Getting To Know You

I apologize for referencing a film I just used a few weeks ago, but I was humming the song “Getting To Know You” from The King and I and I was struck by the lyrics.

Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me

Getting to know you
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you
Getting to know what to say

Haven’t you noticed
Suddenly I’m bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I’m learning about you
Day by day

I have been thinking a lot about how community is formed and maintained. I maintain that we need connection and that our social problems are best solved through relational means. How do we connect and form relationships then? That may seem like a silly question, but maybe it isn’t.

According to a Cigna report, half of Americans identify as lonely. Meaning they don’t have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions, including an extended conversation with a friend or quality time with family. Since a person’s physical, mental and social health are entirely connected, the lack of human connection leads to a lack of vitality.

If we need human connection, and many of us are not getting enough, how do we increase the likelihood of making and maintaining connections, not just at work, but at home and in the broader community?

I recently made some new friends. We have only known each other for 7 months or so. We were talking the other day and were amazed that we felt like we had been friends for years. As I reflect on what caused our relationship to develop so quickly and so well, I think I can identify a few things that were critical.

Our expectations were realistic.

None of us were expecting the others to fix us, meet some deep need, solve our problems, etc. This may seem obvious; however, many people go into relationships hoping and believing that the other person will complete them in some way. When our expectations go unmet, we often become disillusioned or even angry with the other person. Needs we are not even aware of may be driving our reactions and behaviors. Instead, we should be asking ourselves whether our expectations are realistic and attainable.

We asked each other a lot of questions, then listened to the answers.

Without meaning too, we fell into a habit of taking turns asking questions which the others answered. This resulted in us learning things about each other we may never have known otherwise. We need to recognize that our own fears and internal messages often drive our interpersonal interactions. Without further exploration we may easily misinterpret someone’s words or actions and limit our relationship unnecessarily. The way we were raised, educated, treated and possibly hurt throughout our lives colors the way we view what other people say and do. Successful relationships thrive on being curious about the other person and learning who they are.

We each took responsibility for the relationship and cared for it.

We really haven’t had many disputes or disagreements. This isn’t because there weren’t opportunities, rather it is because we are each willing to take responsibility for the role we play in any difficulty and are willing to compromise and grant grace. I like the line in the song, “Getting to know what to say.” What this lyric tells me is that great relationships aren’t places where you can saying anything you want and expect the other person to take it, rather they are places where you say important things in ways that maintain the message that you care. If each of us puts the relationship in front of “being right” we go a long way to ending problems before they can derail the connection.

We are all practicing self-awareness.

I say practicing because we will always be improving and learning. Knowing what drives you to react and behave in the ways you do improves your ability to adapt in a relationship. Self-awareness helps us be authentic and our true selves, which is a much better basis for a relationship than a false front. Self-awareness enables us to free ourselves of the needs, fears, messages, and unrealistic expectations which otherwise would exert power over us. We are then able to make conscious choices about how we react to and treat people.

One of the downsides of growth in an organization is it becomes impossible to know everyone very well. I wish I could get to know more of our team. I know there are so many fantastic stories and interesting histories. I love our company meetings where at least I get to hear a little about people I don’t know well. I look forward to learning something new about each of you.

Even with our growth though, I know there are many deep friendships being formed all over Kimray. We can never know where being open to learning about another person may lead. Relationship is one of our greatest needs and being relational is a significant part of resolving many of the social problems our society faces. I’m proud that making good friends and caring for relationships is the Kimray Way.

Great Expectations

Depending on your expectations, this Musing is either unfortunately or fortunately not about the Charles Dickens novel. I would, however, like to retell a story about expectations.

A butcher is watching over his shop one day when a dog comes in. He shoos him away, but the dog comes back. Then the butcher notices a note in the dog’s mouth. He takes the note and reads, “Can I have 12 sausages and two lamb chops please.” There is adequate money folded in the note.

The butcher wraps up the requested meats and places the bag in the dog’s mouth. He is impressed and intrigued, and since it is close to closing time, he shuts up the shop and follows the dog down the street. The dog comes to a crossing, puts the bag down, jumps up and presses the button to cross. Then it waits patiently for the light to turn with the bag in its mouth. When the light indicates it is safe to cross, the dog walks across the road with the butcher close behind.

