A Simple Country Lawyer

24 Sep

Several years ago at Kalypso, George came to me with a big concern and we agreed to take affirmative actions to increase the diversity of our team. After years of recruiting at Rice and UT we just had too many incredibly accomplished people from top tier universities.

Our first goal was to bring in an Aggie.

After using a New York attorney for a couple of years, I loved the idea of being represented by a simple country lawyer – maybe an Atticus Finch or a Matlock. But we got Ben. He is our Elle Woods. There is much more to him than just good looks and an “aw shucks” persona.

He is a true professional. He gets us. He is one of us. He keeps us out of trouble, and he has never lost a case – no matter how badly we might have screwed up.

Ben is a real family man. In addition to the four women in his house, he has what you might call an unusually extensive extended family. If he is not returning your call, there is a good chance that he is at his half-sister’s third cousin’s boyfriend’s little sister’s sixth grade graduation.

When he is working, he is a legal all-star. Congratulations to Ben on a legendary career as our lawyer, our friend, and a core part of this incredible cast of characters with character. We love you and you will be missed.

Melinda Keller for a Lifetime

16 Sep

Kalypso KARMA 2020 was in late August and we honored a number of people with Lifetime Awards. I was asked to say a few words about my friend, Melinda Keller. She was there from almost the very beginning of the firm and has always been there for me. Here is what I had to say:

“Melinda walked into my life 36 years ago this month when we were both freshman in college. It has been quite an adventure ever since. She has been right by my side through personal tragedy and professional triumph. If not for Melinda there would be no Stelos Alliance, no Housley Principled Leadership Program, and our memories of Kalypso KARMAs past would be very different. I could tell you stories of bull fights, bikini contests, bad camping trips, a bad trip of the other kind, and many tales of youthful indiscretion, but time constraints and the overt threat of mutually assured destruction prevent me from going into detail.

What I can say is that my life has been enormously enhanced by her friendship – and all of us at Kalypso owe her a debt of gratitude for her contributions to our success and the culture we cherish so much. She is the epitome of a Kalypsonian – an incredible work ethic, a valuable set of skills, a state school attitude about life that doesn’t take things too seriously, and, most importantly, something a little weird that makes her a character with character.

Melinda, thank you from me and all of the people of Kalypso past and present. You are our rock and I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than you. One thing you can’t make more of is old friends. I love you with all of my heart and I always will.”

My Personal Mission

6 Sep

It is week two of the Housley Principled Leadership Program and the students are drafting their personal mission statements. Many of us struggle to articulate our purpose and are subject to being bounced around by things that happen to us in life. A strong mission grounded in values provides us a guidepost in difficult times. Here is my current personal mission statement:

“My purpose in life is to help extraordinary young leaders reach their potential.

I wish to lead by example by adhering to a strong set of core values while pursuing ventures and adventures that create opportunities for others. I value hard work, the pursuit of knowledge, civic responsibility, financial prudence, entrepreneurship, adventure, exploration, laughter, friendship, and fun.

I want to be an influential and selfless person of consequence that leaves a positive legacy of enhancing the lives of all those that come into my orbit. Unless I am snow skiing or hiking, I prefer to do all these things somewhere hot.”

My Lowas

26 Aug

My Lowas

“The most alive is the wildest.” – HDT

After eight years, six continents, and hundreds and hundreds of miles, my hiking boots finally gave up the ghost.

The death of my Lowas was a little like losing a close friend. We’ve had so many memorable adventures. We hiked the Inca Trail, stalked lions in Botswana, tiptoed knife-edge ridge lines in Hawaii, walked on the Zuidersee Works, traipsed through Australia, climbed mountains in Korea, dangled off the south rim of Big Bend at sunset, almost died in a freak summer storm in the Alps, and tread dozens of wild places across the United States.

