Monday, December 26, 2016

Sundays of Christmas Past

All the guests left today and the excitement of Christmas 2016 is now history.  I can't remember the last time Christmas landed on a Sunday (actually it was 2011) and it is not 1/7th of the time.  In fact the next occurrence is 2022 and only 14 times in the 21 century. 

I asked J.R. today at lunch when New Years Day this year?  His response - same as every year 7 days from Christmas - hence Sunday. 

But what is the optimal day for Christmas to fall for retailers?   "Super Saturday" is actually the Saturday before Christmas Eve and was December 17th this year.  My random observation today (Boxing Day) is that retail traffic was light and sales tepid.  In fact many sales were pre Christmas Eve this year. So my guess is retailers are not that interested in Christmas falling on Sunday.

Based on attendance at Armstrong Chapel Sunday morning, Christmas falling on Sunday will also be a low revenue day for the offering plate.  At Crossroads there was only streaming (which I presume is pre-recorded) so attendance was only virtual (and also probably a non event).  Traditionally Christmas Sunday is the first Sunday after Christmas - which means this year it is Jan. 1.

Next year Christmas resumes to Monday - seems much more traditional for the Monday U.S. observed schedule for Holidays and less confusing for church for Christmas Sunday.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Calling all the Time

I have been reviewing the study that our Men's Fellowship Group did back in Sept. 2006 - "The Blueprint for Life" a study by Mike Kendrick of Ministry Ventures Inc.  The last 8 minutes of Tony Evan's talk on "The Importance of Calling" is one of the best summaries I have heard about purpose and time.

"Time is given for one reason..... to accomplish your purpose", preaches Tony.  We sit inside of time and God "ordains" that time and when it is complete.  "You can die before your time, but you can't live longer than your time" Tony adds.  So if you don't have purpose you will not use time wisely.

So what happens if you believe you have wasted time without knowing your calling?  That's the Grace you have been given - and even today you can get back those years by changing your focus.  Making the most of the time you have left recaptures the prior lack of focus.

Every time you think about death is good because it should remind you of time.  And... since we are all going to die - you might as well start living........ your Calling ........ all the time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas Mystery e-card

Wisner Family - December  2016

It Takes TWO    is the theme  for the Wisner’s  - two loves, two lost, 2gether 22ever.   We are thankful for a mul-ti-TWO–ed of blessings including good health and spiritual wealth.   
Ellen (Second Wind –IHS Senior)  -  Twice at JH Ranch, no Words can describe the Friends she has made. Drawing Something deep in perseverance, she worked double duty in 22 jobs – Frieda’s Baking, Dog Walking, Baby Sitting; Adult Caring (Hospice).  Matched savings doubles her smile and bankrupts Garen.  Twin trips to Chicago has made her a veteran traveler with daring dual landings – all alone.  Next May marks a milestone – My am I proud of her pending graduation. Oh i only hope she stays in State.  U C we still don’t know her choice.
Jenna (FiancĂ©e – Finally J ) – Almost two cubed years of dates resulted in a proposal with a Memorial date pending.  Still at Christ Hospital, Jenna is pairing as an Assistant Nurse Manager – half in and half out -  a double-edged schedule.  Paul Robinson (her future duet) says that she MAy Love It BUt,  she’s still singing the blues. 
Susan (Couples – Consultant) – Politics trumped her out with no tea for two parties.  She TaKEs aLL ERrors in stride. Instead, she became a couple’s coach (for all ages) focused on high wire relationship advice; downstream rapid financial calculations; and wedding dual accounting budgets.  Not one – but two Emmaus walks puts her All In – for the second year.  She’r lock it at home (vs Outback) with two new clients occasionally blowing out of the house for duplicate tournaments.
Garen (Dynamic – Dude?) -  He had to repeat the Marriage retreat first at the Lodge; second at Outback. The duplicity of material suits him well.  Booster-ed (or busted) by more time away from duplicate, he went Full Throttle into SVP Membership, Miami Mock Recruiting, and Movie Ministries.  Reversing the heat, building new bricks of legal traditions, Garen restricted his stock trading to Susan’s new found options.  He is Sirius about Holiday Traditions never forgetting the echo of Watercolors. 
Travel included Portugal, Chicago, Shaker Village, Tennessee, California with traditional stops in KS and NC and even an Ark encounter.  TWO big events pending – wedding and repeat tuition creates another Magnum financial hit. This year a Cavalier candidate emerged from Cleveland only to disappoint both political Tribes.
As we recover from a year of brokenness - political incivility and political divisiveness - our family reflects on this year’s power of TWO driven by the birth of ONE. “ONE can have a dream but TWO can make a dream so real”.  We are privileged to be connected to the ONE … and to you – TOO!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
“Again, I say to you, if TWO of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven.”                     Matthew  18:19

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Resting Space

"Music is best where there is space between the notes" remarked A.S. at a Vistage meeting some time ago.   How true also for our life -  "Life is best where there is space between the busy schedule".