Arriving at a bus stop the dog starts looking at the timetables. It allows several buses to go by, then boards one, shows a ticket tied to its collar to the driver, and then sits near the driver’s seat looking intently outside. The butcher is nearly fainting at this point but continues to watch from a seat farther back. When the dog’s stop is in sight, it stands and wags its tail to inform the driver. Then, without waiting for the bus to stop completely, it jumps out of the bus and runs to a house very close to the stop.

The dog opens a big iron gate and rushes toward the door of the house. As it approaches it suddenly changes its mind and heads toward the rear of the house. Going to a window, the dog bumps the window rather hard several times before returning and waiting at the door. The butcher watches as a large man opens the door and starts abusing the dog, kicking him and swearing at him.

The butcher, shocked at this behavior, runs up and stops the man. “What in heaven’s name are you doing? This dog is a genius. He could be on TV!” To which the man responds: “You call this clever? This is the second time this week that this stupid dog has forgotten his key.”

In recovery we learn that “unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.” Another was we say it is, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

Expectations are difficult things.

We wouldn’t want to live without any expectations. Healthy expectations are what cause us to anticipate future events and create enjoyment before the thing we are expecting even comes. Expectations can motivate us to achieve more, reach a difficult goal, or even push through something that might otherwise stop us. Expectations can create boundaries that help us to not veer too far off a healthy path for our lives.

Unrealistic expectations are poisonous. They cause us to be dissatisfied with what we have and where we are. They cause us to resent the people around us and lead us towards an entitlement frame of mind. They can eventually lead to us being disillusioned to the point of losing motivation all together.

So, what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy expectations?

The simplest way to differentiate is to ask, “Do I have a reasonable amount of control over the result I am expecting?” Many times we find that our expectations are in or on something that we have no control over: other people’s behavior, other people’s feelings, the condition or state of the community we live or work in, the market conditions of our business, politicians, Facebook—we could go on and on.

Having expectations founded on things we cannot control creates the toxic internal environment we often call resentment. We want and expect a certain outcome. Over time we come to believe that we deserve it and we count on it. We do what we can and what we believe is our part (even though it may have little to nothing to do with actually impacting the outcome.) Then when the result is disappointing, we blame others (or God, or the universe) and resent them for failing us.

Unhealthy expectations require others to perform and meet our needs in specific and often tightly defined ways. We make our circumstances and the people around us responsible for our contentment and serenity. Like the dog’s owner, we lose the ability to be awed by and grateful for all the good in our lives because we are disappointed in the lack of perfection.

Healthy expectations require us to do our part and allow for our own variability and the unpredictability of the world and the people around us. Healthy expectations don’t “lower the standard” or “settle for less” but they do create space for our lack of control over circumstances and other people. By remaining grateful for what we do achieve, do have, and do receive, we can continue to encourage ourselves and those around us to do our best while leaving room for an outcome we might not have anticipated.

At Kimray, the environment we live and work in is heavily influenced by factors we cannot control. We want to be careful not to become so fixated on results that are largely controlled by those factors that we lose sight of the things we do have control over and should have great expectations about. We want to guard against becoming the dog owner and resenting even the good in our lives because it fails to meet our unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we need to play the part of the butcher and watch our lives from outside to see all the great things we are experiencing. Be grateful, expect great things and give yourself and those around you a lot of grace. That’s the Kimray Way.

Good Is Hard

Author Scott Alexander wrote, “All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.”

I recently read some articles related to something most of us could very possibly have lived our entire lives without ever knowing. I was attracted to the article, “The Speedrunner Who Wasn’t: How a Community Dealt with an Elaborate Cheater”, because I have always been interested in running and have followed several of the stories of people who have cheated in an attempt to gain fame and fortune, one of the most notorious being Rosie Ruiz who cheated to “win” the Boston marathon. But the article wasn’t about running in that sense.

This was a story about speed running video games, the practice of completing (running) an entire video game quickly, or for speed. This is a very small niche of an already niche world. It gets very little attention and is currently not worth anything of value except bragging rights in this very enclaved community. In this case, the perpetrator used splicing of game footage from several different attempts to make it look like he had completed the game faster than anyone else had ever done it. He cheated to get attention. The result was his expulsion from the very community he wanted the admiration of.

