family

FOCUS: Family First!

Selected Life Lesson
Never put your job before your family.
-Tyneal H’s Life Lesson from Vinton, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
Working in New York City over the past 13 months has taught me a few things. First, time is precious. Second, food is delicious. Third, family and friends are the most valuable people in the world.

In fact, one man that I have had the privilege of working with, Gary Vaynerchuk, actually shares this lesson in his Twitter bio: “family 1st. but after that businessman [...]“

It’s a great lesson for a businessman and entrepreneur to have. And I have it too. Now, more than ever I am making the time for the people most important to me. Sure, I have had to cut back on some things I genuinely enjoy, but life is what matters. Life is in the living.

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Mental Health Days

Working in one of the entrepreneurial capitals of the world, I have kept my finger on the pulse of the trends not only in the types of business being created, but also the business management behind them. One of the many perks being given out today is an idea around no vacation policy. It is definitely an interesting concept and I have met people on both sides of the fence of this discussion.

In fact, I recently wrote about how my generation appears to be obsessed with being overworked.

For example, if you take a day off of work because you have a physical ailment, that’s not going to raise any eyebrows. But if you take a day off to deal with stress and emotional issues, people view that differently and some may even accuse you of slacking off and being weak.

A few weeks ago I chose to work from home. I wasn’t feeling well. I could have taken a day off, but I wanted to push through. In the end, it all worked out, but I needed the “mental health day.” We work hard. Me especially. My tombstone will probably read: “Worked himself to death – but he sure had fun!” I suppose that is better than it saying: “Was born, smiled a few times and now he sleeps.”

I don’t wish to make light of death, but I am here on this Earth to live. To thrive. To make a difference. And that is what I intend to do.

My goal when this year began was to “Build Something.” I didn’t know what the “something” was and I am still clarifying it, but I’m getting there. This will be a journey we go on together.

That’s why mental health days are so important in this day and in this time. You need the time to think. To clear your head. To relax all the muscles in your body. That is where clarity comes. And then life can begin.

(flickr image via niemster)

FOCUS: Be Thankful!

Selected Life Lesson
Be thankful for today because tomorrow may never come.
-S.R.’s Life Lesson from Central City, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
I have been thinking a lot lately about life and the loss that comes with it. This is certainly not an uplifting topic to spend my time on day in and day out, but through my reflections, I have learned a lot about myself and what I want.

We all know life is hard. It is painful. But it can also be the most beautiful thing in the world. Just like last week’s life lesson was about sharing your love, this week’s is about living completely.

How can you do that? Only you can know. But my recommendation is to find what you are passionate about, and do it. Find who you love, and live it out loud. And find what makes you smile and make that a part of your everyday life.

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FOCUS: Love!

Selected Life Lesson
Life is short, spend it with the ones you love.
-Joy O’s Life Lesson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
I hope you all spend at least a little bit of time with the ones you love over the coming days as we close out 2011! I’ll be staying here in New York City and hopefully putting my feet up, relaxing and building for 2012. But love is not far away.

I try to spend a little bit of each day thinking about someone or something that I truly love. Sometimes I tell that someone I am thinking about them and other times, it is just a personal exercise for me. But I do it.

And as many of you gather with your families and friends over the holiday, know that I am sending my very best to you. I am where I am today because of each and every one of you. Spread love!

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FOCUS: Appreciate!

Selected Life Lesson
Validate and appreciate everyone. Realize they have value even if you don’t like them and acknowledge their gifts and skills.
-Carla H’s Life Lesson from Everton, Missouri

Richard’s Thoughts…
Our FOCUS email took a week off last week to relax and spend time appreciating everyone in my life. And you all are on that list. When I sit down to create these each week, I am touched that you take the minute or two out of your day to think about the weekly lesson.

Growing up in the Midwest, I learned kindness, compassion and respect for people I know and for people I don’t. It is just a general principle. Here in the Big Apple, it is harder to come by, but it still happens on occasion.

For you, my lesson is Carla’s. Tell those around you that you appreciate them and what they bring. You will help validate them and you’re showing how caring and compassionate you are. And that makes the world a better place.

