Purpose and Time

Purpose and Time are two very connected concepts for me. While time is infinite as a universal element or concept, time is finite for humans. Time is the only resource in the entire universe one can never get more of, no matter how hard you try, no matter how privileged or lucky you may be. When one day or one hour or even one of life's precious moments passes — it’s gone forever. You can never get it back. You can never make or manufacture more time. 

And so I wonder —  why aren’t we more intentional with our time? Why don’t we aim to make our time spent roaming this planet, among our friends, our loved ones and our community, deeper, more meaningful, and more impactful? Why do I spend more time seeing live music than I do working on a plan and purpose for my life? Why do I spend more time watching sports than I do planning out the year ahead for me and my family? What's going on? And what does it mean? 

From the earliest age I can remember, I lived my life in one of two modes: survival mode or bootstrap mode. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, with varying degrees of drama and abuse on the regular, survival mode and bootstrapping was how I learned to navigate the world. My biological father was (and still is) absent — a lifetime addict, narcissist, and just not a safe person for me. My mother spent her life in super co-dependent relationships. As it turns out, she lived her life with a closet full of secrets. And later in life, as the secrets eventually came out, she unraveled. Amidst her co-dependency, secrets and dysfunction, she drank herself to death. I had a couple of step fathers too. Both were abusive, but in different ways. One was more physical and at times pretty scary, while the other was mostly just loud and threatening. Fun stuff. 

Thankfully I did have two amazing sets of grandparents who all lived nearby and were very involved in my childhood and early life.  My grandparents, and a few others, were a light for me. They gave me a sense of safety and hope. They modeled strong values and they encouraged me to be great.

All of this to say — the idea of having a purpose for my life wasn’t anywhere on my radar. I was trying to not get hit in the face while eating dinner. The idea of having a purpose never even entered my mind… and I would wager there’s a lot of kids out there like me.  I mean, I didn’t take SAT or ACT tests in high school. I honestly believed community college was the only option for me. That’s literally what my mom and step dad told me. But I digress. 

The truth is, I’ve come to realize that I’ve lived most of my life, or at least the first 35 plus years of it, without any real purpose or intention. It’s hard to have purpose when survival and bootstrapping is all you know.  And as I reflect back today, I see my first 35 years sort of like a boat without a rudder. I was headed in various directions and trying really, really hard to do stuff — but I was getting blown around by the winds of circumstance and I was getting carried here and there by the currents of life. I woke up each day, going through the motions of life, doing most of the things I thought I needed to do — but without any real plan or purpose. Simply put, I had some dreams — some dreams about what I wanted to do with my life. But dreams without an actual plan are just dreams. 

And so about a year ago I decided to get serious about this stuff. Over the past 12 months I’ve devoted most of my time and focus to developing and understanding who I am, and more specifically, what my core values and my highest purpose are. I’ve gone so deep into this stuff that I recently created an operating manual for my life. Sounds pretty nerdy, right? 

The operating manual is a relatively simple, two page document, where I declare who I am and outline my state of being. It includes a Purpose statement, clearly describing my highest level of intention. I’ve also developed my own core values to help act as a compass and help guide important decisions I have to make. I’ve created a list of the key activities and disciplines I need to regularly practice in order to be healthy, well, and to be in “good” operating condition. Things like how much sleep and exercise I need, and how much time away in nature with my family I need, how much alone time I need, meditation, etc. It also has a few photos of Jeana and the kids, for the full visualization effect. Like this:

The operating manual also includes a brief, two paragraph bio, describing my history — my upbringing, how my operating system was initially programmed when I was a child, what my journey has been like thus far, and what I intend to change and do differently, as I grow and evolve forward in life.

And lastly, I’ve made a list of a few things I want to do or accomplish during my existence on this planet — a bucket list, for lack of better words. Things like run half marathons, slay big fish with a fly rod, write a book that helps people, build a company that contributes positivity and good to the community and to the world. I also want to see my grandchildren graduate from college (while holding Jeana's hand), and live abroad for a year with Jeana. Raising two kids into healthy, functional, wise, free thinking and independent adults is also at the top of my list.

And if that isn’t nerdy enough for you, I spend 3-5 minutes reading this operating manual — every single day. It’s the first thing I do every morning. It helps me get centered and focused for the day ahead and gives me intention for what I will do with my day.

For more than 30 years I never thought much about these sort of things — purpose, intention, and the interconnectedness of purpose and time. But now I find myself a little older, and maybe a little wiser, and I have this new awareness of how finite time truly is. And I have this new realization that living life without purpose and intention is sort of like hiking without a trail, or traveling without a destination. 

