Tag Archives: character

The Eulogy Virtues

16 Jul

Grove BrameOn July 4th we said goodbye to our friend, Grove Brame. Lost too soon at 59 to the same form of brain cancer that has taken two other good friends in recent years. While it is close to impossible to find anything positive in such a tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and messages to be reinforced.

The thing that struck me during the service was how little airtime was allocated to Grove’s enormous list of accomplishments. He was a classic “up by the bootstraps” corporate success story, spending a storied career at Dr. Pepper that included too many promotions and accolades to track. Grove was also an amazing athlete and scratch golfer that you somehow didn’t mind losing to over and over again.

He spent forty years knocking down goals and building an envious resume. In the end, no one seemed to care about those things. Instead, what we heard about during his funeral was what we consider to be common virtues. The personal stories that were told were always about some kindness, about the way he made the storyteller feel, about some casual good deed, or about something funny he had done.

Grove was generous. He was kind. He was a great listener. He could fit with any crowd. Grove was a great father, stepfather, husband, brother, brother-in-law, and friend. These are the virtues of the eulogy. The ones that define a life and the person that lived it. In the end, it is character that matters.

I’ll readily admit to spending the last twenty-five plus years building my own resume. I, too, have a long list of accomplishments of which I am quite proud. And I do not intend to stop doing the work I love, hoping for success and maybe some recognition along the way. You may be doing the exact same thing.

Resume accomplishments are typically marked by readily identifiable milestones. The graduation, promotion, raise, award, and championship can all be celebrated. We pursue these and rejoice at the achievement. The eulogy virtues are acquired more subtly. There is no celebratory milestone for learning to practice empathy. We do not get an award for honing character to a certain level. They don’t give out black belts in compassion. The rewards for the development of the eulogy virtues are intrinsic.

The hard lesson from Grove’s death is that we should think about how we balance our investment of time. We should consciously work to develop the eulogy virtues just as aggressively as we pursue the resume accomplishments. These are not mutually exclusive pathways to personal development. Both are worthy goals, but one without the other is probably not the legacy you want to leave.

We can all honor Grove’s memory by bringing some balance to the task of creating better versions of ourselves and critically evaluating if we are having a positive impact on the lives of others. Aloha friend.

 

 

2013 Kalypsonian of the Year

3 Oct

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I was at a recruiting event in Texas last week and was asked the question, “What are the attributes you value when evaluating candidates?”

The first part of the answer was easy and boring. I said we want reliable people that possess a strong work ethic, creative types with sharp minds, and leaders that have demonstrated ability and ambition.

But what is it that makes the people of Kalypso special?

The people of Kalypso are so much more than just those great professional attributes I listed. They are as humble as they are smart, as funny as they are fearless, and they radiate positivity as they support their clients, colleagues, and compadres. They might have graduated at the top of their class, but they still know how to have fun in a state school kind of way. Most of the people on the team are a little bit quirky (this is a polite word for weird.)

In 2013, the person that best exemplified the Kalypso brand of professional was Colin Speakman – our Kalypsonian of the Year.

For the rest of the year he is only to be referred to as “Your Highness, Mr. Colin Speakman, Kalypsonian of the Year.” No abbreviations, shortcuts or informalities allowed.

The choice was not difficult. Colin is the Kalypso prototype. Not only is he an incredibly competent consultant, he displays all of the characteristics we admire in our colleagues. He is a great father and he accepts the fact that he is inferior to his wife in basketball, fishing, and just about any other activity that requires either brains or athletic skills.

Colin knows more about barbeque sauce than anyone else I know. As a kid in upstate New York he wanted to grow up to be a pumpkin farmer. Colin smiles a lot. He either knows something you don’t, or maybe he is just goofy that way. We all love Colin and I am proud to have him as a colleague and even happier to call him a friend.

Colin is an optimist and a dreamer. He is a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder.

At least he can say that he won something this year. Congratulations Mr. Kalypsonian of the Year!

A Tribute

20 Sep

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Today is the first session of the fall edition of the Housley Principled Leadership Program. This is our fourth or fifth semester. I can’ t remember. I do remember why we do this. It is a fitting memorial to my best man. I am excited to meet the new class today and hope that each of them will come away from the experience with the self-awareness to become people of consequence. The world needs people who have come alive. I want these students to live lives that matter. This is my eulogy for the program’s namesake, my good friend Kevin.

 

April 23, 2008

This day, devoted to the memory of our friend Kevin Housley, offers an opportunity for reflection and celebration.  It is a curious and difficult thing – this notion of celebrating life in the wake of death – but I had a great teacher.  Twenty years ago this January Kevin and I, and many of you here today, tragically and unexpectedly lost another friend, Bill Hogue.  As we gathered at the funeral, shock and sorrow hung over us all.  But Kevin refused to let that stand.  He said that “life is for the living” and led us all to a place called “31 Flavors” for some living; this 31 Flavors did not serve ice cream, but daiquiris.  We talked and laughed as we told our favorite stories about Bill late into the night.  That is what Kevin expects of us.  To celebrate a life well lived and to share a story or two about how he touched each of us.  It is now my responsibility, as it once was Kevin’s, to lighten things up.

Kevin is my best man, not just at our wedding, but in my life.  When I was seventeen and entering Southwest Texas State, it was Kevin that took me under his wing and guided me through my first couple of years.  If I remember correctly, Kevin was 22 when we met and was not in any danger of graduating.  Over the next few months I would learn why.  Every hour with Kevin was a “happy hour”.

He had a knack for taking life’s setbacks in stride.  He was a “when life gives you limes, make a margarita” kind-of-a-guy.  One weekend when the two of us were in trouble with our respective girlfriends – deservedly so I am certain – we found ourselves without dates to a big sorority formal.  Not one to dwell on misfortune, Kevin took me on a road trip to San Angelo that is still talked about to this day.  Ask Jeff Curry.  More than 20 years later we did the same thing when he lost the election.

