Thursday, July 30, 2009

"PBR"... Maybe not what you think!

I know, I know... an unlikely image for one of my blog entries!  Just to set the record straight, I have nothing against Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.  In fact, i have enjoyed one or two (maybe a few more!) over the years and there is something special about drinking an ice cold "PBR" out of a 16 oz. "tallboy" can.     Very refreshing!

What I want to share today is how those letters, the easy to remember "PBR" have become an often used coaching tool in my vocabulary.  Through out my career, I have often found myself in the middle of some discussion, presentation or debate "chomping at the bit" to answer a question, refute a point, or clarify an issue.  I don't know about you, but especially early in my worklife there were moments when I wouldn't be able to stop myself from butting right in and responding.  I realized over time that if I could just slow down for a moment, listen more deeply to the discussion/debate, that I would understand the situation much more clearly and my response was able to be all the more impactful.  While not foolproof, I started to work on this idea and I co-opted the famous acronym ,"PBR", to help me remember to slow it down.  "PBR" started to mean to me to "Pause", "Breathe", and "Reconnect" .  The idea was that rather than quickly diving into an issue or a debate with a not very well thought through comment, my metal model was to try to slow down and "Pause", take a moment and "Breathe." Assess the situation, the landscape, the personalities, the politics, the body language, etc. Then and only then, "Reconnect" to the discussion/debate and bring a more thoughtful response to the issues at hand.

Over the past few months, this idea of "PBR", has become the center point in discussions with a number of friends and consulting clients.  I have found myself looking for logos, cans, 12packs, t-shirts, etc. all with the famous "PBR" logo, to use as helpful reminders.  The friends and clients have put them in their offices, into their notebooks, on the back of their blackberries, all trying to keep the idea of "Pause, Breathe, and Reconnect", front and center in their day to day environments.  What has been interesting to me is the feedback from these folks trying to use this simple idea.  Their comments have been that while it has been helpful in live interactions (where I personally needed the most help), many have found it very helpful in the midst of e-mail interactions.  How easy it is to shoot off a quick email or text message with out taking a moment to slow things down and consider the situation ...  another moment for "PBR"!

As you go about your day, keep "PBR" in mind.  Whether in live interactions, phone calls, or email/text communications, practice "Pausing, Breathing, and Reconnecting", and see how it might enhance and improve your communications.  As part of the process, if you need to drain a few cans or bottles to acquire the required "mnemonic triggers", please enjoy responsibly!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Living without Regret

In the last of the three conversations that I had recently with my friend Bruce (who passed late last week), we talked about the idea of "living without regret."  This conversation was a little different from the other two because this question/topic was on my mind and I wanted to get Bruce's opinion of the question... "how did he think about the concept of "regret" and did he have any insights about living life as best we can without it?"  No small question!  After just a few moments he started talking about the concept of "regret", and how he was thinking about it at that time, just a few weeks before he passed from us.   He talked about that "regret" was a trap, and could be dangerous, because while we have an infinite ability to affect tomorrow, we have an equally significant inability to affect yesterday. That "regret" can make you inactive, pondering the "should have's/could have's/would have's" of life rather than trying to make tomorrow better than yesterday.  He talked about how he felt little regret as he looked over his life and that if he had any, it would be in those relationships in his life that he never told people who were important to him just how important they were.  He asked me whether there were people in my life who I cared about that might not know it.  He paused, gave me a penetrating stare, and said "do something about that.... today!"

As I reflect about this conversation, I keep thinking about what he wasn't talking about.  He didn't regret not taking a certain trip, or buying some specific car, or achieving some title at work.  He focused on relationships, between the people that matter in our lives.  Not only does this ring true deeply in my heart, I was reminded about a conversation that I had with my grandmother almost 11 years ago.  I wrote about it in the first post on this blog titled "Legacy", but as she reached her life's end, she didn't want to talk about the "stuff and things" of life, just the relationships.  True for MaMa, true for Bruce!

I hope that over the past few weeks and months,through a few entries in this blog,  that you have gotten a little glimpse into my friend Bruce.  I have learned a lot from him over the years and I am certain that I will continue to learn a lot from him, his life, and his lessons, in the years ahead.  I hope you have, and you will, too!


