“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”
― Lily Tomlin
Life moves quickly today. We can do so much in little time. It is exciting for a Type-A person like myself who loves to be efficient and blast through the to-do list. I can check the surf, tide tables, traffic on Highway 17, and view a live camera of Steamers Lane — all with a finger tap or two on my iPhone; while I am shopping for my grocery list at Trader Joe’s!
It’s fantastic. But like the groceries, it comes at a cost.
Dr. Richard Swenson puts it this way:
“… The world has witnessed almost continuous change, but never before with such levels of speed, suddenness, complexity, intensity, information, communication, media, money, mobility, technology, weaponry, and interconnectedness.“
(Let’s add “stress” to that list …)
The most important thing I have learned in my coaching profession is the need to slow down.
It is difficult to coach a client who is traveling through life at today’s pace. It’s similar to diagnosing car trouble with no dashboard to tell you what is happening under the hood. The speed and intensity of life seem to require that we lose touch with our inner being (we are too busy for that). I often prescribe meditation to help my clients Stop and Smell The Roses. It is amazing what our mind, body, and heart can tell us if we take the time to listen.
A close friend told me a story underscoring how the speed of life today is impacting our youth. His son hit a rough patch in life after high school and developed a serious alcohol/drug habit. It was not pretty, but he got himself into a long-term rehab center and is now doing great. With a dozen or so other young adults, the leader asked what they thought led to their addiction. It was their deep internal need to slow down. Each one of them agreed, life was moving too fast and they could no longer cope, so they began to deal with it by taking alcohol or drugs. I can sure relate to that. My coping mechanism just happens to be exercise.
For me, slowing down was what put me on the path to become a New Ventures West certified coach. After twenty-five years in Silicon Valley riding the Express train, I had been laid off from my job at the age of sixty-two. The train had stopped, so I got off and explored my options. It was like Surfing Without a Leash. Suddenly I was empowered to experience the freedom of who I was deep inside without being tied down to a career. Although painful at first, this new awakening brought about a sense of joy not felt in years. It is now my passion to coach others who struggle to slow down, and discover what is going on “under their hood”.
Surfing for Balance
Growing up at the beach in Corona del Mar in the 1960s was an ideal environment for a young grom like me. We had a tight-knit community of friends who gathered daily at the beach, constantly anticipating the next big south swell. Best of all, my dad was a surfer from Malibu in the 1940s, and it was my time surfing with him on the weekends at San Onofre that most influenced my views on keeping work and life balance. As I grew into adulthood I began to realize that I felt at my very best when I was in the water on my surfboard. It became my identity.
When I first transferred to Silicon Valley in 1990 I wondered what everyone did when they weren’t working. It soon became apparent that when you were working for a computer company in the innovation capital of the world there was not a lot of time to hang out at the beach. The opportunities were endless, but so was the work! I found myself continuously fighting a battle to stay healthy and balanced.
Although it took a couple years to get used to the cold water (thank you, O’Neill wetsuits!), surfing soon became my relief valve from the hectic pace. I launched “Surfing for Balance in Silicon Valley” in 2014 to begin blogging about my struggle to stay afloat as a way to apply my voice to the work-life integration challenge in Silicon Valley.
Writing about the nonstop juggling act between work, family and self began to parallel my training for a triathlon. I was constantly balancing my time to make sure each event got its allotted time. I soon created the Circle of Life as a tool to provide my own emergency warning system when one area got out of whack (work, family, or self). A story from my early career with ROLM is an example when my work was taking over.
I Have Become That Man!
ROLM was a dream company to start a career, and they were led by one of Silicon Valley’s great pioneers, Ken Oshman, who established “Great Place To Work” (GPW) as a corporate goal at ROLM in the early 1970s. I was later managing a global product development team with Siemens ROLM in 1990 when this story takes place.
Our product teams were split between the U.S. and Germany, requiring me to fly to Munich quarterly to help coordinate development activities. Waiting at San Francisco International Airport to board my flight to Munich, I was strategically positioned next to the only power outlet in sight for my laptop. Typing out urgent last-minute emails to my team, I likely had veins popping out of my forehead as I raced against to call to begin boarding.
An older businessman suddenly approached me, clearly wanting to chat. Probably in his 60s with grey hair, he wore a smart suit and tie and patiently waited for me to pause from my furious pace. When I finally looked up he blurted out that I reminded him of whom he had been twenty years before. Then he paused, as if that needed to sink in.
