A good leader is a good follower

thomas-paine-writer-quote-lead-follow-or-get-out-of-theYou’ve probably seen this famous quote somewhere along the way.

It seems, in most group dynamics, we each fall into one of these three categories. Either we lead, follow, or … we’re one of “them.” Suffice it to say: anyone behind the leader is presumed to be a follower.

Alpha-Beta Pug

We used to have a cute little black Pug. Before Pugs were cool, people thought – especially when we took this little porker on hikes – we had a pot-bellied pig. Can’t say I blamed them.

Anyway, we took her hiking and camping a lot. Funny thing is, being “Alpha dog” (my translation: only dog), she saw herself as behind my hubby (her alpha) and in front of me (her slave and gamma, at best).

So there we would be, in the middle of some trail somewhere, and I would be fighting for my spot behind my long-legged, fast-walking husband…with an animal the size of a wind-up doll power-playing me right out of 2nd place.

It ticked. Me. Off.

Until my husband and I had the discussion and discovered the relationship between his pooch and his wife. We concluded that, whether animal or human, we are either the one in charge, or we aren’t. There’s really no in-between. In this case, I was definitely not the leader. I wasn’t even the one behind the leader.

And that was OK. We all fill our “roles,” right?

It depends. Some followers may blissfully happy following and making their best contributions in that way. But a good leader also needs to know how to be a good follower. (The above is not one of those examples, by the way.) In my experience, the best leaders know how and when to follow.

It’s a big part of letting other people find their own leadership ability.

Lighten the leadership load.

I saw another interesting quote the other day on leadership. It went something like this: “When the leadership load is lightened, great things really start to happen.”

It didn’t quite click then.

In this context, though, it makes sense. The more leaders are OK following now and then, the more great stuff happens. The more they delegate, the more leaders they produce. In today’s world, that’s the sign of a great future.

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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.

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.

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.

Confessions of a sun worshipper

I admit it. I love the sun.

In the last few weeks, I have realized how much sunlight means to my sanity. I’m not just talking about for tanning purposes. Been there, done that; had a real bad sunburn in places sunburns shouldn’t go.

I’m just saying I appreciate the sun more than ever.

Image of fog settling over Rocky Mountains

How Colorado has looked for nearly one month – until today. Photo by Amber Van Schooneveld

No, really.

Colorado has seen more rain in the month of May 2015 than in any other May in history. That is unacceptable, folks.

But wait – it’s reality. Note to self: Suck it up. That’s what big kids do, right?

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Poor Mexican Gone …

I haven’t been able to crank out any content. I have blog ideas outlined or drafted – but every last one of them has been stuck behind the Publish button – or worse, stuck in my mind. Nothing could unclog them.

Anyway, some things have actually happened in the world of Poor Mexican Gone over the last few weeks:

  • My AncestryDNA test results came back – way earlier than I expected. Is that just “delighting the customer” or did I not have enough data in my tree? A new post on that soon. Interesting stuff.
  • More of Braulio’s peripheral family members and their records have shown up in my research, offering more validation (maybe 70%?) that he is in our bloodline.
  • Some great new fabrics came in to help me with my new quilting/sewing addiction (which requires much more time than anyone can imagine).
  • More freelance work has come my way – yay!
  • I’ve been playing more tennis, AND I got me some new kicks for the 2015 season.

So all that to say – it’s been an oddly overwhelming month, mostly in a good way.

But this weather!

And the angels sang

And the angels sang

Ask any Coloradan: If we don’t get our 300+ days of sunshine per year, we’re a collective, hot mess.

As you might have guessed, the sun finally came out today. We’re thrilled and hopeful, with all fingers and toes crossed.

And now maybe, just maybe, the sun will finally unclog the blog.

Where the fishies bite

Shore of mountain reservoir with fog rolling in as fisherman waits for catch

A shot of my hubby on the shore, with a snowstorm threatening just beyond.

So I sent the hubby off on his Annual Ice-Out Fishing Trip over a long weekend – the 19th such event. Family and friends from Texas and Colorado met in western Colorado to go on the offensive for some hungry fish.

Little did they know what they’d be up against – because, logistically, something always goes wrong.

Fish Tales ( << I know…like that’s never been done before)

I’ve concluded fishing is like any other sport. It has its own terminology and its it own breed of competition, which includes a certain brand of stories.

For example, if the fish are biting in a certain area, it’s not uncommon – correction, it’s downright custom – not to tell inquirers what the fish are biting on (i.e., lure/bait). I guess it’s the accepted way of protecting the watering hole and tomorrow’s catch.

On the other hand, when one has caught fish, he/she is likely to stretch both story and fish size to nearly unrealistic dimensions.

Lo the angler. He riseth in the morning and upsetteth the whole household.
Mighty are his preparations.
He goeth forth with great hope in his heart — and when the day is far spent he returneth, smelling of strong drink,
and the truth is not in him.

—Unknown

Rain or shine … or snow

Last I’d checked (yesterday morning), there was a winter storm warning, with 6″-12″ of snow predicted for the area where they were fishing. The last time I heard from my hubby, the bites had been few.

Cold fisherman braving snowfall while night fishing. (Not recommended)

Note for 20th Ice Out: Don’t bother fishing in the snow.

And all the fisher guys weren’t even there. One had gotten held up behind an accident on a mountain pass, so he had to spend the night in a nearby town.

This could only mean one thing: a very long weekend, to include multiple stops at various streams on their way home.

As is common with fishing trips, communication between base and the homestead was scarce, so I didn’t hear anything else until they got home this afternoon. And this is what I got:

While the hubs and pops-in-law unloaded the car, I asked hesitantly whether they’d caught anything.

Stranger things have happened

Dad mentioned they’d run into a group of fishermen at a nearby store – 23 of them – who’d just caught over 300 fish in the same area over the weekend. Naturally, I was hopeful our guys had gotten some good intel – and fish – before trip’s end.

To his surprise: “We asked them what the fish were biting on, and they told us!”

Followed by, “We asked them where they were biting, and they told us!”

I know now it was the truth, because tonight my hubs just vacuum-packed over a dozen speckled trout – the largest at about 16″. Whew! They didn’t get skunked by a bunch of fish.

So a good trip all-around. I’m just waiting for the story about “the one that got away” – as in, the 24″ kind.

The Big Cabin

Next year is The Big One – the 20th Annual Ice Out. The Big Cabin is reserved, the caps and t-shirts are being brainstormed. Other than that, I haven’t a clue what that this means in fishing terms. I’m sure there will be some great stories, though.