Friday, July 10, 2009

The inspiration of Bruce

Before I continue with the third and final conversation that I had with my friend Bruce (I'll post that next week), I need to recognize, communicate and share his passing yesterday evening.  Bruce has, does and will mean a great deal to me and I have learned so many lessons from him, many of which are still finding their ways into my life!  What follows is an entry from his "CaringBridge" site that he dictated a few hours before he passed.  Join me in being totally blown away by his wisdom, his inspiration and his peace.

As this point, we would be remiss not to thank you for all your love, care, and prayers. We have been deeply strengthened and encouraged by your overwhelming response, not only in the CaringBridge postings but also in all your cards, emails, personal visits, and many acts of kindness.  Thank you more than words could ever express.

Regarding my health, the disease has continued to deteriorate the quality of my life, most noticeably in my limited ability to talk and swallow foods.  My breathing continues to be a daily struggle.

Many of you have commented on what you perceive to be my braveness and courage and while we have choices, my choice has been the goodness, kindness, and grace of God. So, if you are encouraged by my journey, please know that God has been at the center of it.

My journey on earth is quickly coming to an end. As I look back, these have been some of the richest days of my life. I have so much enjoyed talking about the more meaningful things and the love of God.

Don't forget to be kind to the suffering and the needy, and don't forget to work with God in determining those important things in life...and then live it.

I look forward to seeing you in heaven.



Monday, July 6, 2009

Communities Matter!

I mentioned in the previous entry, "Authenticity, the Foundation of Leadership", that I was going to write about three conversations that I had recently with my dear friend Bruce who has ALS.  The following is the second in that series centered around the idea of "Communities".

As our conversation ranged over the day or so we had together on my last visit, we covered a wide range of topics.  One moment we would be talking about some corporate topic and the next we were talking about our favorite bands from previous "Summerfest" shows.  On one of those conversation "turns", we somehow got on the topic of the people or the "communities" that were surrounding Bruce as he was facing his mortality.  He talked about his immediate family, his fantastic wife Sarah and their three marvelous daughters.  He talked about his neighbors and his church community.  He talked about his work associates and friends.  He talked about his old friends that knew him before he was married.  As he continued, he kept describing these groups as "communities", and that as he was thinking about the end of his life, he found so much comfort, support, and love from feeling "encircled" by these strong "communities."

I joked with Bruce that when I was working for him 20+ years ago, we used to talk about "communities" in a very different light.  We were always talking about how hip it was when we traveled to Chicago, or New York, or Miami, or L.A. vs. the small town in Wisconsin where we lived and worked.  How the music scenes in Austin Tx. or Athens Ga. far eclipsed anything happening locally.  He smiled remembering those days and commented that we were so naive; that we used to think "communities" were defined by their clubs, their restaurants, their weather, and their architecture.  How wrong could we have been! 

 Bruce then asked me if I still had the yellow sheet of paper that he had written on from my last visit.  I went to my backpack and pulled out the sheet he referred to, a lined yellow sheet of paper that he had written some names on during my last trip to see him.  In candor, I had kept the sheet because it was the last thing I saw Bruce write before he lost the use of his hands/arms.  He went on to describe this group as a "special community of people, all who help each other, all very close, all help each other's families, very special people."   He said that's what we all should be searching for and working on, real relationships with people where we are trying to help and support each other as we walk though this journey called life.  Not alone, but encircled by "communities".

As I came back to Atlanta, I paused to think about the "communities" in my life.  My wonderful and giving wife Jennie. My two beautiful, smart, and creative children Bryson and Marie.  Our extended families here in Atlanta, in Virginia, in New Jersey, and in Phnom Penh.  Our friends who are parents of  our children's friends.  Our friends from past work environments, or from before we were married.  After just a moment, I realized that I/we are "encircled" by marvelous "communities".  "Communities" that help, love and support us through thick and thin.  While I am not sure why it is so hard to see what we have around us, I am very appreciative to have a friend like Bruce that can be a great reminder that "Communities" matter!