I also followed closely the long running feud between Billy Mitchell and the arcade game community over Billy’s Donkey Kong high score record. If you haven’t watched “King of Kong”, you should. Billy’s scores were finally thrown out last year when it was proven that he had cheated by using an emulator instead of an actual arcade game to set his high scores. Billy was a very talented player and set several really outstanding scores in public on legitimate machines. His emulator scores would have been valid if he had entered them in that category. Instead, he claimed to have done something that he hadn’t, and the final result was a loss of all his records (not just the DK ones) and the respect and trust of the community that was so important to him.

In each of these cases, and many more I could list and link to, there is a common thread. They all took a short cut (easy) to take credit for something that is hard. The respective communities that were impacted saw what they did as evil and treated them accordingly.

Good is hard. Evil is easy.

Cheating will never give the satisfaction and end result that we really want. The short cut might look enticing as it promises to deliver the result without the pain or hard work and delayed gratification, but it is selling a defective product and the buyer’s remorse is severe.

As leaders we have opportunities every day to demonstrate that we are willing to do things the right way, the ethical and legitimate way, rather than taking short cuts. Like training our team members, even though it is costly and time consuming, to ensure they are successful, and our customers receive correct products. Like staying committed to safety and 5S and continuous improvement. Like pay and policies that respect a person’s value and worth. Like staying true to our core values even when it is the harder path.

Good things, individual and corporate, require hard work. My great friend and long-time running partner signs his emails and notes with a quote from a Roman poet:

“Great is the road I climb, but the garland offered by an easier effort is not worth the gathering.”

The things worth gathering in life require significant effort. I often forget that this applies to intangible things to. Relationships, health (mental, spiritual and emotional as well as physical), and having and achieving a vision, all require hard work, dedication and perseverance. There are no short cuts.

I am grateful to be surrounded by people who get it. Our team works hard and doesn’t cheat. We trust each other and the community we live and work in trusts us. This isn’t always the easiest way, but it is the only garland worth gathering and, it is the Kimray Way.

Elephants Never Forget

The phrases we use every day without even thinking are fascinating to me. I was wondering the other day if elephants really do have great memories and, after reading some incredible research, I can tell you they do.

Elephants have the largest brain of any land mammal. I know, you’re thinking, “They are very large animals, of course they have big brains.” They actually have big brains for their size too. This is called the encephalization quotient, which measures the size of the brain relative to body size, and elephants rank at the top of mammals with dogs and cats being higher but horses and rodents being significantly lower. However, it is not just size that matters, it is structure.

Elephants have brain structures similar to humans. They have as many neurons and synapses as humans, and a highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex enables them to solve problems, have a language and even create art. The hippocampus though is strongly associated with emotion that aids recollection by encoding important information into long term memory. This is one of the reasons elephants actually do have very good long-term memories.

Unfortunately, it is also why elephants are one of the few non-human species who experience post traumatic stress disorder. Elephants have an amazing capacity for empathy, altruism and justice. They are the only non-human animals to mourn their dead, performing burial rituals and returning to visit graves. Elephants have even shown concern for other species.

Memory is a useful thing and losing it is disastrous for an individual. It is also critical for a community. Like an elephant, our ability to remember is necessary for our collective sense of empathy, altruism and justice.

Memorial Day is one way we help ourselves remember things that, while unpleasant and sad, are necessary for us to function as our better selves. We have the opportunity during this time to recall the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms, including the freedom to disagree with how those freedoms were gained and have been held. We also have the opportunity to be grateful for what others have done for us.

Individuals who served in war-time experienced things they may not wish to remember. The capacity to empathize and care also brings the capacity to be harmed and scarred. For them, Memorial Day can be difficult and triggering. We have the privilege of being there to support them and acknowledge their pain. This should be true every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.

There is another saying that I hear repeated often: “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” This has new meaning for me when I apply it to how I interact with the people in my life. I have the capacity to sense the emotions of those around me and experience those emotions to a degree. This is called empathy. Those emotions then cause my brain to store the things that are happening, including what I have or have not done, as long-term memories. Those memories then enable me to repeat behaviors that are healthy for the people around me and avoid behaviors that are unhealthy to those around me.