He said he was stopping by to tell me to relax, to slow down; “Stop and smell the roses,” he said. He then assured me it all would be waiting for me when I landed in Munich. He said all this in a very relaxed and purposeful manner, looking me straight in the eye. He finished with,
“You’ll see when you’re my age, that it really doesn’t matter.”
I was aghast he had the audacity to tell me this when he had no idea who I was, who I worked for, or where I was going and why. Yet I had an immediate sense that he was absolutely right. I remember his words playing back to me over that long flight. I never saw him again. I believe he was an angel sent to help me slow down. Many years after that incident, I have become that man!
Thirty-five years into my life and launching my career in high technology, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Since then I have been on a walk of continual growth in understanding the plan God has for my life, realizing I am not actually the one in control.
Maybe I am losing some who do not believe the Bible, and I fully understand. Many in the surfing community are not followers of Jesus. Stick with me, as we all wonder at times about the truth of scripture.
As a life-long surfer who grew up without a church background, I became a student of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) to better understand God’s word. BSF soon led me on a path to knowing God through my eternal destiny: heaven. Belief in the glorious wonder of what God has waiting for us has been a lightning bolt of change for me in my faith. In anticipation of heaven, I have found the perseverance to handle today’s challenges, and hope for what tomorrow brings. As crazy as it sounds, I believe we could be Surfing in Heaven when we get there!
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”…
Matthew 5:12 (NIV)
** Resources **
What a story!
Julius Achon is my hero.
This book is an inspirational true story of how Julius went from being a 14-year old Ugandan boy soldier during the terrible Idi Amin era to an Olympic runner and then found his calling with an African children’s charity. I could not put it down!
The author of this book (John Brant) wrote my other favorite running book, Duel in the Sun. Brant is a longtime writer-at-large for Runner’s World and knows how to write about running.
A unique recommend on my part, but this book ties into my piece on Steve Jobs (Heaven Can’t Wait). It is the coming-of-age memoir of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who was Steve Jobs’ first child, although he was not always willing to admit that. This was a well written and candid insight into the anxieties of a child who comes into the world as an inconvenience to her success-focused father.
“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then sacrifices his money to recuperate his health” Dalai Lama
I’ll be the first to admit, I need more rest!
In this 24/7 “always-on” world, the concept of joyfully being (not doing) has largely been lost. The technology revolution promising to integrate our life and work is doing the opposite. So I am going to take a shot at email here; it is killing me! Don’t get me wrong; I love email and what it enables. But I hate it more than love it.
Unfortunately, I can’t live without email but am finished being enslaved to it. Working at Trader Joe’s (TJs) is just the place to do that. In my interview, I was told,
“We don’t do email at Trader Joe’s.”
Wait, are you kidding me!? How can a company survive in today’s information-driven economy without email? If you listen to the Freakonomics podcast, “Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s?”, you will get some insight they are doing quite well without it. They also don’t do branded products, sales, social media advertising, rewards programs, loyalty cards, self-checkouts, wide aisles, big parking lots, and more. They’re on to something.
Most people agree today that society would be better off slowing down and incorporating more rest. Much of the chaos and societal ills seen in the world today are a result of our being overloaded. Best-selling author Richard A. Swenson termed it a lack of “margin”, which he defined as the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Try reading a book without margins, you won’t get very far.
Time spent in email has devoured our margins and created a continuous 24/7 flow of information, an overload that spews data like a fire hose on full force with nobody holding the nozzle. A small amount may hit the target, but most is wasted water causing a great deal of grief and exhaustion. God forbid I take a vacation, as the backlog of emails waiting when I return is enough to make me wish I never left. This might partly explain why 52 percent of American employees reported having unused vacation days at the end of the year in 2017 (Project: Time Off).
I acknowledge email is a way of life both at work and home. There is no getting around it if you want to accomplish something that involves more than just yourself. Almost 3.7 billion email users send a whopping 269 billion emails each day (The Radicati Group, Inc.). Email is the preferred method of communications (and marketing) in almost all situations. An interesting (and funny!) read about how email has entered the mainstream business world is Dan Lyons’, “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble”. In it, Dan describes how HubSpot, a Boston start-up selling email spam, was positioning their product:
“Our spam is not spam. In fact it is the opposite of spam. It’s anti-spam. It’s a shield against spam – a spam condom.”