Thinking back fondly on these expeditions and the people I shared them with allows me to relive those experiences in my mind: the secret bottle of cabernet stashed in the bottom of my pack, picking fruit off the tree for a meal, catching salmon by the boatload, the lone little goat with a bell around its neck encountered high up on a ridgeline, finally making it to the summit, and too many amazing sunsets to count. There were laughs and tears as well: trying to start a fire with no matches, running out of water, a curious skunk, a cocktail party in the African bush, a collapsed tent or two, being charged by a Kodiak bear, rain, wind, snow, more than a few bumps, bruises and blisters, and one severely broken ankle.

My old Lowas took me to the wild places. They were my passport to nature and took me away from the over-civilized people that populate my day-to-day life. My boots took me to the mountains where I drew my strength and satisfied myself that there was meaning to be found in the woods. Who can look at wonderful nature and not be prompted to wonder more? There are answers on the mountaintop.

My grief will abate. I’ve already begun to get to know a new pair of Lowa hikers. The relationship is still stiff and uncomfortable, but I am committed to making it work. Over time, I expect the bond to grow and for our relationship to become easy and supple. There is no telling what adventures await us just over that yonder hill. There are many, many more miles to go.

 

A timely quote for you to consider. It’s as if he were right here with us today.

“Short-sighted men, who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Bored and Brilliant

21 Aug

20882807_10156426551678942_8856760550458583534_n

“Saturdays, holidays, easy afternoons, lazy days, sunny days, nothing much to do.”

Our individual creativity is under attack from our hyper-connected, over-scheduled, over-stimulated way of life. Research shows that problem-solving and critical thinking require letting our minds wander where they may. Breakthrough ideas are not likely to result from thinking hard about a subject. Think about nothing and see what happens.

Planned downtime is not just for resting the body and recharging the spirit, it is also great for the brain. We need time to process inputs and make sense of the flood of data that comes our way. “Bored and brilliant” is the new mantra of the creative class.

I’ve got three simple pieces of advice for becoming a more innovative thinker.

The simplest and most powerful thing you can do to increase your creativity is to stop using your phone as an alarm clock. When the first thing we do each day is grab our phone, it creates an overwhelming urge to check and see what messages arrived overnight.

When we do this our brain starts unconsciously and unproductively working on the problems of the day. Even if you try to push those small thoughts out of the way, they creep back in. Unless you go to bed before 9 pm, or are heavily invested in Asian stock markets, it is unlikely that anything earth-shattering happened while you were asleep. Those Instagram pics of Australian models on the beach will still be there an hour later.

By keeping your phone out of the bedroom, you can give yourself thirty to sixty minutes each morning to reflect, daydream, and think deep thoughts. This way, you will not be involuntarily thinking about the minor problems of the day while you are in the shower or making coffee. Your brain will be free to wander without the distractions of email. An early morning walk without your phone is another great way to start a creative day.

My second piece of advice is to turn off all notifications on your phone, tablet and laptop. Why do we knowingly let other people interrupt and interfere with our cognitive processes? Consume inputs on your own terms. Do not let email devour day. Set aside specific blocks of time to disposition the items in your multiple inboxes.

Get a screen time tracker and set limits on the number of times a day you pick up your phone. The “You’ve got mail” notice may be the single biggest contributor to destroying your creative capabilities. Recapturing them is a more urgent matter than your friend’s less-than-insightful missive on the latest Game of Thrones episode. Most of your incoming messages are bullshit. Read them if you wish, but do it on your own terms.

Lastly, we should celebrate the deliberate act of doing nothing. We do not need to constantly be entertained. Make the snooze button your friend. There is nothing wrong with a relaxing morning spent lounging around actually savoring a cup of coffee. There will be plenty of time to catch up on your shows later in the day. Mindfulness is a sound practice that requires quiet contemplation of the task at hand. For a few hours each week you should make doing nothing a priority task and see what happens.

Technology and culture are driving us to be less creative in our day-to-day thinking. We may be extremely productive, but we are not terribly effective. Try these few simple tricks and see if they don’t change your way of thinking. Research suggests that you’ll be better off – and you are less likely to encounter a spoiler before you get around to watching that last episode of The Bachelor.

%d bloggers like this: