Remembering my dad(s)

dad in flight jacket

My dad, proudly donning his flight jacket. He served our country for five years in the Air Force as a flight engineer.

The things I remember most of my dad are our conversations.

One time, I can think of asking him what he would want me to be, if he could ask for anything at all.

His answer: A pilot.

Really? Me?

Then I remembered how he’d been a flight engineer in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. I remembered pictures of him in a bomber jacket.

Very long story, short: Neither of us became a pilot per se, but in Dad’s last days of life, it was clear he didn’t know yet whether his future involved staying or going.

Probably 6 weeks before we lost him, I remember him looking out his hospital window from his bed one morning and declaring, “You know, mija, if I don’t walk out of here one day, I’m at least gonna fly out of here.”

So in a way, he did finally get his wings, and he flew away from us. But just for a little while.

Dad, I will always love and miss you. You were the best dad a girl at 20 could have asked for, and a great, great friend. I am so blessed to be your daughter. Can’t wait to see you again.

P.s. There’s a great postscript to this: I married a Navy rat: he grew up with his dad away at sea 6 months out of many of his  growing up years.

So much of what I lost in my own dad, God gave me in my father-in-law, to whom I owe so much love and gratitude and honor. If I ever want a pilot story, my father-in-love’s got ’em in spades. So we got wings and a pilot! Still, I love him mostly because he is the (next-to-)greatest dad I’ve ever known.

Happy Father’s Day to my dads.

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Audience: Don’t scratch what doesn’t itch

hand scratching what ppears to be male balding headHad a great coffee meeting with a friend the other day who is a very talented instructional designer. Not only does this woman  – I’ll call her Sandy – know the methodologies and techniques for producing great training – she understands the technology behind it all, too. What a great mix of skills.

We ended up chatting the most, however, on the topic of understanding your audience. (Fellow blogger and consultant Deb Nelson covered this recently.)

I mean, if Sandy is developing training for, let’s say, bank tellers on the front lines, the required skills, knowledge and compliance they require are very different from the body of knowledge a loan officer needs to develop.

This is just one example of how missing the target audience is crucial to accomplishing your organization’s goals – or not.

Patience, Grasshopper.

So the question, “Who’s your audience?” isn’t just a bunch of hooey from the comms nerds. It’s at the heart of whatever it is you’re creating. It is more than likely why you’re developing that message. That audience needs knowledge, and you can give it to them.

You’ll also want to have an answer ready for, “What does this [brochure, website, FAQ, training document, research study, etc] need to accomplish?”

  • Do you need to change someone’s mind or behavior?
  • Do you need to move them through your sales funnel, from Point C to Point D?
  • Perhaps educate them and deepen their understanding of a complex topic?
  • What do they think or feel now?
  • How do you want them to feel after encountering your information?
Take the time or else

Whatever it is you’re communicating, I guarantee without solid answers to these questions, the likelihood of hitting your mark is – well, let’s just say you’ve been warned.

Before starting any project that communicates an idea – copy, design, user experience, it’s crucial to know:

  • Who your audience is;
  • What you need to accomplish; and
  • What the consumer’s thinking or perception is today.

Twice in the last few days I’ve heard about someone totally missing these targets – one with a study that surveyed precisely the wrong topic; the other, a training program that equipped the wrong stakeholders with the wrong set of skills. Both epic fails — not to mention costly.

As my friend Sandy said, you have to address the specific needs of the audience – or else, you just might end up scratching an itch that doesn’t exist.

Struggling with winning

farrah-tennis

Remember Farrah Fawcett? She was a pretty accomplished tennis player. She also went to my high school.

It’s easy to think that one or two setbacks necessarily equals many setbacks, or setbacks forever.

Our team’s main tennis season just ended, and I have to say, I really struggled with winning. Translated: I lost a lot.

In the end, I came out  4-3, but still the momentum of loss took its toll mentally on me in a way it hadn’t before.

I love to think that, like a Bruce Lee mantra I heard in a biopic about the legendary martial artist, each new point is an opportunity to win.

Thankfully, I won the 4th match last night in a 2-hour singles match that was scheduled for 6pm, then 6:30, then for Wednesday (we’ve had lots of rain), then back to 6pm yesterday. Oh and then outdoors before having to go indoors thanks to nightfall and all the mosquitoes that survived the great flood and the ark.

Still, for some reason last night, every time I goofed – mostly my serves – I almost couldn’t erase it next time I gave it a go.

But there were a couple of huge differences too from recent struggles to win.

It was a singles match. It was all on me – scorekeeping (for which I’m notoriously terrible in doubles), calling line shots, ball girl (of course – this ain’t Wimbledon). I alone owned the outcome (scary and exhilarating at the same time).

Good thing I had done some pre-match self-preaching, mostly on the basics of tennis:

  • Play my game,
  • Watch the ball (turns out this is tricky in the dark),
  • Visualize winning the point,
  • Move my feet; and
  • Don’t be afraid to change things up (pace, strokes, serves).

I also reminded myself to play one point at a time. Eventually, the score would tilt in my favor, right?

Also last night, I learned something about myself and my mental game:

  • I can, in fact, adjust on the fly – assessing what’s not working and either change my approach to it or eliminate it altogether.
  • When I’m “in the zone,” I know exactly what to do, and if I stay focused, my envisioned solution is usually effective.
  • Settling into the match and to my rhythm is crucial to winning for me. If my heart rate is up and I’m distracted, it’s going to be an uphill battle. If I play like I’m in practice, it’s all good.

Maybe the curse has come to an end? I’m going to say it has and that now I’m in a position to keep it that way. On to the next season and another opportunity to win.