Empathy is vital for a community to flourish. As I look around our city, state, nation and even the world, I see very little empathy. Maybe this is what is wrong. I know we may not be able to change the world, but we should be able to change someone’s world. Let’s start with the people we work with. Let’s start by using that big brain of ours (our encephalization quotient is 7 times an elephant’s) to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and try to understand what they are thinking and feeling.

Today, I encourage you to tell a veteran that you appreciate their service on your behalf. Service that resulted in our freedoms and opportunities. Starting Tuesday, let’s all be a little more like elephants and not forget the lessons that are all around us. Together we can continue to build a community marked by empathy, altruism and justice. It’s the Kimray Way.

Is A Puzzlement!

My favorite form of entertainment is musical theatre. I love to see musicals live, but also enjoy the movie versions. Near the top of my list of favorites is The King and I.

The ever prim and proper Anna Leonowens has come to Siam to be the governess of the children of King Mongkut. The king is stubborn and certain he is right, about everything. Anna succeeds in having great influence over him, not by challenging him or telling him things, but by questioning him. In the end the king learns much from Anna, and she learns some things from him too. In the song “A Puzzlement” King Mongkut sings:

“And it puzzle me to learn
That tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know
Very quickly he will fight
He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so
Is a puzzlement”

Often when someone tells us something that contradicts what we think we know; it creates defensiveness in us, and our brains work even harder to maintain our current position. It can be more effective when we stumble over the truth ourselves.

This reminds me of some great parenting advice I once read: “Talk less and ask more questions.” The article was on how to raise independent and problem-solving children. While the parent-child relationship is unique and special, the desire to have those we care about become able to think through and solve problems is ubiquitous.

As leaders, we want our team members to be capable of finding the truth and constructing solutions for themselves. This is not a call for independence over community, it is an acknowledgment of the reality that a group of people are better when the individuals can think independently.

How do we create an atmosphere where this type of growth is fed and flourishes? How do we help one another trip over the truth? We need to talk less and ask more questions.

What is your plan…?

The answer to this question is the essence of time management. To answer, one must have future awareness and the ability to construct a time line within appropriate routines and schedules. We all need to improve our ability to understand the connection between what we have to do later and the affect it has on what needs to be done now.

What do you need to do in order to…?

This is a question that creates priorities. Asking this helps a person build checklists for their responsibilities. Staring at the whole picture at once can be veryd daunting, finding the first step helps us get moving. Asking what someone’s priorities are requires their brain to do some heavy lifting.

What does ‘done’ look like to you?

While seeing the whole picture can be daunting, not knowing how to tell when we are finished can be just as problematic. We need the ability to look at the end product as part of building a map to get there. This is also a great way for us to make sure we are anticipating the same result.

What could possibly get in your way?

Often, we are overly optimistic when it comes to our plans and future projects. This question helps us think through and foresee the potential barriers and plan ways around them. We want to be optimistic, but we need to be prepared for the inevitable disruptions and difficulties.

As leaders, it is easy to think of communication and personal development in terms of what we tell others. Sometimes there is more to be learned from what we tell ourselves. When we discover things for ourselves, they seem to stick better. A good question is often the catalyst for self-discovery.

Kimray is a place where we care enough about each other to not always give all the answers. Kimray is a place where we care enough to ask each other questions and find our own answers. Kimray is also a place where we learn as much from others as they do from us. Sometimes that can seem like a puzzlement, but it isn’t, it is the Kimray Way.

I Am Jack’s Wasted Life

“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”

Tyler Durden in Fight Club

I re-read the following story a few nights ago. I was unable to track down the origin of this parable, so I repeat it here without citation.

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice-looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and, in some cases, even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

I would like to talk about money. Money is an arbitrary store of value, not value itself. There are many other modalities of value in our lives: time, knowledge, experiences, and happiness just to name a few. Money is often the vehicle for trading one form of value for another. You might trade your time and knowledge for money, then trade that money for an experience.

