Tag Archives: friendship

Live Large Takes Kauai

13 Aug

IMG_8771“A life-changing week of experiences.”

“Pushing me outside my comfort zone.”

“Getting to know amazing new friends.”

This is what I heard from the incredibly impressive group of intrepid explorers that joined me in Kauai for a week of adventure. A Live Large trip to Hawaii is a little different than your typical tropical beach vacation. We journeyed beyond the edges way out in nature.

IMG_8900The experience left me both exhausted and exhilarated (and a little sore.) The week was action packed including spending the day on a secluded beach with a beautiful fresh water waterfall, enjoying an amazing variety of local cuisine (including poi and mass quantities of poke and pina coladas), learning to do the hukilau hula at a luau, climbing mountains, swimming in a queen’s bath, and picking fruit, flowers and avocados right off the trees in the yard.

IMG_9154We even got to go surfing with a pro and everyone in the group caught on easily. There is no risk that any of us are going to be asked to star in a sequel to Blue Crush, but we all now understand what it means to feel “stoked.” The surfing high lasted all afternoon.

The highlight of the trip was a three-day backpacking and camping excursion into one of the remote uninhabited valleys on the Na Pali coast. Some members of the team spent weeks dreading the eleven-mile hike along a treacherous trail that hugs the coast with 800-foot drop-offs. For those with a fear of heights, this was the “pushing way outside the comfort zone” part of the trip. The 4,000 feet of total elevation gain made the trek arduous but the reward was something out of a fantastic dream.IMG_9658

The Kalalau Valley was settled by Hawaiians close to 1,000 years ago and was finally abandoned in the late nineteenth century. The evidence of this early civilization remains in the form of terraces, heiaus (ancient Hawaiian places of worship), and fruit trees.

IMG_9542We hiked all over the valley, tried an old swing we found tied high up in a tree, played and showered in waterfalls, explored sea caves, ate exotic fruit off the trees, practiced yoga on a heiau at dusk, watched one of the most unbelievable sunsets of our lives, and learned a lot about the island, its history and its culture. We also learned a lot about each other.IMG_9626

It was a magical few days I will never forget with a group of people that I am proud to call new friends – my growing Live Large family. The hike out of the valley was tough, but our packs were lighter and we had a bottle of homemade passion fruit champagne waiting for us at the end of the trail.

It has been a couple of weeks now and the valley is still tugging at my subconscious – calling me back. Kalalau is a spiritual place with a powerful force. You cannot truly experience it without being affected in some way.

The Live Large Manifesto encourages us to “say yes and go.” I am so glad that I did. My time on island with this group is a true highlight of my life. We did it right and we can’t wait to do it again. This is a life experience worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.IMG_9734

 

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!

Fiscal Cliff Family Update

1 Jan

2012 Family Photo

We pride ourselves in burning the candles at both ends and in cramming a lot of living into every year. Sometimes it feels a little out of control, but there are occasional moments of quiet contemplation squeezed in there somewhere. So while Congress postures, procrastinates and prevaricates, we are going to get this job done and tell you the whole truth about our year (some facts might be embellished in the name of telling a good story.) For those that have been following for a while, we are still working to create our own Utopia here in the hills of Texas. Are we getting closer? Come join the craziness and judge for yourself. We can all put our hands in the air and jump off a cliff together. Here we go!

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne decided not to follow her sister to the Amanda Bynes School of Driving and passed her first year behind the wheel almost incident-free. Swimming, sleeping, school, scuba, skiing, and eating comprise her life. Her legendary, swim-fueled appetite is the subject of an upcoming short film. A Flynn effect proof point, she is on pace to break Charisse’s high school records in Academic Decathlon. Ask her anything. Cheyenne’s low single-digit class rank – she will not allow us to reveal the number – is a source of both pride and angst. She spent enough time at Georgia Tech over the summer to conclude that Sherman had the right idea about Atlanta. Her eyes are now on the western horizon as she contemplates college choices. She is excited about her upcoming class trip to St. Petersburg – the one in Russia.