In this Holiday hustle and bustle, everyone seems to stress out on running out of time - for the Christmas Cards, decorating the house, shopping for presents, people we want to connect with, year end deadlines and the list goes on and on.  Yet everyday (and even the most scheduled person) has white space - time in car, time between meetings, time between tasks, even time during meals.

How do you celebrate that "space"?   Do you fill it with noise, randomness, or purpose?  Here's a radical idea - schedule some space!  Schedule some ..... Rest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Board Room Exit

No one got my point when I said the departing Board members for SVP Cincinnati reminded me of the final scene of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.  They wanted me to explain - my response (like the intrigue of interpreting the book) was - "watch the movie and decide for yourself".  It is a very complicated book. The movie, with Jack Nicholson, is a 1975 classic, and does a good job of delivering the complexity of the book.

The interesting philosophy I remember most about the book and the movie is trying to determine who is crazy and who is sane?  What is "prison" and what is "freedom"?  Who is in control and who isn't?

In the final scene the Chief (pretending to be deaf and dumb) leaves the Mental Ward and it's up to you to decide, based on the outcomes of all the characters, who is better off.

So what was my point as the three departing Board members left me with yet another term?

Depends on your perspective :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Revealed

Yesterday was the close of the study of "Hidden Christmas" by Tim Keller.  Keller reveals insights of the real meaning of Christmas by the various responses of each human's first knowledge of the news (usually from angels) about God's coming.  In today's language a supernatural encounter.

So how would you react to a supernatural encounter?  Terrified; Amazed: Disbelief; Humbled; Fearful; Confused; Curious; .....

How do you react when someone describes their personal supernatural encounter (like the Shepherds, Wise Men etc.)?  Yeah right; Crazy; Dreamy; I'll give you a pass on this one; I believe you;

Who do you trust or respect when they witness to their theories/beliefs and philosophy of the unknown?  Scholars; Leaders; Clergy; Scientists; Friends;  Family; Strangers;

All of these were questions our group wrestled with and even answered.  The evening ended with the final question:

Someone today approaches you and asks:  "What does Christmas mean to you?"

Embedded in your answer is the revelation of your Hidden Christmas,  and your story is in fact your encounters in life revealed to someone questioning their unknown and trusting your answer.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Let's say you discovered the gift you gave someone was "re-gifted" to someone else.  How would you react?  There in lies the danger of re-gifting anything.  You have no control over where it might end up or if the trail of discovery could be traced back to you as the original giftee. 

A version of this happened to me when I took a bottle of wine over to M.L.'s house who was hosting Susan and I for dinner.  In this case it was totally innocent as I had just pick any bottle of wine from our wine cabinet.  However this bottle just happened to be the exact bottle the M.L. had brought over to my house two weeks prior for a Vistage social that Susan and I were hosting.

I immediately put two and two together when M.L. commented on how much he enjoyed that brand of wine.  It was the joke of the evening that I had "re-gifted" the exact bottle of wine back to it's original owner. Quite a potentially  embarrassing situation, but luckily with friends like the M.L.s not an issue.

The moral of the story: "He who gifts should be flattered to get it back."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Musical Memories

At Wednesday tennis, D.P. mentioned there would be a holiday concert in the community symphony that he plays in - did I want to attend?  That launched into the memories of my music background and the many hours devoted to practicing, playing and listening to music. 

Mom and Dad planted that seed of interest and watered it with encouragement, lessons and coaching for 15 years. Once in college (and after two years in the Miami Marching Machine), all that investment would lay dormant (other than the listening part). 

I tried to do the same with Jenna and Ellen but with less success (maybe only 6-8 years).  I remember Jenna's piano teacher saying that it takes 7 years (on  piano) to give the gift of that skill for a lifetime.  Not mastery - but the ability to sit at a piano and play a decent piece - maybe even sight read.

Using my 15 years of dormant knowledge, I asked D.P. what instrument he played.
Trumpet he replied. 

Arrogantly, I asked  "Have you played the most famous trumpet trio piece"?

"What would that piece be?  he asked, obviously indicating it must not be so famous.

I didn't know the name or composer but could easily hum it it for the tennis guys  attempting to get help.  P.N. asked for a repeat performance and an additional stanza to no avail.  D.P. even tried to google "most famous trumpet trios" on the "smart-alec" phone.  No luck!