Many people think the Bible says that money is the root of all evil. That is inaccurate. The Bible says that loving money is the root of all kinds of evil. Just like money is not the cause of evil, money is also not the cause of wealth. It is the effect. How we perceive and use money is a reflection of our values and intentions.

Money is neutral. It is a currency used to exchange experiences between two people. You make money creating experiences for others, then trade that money to receive experiences in return. The material things we buy are not just physical goods, they are experiences. Even when you buy food, you are buying away the experience of hunger and buying temporary health and happiness.

This exchange of experiences results in cycles being played out in our lives. If the experience we give (our job) to get money is negative and we use that money to purchase an opposite positive experience, we may find ourselves in one of three cycles…

Stress: If in our job or role we experience high pressure, or we feel threatened in some way (like being constantly criticized), we will tend to spend the money we receive on stress-relief to compensate.

Ego: If in our job or role we experience feeling powerless, insignificant or useless, we will tend to spend the money we receive on superficial status symbols trying to silence our insecurities.

Pain: If in our job or role we are hurt or injured­–physically, emotionally or psychologically–we will tend to spend the money we receive on pain relief (including alcohol, drugs and other diversions.)

All of these cycles prevent us from being truly wealthy, as the way we spend our money is simply compensating for how we earned it. True wealth occurs when the way we earn money and the way we spend money are aligned. Earning through positive experiences and spending on other positive experiences.

For the individual, this means seeing money not as the purpose of life, but rather as a tool to move life from place to place. A means to both give and receive positive experiences. Not about the accumulation of stuff but rather experiences. Not about the cup, but rather the coffee.

For an organization (like Kimray), this means creating an environment where people can trade in positive experiences. Work should be meaningful, valuing and healthy. As leaders we have the responsibility to help our team members find the positive experiences around them and create a cycle of trading positive for positive. If people are valued, cared for and cared about, they won’t need stuff (physical and emotional) to impress people they don’t like. Instead, they can become truly wealthy, not measured by the quantity of stuff, but by the quality of experiences they accumulate.

That is Jack’s life well spent.

The Next Picasso

In the past few days I have had the privilege of speaking and interacting with some really amazing young people. Ranging from middle school to graduating seniors and spanning racial, socioeconomic and school types, these students were inspiring, engaging, attentive and scary smart.

I learned some things from them.

I must have been asleep in 2015 when the United Nations General Assembly ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but these students got me up to speed rather quickly. Please don’t send me emails about the UN, our national sovereignty, or any (and I mean ANY) conspiracy theories. Instead, try to imagine a world where these goals have been met:

Students at a school here in OKC are doing just that. They were given the challenge of picking a global goal to work on, coming up with a “business plan” to generate change, and then actually doing it. And they did. One team of middle schoolers is sponsoring a kid their age in Africa so he can attend school and have adequate food, clothing and health care. A high school team raised $50,000 to help build a home for children in the foster care system. In total, 22 teams made a difference in one or more of the 17 goal areas. It was amazing and humbling and wonderful to hear.

When we look at those goals, they seem overwhelmingly huge and impossible. Kind of like if I decided I would be the next Picasso. Pretty impossible. Or is it.

Picasso showed a passion and skill for drawing from a very early age. By the time he was 7 his father, an art teacher, was instructing him in figure drawing and oil painting. At 13 he passed the exams and was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. It would be an understatement to say he started early.

Picasso drew and painted prolifically. In the 33 volume catalog of his work, over 16,000 pieces are documented. He drew and painted every day, and throughout his career his works changed and developed. He didn’t become “Picasso” overnight, he became Picasso over a lifetime. So, if I want a chance at becoming the next Picasso, I have to draw or paint every day. I don’t have to do a lot every day, but I have to do something.

I have a cousin that wants to write a book of short stories. He is committed to writing at least 200 words a day. Some days it is easy, and some days it is hard, but every day he does it. I have read many articles about “becoming a writer” and they all say, “write every day,” in some way or another. You don’t have to do a lot in one sitting, but you need to log a lot of sittings.

The same thing is true for how we could see these 17 goals realized.

