Gratitude

27 Nov

iStock_000028332104LargeThe list of things for which I am thankful is way too long to fit into a post that anyone would actually read. The past year has brought a shower of blessings that in sum represent what many would consider to be their wildest fantasies; close friends, good business, smart students, dedicated colleagues, great clients, amazing children and beautiful grandchildren, an understanding spouse, exotic travels, and a small tropical island that we get to call our own.

Yes, there are many, many things to be thankful for this year. There are specific innovations in healthcare, transportation, food, fitness and shopping that have made my life immeasurably better. However, when I dig really deep and reflect on the past year, there are two things which top the gratitude list: work that makes me feel alive and the opportunity to work with my closest friends.

Not many people get to make their living doing work that makes them come alive. I can honestly say that I love what I do and am thankful that it gives me energy. I still have the drive twenty-five years into an extremely blessed career to continue putting in regular eighty-hour weeks. Each week, I work with clients on their product development challenges, mentor staff, write about innovation, run a business, teach two college classes, advise entrepreneurs, and help market a beautiful resort. I always exercise and, occasionally, I sleep. I don’t love every minute of every day. Some of it is drudgery, but the large proportion of my work that makes me feel strong is an extraordinary blessing that I cannot ignore.

The opportunity to work with my closest friends is another gift that I count as a treasure. One of the reasons I am so excited about what I do is because of who I get to do it with. The talented professionals that populate my life bring me joy, vitality, and a sense of purpose. There is nothing more gratifying than watching a young leader grow into a fully formed professional adult that possesses presence and confidence. My colleagues at Kalypso, Housley students, Stelos Alliance stakeholders, advisory board members, and my team at Royal Belize are all part of a family that I hold very near and dear. They make me look smart and I cannot imagine life without them.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. I am so grateful for all of life’s blessings and hope that you will find fulfillment and happiness in the year ahead. Gratitude is a powerful thing. Spread it around and see.

Innovate, Achieve & Mentor

17 Oct

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Yesterday, I had the great privilege of addressing the Innovate, Achieve & Mentor Conference on the campus of Monterrey Tech. The event was designed to address the opportunities and challenges for women in technology-related fields.

I was a little intimidated by the invitation as the only male on a nine speaker agenda. The title of my talk was assigned to me by the ladies in the Kalypso office in Monterrey. I was to talk about, “Women at Work: Five Tips for Success.” No negotiation. I had to come up with something smart to tell one hundred women that are either in college or recent college graduates. After affirming my belief that women already run the world (at least my world), this is what I said:

Tip #1: Your work should make you come alive. Strengths are not things that you are good at; strengths are things that make you feel strong. Just because you may have a knack for writing software doesn’t necessarily make it a strength. Define your path and spend your days doing work that energizes you. The traditional definition of a strength can leave you tired and miserable. Come alive.

Tip #2: Proactive leadership is a clear differentiator. Take control of yourself, your calendar and your role. Do not let other people define your priorities. We spend too much time doing things that are “good to do” without recognizing the costs. Understand that you are always saying no to something, even when you say yes, you are saying no to all other alternatives. Own your days and control your time.

Tip #3: Fight for what is right. Approach situations and negotiations with a balance of courage and consideration for the other party. With many women in business there is tendency to play the role of peace keeper. The ability to empathize is strong, but too often that leads to less than optimal outcomes for you. Courage is the willingness to find a solution that satisfies your needs without giving in.

Tip #4: Be trust – “worthy.” Trust is the best social lubricant. Understanding the factors that enable trust in all relationships gives you an advantage. Credibility, reliability, interpersonal skills, and a selfless orientation are the foundations of a trust-based relationship. Knowing these factors also helps diagnose a lack of trust you may have in others. Trust makes all our interactions and business dealings smoother.

Tip #5: Understand value and money. Many successful technical professionals and even great tech entrepreneurs do not know the basics of finance. Love and money make the world go around. Learn about money and learn how to estimate the true value of things, including your contribution to your employer and your “great” business idea. Being able to manage money makes your life easier.