So this is where the mind is fascinating.  I just couldn't get the tune out of my head.  How would I ever find out the name and composer?  Yet last night it popped into my memory......

The Bugler's Holiday!    And with the power of the internet - confirmation of it's stature.

Buglers Holiday - by Leroy Anderson performed by the US Coast Guard

Friday, December 9, 2016

Work to Live or Live to Work

I remember my Grandfather Well's wisdom when he said: "You either Work to Live or Live to Work".  He said this as he was asking me also about my hobbies recognizing that my work-aholic  tendencies may have over emphasized the Live to Work part.  He also said: "Without hobbies, interests and other relationships..... the day you retire is the day you start to die."

I just finished reading Barry Schwartz's Ted Original book (from the TED Talk series) titled "Why We Work".  The question seems simple yet the answer is embedded in a complex weave of our human nature, institutional and governmental systems, motivations, and yes.... moral sentiments with the haunting of life's purpose.

I always felt that attitude was 80% of the solution.  Even life's worst job, with the right attitude, can be fulfilling - as Schwartz says "who they are, not what the work is".  I even remember at Accenture when the Functional Head of the Human Resource consulting practice shocked me with the HR principal that money (and incentives) will not create sustainable employee job satisfaction -  substantiated by significant surveys and psychological data.

Schwartz postulates that our ideas and/or ideology (which may be false truths) about why we work may "bear a large measure of the responsibility for the nature of our work".  I grew up in a billable hour mindset (consulting fees) and as such started putting a price on time - an evening with friends has "costs".  My obsession with studying time and money may have grow out of this very mindset.

So there is some danger in false ideology - meaning that it can become true simply by people believing it's true.  I reconstruct how I think about my actions to match the false ideology; The self fulfilling prophecy can take over; The Pygmalion Effect of expectations by others might take over; or Institutionalizing the idea in social and governmental structures overpowers you. 

So before you give up and believe that we are stuck in a declining spiral of unfulfilling work paradigms. Remember that human beings are "value soaked" creatures.  Everything we do announces a value (a purpose).  Embedded in our hearts is that search for value - which is our choice.  Our "work" will always reflect our value (good or bad).  If our work is bad or unfulfilling, the conflict in our soul will press us with suffering until we resolve the false ideology.

Working to Live .... for what purpose?  Living for purpose is your work.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vistage Inklings

Tomorrow I will meet with my Vistage 1107 group. I look forward to these meetings each and every month.  I can even "blame" a Vistage session by B.E. for this blog.

There are only four of us that remain as the founding group that started meeting back in July 2004.  G. B. will be in the "spotlight" and I'm sure it will be interesting.  Reading about C.S. Lewis's group called the Inklings, Vistage serves this purpose for me.  A  group of very talented business professionals meeting monthly for friendship, "carefrontation", business idea stimulation, and personal development. In fact, every meeting I get some sort of inkling - a whisper, a nudge from one of the members.

I reviewed my inklings and scribbles from all the 2016 meetings and found the pages littered with quotes, ideas, goals, to dos, and a tapestry my own and others comments.  With twelve years of nudges and notes, I can see a pattern improvement and growth.

My next Spotlight #11 is March 2017 and that responsibility launches me into what has become a very enjoyable activity of self reflection, philosophical musing, and deep emersion of research and learning.  Covering all topics from personal mission, time/money, risk/reward, luck, happiness, longevity, Heaven, friendship and even "Golden Oldies",  I wait to get inspired by a subject that will be fun to research and valuable information for the other members.

So what will be the subject?  Business topics I'm considering - Leadership; Customer Experience; Technology Shifts; Margin or Revenue; Ethics Interpersonal topics I'm considering - Memories, Hobbies and Habits; Creativity; Giving;

I need an inkling :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Deep Breath Please

I've been reviewing old journals (financial, spiritual, grateful lists) and blog entries.  Interestingly, my journals have little to do with world events.  My great grandmother recorded in journals every day in the 1800's and when I was reviewing them about three years ago the same phenomenon was present.  She recorded events that impacted their life, farming items, weather, birth/death, family visits or excursions etc. 

So many people are so stressed about this Presidential election and the impact of future policy and/or world events. Yet when it comes to recording the things in journals that really impact your life these macro events yield little interest or, dare I say, impact.

Someone told me Oprah Winfrey tweeted about the election: "Take a deep breath" #HopeLives.  How appropriate.  There are plenty of historical writings about the gloom and doom of the times and when read to an unknowing audience sounds just like today's times.