Just under 30 years ago, none of us were doing email at work or home because it did not exist. Email found its way into the work environment in the mid-1980s as I was launching my high technology career with ROLM Corporation. We worked hard at ROLM, but without email, I left my work at the office when I came home, truly done. When IBM purchased ROLM in 1984 we were introduced to IBM PROFS (Professional Office System), the first corporate email system to my knowledge at that time.
Most of us viewed PROFS as a joke. It served to simply relay information from IBM corporate which had no impact on my day-to-day duties. It was like reading Morse code intended for the navy when you were in the army. I could go weeks at a time without checking my inbox and often made fun of those (mostly management) who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of their day doing it.
By the time I left Oracle 25 years later, I would estimate that over 2/3 of my day was spent navigating my email. Even in meetings, I was only half listening as I browsed my “urgent” emails. And like the Israelites crossing the desert in the Bible, email seemed to be a cloud that followed me home and came with me on my vacations. Improvements to the cell phone and cellular networks made email exchanges easy, regardless of where you were. Now I could do email when I was in line at the grocery store!
Contrast this with the picture below, which reminds me of my summers growing up in Corona del Mar in the 1960s at the beach. Entire days hanging out with friends, lying in the warm sand to heat you up after a long swim in the ocean, are vivid memories. As soon as we got too hot in the sand we would go back into the water to cool off. Repeat. Over and over until it was time to go home.
There was no need to know about everything or be in touch with everyone. It was easier to be present and enjoy life for what it was at that very moment. Insert a cell phone into the hands of either of these two guys and it destroys the image. How could you be enjoying the hot sand after a cool swim while watching the waves if you were sending or reading an email? You could of course, but you will agree it would not be the same.
Enter Trader Joe’s. As my wife and I anticipated our COBRA health insurance plan ending, we began to look at options. Trader Joe’s offers a full benefits package for 30 hours a week on the clock. I filled out a simple job application and walked it down to our local TJs for an interview. No appointment necessary.
In the interview, Amelia [Captain of the store] asked me a question about when I was available to work. Our discussion went something like this:
“I think you’re a good fit for Trader Joe’s. When would you be available to work?”
“That is complicated for me. Could I send you an email on the days and times?”
“We don’t do email at Trader Joe’s.”
“We don’t do email at Trader Joe’s.“
- Mike [extending my hand to shake]:
“When can I start?”
What the !?!?
Deciding to give it a try and see if that is really the case, I am now five months in and am loving it. At the end of the day I feel completely content to know that I worked hard to get the job done and can go home satisfied. I’m working harder and resting more than I have in a long time. No email.
Here’s 10 things I like about working at Trader Joe’s:
1. “We don’t do email.”
We rest more.
2. We’re on a ship.
We’re all at sea on a ship in the South Pacific at TJs. Our jobs are crystal clear. One Captain (aloha shirt), a couple Mates (different aloha shirt), and Crew Members (hibiscus T-shirts) communicate by ringing bells that allow us to be “armed to the teeth” to react to our customer needs on a moments notice.
3. Variety is the spice of life.
Every eight-hour shift is divided into eight blocks – each one designating a different job on the ship for that hour. In one eight-hour shift, I can perform every job in the store, from cashier to stocking to carts to loading bananas to cleaning the floor, and more. It sounds simple (and it is), but it makes my day fly by and has helped me learn the entire operation of the store. Brilliant.
Meetings (called “huddles”) are very short stand-up gatherings in the back galley to communicate important news and to keep things “ship shape”. No muss, no fuss. Quick and simple instructions with some good food and grog to sample, and then all-hands back on deck to help customers.
5. Fist bumps, handshakes, and hugs.
Every day I get fist bumps, handshakes, and hugs from my fellow sailors. This really surprised me at first. If I were to go hugging people at Oracle I might end up at the HR office! Even better, every two weeks my paycheck is personally handed to me, with a handshake, and a look-you-in-the-eyes “job well done” comment. Pretty simple. Now I’m fist bumping, handshaking, and hugging back.
6. Happy people.
Employees at TJs are happy. Which makes the customers happy. It’s “hunky-dory”. I am happy to work there.