I hope that these tips were helpful. They received enthusiastic applause, but then again, these women are very polite.

My Log Book

8 Aug

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I have been SCUBA diving for over 25 years. Destinations have included The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Greek Isles, Hawaii, California, Florida, a mine in Missouri, and every divable spot in Mexico and the Caribbean. There were times over that period when I was very active and times when life got in the way and I was only able to get in one trip a year. Regardless, I have been religious about keeping a log of every one of my several hundred dives. It is my personal SCUBA history book.

In the early years I wrote about the things I saw. The book is littered with the words ray, shark, turtle, eel, and every manner of reef fish large and small. The sharks were identified by species; nurse, bull, lemon, whitetip, blacktip, hammerhead, and tiger (no great whites yet). I once saw a turtle as big as a VW bug.

When my son and daughter took up the sport about eight years ago, I continued to log our dives together and the frequency of them increased dramatically. Diving became a family affair. I loved getting them alone on a surface interval to chat about the things we saw on our first dive and talk excitedly about what we might encounter next.

Soon after we began diving together the entries in my log book began to change. I still noted the special things we had seen, but there was much more written about the people we were with. The entries were now about new friends made on trips; kind souls that emailed photos from their fancy underwater cameras; interesting folks with good stories; and friends that I have introduced to life under the sea. The memories made on these trips are less about morays and mantas, and more about friends and family.

As I peruse the log book entries from our new second home at Royal Belize I find precious reminders of the people I love the most.

Memorial Gratitude

26 May

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It is early morning on Memorial Day in the United States. It rained last night and it is surprisingly cool. On mornings like this a ribbon of mist hangs over the river a quarter of a mile to the north. The fog snakes its way through the valley like a river suspended in the air. Sitting on the back porch sipping coffee I can hear an axis buck snorting in the trees to the east. It is going to be a great day.

Having spent several days earlier this month as a guest of the Air Force, I understand Memorial Day better than ever and have a much greater appreciation for its meaning. The debt we owe to our service members past and present can never be repaid. Acknowledging that obligation is the first step in an attempt to discharge the debt. I have written about this before in an essay titled “The Debt”.

I hit the sweetest of sweet spots in the martial history of the United States. Born in 1966, the war in Vietnam was long over by the time I turned eighteen. The Gulf War in 1990 was over in less than six months and was happening a million miles away from my then home base in Hawaii. Nothing was ever asked or required of me. What then should I do to show my gratitude to those men and women living and dead that made and continue to make my comfortable, back porch way of life possible?

While there is no way for me to fully repay the debt I owe to my country for the opportunities I have enjoyed, I can knowingly acknowledge the obligation for the tremendous benefits we share from our collective history. Thank you to my great uncles that fought World War II, to my uncles for their sacrifices in Southeast Asia, for my younger cousins and nephews in Afghanistan, and for my many friends throughout the military. Memorial Day is your day. I salute you in gratitude.

Catching Fire Family Update

31 Dec

Family 2013

The Poston family candle not only burns at both ends, this year the whole thing caught fire. Just thinking about 2013 is exhausting. We work hard to cram a lot of living into every day of the year. We made some memories worth noting in our search for perfect peace, hit some milestones on the journey of life, and chose to ignore a lot of nonsense going on in the world. Catching fire is fun.

In March, Jensen’s “grand surprise” came in the form of grandbaby, Walker Rye Richard. Jensen and Sarah are wonderful parents and we think grandparenthood is – like hyperbole – the best thing ever. As Gigi and Bully, we get all the good stuff. Walker FaceTimes with Richele so much that he seems confused when she appears in three dimensions. Billy even changed a diaper, raising his lifetime total into double digits. We are setting aside money for Walker to deal with the inevitable body image issues that will surface later in life from being called “little fattie” during his first year. In all seriousness, this is one big, happy, roly-poly baby.

