Life’s Adversity

No one of us has escaped adversity. It is measured only by ourselves, judged perhaps by others, and it is only ours to overcome or deal with, whatever form it takes.
Recently we were at the zoo with some grandchildren, one of whom is a train aficionado. At the young age of 3 and a half, he knows all about Thomas trains and lives to play with them every day. So going to the zoo was not so much about elephants and tigers for him, but he knew (because his mom told him) that the zoo had a little train we could ride.

We decided to save the train toward the last so he would always have that to look forward to. When we finally arrived, we observed the train on blocks, with wheels off; it was under maintenance. As we tried to explain why we could not ride the train, his heart sank. He just wanted to go home. We were all sifting through a lump in our throats as we observed his sadness as he looked forlorn through the fence at the sleeping train.
sleeping train

There was still some zoo left, but he wasn’t interested; he was crestfallen. He has dealt with other adversities in life already, so far with positive outcome; so why should this journey be any different?

x

Xavier (X as we call him), was in a subdued state all the way home; melancholy.   We turned a movie on in the car to distract him.  He had great moral support, encouragement that another train day would come, but he had to still work through it himself; such is the nature of adversity.

We assured him that we would try to find a train to ride soon; as it turns out, we found one the next day.  X is learning that adversity doesn’t always have to last forever.

All Aboard

All Aboard

Victory

Victory

Sharing the Moment

Sharing the Moment

We all learn how to overcome adversity; and it starts young.  In this example, X learned that there is always a positive tomorrow, Moms can be trusted, grandparents can help, and the sun will come up tomorrow.

WE ALL NEED TO BE RESCUED FROM TIME TO TIME; Story of Calf #765

Recently, while preparing to move our cows and their small newborn calves to some grazing acres for the summer, we placed them on some temporary pasture as a staging area for their move into Wyoming.

The first night on the new pasture, one baby calf came up with a very disturbing limp.  She was in pain.  We brought in the neighbor who is a professional roper and new veterinarian to take a look.  Her hoof was marred up like she cut it on something sharp, but no puncture wounds could be found.  The swelling was evident.  We decided to watch her for a couple days.  It didn’t get any better, but it didn’t get any worse.  Then the next day, we roped her to take one more look and found her ear had a bite out of it.  The night before, one neighbor saw coyotes circling the herd.  The predators always go after the weakest, first.

I remembered at that point of a time I watched a moving of the Great Serengeti, and the wildebeest’s making their way across the plains to their feeding grounds.  The slower and smaller ones were taken by lions and alligators; it was such a sad movie.

We immediately decided that there didn’t need to be a sad ending to calf #765.  We gathered her up and took her to our private paddocks, she and her mom; where she would be protected from predators and given a fighting chance to survive and thrive.

Injured #765RescuedChance for healing

The cow herds will gather to protect the little ones and each other from predators, but when the slow moving or injured can’t make it inside the circle, it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes the protection of the herd is not enough.

So it is with people.  There is strength in numbers, and when we associate with like-minded folks, we are given strength and protection that is bigger than ourselves.  There are times however that we need a little more.  We need the one on one watchful care that can take our wounded souls and make them whole again.  It may be a parent, a mentor, a faith leader, someone who really does care enough to give us time and space.  We may be the rescuer from time to time as well.

TURNING THE COMPOST

You might not believe what is in our compost pile; from rabbit, horse and cow droppings to the remains of chickens, vegies, weathered grass, hay, cardboard, food, etc.  Over the months, this pile of materials, often referred to in more colorful terms, decays, smolders, smells  and acts like not much is happening; but it is actually a living organism.

I get to turn this pile and make it look neat from time to time; I enjoy watching these materials steam as they generate their own heat and decompose.  The material becomes finer and finer until it is sort of like dirt.  Sounds sort of biblical doesn’t it?

Then in the spring, this pile of wonder is ready to be applied (spread) over the newly tilled gardens where it catapults growth.  This pile of wonder is the elixir of life.  Think of it, what was once discarded, and in most households is thrown away, becomes a source for new life and makes the new life a much richer product.

Perhaps sometimes in our weakness or just down right stooper, we ponder our current value and question our contribution.  For those who are aging and wonder their relevance, it’s not an easy transition to prepare for retirement or even a different phase of life, job, career, or relationship.  My advice, remember the “pile of wonder” and realize that underneath the surface a powerful change is occurring;  It’s not “rot” or a pile of you know what—-no there is magic happening and when the day that magic is released, BOOM new life begins.

turning the compost

There are many other analogies I conjure up as relates to my compost pile; I am actually smiling now as I ponder that which I ought not to put in print.  In any event, know you are never beyond rebirth.  You are about as relevant as you make yourself, and even in life’s transitions, there is always hope for a brighter day—even one in which the composition of who you are or have been meets the soil that will produce who you are about to become.

Anniversary Lessons

This has been an interesting month for me.  I was diagnosed with Shingles and fought that battle, welcomed a new grandson, assisted with our leadership program in New Zealand and learned a lesson or two.  I’ll save some New Zealand lessons for another day.

As we enter April, I well remember that glorious (and daunting) April 1st 1988, when our company was born.  We now enter our 28th year in business—I guess we beat the odds.

As I think back over the years, I believe the absolute key to any of our success (aside from the blessings of Heaven) is to have a culture of transparency and trust.  Our teams have not always gotten along perfectly, but we have always kept our promises and worked hard to inculcate a culture we believe in.  We have healthy conflict and hold one another accountable.  We succeed as a team and don’t focus on individual recognition.  I once had an experience where one of our officer-associates figuratively banged his fist on the table “don’t you know I’m a [insert official title here], I demand more respect”.  That person is no longer with our company, but the point is, we don’t hang our hats on protocol—we put our value in each other and the patterns of success we have established; which we call our culture.  Folks can actually feel  this culture when they visit our offices; that we really are “real” and we really do “care”.  In other words, this just isn’t me talking—-our success transcends any “one”, and belongs to the entire body—-both now and in the past.

In our dog eat dog world,  many business owners don’t give a hoot about the heart of the people; they care only about how the bottom line can bless them personally.  Their ladder-climber “yes” people mirror the owners as they wield a sword of fear.  This builds nothing long-lasting.    When we shift to the concepts of trust, with an attitude of gratitude and a desire to give back; we feast at the table together, and not in private chambers while the rank and file eats the crumbs outside of the chamber door.

With the new grandson who recently arrived, it is always a hold your breath moment to see how the next older sibling treats the new arrival.

DudleyBoys_March2015

In this case, when Noah was just two days old, Elijah shared his greatest treasures with his new born brother.  He placed his earth moving equipment in the tiny bassinet.   We know the feelings of his heart will not always match his actions—-but he is off to a pretty good start.

In our business culture, we can learn a lot from this example.  Sometimes we don’t always feel like sharing that amazing “secret of success” (not caring who gets the credit), sometimes we go through the actions of trust, but our heart and mind are not completely aligned yet.  Sometimes we have a hard time with change and we react instead of adapt.  One of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, wrote a book entitled “All I really needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten”.   Seems like the title of his book is very true.   Developing a successful culture and adopting success principles is a life-long pursuit and it’s never too late to start.  Sometimes it’s a matter of connecting to what we know is right; even though our adult lives have fogged the mirror of truth.

Let’s try to always welcome the newness of change, give willingly of our “treasures” with a focus on team success and not individual glory, and always keep our promises.  Let’s return to our roots and live as adults the lessons we learned in our infancy.  I hope we are never dissuaded by the negative drum beats of the few and continue to partake in the great opportunities available for the many.

Lastly, for those who are near the retirement age; I highly recommend the Shingles Vaccine!  Some things we don’t need to learn by experience.

So Long Old Friend

This morning, while I was traveling on business, Ginger took Cali to the vet.  She had been suffering from cancer for a while and we’ve prolonged her life with treatment.  She is old and has had led a great dog life.  You will recall several entries in my blog featuring this amazing friend.  This is the last entry I will make of her as she entered Dog Heaven.  I received the call from Ginger just about lunch time; the tears in her voice said it all.  Family members who were near, held her in their arms, saying their so long’s, as she painlessly went to sleep.  I’m still numb.  Most everyone who has had a dog understands the sense of loss that accompanies their passing.  I don’t know how to properly pay tribute to a dog you loved and now is gone; I’ll remember her in the fondest of ways.

cali1 cali2

Cali is at peace now.  We are not; but are happy she no longer suffers.  We remember Cali in this light:

New Picture (1) New Picture

She was very obedient but always a dog.  In other words, her nose drove her passions and she had a knack for steeling cookies or other treats she could figure out how to reach.  She learned how to open a cooler with her nose.  Oh, what a nose.  She was the best bird dog I have ever seen, but her athletic season was shortened by an ACL injury.  She loved to hunt and please her master.  When I drove the old bronco, she knew it was time (for a hunt) and jumped in the front seat with me.  She once ate an entire bag of dog food and a pound of chocolate at once.  We had to have her stomach pumped.  She filled our lives with adventure and surprises, some good and some not so good.  Her kind nature, however, made it impossible to be mad at her for too long.  She knew when she had messed up- but she evidentially thought it was worth it as her “time out” punishments never did stop her from following her nose.

When I came home from the trip, I missed the floppy eared chocolate lab running out to greet me.  When I got up the following morning and was doing my readings, I missed her snores and grunts from the laundry room.  I got up a couple of times to let her outside- I already miss the routines.  Even a couple of days later, I found myself saving part of a banana while making my shake as that was my daily treat for her and she looked very forward to it.  I left the banana piece on the counter anyway in remembrance.  It’s pretty quiet now.  I saw a rabbit outside the front door and thought about how the animals and critters will not have to run for their lives for a while; in an odd way they will probably miss it.

I’m sure grateful for ole Cali Dog.  We loved her so much and will miss her greatly.  If you have a pet, give them a good scratch today.

