Maintenance of Way

In Giving and Living--Later is Probably Never

Most people I meet think that the life down the road will always be better.  We subscribe to this strange belief that we have infinite time. That the future is when we will focus on what is important, personal, and enjoyable. I guess we think life is like a great multi-course meal. We start off with drinks and some finger food and then you dig into the real food and end up with something really sweet at the end. We know this is not true. All phases of life should be guided by what we want and who you are. Fully contributing our talent and abilities to improving the campsite for the next campers. Whatever that means to you!

At HuffPost we've made theThird Metric -- redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give -- a key editorial focus. But while it's not hard to live a Third Metric life, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them. Until we're no longer living them. Arianna Huffington 

Life is short. And when you account for life's curve balls, your kids, parenting your parents, and your own health--it is a lot shorter than you think. We all have close friends who died young--who had "untimely" deaths. Do we really know how much time we have?

Just read a tweet from Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square fame:

Jack Dorsey ‏@jack   4:49 PM - 3 Dec 13

I probably have 18,000 more sunsets in my life. One of them is happening now. 

 
I think the spirit of this tweet is wonderful. Time is fleeting and we have limited time and sunsets. I used to count the Sundays left before my kids went to college. Jack assume he will live to 85 in calculating the 18000. He also assumes he will watch all of them. Let's say he only sees one a week  that reduces it to 2471. And once a month would leave only 600. This all assumes he sees and lives for 48 more years. I hope he does. But let's switch sunsets to hugs with your kids? Or one on one time with your mom. Or golf with your Dad. I did not realize that last February was going to be the last time I played golf with my father. I seriously thought I had dozens left. No more.  Golfers
 
"Next time, let's do that." There is no next time. Even if you do cross those coordinates again you will be different, the place will be different, the experience will be different. 

Carpe Diem. 

But the real point is, when we say "later" we mean "never". Because stuff happens.

One of my greatest pet peeves (I have a few:) is when people tell me that they have no time to "give", "volunteer", or "do what I want" because they are so busy. Busy being busy? They have amazing plans for later. --When they are less busy, retired or win the lottery :)

Doing later, being later and/or giving later makes no sense if you believe that our time is limited. 

Steve Davis of PATH: First, avoid the ‘I’m-going-to-give-back-later [to society]‘ trap. I find it offensive. I hope people haven’t spent the first part of their lives just taking. So the first advice is: Think about this as an integrated model. Don’t wait to get involved in your community and to get involved in the world--because you are working.

Second point, if you are in a place where you’re ready to make a really deeper transition to actually moving toward this work in mid-career, the first thing you should do is make sure that you spend some time volunteering, engaging, figuring out where your passion is. Because, at the end of the day, this is work, a lot of work — hard, complex work — and you don’t get rewarded as much; you get different kinds of rewards. It is important to tie to a passion or a skill because that’s what’s going to drive you forward.

The third, to the younger folks in their 20s, I would say remember that we are in a world where cross-sectoral work is vital. We need people who not only have good intentions about the government or public or nonprofit or private sector, we also need people who’ve actually experienced working in more than one sector because you have to come in to bust some myths about the way people behave. You have to come in understanding incentives and intentions. This could actually create great careers.

Let's stop saying what we will do later. Let's make plans to do and be things now and tomorrow. As I say to anyone who will listen, Live your legacy! 

Will your regret be "Needed to spend more time at the office"? "Wish I would have had more stuff?" Really? How many sunsets or hugs do you have left?

Later probably means never. 

Today is a great day to start doing what you know needs to be done--to help yourself and to help others. To strengthen your network and to mentor others. 

Thanks for reading. John


Repairing and avoiding burned bridges

What goes around comes around and sometimes it is a quick trip. 

That's what I was told by a wiser person early in my career. In other words, you meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down. Burning bridges is plain stupid. The world is a small place and your reputation and network are precious. There is this fallacy that you can just plow ahead and push forward because you never go back that way again. And it doesn't matter because the people you've encountered in these developmental, experimental, or early stages of life will not be relevant to your world later. Kinda like your 2nd grade teacher, right?------wrong again. Burning bridges

There's just a very simple practical matter when you burn a bridge you don't have a reference, you have destroyed part of your history, and you have lost a part of your life.

Of course if you are in a toxic environment, work for a felonious employer or witness crimes against humanity, then you leave and you are not sensitive to the state and well-being of the relationship. You may leave in a manner that was not of your choosing or certainly in a way that does not reflect your best side. You have a solid rationale, righteousness, and an explainable reason for your unceremonious and possibly uncivil departure. Some bridges have to be burned.

Most burnt bridges don't involve dramatic fires and lawyers. Usually bridges get burned very slowly--slow enough to see and smell. Embers that smolder and eventually flame up and destroy whatever positive structures were there.

But when you have decided to leave of your own volition, get a better job, or just want out, you have to be professional. Some people don't get this. They think if they give their 2 weeks notice, never consult with their employer, and go on their merry way that the world remains intact and bridges are preserved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bridges are not edifices on a one-way street that you take for granted and see in your rear view mirror. Bridges are often returned to for references and referrals. They are places and people that you visit to remind you of your progress and solidify your past. They are parts of the mosaic of your reputation and experience.