7. Personal goodbyes.
I used to sneak out of the office at the end of a day hoping nobody noticed. When you leave TJs you go around the store and say a personal goodbye to those you are leaving behind. Add in a fist bump, handshake, or hug. Kid you not, the first couple nights I saw this I thought these folks were leaving the company!
Many of my co-workers are my children’s age. They are fun, energetic, and full of interesting insights on life. Most of them have other jobs or school or both and are all “gung ho” to make a future. They talk to me like I am one of them. At TJs I am. LOL. It’s a kick.
9. Fantastic food with a family discount.
My entire family gets the employee discount when shopping at any TJs. The prices are already crazy low, so this really helps. And there’s always time on the ship for a cup of joe or a snack from the Demo bar to keep things on an even keel during your shift.
10. Just be you.
TJ tells you they hired you because of who you are, not who they want you to be. So the word on deck is to “be yourself”. For those who know me, that is dangerous! I’m even wearing my shorts and Hoka’s to work every day.
Margin the Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits by Richard A. Swenson
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
God was setting an important example for us when he rested after six days of work in the opening book of the Bible. Work is a critical element to life here on Earth, as well the life we will live in Heaven (Matthew 25:23). Even after creating man, God immediately put him to work in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).
I would like to propose a new perspective on how to approach the challenge of balancing work with the rest of our life, by contemplating our death.
While I am passionate about the need for balance in work and life, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no quick fix to the many challenges we all face today in this area. There are plenty of books, articles and videos telling us how to solve it. Here’s a “top 15” list I compiled just in case you want the quick fix:
- Set boundaries with email
- Ask for support
- Get organized
- Concentrate on one thing at a time (get present)
- Make time for loved ones
- Schedule everything
- Let go of perfectionism
- Work smarter, not longer
- Don’t compromise on your sleep
- Set life goals
- Learn how to say “no”
- Make relaxation and breaks a priority
- Exercise and meditate
- My 2nd favorite: Hire a personal coach
- And my favorite (it really works): Unplug!
Check out my Circle of Life quiz, which provides a quick view of the current state in balancing your life:
This work/life balance thing is a very tough nut to crack in our non-stop 24/7 economy that is being driven by a mobile device that seems to travel everywhere with us. Rebecca Zucker writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled: “How to Achieve Work/Life Balance”:
“… I now work as an executive coach, and work-life balance is an issue that my clients frequently grapple with, as they face the new work demands that come with technological advances. For example, one client in San Francisco who works for a fast-growing tech company shared that she gets up at 4am to work. She has anxiety about the possibility of missing an e-mail at midnight. “Is this normal?” she asked.“
I don’t think it’s “normal”, but I do know it is happening more and more as an increasing number of us are now sleeping with these little mobile “devils”, beyond just getting us up at 4am to keep up. Fortune magazine recently reported that 71% of us sleep with their own smartphones either on a nightstand or in their bed!
At times I wish I could beam my family back to the 1960’s when I was growing up in Corona del Mar spending summers on the beach without a thought in the world, other than what was going on right then in front of me. It did create some challenges with surfing however, as we actually had to go to the beach to look at the waves to see if it was worth going out. Today you simply push a button on your iPhone – and magically the tides, wind, swell and even a video appear for that day; that moment… What!?
When my wife and I started our high tech careers at ROLM there was no Internet, no cell phones, no voice mail, and no way of carrying your “days work” around in your pocket. When we left work, we were done for the day. The only thing waiting the next day when one arrived to work [possibly] was a pink slip or two. Not the pink slip that dismissed you from your job, but a pink form someone filled in when a phone call came in for you while you were out of the office. The workday started when you arrived at the facility.
I worked hard and had days when I worked late, or when I would come in on a Saturday to get caught up. But when I was not at work I was focused on my life outside of work, whether that was family, friends, fitness, or just relaxing and watching the surf to see if I could anticipate a swell on the rise.
Since we’re not beaming back to the 60’s anytime soon, lets agree there seems to be no stopping this lightening bolt of progress. Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D. summed it up well in his book Margin when he asked:
“If we are enjoying so much progress, why is everyone so worn out?“
So let’s pause on all that progress for a moment and talk about what happens at “the end”. You know, when we die.