People Over Policy

I’ve talked about this before, but another wonderful reminder has inspired me to write about this again.  I’ve always tried to hire folks who think for themselves and then EMPOWER them to do their job.  I don’t like to micro-manage (though I’ve had to force myself to grow in this area), and I don’t like to say I’m not going to micro-manage and then look over their shoulders, judging their every move.  I have had this experience in other settings in my life, and I just choose not to be involved in those circles anymore.

Policy is written mostly by folks who have never been on the front lines.  The rules are written often to eliminate stupid mistakes of the few and make everyone else jump through hoops because of it.  Of course we need rules and policies; but many are ridiculous when measured against pure intent.

In the end, every business and success in life involves a relationship.  It requires getting out of the mechanical mode (which often accompany policy) and addressing the needs of human beings.  One great challenge of leadership then, is to empower people to make decisions to address the needs of people; even if it requires wise decisions to walk outside of the lines of customary policy.  Their wisdom may not always be wise, but their intent will be and will usually overshadow the imperfections of mistakes in judgment.

On a recent trip, my wife and I had a few hours to kill in Los Angeles on our way to a leadership gig.  We decided to leave the airport and go find an In-N- Out (famous hamburger joint for those who have not been to hamburger mecca).  We started to get a taxi, but the curbside taxi manager said “Hey, you can save $40.00 bucks if you get on “the parkingspot bus”, which takes folks to their cars and is right next to In N Out.  Perfect, and thanks for the tip we said.  Now I bet this curbside taxi cab manager broke a rule in being kind enough to not allow us to be gouged for a ride less than 2 miles away—but he had a better solution to serve a human being and not feed a meter.  We hailed a parkingspot bus.  Upon entry, we announced the truth about our plan—we didn’t have a car parked in their facility but were looking for a free ride to In-N- Out.  The lady said “That’s against policy now, but I’ll be happy to help you out”.

People1

We tipped her kindly as she even instructed us how to exit their facility to walk the twenty feet to In-N -Out, and how to return to watch for her to take us back on her next rounds.  When we arrived to their facility, she also was forthright with her manager about sneaking us to In-N-Out, to which he gave us an understanding “Hang Ten” sign.  I do believe the Hamburger God’s were watching over us.  I thought it was interesting that even though policies were in place to protect their company’s profit, the folks on the front line made decisions that supported the human being first.  Good on them!!

People2 People2b

In this picture we are seated at In-N-Out and looking over at the parking garage.  Remember this principle, People over Policy—it really does work when exercised with wisdom.

On our return trip, we had the same kind lady driver.  The manager smiled and even ran some bottled water from their refrigerator to us—so happy was he that we were happy—and not even a customer of his.  On our trip both to the parking garage and back to the airport, we were the only passengers.  Sometimes when we just do the right thing regardless of policies that were written for the weakest of creatures, the space is made for the experience to be special.

The result of her kindness to us was a high regard for the company she worked for and for her manner of doing business personally; and we haven’t even used their services (at least on a paying basis).  The kindness she extended trumped a policy that would have prevented this kind act.  FYI, we did reward her generously for her genuine care; though she was not doing this deed for money.

Now on to New Zealand—this lesson is going to be taught to a large group of young adults in the leadership seminars we are invited to participate in.  What kind of a thought leader am I to teach that breaking the rules is OK sometimes?  A good one I hope.

People3

Who wouldn’t break a rule or two for this?

Horse Talk

When I was a young man, even as boy, I had a horse.  I enjoyed riding horses with my friend.   In those days, TV shows like Bonanza and Gun Smoke were popular, so riding a horse for me put me in the same league as “Hoss” or “Festus.”

Our family farm is adjacent to a horse boarding business, so I get to see beautiful horses and their caring owners.  This past week, my daughter observed my grandson making friends with a couple of horses.  He is two, and the horses are about 14 hands tall.  He looks up to them, observing them without fear.  They look down to him and are thinking, “I wish they stayed small” or “Is he our owner?”  OK, so I’m no horse whisperer- even though I look an awful lot like Robert Redford!

Horse1 Horse2

It’s amazing to me that bond between children and animals.  I think they speak a secret language and there is a special respect (usually) that the animal affords the little one.

My love of horses is a bit guarded.  My horse growing up would have to be coaxed with a hat full of oats to come near enough to put a bridle on her.  If she put her nose over the hat and found it empty, she would whirl around and try to kick me.  If I didn’t have any oats in my hat I had to move in fast or be kicked.  When riding her, she would sometimes try to rub me off on the fence line.  Any wonder why her name was Spooky.  She was albino white with blue and pink eyes.  Even so, the experience was great and I loved my horse with all her foibles.

What a wonderful world we live in, where the opportunities of communing with nature and its beasts are afforded to those of us with opposable thumbs.  What a fun experience to observe the little ones getting their first glimpses of animals as they try to communicate with them as only a child can.

Now I have to teach my grandchildren all about electric fences.  I’m still pondering how to do this.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.