I was asked recently what you do when you have burned a bridge. The only thing you can do is to repair it, to go back to the scene of the fire and confront the same issues you faced originally.  Its best to repair the potholes in your road before they cause accidents. But what do you do? What can you do? You have to make the call. You have to make the connection you have to go face to face, listen and learn. You have to eat a big hunk of humble pie and apologize for the way YOU handled it. Hopefully there will be some reciprocity here if it is warranted. But if you can repair the burnt bridge so that it is at least neutral, then you have taken the higher road and restored a part of your history, part of you.BridgeConstruction

I have learned that professionalism and dignity are always the right choices. Not well known that I have been hired and fired. I have been laid off and paid off.  In every case it was evident that things were not working. I had a couple of choices. Get ahead of it or wait for the inevitable. I have found that anticipation is more virtuous than being right. Unless you are the boss/owner, then your perspective is secondary by definition. A lack of anticipation, attention and common sense can fossilize a bad relationship/job. Why not get off the burning bridge first. I once told my employer that I thought the relationship was not working and that we should plan my exit. He was stunned and grateful for the honesty. We made amicable plans and he is still a great reference for me! (Even tried to hire me back!)

I mentored this woman who works for a friend of mine. I generously gave her candid advice over years to focus her pursuit of higher responsibility and confidence. She ended up getting her Masters degree paid for by my friend's company. She progressed and she advanced and I took a tiny bit of pride in her growth. I never expected gratitude or anything. When she quit her job and did not give sufficient notice or even talk to my friend or me before she resigned, I was disappointed. I told her she burnt a bridge. She was shocked and also incredibly defensive. She said she had every right to move on and to advance her career. That was not the point. This was not about blind loyalty, this is about the process of engaging your supporters in your advancement. Your supporters are like micro investors who expect you to move up and out, but like to be informed. They don't want to be surprised. My friend was not only surprised but hurt. That bridge is a pile of ashes now. She still thinks its there, but later she may discover its gone when she needs it.

Bottom-line is if you have burnt bridges and regretted relationships you should reach out and fix them. They will never fade away and in fact they can haunt you. They hurt your brand. They might sabotage your future, but most important they diminish you. They reduce your sense of who you are.

The road you have travelled is a reflection of you and your relationships. Bridges and roads need to be maintained and repaired to remain strong and viable. It is never too late to go back to repair, but it it is simpler to avoid damaging any part of your path because you may tread there again.

Thanks for reading. John


The Power of MOW

Vision without execution is hallucination. Thomas Edison

What do we see for ourselves down the road? What path and milestones do we expect? Not what we hope and wish for? Do we have a vision that we are working towards? Or just the vision?

If you don't know where you are going any path leads you there. Alice in Wonderland

Life is making your way down a dim path where unexpected detours and off ramps appear. Your choices are revealed by what you are doing, what matters to you, what you are thinking about.

In learning about my brother-in-law Andrew, I found out that the department he worked for at BNSF Railway was the MOW. I saw it on shirts and signs and I asked what it stood for. Maintenance of Way. Maybe it is just me but that is a very philosophical corporate department name! In fact, here is a website dedicated to it. Maintenance of Way IMG_0009_NEW_0002

You have to understand the MOW crew is a tough bunch of very physical and intimidating guys. So to hear that they work for the Maintenance of Way department, let's just say it surprised me!

The concept of keeping the tracks ahead clear and well maintained so it is safe to travel inspired me. We take these things for granted. MOW are the nameless faceless workers who make our lives easier, who quietly make our world safer, who without recognition, cleanup our messes and make sure our ability to do our work and advance our goals happens. We are so fortunate for the MOW crews!

But MOW is a powerful life guiding value, that we are all pathfinders. We take the beaten paths that others forged and maintained for us. We take new paths that we pursue because we follow our hearts and our calling.

We owe so many people from our past for making our lives and visions possible. People who sacrificed for the chances and choices we enjoy today. Our ancestors and our parents. We owe so many people from our present who guide us, mentor us, and show us the way.

Each of us has a great responsibility for the MOW. To see our opportunities and to choose our paths, so that others can pass here safely.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We never take these roads for our sole selfish gain. We always have others in mind. Our families, our friends, our communities.

It is how we teach and mentor. It is the method of creating our legacies. We lead by example. That is MOW.

Looking ahead to envision our destinations or at least the track we are on is vital to momentum and progress. We must have the drive but we must also arrive. Otherwise our journey is an hallucination.

Maintenance of Way is about leading so that those that follow have a clear and known path. So that they do not repeat the mistakes and suffer the consequences. So we can advance.

We all have to maintain the way. As a parent, as an Asian Pacific American, as a manager, I have responsibilities to MOW.

Thanks Andrew for your MOW. For showing us how to live life to the fullest while being generous. For being yourself and being proud of it. For loving people around you unconditionally. Thanks for maintaining our way.

Thanks for reading. John