Steven Covey, in his best selling book: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was the first to gain widespread attention with “Begin with the end in mind” (Habit #2)”. Covey asks us to question whether we are approaching life in a manner that reflects our values and beliefs. To make his point, he included a very insightful exercise that impacted me immensely. He asks you to find a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted to visualize attending your own funeral – three years from now. Covey then asks you to write the speech of four people who were important in your life and who will speak at your funeral: a family member, a close friend, a co-worker, and a member of your church or community. What do you want them to say about your life?
Here is a reprint of it (Covey_End-In-Mind_Exercise) to try it out. I have used this as a self-reflection exercise in my coaching. It powerfully demonstrates how you are prioritizing your time, and helps to seriously re-examine your priorities. As the old adage goes, you never do hear anyone say from their deathbed that they wished they had worked more. In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware cites the number two regret (of five) as: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.
Suddenly, another thought creeps into my head. Suppose I die. The odds are about 100% that eventually that will happen. And people then [hopefully] say nice things about me at my funeral.
Being a Christian, Heaven is a given after life on Earth. But, what does that really mean? What will it be like? What will my body be like? Will I know anyone? Will I still be able to surf? There are a thousand other questions I could ask. If I am going to be in Heaven for an eternity, I’d like to know a little more.
As mentioned earlier (About surfing and my Christian faith), I did not become a Christian until I my mid-thirties. Prior to that, I had a real fear of death. It was something I called “permanent lights-out”. This thought of complete nothingness would envelop me. It was my biggest fear. By far.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971) has a few verses that speak to this way of thinking. It is a beautiful song. But pay attention to what it really is saying.
“Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people — living for today”
He’s talking about permanent LIGHTS OUT!
Most research tells us roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they actually do believe in Heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” Most of us really do want to go to Heaven, and I believe God desires for us to use our imagination to anticipate the beauty and wonder and joy of what awaits us there. In Matthew 6:19-21, God commands us to set our hearts and minds on heaven above. Jesus was consistently very clear about that in the Bible:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When Jesus met with his disciples for their last meal together before his death, he did not use the time to review the strategic plan on how to move his ministry forward after He’s gone. That’s what I probably would have done. But instead, Jesus speaks about Heaven, and gives them a picture of hope around the place he is preparing for each of them:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Chip Ingram makes the following comment about this in his book “The Real Heaven”:
“Jesus knew that a crystal clear view of eternity and of their future home in Heaven would sustain them through the most difficult of times. When life would get hard and when persecution would come, the hope of Heaven would motivate them to persevere.”
When I became a Christian no one handed me a brochure on Heaven. It remained a mystery not discussed much in church or Bible studies. I wanted to know more and thus began a wonderful study for me. It all started with the Bible.
I will see you in paradise
A disclaimer here:
I am not a professional theologian, pastor or trained biblical scholar. These writings are based on my research solely and do involve some conjecture on my part. I am not the expert, but I do reference a few books (including the Bible) for those who want to learn more.
While I have studied the Bible and attended church fairly consistently over the past 30 years, I did not have a very clear picture of Heaven. It had always been present in discussions about life after death, but I never felt I had much of a grasp on what it was.
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of Heaven (622 times according to Google), and hands-down, Jesus speaks of Heaven more than any other.
Another useful resource on Heaven is Randy Alcorn’s book appropriately called “Heaven”. Alcorn has spent over 25 years researching what the Bible says about it, and he attempts to answer some challenging questions, such as understanding the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth). I don’t want to get to that level, but highly recommend it.
I also have referenced my notes and materials from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). BSF is an international Christian interdenominational structured Bible study (begun in 1959) I have been participating in for the past 12 years. BSF is a wonderful program for anyone wanting to learn more about the Bible.
One of my favorite verses on Heaven in the Bible is this one, where Jesus refers to Heaven as “paradise”, in almost the last words he spoke on Earth before his death. He said this to a dying thief who was being crucified next to him on the cross. As the thief accepted Christ as his Lord and Master he was assured of his place in Heaven.
So just exactly what is this “paradise” that awaits us that Jesus is referring to? According to Jesus, they were going to be there “today”! As I have studied Heaven, it has given me great purpose for my life here on Earth. The Bible is crystal clear about what awaits us by accepting Jesus as our Lord and savior. Heaven is a real, physical place Christians know to be the final destination, where we will enjoy life with God for eternity.
Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation in the Bible represents heaven as a place where there is no more sin, death or sorrow. Heaven will have indescribable beauty beyond our wildest imagination from what we know here on Earth. We will rejoice with those we knew in life on Earth when we are in Heaven. We will be home with God with a sense of peace and joy that everything is as it should be. In Heaven we will have real physical bodies, will eat and drink and wear clothes like we do here on Earth. In Heaven we will be able to do physical things just like we do here on Earth today. Like having a tasty barbecue with your good friends on the beach.
As Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he made a point to eat with them and asked them to touch him and see that he was a physical being (Luke 24:36-43). He even prepared a breakfast fish barbecue on the beach for his disciples to demonstrate to them that he was himself (John 21:1-15). I know this is hard to imagine for us here on Earth. Nobody of course understands the mystery of how God works all his miracles, but the Bible is very clear on all of it.
From all the reading I have done, a life way better than we can imagine awaits us in Heaven. The very best we may have experienced here on Earth will surely pale in comparison to what God has planned.
Here is a quote from Randy Alcorn’s Heaven to frame this picture:
“All of our lives we’ve been dreaming of the New Earth. Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.”
While Heaven and Earth appear to be separated today, according to the Bible, in end times when Jesus returns to Earth, Heaven will come here onto a new Earth for eternity. The New Jerusalem comes down to the renewed Earth and there the redeemed will spend eternity with God on the renewed Earth. Revelation 21 contains a surprisingly detailed description of what this “New Jerusalem” will look like.
I purposely am avoiding further detail, and recommend Randy Alcorn’s Heaven if you want to learn more. But it is fun to use one’s imagination to provide an image of this wonderful world yet to come.
While all this is interesting, I found myself still wanting to know more about Heaven. I wanted to debunk this belief about Heaven being boring or anything we might get tired of. I even have one friend who half jokingly described it as a non-stop church service singing “Holy-Holy-Holy” … for eternity?
Gary Larson spoke to that well in his many comics on Heaven.
Stay tuned for my next post: “Opening day in paradise”.
This book was made into a movie in 2017, and I highly recommend both if you have any questions around the historical reliability of the New Testament, and/or claims made by Jesus Christ. Lee Strobel was a self-proclaimed atheist when he began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ after his wife’s conversion. As an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee pulled together all the facts about Jesus as if he were going to trial. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he became a Christian on November 8, 1981.
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
I’ve made my case for this book in the above post. Simply wonderful.
In the words of Stu Weber (stated on the front cover):
“Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you’ll ever read.”
“Next to love, balance is the most important thing.”
– Coach John Wooden
To me that it’s the simple things in life that can make the biggest difference.
This story starts with a bit of an epiphany I had one night while in graduate school at Golden Gate University in Los Angeles.
As I was launching my career in high technology with ROLM, it became apparent that my Sports Management degree was only going to take me so far. After successfully navigating the transition from tennis club into telecommunications, I enrolled into a Masters degree program at Golden Gate University to both learn about the industry and open opportunities for advancement in my career. Over the course of what seemed at the time like an eternity (eight or so years of night school), I completed a Masters Degree in Telecommunications Management.
One of those evenings in class as I was sipping a hot chocolate to wake up after a long day at work, I discovered something that was to stick with me for the remainder of my career in high-tech.
It was the first day of a Telecommunications 101 class, and the instructor walked into the room to begin. He proceeded to pass out something completely unrelated to the class syllabus. He called it the Circle of Life.
This caught my attention.
I sat back trying to understand why he was talking about “life” beyond telecommunications. Yet as he spoke, I realized that he was quite serious about this and in fact it made good sense.
“If you are able to keep your life in balance, you will inevitably be a much happier and healthier person”.
What a novel thought. So simple, yet so true!
Best of all, he backed up his claim with a quiz he proceeded to pass out to test us on just how well we were doing in the area of life balance right now. We had immediate feedback on the life we were living. For me, it stuck.
Then he moved on to the class syllabus for Telecommunications 101 and I went back to my hot chocolate.
I’d like to tell you that my life changed that very moment as I reviewed the results of my Circle of Life quiz and began thinking about the areas where I wanted to focus to achieve better balance in my life. But in truth, that handout went into my class binder and did not come back out for many years later.
In fact, a marriage, two kids, and two jobs later.
When it finally did surface, I was working for Sun Microsystems in Menlo Park in 1999, riding the high-tech Silicon Valley bubble. I leveraged my telecommunications skills to join Sun’s new and emerging “Netra” division, and they were selling servers like In-n-Out sells hamburgers. We couldn’t build them fast enough.
