A third of a mile later, the woman noticed a runner coming towards them.  He was drenched in sweat, but he was going slow enough that woman felt more confident that she could get his attention.  She waved her arms, and the runner slowed to a stop.  He removed one of his earphones which was connected to the smart phone which he held in his hand.  In her broken English, the woman proceeded to ask the man for some help calling a taxi.  The man was clearly perturbed – “How dare this woman interrupt his workout?”  He made up some dumb excuse as to why he couldn’t help her.  Then he put his earphone in and ran off in the other direction.

The woman was starting to get a little concerned.  She still had a long way to go, and no one seemed interested or available to help her.  The small family walked slowly down the trail toward the city.  After walking a mile or so, they came to a small park.  This was a good place for the family to take a break.  The kids made their way to the small playground in the park while the woman found a nearby park bench where she sat down and began to pray.  She needed to find help soon or she would be forced to find cover in the woods along the trail for the night.

After a few minutes of prayer, she opened her eyes and looked up to check on her kids.  They were still busy playing on the playground.  Just past the playground, she noticed an older man resting next to his old ten speed bicycle.  The man looked a little disheveled with tattered clothes and a face that hadn’t been shaved for several days.  Tied to his bike were a sleeping bag and a black garbage back filled with who knows what. This was clearly not the person you’d expect to provide any assistance.

The Hispanic woman decided it was time to get moving again.  She rolled the suitcase over to the playground equipment, and she began gathering her children.  The old man stood up and walked toward the woman.  Unsure how to respond, the woman froze and looked away.  As the man drew closer, he removed his weathered hat, and he spoke softly, “Can I help you?”  Startled, the woman looked down.  Could this man really help?  Could she trust him?  Remembering her prayer just minutes ago, she explained her situation to the man.  The man smiled, and he told her he could help.  After a few more exchanges, the man asked the woman to stay in the park for fifteen more minutes.  He explained that he would be right back.  With few other options, the woman agreed and told the children to head back to the playground.  The man got on his bicycle and rode away.  Should the woman stay and trust this old man, or should she take her kids and walk on down the trail?  She wrestled through with this question as she waited for the man to return.  About fifteen minutes later, a yellow mini-van with the letters T – A – X – I prominently displayed on the sides and roof of the vehicle pulled into the park.  The old man stepped out of the driver’s side, and he invited the young family into the taxi as he opened the side doors.  He loaded the suitcase into the back, and they were on the way to the city.

This story has haunted me for a couple of months.  I was the runner in this story, and this happened to me early in July before I went to Guatemala.  I’m not sure what happened with this woman and her small children, but I trust they are okay.  I kick myself, because I could have done something to help this woman and her children.  I had a smart phone.  I could have looked up the number to a taxi service and called on her behalf.  I didn’t have any money on me at the time, but I could have run home, grabbed my wallet, and returned to give her money to help pay for the taxi service.  But I didn’t.  It was inconvenient at the time.  I was late for something that probably didn’t matter that much, and I was in the middle of a long workout.  I’m willing to travel to Guatemala to help those in need, but I miss out on opportunities like this right in my own area.  When will I learn that these types of interruptions may actually be God-given appointments?  The words of our mouth have to be more.  If they don’t turn into actions, we are simply blabbering.  I don’t want to be a “blabberer.”  I want my faith to be real.  I want it to be shown by my actions.  I want to have a mission mindset right where I live and work.  I can’t change the past, but I can look toward the future.  May God keep my eyes open for these opportunities, and may I keep my hands ready to serve others right where I am.

Which person do you identify with in the story?

Have you had any “God-given appointments” recently?  How did you respond?

Donald Sterling, The NBA, The Clippers, and The Zipper

Have you been following the news in the NBA this week?

I’m not talking about the playoffs, wins, losses, or Lebron James.  This week, the news has been filled with reports and opinions about Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.  I don’t know all the details, but Sterling apparently made some significant racial comments that were caught on tape and broadcast across the country.

His comments set off a firestorm of calls for him to be removed from the NBA.  His own players protested before their last game by taking off their Clippers shirts and wearing black wristbands and socks.  Sponsors have quickly been pulling away from the Clippers organization unwilling to be associated with a team owned by such a bigot.

Clearly, Sterling’s remarks were completely wrong, and the NBA has dealt swiftly by banning him from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million (which is the maximum fine permitted by the league constitutional bylaws).

Do you think Donald Sterling would like to take back his words?  Do you think he was really thinking when he spoke?

It’s easy to point the finger at public figures like Donald Sterling – after all, leaders are expected to be above reproach, and they should know better.  And they are easy targets.  Upon further thought, I know we’re all guilty of this kind of speaking without thinking.  Hopefully, we don’t say things with such hatred, but I’m sure we say things we regret.

I was reminded today of a time when I was in junior high, and I was at a dress rehearsal for a musical that I was in at our church. Believe it or not, I was selected to sing a solo (who would have thought).  As a result, I was equipped with a wireless microphone. During one of our breaks while I was in the men’s room, I said some things that I later regretted.  When I returned from the break, I discovered from one of the sound people that my initial words were shared loud and clear in the sanctuary thanks to the wonders of wireless technology.  Thankfully, they quickly muted my microphone.  But it didn’t stop the feeling of embarrassment and regret that swept over me when I found out.

In all the cases above (including mine), the regret came after being caught.  Did we ever stop to think that God can hear us even if no one else can?  Did we ever stop to examine our hearts?  I’m reminded of two passages that speak to this. First, in the first few verses of Psalm 139, we’re told that not only does God know our words, but He even knows our thoughts:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  Psalm 139:1-4

Secondly, in the first chapter of James, instructions our given that we should be slow to speak:

My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  James 1:19-21

Sounds easy?

I’m not so sure.