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You Can Go Home Again

You know the saying, “It’s all just a little bit of history repeating“? For many – if not most of you – that is the feeling after spending more than a few days with your immediate family. We’ve all been there and as I stood in Midway Airport in Chicago writing the first part of this blog post, I know that statement to be true. But also very very false.

The last time I was on my way to the great state of Iowa, I was scared and nervous. (Okay, that’s not entire accurate as the last time I was there, I was saying goodbye and driving away.) But in October 2010, I had a different kind of farewell; and I made my peace with it. When I drove away from the only real home I have ever known, I was scared, unsure and energized.

Now, going back, it is about healing, rebuilding and creating dreams. I needed this time off. So, I went home again.

It’s amazing how much changes and yet how much stays the same from the places you always knew. I did a lot of great things while back in Iowa but in the end, it was about reclaiming my peace. And on one hand, I found it. One the other, there is a storm brewing. I can’t yet say what that is, but keep an eye out.

There is a long list of things I enjoyed while back. I spent a lot of time just driving the roads of the state; alone. Just me, the road and the radio (to steal a line from Kenny Chesney). It was peaceful and serene. I also had the great fortune to spend time with some of the best friends I will ever know. They have seen me in good times and bad and we all shared some much needed laughs.

My vacations are never without a little work though. Last fall before Thanksgiving I returned to my high school to spend an afternoon with their newly formed Gay-Straight Alliance. Eleven months ago, it was a small group. This time around, the room was full and two students even had to sit on the floor. Words can not accurately describe what it felt to not only be in front of an audience again, but to see how much these students cared about each other. It was an honor to have those two hours with them and show that a student from this high school can, in fact, be gay and successful in this world. And yes, it does get better.

The time with my family was also much needed. And you can go home again. I did. I survived. And I’m excited for the road ahead.

In his much famous Stanford Commencement speech back in 2005, Steve Jobs said:

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

It has taken a long time, but I am beginning to believe this particular line. Life is funny like that. Just when you think you have it all figured out, life happens. And it happens fast. And you can’t stop it. You can’t control it or predict it. And now, I just have to believe and trust in my gut, in destiny, in something, to get to the end result that makes me smile. This trip may have been the start of some amazing things … but only the Universe knows where these dots are going. Perhaps some day I will look back and laugh at the path they took.

Laugh, and smile.

FOCUS: Family! (v4n20)

Selected Life Lesson
Family and friends are special and the most important thing in my life.
Marge G’s Life Lesson from Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
It is said in cliches and television shows that you can’t go home again. I think their sentiment is somewhat in the right place. I believe what the phrase means is that you can’t go back to the past idea of “home,” even if you can go back to the physical place.

Many of our families still have homes and possessions from decades ago. My family, for one, still lives in the same house I grew up in! And today I will be returning for the first time in nearly a year to that house. For me, I wasn’t sure if this day would come, but here I am, back in Iowa, and I’m ready to go home again.

I also believe that home is where the heart is and therefore, I have a lot of homes. My heart is in a lot of places and I have lot of passions. That’s why this week’s lesson is so valuable. Home is where the most important things in life are. My application for you: Go there. Often.

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FOCUS: Show Respect to your Moms! (v3n50)

Selected Life Lesson
Never ever mouth off to your moma. It’s a sign of disrespect.
-Leslie L’s Life Lesson from Olathe, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
To all the mothers out there: Happy (early) Mother’s Day!

Mothers are very special people. First, they give birth to us. They fed us. They bought us clothes. And when we didn’t want to eat all our vegetables, but dad was making us, she helped sneak them away. (Thanks mom!)

Of course mothers (and fathers) make mistakes, but they are still your parents. You made mistakes too. Make sure you do something special for your mother, or someone special in your life this week … it’s just a sign of respect.

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FOCUS: Love! (v3n31)

Selected Life Lesson
Love your children always, no matter who they become or what their circumstances become.
They are your gift from God.
-Karen C’s life lesson from Iola, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts
It’s December 16, which means there are Nine Ladies Dancing … or so the song goes. :-)

Whether you have children or not, and no matter if they are grown or just little kids, cherish the little moments over the next two weeks. I know as an adult now, it is the little moments, the laughter, the wrapping-paper wars and hot chocolate are the things I remember. It was never the presents.

It’s the love. From me to you, I wish you a wonderful and safe Christmas and one that is filled with love.

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