So try to use this advice to create peace in your life.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Giving Counts

At breakfast with fellow Social Venture Partners (Cincinnati) we began discussing philanthropy.  While SVP Cincinnati's public purpose is "to enable our investees to make the Cincinnati region a stronger and more vibrant community", I believe the real purpose is to grow an individual (a Partner) in their giving of time, talent and treasure.

Cincinnati and our giving community is one of the most philanthropic in the United States.  I remember doing the business plan for SVP Cincinnati and discovering the Cincinnati's contributions to the United Way is in the top five cities (at least back in 2007) PER CAPITA.  The Cincinnati chapter of De Tocqueville Society ($10K or more) claims over 900 members and $11M and "one of the largest chapters in the country".

Naturally the skeptic in me wanted to fact check this "marketing claim".  Indeed it is one of the largest .... but naturally it depends on how you count:

- Denver 400 $10M; Chicago 650 $12M; Milwaukee 403 $15.3M; Houston 876 $17M; Dallas; Atlanta (claiming to be the largest) >1000 members;

Even SVP International attempts to count our impact:  "With more than 3500 Partners from Boston to Bangalore, Social Venture Partners is the world’s largest network of engaged donors".  SVP Cincinnati promotes ourselves in "Giving Results" - Partners Give More, Strategically, and are More Involved in their Community. 

So are all these discussions an attempt to show Pride in Giving?  Or to be an examples/witness of the journey of a giver. 

Externally it is impossible to discern.  Internally it is impossible to measure.  Or as a more famous person said:

"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; Everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted." Albert Einstein   (see "Counting Feelings 1/11/2011")

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Pride or Prejudice

Rarely do you get to admit mistakes or experience the growth in your own thinking.  But authors, writers, bloggers, and journal keepers have that chance. Now with visual technology advancements there is the historical trail of speeches, movement, and precise location of events with proof of attendees and fellow patrons.  Increasingly this is available for public scrutiny or as one author called it social surveillance.

Much of the basis of criticism we have of others is finding a mistake or pointing out some form of hypocritical action.. Yet every individual is subject to both mistakes and obtaining new sources of information that allow them to grow in emotional and intellectual maturity.  How easy it is for the smarter or more emotionally mature person to use their "perceived" superiority or power (in knowledge or experience) to belittle or intimidate the other.

I'm concluding that the 2016 election has been a divide driven by intellectual prejudices  fueled by the media who enjoy (and are economically incented to and rewarded for) widening this gap.  Deplorables, Racists, Dogmatic Far ... left or right; Demographic stereotyping, Uneducated, Elitist, ... the list goes on and on. 

Change the context of superiority  and think in terms of parent/child or teacher/student.  How would you communicate and interact with your child or student?  What language, examples, or stories would you use to create the necessary dialogue in your relationship?  Out of what goals and emotional connection would you accept each others actions and behaviors? Is the parent always right and infallible?  How is truth revealed and discovered?

Pride or Prejudice -  either cloak will hide your soul.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy Self Day

Birthday calls, cards, texts, emails, and ......  Facebook/LinkedIn posts - which make you feel most appreciated?    Do any of the technology driven Birthday wishes even count?

I've never been a big Birthday celebration person as it seems like just any other day (other than probably to the Mom's in the world who were ... "all in").  But the reality is seeing the technology acknowledgements by other does require them to do something to acknowledge and congratulate you electronically (even if they are prompted by the web site reminder). 

First this year was Susan (since I didn't log in my computer or look at my phone) with a wonderful birthday card (yes a physical birthday card with a handwritten note).  Next in line was Ellen with both a gift and a card.  Then technology took over - text from Jenna (6:28am) followed by a slew of Facebook, LinkedIn  friends and even vendors, retailers and interested institutions (Cinemark; Allstate, Miami Oxford, Adidas, etc.)

You could say that every technology congratulations started with my input of the Birthdate in te web site  profile.  So was I indirectly  congratulating MYSELF?? (how's that for the ultimate narcissistic trend)?  Google even had a birthday cupcake on my phone automatically and on my computer search page. 

I suppose Apple is researching how Siri could automatically sing happy birthday to me on a phone (that is if I ever would get an iPhone ---NEVER).  Microsoft (Bing) is again behind the times - absolutely nothing!

Blue Mountain allows the sender to generate an e-card today and send up to a year in the future.  I wonder how many dead people get Birthday wishes?

So ..... why not top all this off with the MOST  narcissistic birthday wish of all.  A blogger wishing himself a Happy Self Day:

Happy Selfday Garen.   Have a Wonderful Day.  :)