Charisse continues to ride the Green Wave where she switched from studying third wave feminism to the equally employable fields of English and economics. Her fall back career plan is to be a zip-line guide in some tropical paradise. You can hear Charisse as “DJ Peach Passion” on WTUL New Orleans at 91.5 on your FM dial where she spins the “hits” of bands you have never heard of. Her summer in Boerne reinforced her love of NOLA and we do not expect to see her back home much more. That gives us the excuse we need to go to Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, our favorite restaurants, and Tulane football games. In November, we paid real money to watch Rice beat them in the Smart Kid’s Super Bowl. Like the rest of Charisse’s exuberant fans, we keep up with her through her constant updates on Twitter and Facebook. She is super fabulous.

Big little brother Jacob is a competitive swimmer, casual tennis player, X-Box enthusiast, and our resident Coke addict. In the real world he does not have to deal with attacks from monsters, falls, drowning, falling into lava, suffocation, starvation, or other Minecraft risks. He is a survivor. His occasional “Asian F” (otherwise known as an A-) requires constant vigilance to ensure the family’s reputation remains intact. There are at least three women in their twenties that use 15-year-old Jacob as the benchmark standard for dates while they wait for him to turn eighteen. He got his fill of adventure this summer on a fishing trip to Kodiak Island with his father and grandfather. His summary of the trip, “Paw-Paw can’t hang.” Jacob continues to protest his required attendance at musicals. He is waiting for “Call of Duty” to come to Broadway.

Jensen graduated with his master’s degree from the University of Houston and has promised us a “grand” surprise in the spring. Big changes are coming for him on all fronts as he looks to put his degree to work in a new career. We are hoping he can put his advanced psychology education to good use analyzing our “lab” experiment, Tyson. The old dog is clearly insane. He combines chronic depression with cyclothymia, short-term memory loss, agoraphobia, & other social disorders. Caring for him is good training for ultimately dealing with aging parents. Mom?

Retired taxi driver, Richele, has no trouble filling her days with one exercise class or another. The fitness queen of Cordillera Ranch is now threatening to remove even more good stuff from our daily diets in the year ahead. We are afraid that we will soon be eating nothing but cabbage soup and celery on the “free” diet; fat-free, sugar-free, sodium-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, calorie-free, and taste-free. I am pretty sure that the kids drive through McDonalds on their way home from swim practice every night. Fortunately, our September trip to Napa Valley turned her on to good red wine, so there is a bit of a Cougar Town feel to the kitchen these days. We are not les misérables after all.

Billy’s schemes and dreams continue to amaze and amuse. After multiple trips to Belize in a failed attempt to buy a resort, he invested in the G2G Collection and is helping launch that business through the Stelos Alliance. His Housley Principled Leadership class at Texas State was oversubscribed both semesters. Kalypso keeps him busy, while his raging midlife crisis drives him to seek adventure. Whether it is heli-skiing in Canada, fighting bears for salmon in Alaska, hiking the Inca Trail, four-wheeling on Lanai, breathing the air at Jazz Fest, or navigating a romance novelist convention in Chicago, he is always on the go. His debate with Richele over the proper placement of Marlin Brando – his mounted marlin – ended in a compromise. He was allowed to put it over the coat racks by the back door. If only the Congress could do as well.

While Billy’s “work” travel takes him all over the place, the whole family got into the fun this year with trips to Telluride, Costa Rica, Punta Cana, New York twice, New Orleans twice, and a wonderful weekend in Cuero, Texas (home of the Turkey Trot and the Fighting Gobblers.) In addition, Billy and Richele snuck away to Belize, Cabo, Napa Valley, Watersound, and Charlotte. Add it all up and you can break into our house just about any time. No wonder the dog has separation anxiety disorder and that this letter is always a couple of weeks late.

So we send another amazing year off with a bang and eagerly await the adventures ahead in our perpetual pursuit of happiness. We are so blessed to have each of you in our lives and sincerely hope that we can spend some quality time together in our evolving utopian experiment. You can find us here on the sunny side of street. As Tramp once said to Lady, “It’s a big world out there. Let’s start building some memories.”