As the story went, Scott McNealy provided a $1 billion credit line to a senior executive at Sun by the name of Neil Knox to bring a family of telecommunications grade servers (Netra product line) to market for Sun — FAST. These early days working for Neil and his Netra product team in Menlo Park were high-flying and very fun times. Sun had been labeled “the dot in dot-com”. They had invented Java. Scott had even coined the term, “The network is the computer”, and that was BEFORE we had the internet. It just didn’t get any better than this as far as I was concerned from a professional standpoint.
During this very hectic time at work, I received the highly coveted acceptance letter from Ironman Hawaii announcing my lottery number had come up, and I was accepted to compete in the 1999 Ironman Hawaii Triathlon.
Whoa…! How I would possibly find time to do the necessary training without losing my job or my family!?
Fast-forward four months down this path and things seemed to be working out Ok. Or, so I thought…
Then my wife said something to me, which really captured my attention.
We were discussing making family time a priority on weekends when she suddenly blurted out,
“If you put as much time into your family as you do into training for this triathlon, we would have no issues…!”
Now mind you, I am pretty good about that balancing act between work, family and play. But that one really stuck.
Enter the Circle of Life.
Clearly my life was revolving around my job and my triathlon training, and not much else, other than the necessary sleeping & eating to keep it all going. Family had taken a back seat. Once I pulled out the Circle of Life and mapped it out – it was clear as the light of day to me. And worst of all, I had been in a cloud of denial about seeing it.
Thank God my wife brought me to my senses.
This is a discussion much larger than just triathlon training, but it helps make the point to use this example. Just like the three events of a triathlon (swim, bike, run), I needed to equally balance the time and energy I was spending in each area of my life (Work, Family, Self) in order to come out with the best overall performance. But I also needed time to rest and have some inner quiet time (in the words of Dr. Richard Swenson, margin), to feed my soul and attain an optimum performance in the triathlon.
And most importantly, this was about not sacrificing my family. I truly believe that the family is the key to our future. There is a saying that:
“If things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart.”
Whether it was work, sport, or maybe something else, keeping my family a priority is something that would be important to me for the rest of my life, as well as something I would model for my children.
I had to make some changes – right away.
Here is a 5 page document called the “Circle of Life” quiz (pdf file).
It is best if printed so you can fill it in and keep it with you.
Give it a try!
It has helped me several times get order back into my life. As my instructor stated in that Telecommunications 101 class many years ago,
“If you are able to keep your life in balance, you will inevitably be a much happier and healthier person”.
He was right. I have experienced both sides, and I can tell you that a balanced life not only feels good, but it just plain works!
** Resources **
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
Amazingly, Richard Bolles has been updating this book since 1975, when it was first written. In spite of the dramatic changes in the job market today – driven largely by the emergence of the Internet and social media tools like Linked-In, his principals pierce time and are life changing if properly applied. Most importantly, he does something that many of these job seeking books miss. Richard makes a strong case for taking a thorough inventory of who you are, before embarking on your job search. In other words, what color is your parachute.
“The road is better than the inn.”
Miguel de Cervantes
ROLM Corporation was a dream company to start a career, and they were led by one of the truly great Silicon Valley pioneers, Ken Oshman, who established “Great Place To Work” (GPW) as a corporate goal at ROLM in the early 1970s. I stayed with ROLM (“The Fittest Company in Silicon Valley”) through two difficult acquisitions (IBM in 1984, and then Siemens AG in 1989), and was managing a global product team with Siemens ROLM when this story takes place. Our product teams were split between the U.S. and Germany, requiring me to fly over to Munich periodically to help coordinate activities between the two. On this particular day I was at San Francisco International Airport waiting to board my Lufthansa flight to Munich, while very intently hammering out urgent last minute emails to my team. I was literally racing to get as much email completed as possible before I had to board for the 11+ hour flight. The idea of WiFi and a power plug on board the plane was not even a consideration at that point in time.
Suddenly, an older businessman with greying hair, nice suit and tie, probably in his 60’s, approached me appearing to want to interrupt me to chat. He was patiently waiting for me to pause long enough from my emails, as he seemed to have something important to say. I can’t remember his exact words. The essence of it was that I reminded him of himself 20 or so years ago, and he was stopping by to tell me to relax, SLOW DOWN, stop and smell the roses; it would still be there waiting when I landed. I do remember one comment, “you’ll learn when you’re my age, it really doesn’t matter.” For some reason, the way he said it really stuck. It made me pause and think about what I was doing.
