Friday Randomness, Vol. 104

Swedish nature

A lot has come from a four-day retreat I led with my friend Greer Van Dyck for last year’s OIA Skip Yowell Leadership class outside the little Colorado town of Meredith. Like I know most of the folks are doing, I’m also still processing what was all shared. Lucky for you, or not depending I suppose on how you view my random thoughts, I’ll be sharing some of what came up.

In the meantime, to get to Colorado and back with Katie and our two kids we drove our van. Along the way, K was reading the book There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk. Her review is both positive and critical. Positive in that the author’s intent that we shouldn’t be too comfortable to go outside even when it’s not sunny is good, critical in that her opinion borders at times on condescending.

That said, on page 30 Åkeson McGurk brings up an interesting idea:

Unlike in the US, where private property rights are king, and land use tends to be ruled by the risk for potential lawsuits and the premise that if something can go wrong it probably will, allemansträtten relies on an honor system that can simply be summed up with the phrase ‘Do not disturb, do not destroy.’

Sure, the context there is about land. It doesn’t seem too far of a stretch though for me to take it into our work and into leadership. Something in fact that came up in Colorado had to do with the balance of process and trust. Speaking for myself, the less I trusted the folks on my team, the more processes I put in place. Not ideal. I needed to trust more, control less. Then manage the results to make sure everyone is being responsible for their work. Sometimes tough, but always possible. Also, ideal.

Maybe I, heck the proverbial ‘we,’ can learn a thing or two from the Swedes approach to land. Clearly, there are huge benefits to trusting the people and creating a space where responsibility (forgive the expression) rules.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 103

Be like a toddler

We’re traveling this week for a retreat in Colorado. Tonight, we had Matt Manzari speak. He shared his incredible story about, as he put it, pain and suffering. ‘Pain is inevitable,’ he reminded us, then added, ‘suffering is a choice.’

After recovering from his first near-death experience wakeboarding, he was volunteering at a church trimming bushes when he was electrocuted with the same amount of current as six electric chairs. After months of agonizing recovery, he survived.

During his talk, he spoke about finding his why. Afterward, someone in our group asked him to elaborate on how he approached doing that. His answer: be like a toddler. 

I’ve thought about that approach myself as Sefton asks question after question about something as simple as the American flag. ‘Why does it have stars?’ I answer him. ‘Why are there states?’ Tougher answer, but still doable without having to make something up. ‘Why was there a war?’ Again, tough but answerable. At some point, that kid gets to a question that’s hard for me to answer.

The same is true asking ourselves a tough question like, ‘What’s my why?’

Like Matt offered, the way to get to the answer is to be like a toddler.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 102

The bloomered belles of Mount Baker

K was cleaning out her craft room when I heard her call my name. She held up a Tacoma News Tribune Sunday Magazine dated May 2, 1976 (two days before I was born) and asked if we should frame any of the photos printed inside. The cover story was titled, ‘Asahel Curtis photographed lady climbers.’ The subtitle at the beginning of the article was, maybe to date the fashion of the early 1900s, ‘The bloomered Belles of Mount Baker.’

As evident in Curtis’ photos, these ladies were badass. They climbed Mount Baker and Mount Rainier, after all, in full dresses and big hats. Also, bloomers.

At the end of the magazine, there was a poem by Fred Caprez of Tacoma I thought I’d share titled, ‘The climb.’ 

We fasten our crampons to our boots,
Shoulder the rucksack and skis,
Start up the mountain and
Every step closes the gap
between us and the top.
The mountain slope does not
seem to end;
A steep face challenges our
We crisscross up to ease the
strain but
Every step closes the gap
between us and the top.
The sun rises over the
The steps feel lighter with the
awakening of nature.
The surrounding peaks drop
down and
Every step closes the gap
between us and the top.
The hours tick away as we
keep a steady pace.
The burden of our rucksack
seems to lighten
And we look toward the end of
our journey as
Every step closes the gap
between us and the top.
Reaching the top is
The realization of the beauty
and greatness of nature
Makes one forget the
laborious long climb and
The gap has closed
between me and God!

Now that I’ve immortalized Fred’s poem, we don’t need to frame that. We will, though, display some of those old photographs. They’re pretty awesome.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 101

Post-It note mantra

On our last trip to Goodwill, K bought a busload of Post-It® notes. Literally. It’s the classroom value pack. We’re set on small, square, self-sticking note-taking devices for a while. If you haven’t heard the story, the history of how they were invented is pretty cool.

All of that to say, I’m a long-time fan of the things and admittedly pretty excited for K’s find. 

They obviously have a million* uses. One way I’ve used them is by writing myself a little mantra and sticking it to my computer. The simpler the better. Personally, I strive for three or fewer words. The one I had the last few years I was with REI read: Practice restraint. That still applies today, in a lot of ways. But it’s been replaced. I can only have one, after all.

What I’ve had gracing my computer now for a while is from K. She left it for me once when she used to head over the mountains for three days to work, also at REI. It says: Play your music loud. Like ‘Practice restraint,’ that means a lot of things to me. Have fun. Don’t take myself too seriously. Also and more obviously, play my music loud when no one is home.

* give or take…

Friday Randomness, Vol. 100

Me playing the piano

One hundred. 

I remember sitting down and writing the very first one of these. Heck, I remember coming up with the random idea that once a week I’d come up with a random idea. When I think about it now, sitting down every week to write these is one of the things of which I’m most proud for this thing I’ve called Sendline. 

The intent was to keep them simple. Short and random, worth sharing. I’ve joked with people that I really write them for myself. Little reminders and ideas to keep thinking about as I move through this thing called life. As I look back on them, I think I’ve done a pretty good job holding to that. Mostly.

Maybe surprisingly, it turns out they seem to make up a sort of portrait of myself. If you’ve read a bunch of them, you may feel like you know a little bit about me. Yeah, in retrospect as it should be. It seems easy now what in reality has always been tough for me: being known. In the context of leadership, it’s crucial to be known. Sharing one random idea at a time, I guess it’s not that hard.

That in and of itself is a good reminder for me.

ps… I listened to this song by Moby on repeat while writing this after midnight last night…