Monday, October 30, 2023

When things are “murky”, use your “fog lights”



Many of you know that a few years ago (back in the summer of 2014) I bought an old car that I very affectionately named “Miss Kitty!”  I picked the car up near downtown LA, and my dear son Bryson and I drove her home, back to Atlanta, on a cross county multi-day road-trip that we still talk about today.  “Miss Kitty” is quite a character, with many unusual quirky features, but as you can see from the picture, she has some pronounced “fog lights” on her front grill. This essay is NOT a deep dive onto my old car’s unusual characteristics, but it was prompted by a recent experience I had driving on a foggy morning.


When driving in fog, I remember being taught in drivers-ed class to always use your car’s headlights, but to NEVER use the “high-beams!” If your car had “fog lights,” they were to be utilized in conjunction with your “low-beams” in conditions that were hazy, rainy, murky, or had limited visibility.  It was in just such a situation recently that I was heading to that the Atlanta airport, on a drizzly/foggy morning, when I realized that my old car’s “extra-large fog lights” were really needed to drive safely in the challenging conditions.  While those big yellow fog-lights did the job perfectly, it got me thinking about “murky/unclear” situations in life and in business that I was experiencing today.


How many times does your work environment lack clarity or appears hazy/unclear??   How many moments in your life do you face challenging situations and are uncertain of a clear path forward??  At least for me, these challenging situations happen all the time, and I for one often “turn on the high-beams” rather than the “fog lights” often to little avail!  Thinking about good old “Miss Kitty.” I realized that in those murky work/life moments, I needed to ditch the proverbial “high-beams.”  I didn’t need to add MORE intensity of introspection, MORE high analysis, MORE digging for clarity to make the matter clearer… instead I needed to SLOW DOWN and find/utilize the “fog lights” available to me. 


This imagery makes logical sense, and I am certain you understand the idea that I am trying to share… but I find the exercise very hard.  All my training and my 38+ years of a business career have been centered extensively on the “high-beam” curriculum!  How to accelerate your tempo, how much data can you connect with and how quicky can you do it?? I am literally writing this essay on a flight heading back to Bakersfield, and I am scheduling calls in 15-minute intervals for my layover in Phoenix…. more “high-beam” action!! 


As I look at my personal business landscape, I certainly see challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.  Much more significantly, I look broadly at the political landscape domestically and internationally and see incredible challenges; illuminated today by the wars in Ukraine and Israel that are just two examples of tragic nightmares with no clear path forward in sight.  Now more than ever I am reaching for my “fog lights” to help navigate to road ahead, and I encourage all readers to be sure to keep them handy and in good working order… the path ahead does not look to be clearing any time soon and I think we will all need to use our “fog lights” regularly!


Thursday, October 5, 2023

"Last words" that ring true today!


Recently, I had the chance (a deep privilege really) to gather with three dear old friends to go fishing in Canada.  We try to go every fall, and while the weather, the fishing, the stories are different every year…. it’s always a ball!  Flying back to Atlanta with one of the “gang,” I was shown an email that highlighted the “last words of Steve Jobs” before he died back in 2011.  I have shared a few paragraphs from that email below.  I am not here to debate whether these were his actual “last words,” but I do want to share that they rang deeply true to me on several levels.  

First, I have had the chance (and honor) in my life to spend time with two people that I was very close to right before they died.  My Grandmother, who passed in 1998 at 97 years old, and my first boss at Kimberly-Clark who passed in 2009 when he was in his late 50’s.  I have written about both of them across numerous essays in this can read more about my grandmother at  and my old boss at   Both were very aware that they going to pass soon and while they were radically different people, from VERY different economic backgrounds and life experiences, the conversations at the end were very similar…. There was no talk about “stuff & things” or money, both wanted to reminisce about the people and stories of their lives… to try to remember and relive the poignant moments that were fleeting.  The first paragraph below of Steve Jobs' “last words” hits that exact chord when he says “true inner happiness does not come from material things”…


“Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $3000 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down—you go down with it. 


Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, sing with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness. Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price.”



The second connection was from the most recent fishing trip and the laughter, and enjoyment that four old friends can have together year after year… whether fishing for Walleye’s on a new-found “fishing hole,” playing cribbage (or this year Binho… an awesome new game) , or making breakfast sandwiches on a new flat-top griddle, etc.…. it was a ball being together and we laughed, talked, and sang together just as Jobs mentions above!  Having old friends is certainly “true happiness!”

Take a moment after this essay to reconnect with your old friends and find a way to stay connected.  While hard for all of us, we need to try to remember Jobs' admonition about the $30 vs the $3000 watch…. In the end, it just won’t be important but the laughter and stories about the latest “fishing hole” (metaphorically) will be all that matters!!