In her junior year at Tulane, Charisse assumed parental responsibility for three underprivileged fraternity boys and is housing them in the Pine Street Projects. She spent the summer cruising the Mediterranean and doing “field work” in Marrakesh, Mykonos, Malta and the like. Charisse successfully navigated the train system in Italy and acquired the “best tan of her life.” For this she received nine credit hours. Remember college? Ever the activist, she went on a hunger strike to protest the government shutdown this fall, although it only consisted of not using real mozzarella on her pizza bagels. Her honors thesis is on the effect of hairstyles on social interaction in developing economies. Charisse has it all figured out. She is teaching us to properly pronounce “summa cum laude.”

As a senior, Cheyenne combines brilliance and discipline with an “act like you’ve been there before” attitude about her most exciting accomplishments. After studying the Theory of Relativity this summer, she decided to attend Stanford University next year, likely on her way to a Nobel in some field of science that we don’t understand. The subject of her application essay on a historical event was a critique of Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star. She is the MVP of her high school swim team, star of Academic Decathlon, and won 1st place in a state chemistry competition named NaChO. (Surprisingly not an eating competition.) We bask in her glory and hope that she doesn’t try to explain covalent bonds or wormholes to us again. The Force is strong with this one.

Jacob passed his driving test with a score of 84. This gives him the highest score in the house by ten points, parents included. With his license and vehicle he has become a free-range teenager. We are not sure what life will be like next year when he is the only one left in the house, but he is encouraging us to take lots of weekend trips alone. Jacob has become a serious swimmer breaking records and hearts meet after meet. His swim team honored him with the “Charger Pride Award” in the spring making him the first freshman ever to earn this recognition – if you don’t count his sister. If you can overcome the gravitational pull of his laptop, he loves adventure. After spending a week in the summer catching sharks, he spent Christmas SCUBA diving with them.

After retiring from her long career as a taxi driver, Richele changed her occupation to community volunteer (and exercise fanatic.) She got hornswoggled into a seat on the Boerne Education Foundation Board of Directors and quickly learned the oxymoronic definition of legislative leadership. Politics are vicious when the stakes are small. Her new role as grandma Gigi is destined to be a classic. Oh yes, we will remember it well. Richele is also the reluctant primary care giver for our narcoleptic Labrador, Tyson. That job requires almost as much love and understanding as her ongoing struggle to get Billy to finally complete obedience school.

Billy may have gone over the edge. Since the name of his consulting firm is Kalypso, he and his business partner decided to buy their own island. They keep talking about brand support or some other nonsense to justify it. We don’t really care as long as we get to go. You can go, too. Check it out at www.royalbelize.com. Ask for the friends and family rate. In addition to tropical ventures, Billy continues to teach the Housley Principled Leadership course and will be at three universities in the spring. He is active blogging about innovation, supporting a couple of startups, raising money for Stelos Alliance, and serving Texas State on the Development Foundation board. He manages to squeeze in work between frequent trips searching for snow, sun & fun. He remains disobedient.

We moved around as much as ever this year with family trips to Deer Valley, the Inauguration, San Diego, Lake LBJ, Kiawah Island, New Orleans, New York a couple of times, and the Bahamas for Christmas. Richele and Billy left the kids for a week of sailing and diving in Belize, a long weekend in Cabo, a party in Monterrey, and a first time trip to Palm Springs. We also went to Chicago for a taping of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. And then, of course, Billy travels for “work” to places like Saint Martin, Belize, Monterrey, and Cabo San Lucas. Nana and Papa celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Houston in July with a sunset cruise.

Home base continues to be the Texas Hill Country where we go for peace and our version of normal. It may not be the Utopia we set out to create, but it is pretty good when we are there. The family is growing while the number at home will shrink further in the year ahead. Who knows what the future holds? You may have to come visit us on the island where we will be spoiling grand kids.

Jens

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