And so I’ve installed a rudder on this boat — and I look forward to all of the possibilities, experiences and destinations I intend to explore. 

A smart person once said, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. But if you schedule it, it’s real.” 

Keep it real, y’all. 

RW

--> This essay is part of a new series published in collaboration with The Western Writers League. It would mean a lot to me if you took the time to read my peers’s works as well.

Why I Play by Chris Corbin

Drive by Mario Schulzke

The Journey of Diversity in the Workplace

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All Hands, an office life publication, recently interviewed me about my journey in making matters of diversity, equity and inclusivity a priority in my business. We discuss why diversity matters to me, in addition to the challenges I face in moving beyond words and actually putting it into practice. As someone who identifies as a straight, white male of privilege, living in a predominantly white community, I have inherent blind spots and challenges within me -- both as a person and as a leader.  To read the full interview click here.

ORGANIZATIONAL RHYTHM: An introduction

I attribute much of my success in leading creative people to having strong rhythms in place throughout my organization. In fact, as I type this, I realize how absolutely nerdy and uncool it may sound -- but I'd go so far as to say the rhythms I've developed and implemented, may be one of the most critical, most impactful organizational practices of all.

But first, a note about rhythm. 

You can't have music without rhythm. It's the essential ingredient to all music. In fact, melodies and harmonies and all of that good stuff doesn't really exist without rhythm. It's the core that binds everything together. And the same can be said for people systems. Especially when working with creatives.

The primary, over-arching rhythms I've designed for the creative people I lead are actually quite elaborate. In fact, just thinking about it sorta makes my head spin. In this essay, I'm providing an introduction to rhythms and I'll elaborate on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual rhythms in later entries.  And if you don't read any further, know this: without strong rhythms among creative people, sooner or later you'll likely be at risk for varying levels of communication breakdown, internal dysfunction, and chaos. Trust me.

But first -- why is rhythm so important in the first place? To many, I'm sure it sounds like a lot of wasted time. We've all got far too many meetings, huddles, and conference calls already, right? 

Why?

In my experience, high structure and strong processes, dovetailed with clear and frequent communication, is a blueprint for success in creative work environments. Rhythms give everyone regular, reliable opportunities to give and receive information. Rhythms help keep everyone aligned and on the same page. And they keep everyone's awareness up, so people can pivot, make adjustments, and give their attention and resources to wherever it's most needed. Most of all, rhythms give everyone in the organization a peace of mind -- knowing they'll always be kept in the know, they'll always be well-connected to their team, and knowing there'll always be opportunities to ask questions, to care and be cared for, and to learn about and give input on the most critical matters. 

Morning Huddle Magic

The real value of a Morning Huddle is to set up the blueprint for the day. And in less than 10 minutes, every single person in the organization knows exactly what they need to know to succeed that day. It provides a level of awareness, alignment and synchronization that's impossible to get any other way. Here's how we do it:

At exactly 9:22am every team gathers for a standing huddle. Each of them arrive with a small, pocket sized notebook, with their "daily status" already written down and complete. The Team Leader may facilitate and get things started, though there's value in rotating that responsibility. 

There's exactly seven items contained in a daily status report, and each of them should be no more than 3-4 words max.  

The Daily Status Report

  1. The Weather
  2. Gratitude
  3. #1 Objective for the day
  4. #1 Challenge for the day
  5. Is there a crisis anywhere on the horizon? 
  6. Any Out of Office plans within the next week? 
  7. Personal share (optional)

 

Now let's define what each of these means.  

  • The Weather quite literally means the current state of one's life -- or at least their work life. Are you doing well? If so, you might say your weather is "75 and sunny." If you're having a hard day, you might say "100 degrees" or "stormy." My Leadership Team has evolved to simply naming a temperature that correlates with their current state and we all automatically know that if someone gets into the upper 80's or higher, then they may be having a hard time or might need some help. If someone says 100 degrees, we might stop the huddle for an intervention.
  • Sharing a Gratitude is pretty straight forward. Research has proven the positive impacts that can be made by simply verbalizing what's good and what you're thankful for. It's science. Shaun Achor's book, "The Happiness Advantage" speaks to this as well. Highly recommended.
  • The #1 Objective for the day should be specific and measurable. "Getting through my email" wouldn't be an acceptable response. 
  • The #1 Challenge is similar -- it needs to be specific and measurable. Sharing your #1 Challenge is important because you never know when a teammate might be able to help or support you in it. And who knows, someone else might even have the solution. 
  • Asking "Is there a Crisis anywhere on the horizon?" is a ritual that keeps everyone's antennes up and communication high, asking the ever important question: "are there any MAJOR, crisis-level problems out there, or even potentially out there, that anyone is aware of?" The sooner you can identify a potential crisis, the better. And if your company is healthy and strong, the answer to this is almost always no.
  • Out of Office plans during the next week is obvious. This is a nice, built in way of keeping your core team aware. 
  • Personal Share. This one is optional, but it's a wonderful opportunity (especially for Leaders) to share what's going on in your own personal life with the people you work the closest with. For instance, if your dog just died or if you are going through a break-up -- that would be a pretty important thing to tell your team, so they might be able to care for you through it. Or if you're starting a 30-day cleanse -- that might be good to share too, so your teammates will know why you're so irritable in the afternoon. And if you had a rough night sleeping -- that would probably be helpful for your colleagues to know, so they can take it easy on you if things get tough during the day. Things to celebrate are good shares too. Every little bit you can open up and share has the ability to help with chemistry, expectations, collaboration and care among your team.

Because everyone arrives to the huddle on time and arrives prepared with their daily status report, written down beforehand in their little notebook, these huddles should ideally take about 5-8 minutes, depending on how many people are in the team. The teams I work with tend to have between 3 to 7 people. The maximum a huddle should take is 12 minutes.

These are designed to be a highly efficient, lean and mean, quick-fire exchange of information -- no deep dives or conversations that lead to rabbit trails. If that happens, quickly identify it and say "let's connect about that topic after the meeting or at another time," so you're not requiring everyone's time and attention. And standing-up totally matters. Energy is different when people are standing. Being on your feet signals the brain that we’re moving. Even the most long-winded people will be more focused and will stay on topic better.

At my organization, the Leadership Team meets at 9:36am, immediately following the 9:22am team huddles. This is so critical communication can flow up and back down if necessary, when the Team Leads return back to their respective teams. 

Whenever someone is Out of the Office on business, like a business trip or client meeting or an offsite, everyone is responsible for sending their Daily Status reports to their team before 9:22am. We use Slack. 

Also worth noting -- successful sports teams use huddles very similarly, to quickly sync-up, check-in on each other, boost morale, and to call the play. This is essentially the same thing. 

It's fast, it's efficient, and best of all -- it's effective. And in an instant, a team becomes aligned, in-sync, aware, and ready to tackle whatever the day may throw at them. 

PortlandTimbers

One final word of caution: This is hard. The Morning Huddle requires a level of commitment, discipline, rigidity, and all-out hardcore, nerd-dom that's on a level unto itself. If you attempt to do this half-way or half-assed, it most definitely won't work. Like a new early morning workout routine, it's actually pretty hard to get started and implemented. But it's so worth it. 

The Ups and Downs of Being a Disruptor

I am a reject. I am a rebel. I am a non-conformist. I'm a rule breaker. Throughout my life I am one who’s continually been told no. I've been discarded, cut from the team, kept on the sidelines, and have been told I’m not good enough, I'm not worthy.

I am an underdog. And I have a chip on my shoulder. For better or worse, I have made my life’s work one of breaking the rules, getting back up, testing the boundaries, asking the uncomfortable questions, and pushing hard against the grain. I’ve learned to be brave in the face of uncertainty. I've learned to persevere through the storms of life. As a child, I was often scolded for “disrupting.” Now, I thrive in it, and I attribute much of my success in leadership and business to my disruptive, persevering, never say die nature. 

As I write these words, I realize my approach hasn’t always served me well. In fact, I’ve been fired from jobs, have most definitely lost friends and have harmed a few relationships with this approach. And if I'm being honest, I have some very real, heartfelt regrets and sorrow for some of my past rule breaking and disruptive behaviors.  

With that said, I do believe that as I’ve grown up, I’m growing older, wiser and I'm becoming better equipped to manage my own inherent behaviors and tendencies —  and I know I’m still a work in progress. Where my rule breaking and disruptive personality didn’t always serve me well in my youth, I’m learning how to be more responsible and aware of when it’s appropriate and not appropriate to wield such a double edged sword. I presume this can be much attributed as part of growing up and maturing. And I thank God for that part of his design. 

And so I'll take the good with the bad and will remain committed to keep learning, growing and getting better...and disrupting.