A tribute to the crazy who married me

wedding-dayIt’s my wedding anniversary today, and while it’s not a “big” one, it sure feels big to me.

I’m so blessed to have someone who has known how to be my friend, boyfriend, lover, confidant, soulmate, teacher, parent (sometimes – I’m not always an angel), reason-seeker, godly partner – for all this time. Because believe me, those roles rotate like spokes on a wheel.

It’s as they say – you really know who your friends are when you go through hard times. For all the friends I thought would “be there” during my darkest days, no one comes close to how much my husband has been there. Sometimes a silent partner, sometimes a sounding board. Always available. Always patient. Good Lord, is this man patient.

When you’re younger, it’s easy to see all the ways your partner isn’t the saint you thought they were. In fact, we idealize and idolize marriage so much, it’s hard not to feel let down when we find out we’re not married to the perfect human being.

But that smooths out over time, because all of us are more sinners than saints, and if someone’s willing to stick with us through thick and thin and all the crap we often bring upon ourselves – that is saint enough for me. In fact, it’s like the face of God to me. And I get to see it every morning.

Here’s to more mornings, weeks, months and years together. It is the biggest privilege to say that, given the choice, I would choose this man all over again.

Chip off the old block

My mom works hard. As in, she works hard at her job. And she’s 82, going on 83 (I like to talk about age like a first-grader; it’s more fun).

Not only has she worked since she was 12 (you could call it child labor, but she would probably just call it survival); she still shows up 4-5 days a week at my brother’s tennis retail store to manage his bookkeeping and vendors.

When I call my mom during the day, she’s usually at work. Being “all business” like she is, she doesn’t have much time to talk. Usually she just wants to get back to her duties.

Thinking back through my career, I was much the same way – all business. I was “in the zone” all day, every day, sometimes even on weekends. If I got a phone call between meetings, it was always brief. Or maybe it was just me who was brief. Yikes.

Anyway, it’s a few years later and I feel like I’m just now relearning how and when to draw boundaries around my family life, my marriage and other important relationships so I know what’s important outside “the zone.” Heck, even to remember that there is life outside “the zone.”

I’m also re-learning how to work.

A friend challenged me several years ago to consider that work could actually look different than the traditional 9-to-5 workday. I’d wanted that for years.

Still, I couldn’t get my head around it for me. In fact, it’s taken until now to get the picture. Honestly, I’m surprised I like it. I had no idea I could be that stuck in old ways.

Why did I fight it for so long? I love teams and collaboration, and it has been hard to be alone this much. But the truth is, you can be around people as much or as little as you want when you work on your own. I need to get with that program, too.

Work ethic vs. family: A both/and decision

It’s great to see my parents’ work ethic in myself, especially now, without the distortion I added for so many years.

Going forward, I want to value my own life and my family’s as much as I can — not to mention the limited time we have together, never to be taken for granted.

While working hard is something I love to do, it’s also a means to an end. It’s what allows me the freedom to enjoy the many beautiful relationships in my life. And for that I have a newfound, heartfelt gratitude.

The man behind Ikea’s world-dominating products has never been to design school

As an ikea fan and one who loves to see people just be good at what they do – with or without credentials “bling” – I love this article.

Initiate kindness

The open hands of a child

Photo by Jyn Meyer

It’s that time of year. Graduates are graduating and dreams are being flung toward the heavens along with those tassled caps.

Probably that’s the reason for a series on Linkedin called #IfIWere22. The likes of Richard Branson and Robert Herjovec appear to be participating.

Came across Herjovec’s recently and it made me think of all the things I wished I knew then that I know now. As most of us know, some things are better left unknown until “that time” in your life when you’re mature enough to handle them.

Glass half-full

But other things, like assuming the best in people – while I wish I’d “had it” earlier, for me, came with time.

Maybe I was jaded from losing my father young — maybe on guard and grieving in my early adult years? Maybe it was a sense of identity loss, since I also married young.

While I don’t feel it’s true now, it does seem like I lived too much of my life with a glass half-empty. Still, that’s what I’d tell myself at 22. Here’s why.

Do unto others…

Funny. I always thought I knew what the “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” axiom meant, but the more “judgy” our society becomes, the more important I think it is for each of us to just take the initiative to act on that premise – first.

By that, I mean to assume the best in others – that they are more than likely good people, probably will like you, take interest in you as a fellow human, whatever – and act on it. Initiate kindness.

We have the power

A long time ago – while my dad was still alive, in fact, we were at a conference together. This one speaker talked about how the interactions we initiate lead to positive or negative reception by others. In other words, how we treat someone will likely manifest itself in a similar reaction from them.

So why would we wait on the other person to show kindness?

Ghandi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Just decide to do good, and then do it.

But how about when a situation is hard to read and you’re the new kid on the block? Last one to the party? What then? It can be terrifying (even for this flaming extrovert).

That doesn’t mean the risk isn’t worth the payoff, though. And it doesn’t let us off the hook if we really want to see change.

Being kind first just means you’re extending an open hand that says, “I have nothing to hide or hold back. At this moment, at this time, I’m here … for you.”

Some people won’t feel it. Don’t take it personally. It’s their problem – really. Others will need it. It’ll be like manna from heaven for them. And you’ll know because they’ll light up the moment you show you care. It could make their day and yours.

So what would I tell myself at 22? I’d tell myself to initiate kindness as an act of faith in others.

And I’d finish with a reminder that it’s nearly impossible not to reciprocate in the same, kind way. If someone doesn’t want to engage in a little kindness today…it really is their loss.