Speaking of his run for the state house, I view it as a measure of our friendship that Kevin never once asked me for the vast amounts of photographic evidence I have of our youthful exploits.  Of course he really had nothing to worry about.  I had such faith in his ability that I was holding out until he ran for higher office.  And, contrary to rumor, I was not the one behind his policy position that “every man, woman, and child in Tom Green county should have a gun.”  It is no wonder that my mother refers to Kevin as “your Republican friend.”

As we matured (no laughing please; I will admit to being a work in process) Kevin was a man of strong religious conviction.  Our many faith-versus-reason theological discussions often ran well into the night.  Salvation was a popular topic and a source of heated disagreement.  Kevin was a “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” sort of Methodist who refused to come around to my more Unitarian worldview.  Even though my Methodism might be more casual, I can hold onto the lines of a hymn: “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.”  For the sake of our everlasting friendship, I sure hope that Kevin is wrong about the width of that gate.

For me, Kevin is supremely one thing – a friend.  Our relationship was easy even when it was contentious.  We are both strong-headed and both agreed with Emerson who said, “Better to be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo.”  There was no danger of that happening with either of us.

If we are going to quote Emerson then we should also give his friend Thoreau his due.  He said, “A man cannot be said to succeed in life who does not satisfy one friend.”  Kevin satisfied me and I am sure, based on the size of this crowd, that he was successful on that account many times over.  It is my charge to take his friendship and “pay it forward” by being a better friend to those that remain. Doing that takes precious time and bundles of energy, but Kevin took that time.

The prayer that our friend Bill Hogue was carrying in his wallet the night he died begs us to do that.  It is called “Slow Me Down”.   The first line goes like this:  Slow me down, Lord, I am going too fast, I can’t see my brother as he goes past.

Well, slowing down in not in my DNA so all I can do is take the message to heart and make sure that Kevin knows what a blessing his friendship is to me and how much I cherish the memories of the time we spent together.  I am a better man because of him and an even better man I hope to one day become.

That is his gift to me.  And for that I am eternally grateful.  I miss you and I love you.  Goodbye to my friend.  Goodbye to my “best man.”

 

Kalypsonian of the Year

10 Sep

I get a lot of email. On rare occasions, I get an email that has a meaningful impact on my life.

Seven years ago a former colleague of mine sent me such an email. It was a short note referring his younger cousin as a potential candidate for our new and growing innovation consulting firm. She didn’t have much to offer in the way of relevant business experience, but my friend assured me that she had a strong character and was willing to work hard to make a difference. We needed help, and she didn’t make much money, so we took a chance and offered her a job.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. Hiring Pamela Soin is not one of them. She joined the team as a smart, inexperienced young lady a couple of years out of college and quickly made herself indispensable. In the intervening years we have traveled the world together, serving clients in exciting cities like Seoul, Sydney, San Diego, Amsterdam and even Appleton, Wisconsin. We have shared a lot of laughs, a lot of love, and more than a few tears.

Watching her grow into an accomplished professional advisor with personal eminence and business stature has been one the great privileges of my career. Some moments in life create indelible memories. My repertoire of stories from a twenty-year career in consulting is pretty large. Pam is the principal actor in many of the best and funniest stories I have in my collection. She is one of the original Kalypso “characters with character”.

The Kalypsonian of the Year award is reserved each year for the team member that embodies the ideals of the Kalypso consultant; that leader behind the leader that demonstrates a healthy lack of respect for hierarchy and positional authority. Pamela Soin believes that innovation combined with action can change the world for the better. She is passionate about what she does and knows how to have fun at work – and after. Most importantly, she genuinely cares about the success of her colleagues and goes to extraordinary lengths to help them. Pam is a true professional and a personal role model for us all.

After seven years I am honored to call her a colleague, a friend, and our 2012 Kalypsonian of the Year.

Gratitude

21 Apr

We wrapped up the Stelos Alliance’s spring session of the Housley Principled Leadership Program yesterday on the fourth anniversary of Kevin’s death. This scheduling coincidence made the gratitude offered by the students a perfect tribute to our departed friend. The lessons learned in “Housley” memorialize a great man and set extraordinary young leaders on a learning path that will last a lifetime.

The topic of the final session is, “Service: Choice or Obligation?” This is a conversation about what we as citizens owe to our country. Is there something required beyond lawful behavior and paying taxes? Since it has now been two generations since we last had conscripted military service in the United States, even defense feels like a remote responsibility. How then do young citizens acknowledge the advantages bestowed upon them by their heritage? Is there a debt that is due to our patrimony and, if so, how and to whom should it be repaid? These are questions for us all to consider.

While we talked about the changing national ethos regarding service to country we concluded that the benefits that accrue to the giver are substantial and that systematically uniting the privilege of citizenship with responsibility is essential to preserving the long-term health of the republic. The students in the Housley program can articulate the benefits of being raised in the best country on earth. Far from being needy and narcissistic, these student leaders are prepared to dedicate themselves to serving their country and setting an example for their peers.

This is something that would make our friend, Kevin Housley, very proud. He offered himself to the community in numerous official roles and to the country in countless other capacities. He lived by the principles that we teach in the program. As the HPLP instructor and giver in this instance, I can positively proclaim that I benefit at least as much as the students. This goes well beyond the satisfaction of hearing their voiced appreciation. I learn from teaching, and it is making me a better leader. The program is both a gift from and a tribute to my good friend. It seems like yesterday that we gathered in the church to say goodbye. After four years I still miss him very much. I offer my gratitude.

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