None of us can accomplish even one of these goals by ourselves. Just thinking about ending hunger or achieving gender equality should make your head spin. But if a team of middle school students can send a kid to school and make sure he has food, clothes and health care, I think some of us could do the same. If some high school students can raise $50K to give foster kids a home, what could you and I do?

In fact, if you visit the Global Goals website you will find lots of information about how a normal individual can have positive impact on these areas. As we say at Kimray, “We don’t have to change the whole world, but we should be changing someone’s world.” We don’t have to become Picasso overnight; we just have to do something every day that moves the needle toward the positive.

I was inspired by the students I spoke with this past week. They helped me remember that you don’t have to be a “grown up”, or rich, or have a degree, or have anything, except the desire to make a difference. I was challenged by these students and grateful for the opportunity to see things through their eager and enthusiastic eyes.

This week I challenge you to see the world around you through new eyes. Don’t let the size of the problems confound you. Find something you can do to make someone’s life better and do it. Then do something again the next day, and again the day after that. Before you know it, you will have created a body of work that rivals Picasso’s. More importantly, you will change the world in the process.

Lest We Forget

As I watched the live coverage of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on Sunday, I was reminded again of a simple but important truth. It takes effort to remember the things that have shaped us as a community and as individuals.

When significant things happen in our individual or collective lives, we think we will never forget. Whether it is a tragedy or a triumph, we can’t imagine we would ever forget how we feel in that moment. In the depth of despair and darkness we struggle to believe that we will ever see light and feel warmth again. Likewise, in the intoxication of joy and light we cannot imagine it ever being dark again.

Then time marches on and we forget.

The passage of time dulls both joy and pain. We slowly find light replacing the darkness. We gradually come down from our mountaintop experience. Time tends to level things.

This is not a bad thing. Our lives would be unbearable if we could never recover from tragedy and difficulty, nor could we sustain the heightened energy and amplitude of pinnacle moments. We need the tenor of our lives to return to a moderate tone after periods of intensity.

However, we also need to remember where we have been. Past pain and past joy can serve to help us moderate ourselves during future times of stress. Comparing our present circumstances to touch-points in our past allows us to understand the relationship between now and the future. Having survived struggle and tragedy and darkness, to once again see light and feel joy, gives us confidence during other difficult times that we will rise again. Knowing from experience that the present joy and brilliant light of success will fade helps us to savor the moment and anticipate its ebb.

When I use to run marathons and ultra-marathons my running partners and I loved to train in horrible weather or when we didn’t feel well. As counter-intuitive as that sounds, we knew that when race day arrived, we would be prepared to face just about anything.

One year during the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon it rained, hailed, was sunny, and was windy, all in the same race. We often found ourselves saying to one another during that race, “this isn’t so bad, we’ve trained in way worse than this,” and we had. We had run in snow, and ice, and wind, and lightening. We were prepared because we had already suffered, and we knew we could make it through.

The highs in our lives also help to put things in perspective. Every summer, when we go to Colorado, we climb one or more 14,000 ft peaks. It is really difficult, and we struggle every year, but once we make the summit, we remember why we do it over and over again. The view is unbelievable. There is a feeling I get when I’m on the top of a mountain that makes everything else in my life seem small and inconsequential. If for only a moment, I am completely free from worry, conflict, emotional pain and difficulty. I am at the same time reminded how small and temporal I am, and also how blessed and singular I am. It is an amazing reset.

The highs in our lives would be meaningless if we didn’t have lows, and the lows in our lives would kill us if we didn’t experience the climb out of the valley. Still, we struggle sometimes to remember these important moments and seasons once they are past. And so, we need memorials. We need to be reminded of the pain we have endured and overcome, and we need to be reminded of the joy and blessing we have experienced.

Yesterday people ran to remember. Sometimes we put up monuments and markers. For some there are pictures and artifacts and mementos. Others just keep things in their hearts. Whatever you do, make sure you remember the blessings you have and the gift of pain you have experienced. We would not be happy living on a level plain. The mountains and valleys and there to allow us to experience life fully.

If you are in a valley right now, be encouraged. Your road will rise eventually. There are people around you who are willing to walk with you until it does.

If you are on the mountain top right now, revel in it. Absorb everything you can, and then offer to lift someone up to where you are.