I know that my thoughts and words are not always what they should be. So where do I go from here? I think it starts with being more in tuned to God, becoming more aware of times we think and say things that aren’t appropriate, and seeking God to help make a change.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Have you tasted shoe leather recently?  How’s it taste?  What did you do to get that taste out of your mouth?

Be Aware of Bad Yeast – 4 Ways to Help You Find the Good Yeast

Yesterday for our Easter celebration brunch, I decided to make cinnamon rolls.  My Mom is the queen of cinnamon rolls, and I figured it was time I give it a try for my family.  I have such great memories of smelling and tasting Mom’s famous cinnamon rolls when I was growing up.  Living so far away now, it has been a long time since I indulged in this delicacy.

I started out by following the recipe in one of our cookbooks.  I combined flour and yeast.  Then I added warm milk, sugar, and butter.  I mixed the dough for a few minutes before adding more flour.  I then proceeded to knead the dough for several more minutes.  I was started to dream of the smell and flavor of the cinnamon rolls.

Then my plans started to unravel.

I set the dough aside for an hour to let the yeast do its work.  According to the recipe, the dough should have doubled in the hour.  When I came back to check on the roll dough, I was disappointed to discover that the dough did not rise.

The yeast was bad.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to be aware of bad yeast.

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Matthew 16:6

It’s a great reminder.  We need to be careful about how we fill our minds and hearts.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

4 Ways to Help You Find the Good Yeast

  1. Use God’s Word as the standard.  It all starts here.  Be careful not to take God’s Word out of context.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were known for taking parts of the Law from the Old Testament and forgetting other parts.  In their focus, they missed out on the coming of the Messiah.
  2. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow.  It’s important to find people who will build you up and point you in the right direction.  The wrong people will drag you down and point you towards the wrong way.  Who do you have in your life who helps you grow?
  3. Get rid of the bad yeast.  When you discover a bad influence, you need to do some pruning.  What is the bad yeast that you need to remove from you life?
  4. Be intentional about seeking out the good yeast.  In Philippians 4, Paul charges believers to think about things that are just, noble, trustworthy, and praiseworthy.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes focus.  It requires us to be intentional.  How are you being intentional about finding the good yeast?

I ended up making the cinnamon rolls anyway.  They actually tasted pretty good, but they just weren’t the same as the ones my Mom makes.  Time to throw away the bad yeast in our refrigerator, and time to get new yeast – good yeast!

OnTrack3dCover04132014Tomorrow is the big day!

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field officially launches tomorrow on Amazon.


Five Things To Know About Goodbyes

It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure. 

Ernie Harwell

Today, our family says goodbye to Cody.

If you remember from a year ago, our family welcomed Cody to our family.  To read about his entry into our family, you can click here.

Cody joined our family when he was seven weeks old.  He was a tiny light-yellow fur-ball.  We knew he would be only joining our family for a short time.  He had a purpose, and we were assigned a role in helping him prepare for his purpose.

Cody is a Seeing Eye Puppy.  He was bred for the purpose of helping blind or visually impaired people.  Our assignment has been to help him grow through his early puppy stages.  We were responsible for getting him acclimated to the public.  And we were supposed to teach him basic commands like sit, rest, and down.

We’ve taken him to New York City, to our local Target, to the library, to church, on a bus, and on a train.

It hasn’t always been easy.  He has chewed a couple of window sills.  He left a couple of pee stains.  And his yellow hair is dispersed throughout our house.

Today, Cody heads to Morristown, NJ where he will begin the next phase of his journey.  He will go through a medical exam.  He will be placed with a trainer.  He will learn all the essentials for guiding someone who cannot see.  And if all goes well, Cody will be matched with a blind person.  And Cody will become a guide and friend for someone special.

Saying goodbye is bitter-sweet.  It’s tough to say goodbye to our four-legged friend who has certainly captured our hearts.  And it’s exciting to know that Cody may have the opportunity to change someone’s life forever.

Cody’s departure is a reminder that there are several things we can learn about goodbyes.

Five Things To Know About Goodbyes

  1. Goodbyes are part of life.  We all have to say goodbye.
  2. Goodbyes stretch us.  A goodbye can teach us many things.
  3. Goodbyes are not always fun.  It’s not always easy to say goodbye.  Sometimes goodbyes hurt.  And sometimes goodbyes make us sad.
  4. Goodbyes provide an opportunity for new beginnings.  Goodbyes often open the door to new adventures.
  5. Goodbyes don’t have to be the end.  Even if we won’t see someone again, we will always have memories.

What have you learned through your goodbye experiences?  How have you been stretched by the farewells of your life?


6 more days until the release of On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field!

Enjoy the Journey

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. 

Greg Anderson

Last night, I posted a picture of the proof copy of my new book, On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field.

It came in the mail yesterday.  Actually, I received four copies.

Part of the self publishing process includes an opportunity to review an actual copy of your book before it goes public.  Honestly, I’m not sure I knew this was part of the experience until recently.

Writing a book has brought about a lot of new experiences.  I am doing my best to enjoy each aspect of this journey.  Believe me, I’m looking forward to the actual book being complete and available to the public, but there is so much that happens along the way.  I don’t want to miss it.

Most of life is the same way.

We have goals.  We have dreams.  We have targets.

One day, we’ll get there.  We’ll reach our dreams.  We’ll achieve many of our desires.  We may also miss out on reaching some of our targets and goals.

But there is a lot that happens between now and the achievement of our dreams.  These happenings aren’t meant to be missed.  They are meant to be experienced and enjoyed.  To quote Billy Joel (sorry David), “This is the time to remember, ’cause it will not last forever.”

Enjoy the journey!

What’s happening on the journey to your dream?  How are you making the most of the experience?

1 2 3 10