Mostly, I was just shocked that he was telling me this out of the blue when he had no idea who I was, who I worked for, or where I was going and why. However, I had an immediate sense that he was absolutely right! I remember thinking about him that entire flight. Of course, I never saw him again. Maybe he was an angel sent to help me. I don’t rule that out, because suddenly, 25 years after that incident, I have become that man. I want to say the exact same thing to those I am working with, or see at airports or coffee shops. That is why I am writing this blog. I want to help others see this early in their career make the adjustments toward more balance. Sometimes all it takes is a brief pause and some reflection on the situation. I have learned over many years you are going to be better off if you can keep your life in balance.
** Resources **
The Rhythm of Life: Living Everyday With Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author who has written a book that truly has a calming effect to those who are living a chaotic lifestyle. His suggestions are simple, but make a great deal of sense. Things like “spend less time doing and more time being” and “focus on being the best version of yourself.” This book made a lot of sense to me.
“Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.”
Coach John Wooden
Prologue (Part 4 of 4)
The intent of this final prologue is to briefly review my 25+ years in Silicon Valley to provide a glimpse into the viewpoints I carry into this blog. This starts with a quick summary of how I ended up here from my roots in Southern California.
Somehow, I decided to leave the surfer’s paradise of Corona del Mar for what turned out to be a wonderful four years of college for me at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I majored in Sports Management in the “Recreation & Leisure Studies” department, which was predicted to be the “boom” industry of the future, as the emergence of the computer in the late 1970’s would soon provide the baby boomer generation with an over abundance of free time. Ha! Well, not quite.
My dream job coming out of college was to find a tennis club in Southern California where I could spend my workday lounging in tennis clothes, while socializing and hitting tennis balls with club members on my breaks. And as fate would have it, I landed that very job as General Manager of the Covina Hills Racquet Club in West Covina. However, it wasn’t quite as good as it had sounded, as my days were some of the longest I have ever worked (we were open 6am – 10pm), and I seemed to always be at the club when everyone else was off (weekends, holidays and evenings). Balance went right out the window, even if I was wearing tennis clothes all day!
After 2-years at the Covina Hills Racquet Club, I switched careers and made my debut at an emerging Silicon Valley telecommunications firm by the name of ROLM. As the government mandated breakup of AT&T’s monopoly of telephone service in the U.S. was taking shape, companies like ROLM were hiring and investing heavily in technical training of their work force to get a jump on the new opportunity. This was perfect for me, as my skills did not go much beyond washing tennis courts and counting tennis balls in the Pro Shop; I did not know the slightest thing about computers! Best of all, I met the love of my life at ROLM, and we soon moved up to ROLM’s headquarters in Santa Clara following our marriage in Newport Beach. There we put our roots into the ground, raised our two children, and began to call Mountain View home.
My first impressions of Silicon Valley in 1991 are best summarized with three questions, which seemed to slap me in the face when we first arrived:
– How COLD is the water at the beach?
– What does everyone do in their free time if they aren’t going to the beach?
– Why is everyone at work so much!?
It took me 5 years to brave the cold water in Santa Cruz and realize that Silicon Valley had access to some of the best surfing on the California coast, less than an hour from our doorstep in Mountain View. As soon as I surfed Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz at low tide on a winter pacific swell, I realized home base had officially moved up north. With the right conditions, Steamers Lane is a world-class wave, which can provide a longer and more exhilarating ride than any wave I’ve experienced in California. It was a dream of a discovery for me, and has been pivotal to keep me in balance while struggling to maintain my career in the fast lane of Silicon Valley high technology companies.
Following are four short stories to help explain a few experiences that have shaped my beliefs over these past 25 years in Silicon Valley.
“Starting Up Silicon Valley: How ROLM Became a Cultural Icon and Fortune 500 Company” by Katherine Maxfield
For those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of the ROLM story, this book is a must have. And for those just curious to understand how ROLM set the stage in Silicon Valley as a center of innovation years before Apple, Google, Facebook and others came along, it is a good lesson in computer history. But most of all for me, the stories of the personalities who worked at ROLM are wonderfully captured. It truly was an amazing company.