Roots

22 Sep

“The roots of my raising run deep.” – Merle Haggard

I confess that I am a middle-class white kid from a small town with two parents that are still married and love me very much. This isn’t a great start for an “up by your own bootstraps” kind of life story. I am not my own sculptor. There were – and are – many people heavily invested in shaping the person that I am.

All of this was brought into focus yesterday as we kicked off the fall edition of the Housley Principled Leadership Program. I learn so much from teaching. The first class attempts to increase self-awareness by exploring the familial sources of the most marked characteristics of our personalities. Here are mine.

Extreme Work Ethic – My paternal grandfather was a welder that built many of the buildings that make up the Houston skyline and later in life ran his own shop until he was physically unable. My other grandfather ran the dairy farm where I grew up. Up at 4:00am seven days a week, he set a very visible example of what it means to truly toil. From drilling rigs in high school and full-time graveyard work in college to managing hotels and management consulting, 70 to 80 hour, six-day work weeks have been normal for me for thirty years. A 60-hour week feels like a vacation. If you are not comfortable with that pace, you can thank my grandfathers.

Academic Excellence – At report card time, a “B” has always been completely unacceptable. I received the gift of high academic expectations from my grandmothers. In a highly unusual coincidence for young women in the 1920s and 1930s, both of them went to college and one of them went on to teach alongside my mother for close to thirty years. I know that the fact that I did not follow her to the Rice Institute broke her heart. This probably compels me to study even more. So when my kids accuse me of going all “crazy Asian mom” on them about their grades, they can blame my grandmothers.

Responsibility & Reliability – My father has three boys. As the oldest, I watched him work to provide for us kids very early in his career. He taught me that any job worth doing is worth doing well. He is a stickler and a perfectionist when it comes to follow through. He used the word “half-assed” to describe the results of most of my chores and then invited me to do them over and over until his standards were met. I soon learned to do it right the first time. Accepting responsibility and then reliably delivering on commitments with excellence is a lesson I learned from my dad.

Fun & Adventurous Spirit – With fifteen or so siblings in my grandparent’s generation all centered in the same small town, the family tree had exploded by the time my many cousins and I were coming of age. Family get-togethers often had over 100 people. My mother was a force of love and fun in these events. As a teacher she also had the habit of throwing us all in the station wagon and traveling across the country every summer. The explorer and adventurer in me comes from my mother. The desire to have fun and create meaningful relationships while working hard is the result of the “work hard, play hard” ethos that permeated my early life. Thanks Mom!

We are all products of our raising. Mine included tremendous advantages. There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” The roots of my raising run deep. These examples give me the strength that I need.

Stelos Alliance Awards

29 Apr

We are wrapping up another great academic year tonight with the Stelos Alliance Awards banquet. We have the incredible honor to reward fourteen extraordinary student leaders for their service with scholarships and fellowships. They are the “stars” and it is our mission to make them shine brighter.

Tonight we will also honor four professionals for creating opportunities for these super stars. The inaugural Stelos Alliance Awards celebrate individuals and their organizations that support our mission by providing post-graduate opportunities for dynamic young people who assume the responsibilities of leadership while in college. The recipients cultivate a workplace that empowers young leaders and nurtures them through those first crucial years of their careers. The first award recipients are:

Each of these deserving award winners will have someone that they have mentored speak on their behalf at the banquet. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. Thank you from all of us and those stars that you have made shine brighter.

I would also like to express my gratitude for Kim Brewskie Booker and Sandler Training for sponsoring this evening’s event. When we half-heartedly put out a general request for an underwriter, Kim said yes within fifteen minutes. Her faith in the mission of the Stelos Alliance is appreciated by us all. Thank you.

This is the fun stuff. Honoring, recognizing, awarding, and shining a light on the great work that these students and professionals do every single day. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday night.

Shine Bright!

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