If you are on level ground for now, know that there are mountains and valleys ahead of you, but you have come through these before and you will again.

Wherever you are, find a way to secure it in your memory, lest you forget.

Don’t Panic

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy tells us that “A towel is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value…. more importantly, a towel has immense psychological value.”

We just got new towels. New towels are marvelous things. They are soft, fluffy and luxurious. The colors are vivid, and the edges are neat and tidy. Funny how you don’t notice incremental creep until you are faced with the sum total of the change. My old towel was terrible, and I didn’t even know it.

Entropy is the measure of the molecular disorder, or randomness, of a system. It is also the term used to describe a gradual decline into disorder. In physics and particularly thermodynamics, it is generally observed that without energy being added to a system, the system declines into greater and greater molecular disorder. This means there is less thermal energy available for work. By observation, this appears to apply to the universe in general.

Whether you call it entropy or incremental creep, we all intuitively know that if we don’t add energy to the systems in our lives, things decay.

If we don’t clean our homes, things get dirtier and dirtier. If we don’t maintain our cars they eventually break down. If we take relationships for granted, they deteriorate and fall away. Really, any system you can think of requires the addition of energy for it to be maintained, or else things decay, break and come unraveled.

We can add energy in many different ways. There’s good old-fashioned work. In the case of cleaning house or maintaining a car it just takes effort. We can change the system. This is a form of adding energy that results in a new system with a higher energy level than the previous one. Sometimes the “work” is not physical or mechanical in nature, it is applied attention. In relationships it is often just focusing on the other person that increases the energy and slows or prevents the creep.

For us to fight entropy we must first acknowledge it exists and is occurring in every area of our lives. Second, we must know what kind of energy to apply and how to apply it. For leaders who agree that our responsibility is to serve the people on our team (that’s all of you, right?) we can do several things to add energy to the system of our team.

Ask

When we ask our team members how they are doing, and then listen to their response, we are communicating that we care and we are adding energy to that relationship. I know you are busy, and so do your team members. When you take time to pay attention to someone’s well-being it demonstrates that you care more about them than getting one more thing checked off your to-do list.

Listen

Speaking of listening, do it. Listen to your team members ideas, thoughts and concerns. If they aren’t talking, ask specific questions and then shut up so they can speak. Remember that it is difficult and scary to put your own thoughts and opinions out into the room. As a leader, it is not enough to claim you are available to hear what people need to say. You must actively seek people’s input and criticism. Great leaders are humble enough to learn from everyone.

Encourage

I know you all encourage those you lead to engage and accomplish the work that our team needs. That is necessary and important. What is also important is for you to encourage those you are serving to pursue their interests and passions away from work. Find out what the people on your team do when they are not at work and support them in those pusuits.

Celebrate

A great leader recognizes that big wins are built on many small wins. We should be celebrating small and incremental wins in the lives of our team members at work and at home. We need to always remember that what is a small win in our minds may be a big win in someone else’s.

Teach

In my experience, when people aren’t doing what I want them to, I usually haven’t communicated what I want, or they don’t understand how to do it. While it is sometimes necessary to discipline someone, usually what people need is for us as leaders to slow down long enough to teach what is necessary for everyone on the team to be successful together.

Do

An effective leader walks the walk. The most effective way to lead is by example. When we do what we are preaching as much or more than we preach it, our instructions become rooted in the day-to-day example of our lives. People will follow someone, but they rarely put up with being pushed. You have to be in front.

Promote

Invest in your team members and co-workers. Give people the opportunities they need to learn, grow, and ultimately become successful. Great leaders lift others up and help them achieve their goals, not just the goals of the organization. When the people on our team are experiencing success in their personal lives, they bring that success to the team and become encouragers too. We get what we give.

Cleaning our homes is easier if we do it regularly. Things get dirty, that’s entropy, and the longer we go between cleaning up, the harder it gets. The same thing is true about relationships and our teams. While it takes effort and requires that we be intentional on a daily basis, making small investments of time and attention in our team members is actually easier than waiting until we have a huge mess to clean up.

It is kind of fun to get new towels and experience the sudden “upgrade” in comfort and looks, but relationships aren’t towels. We need to be intentional and keep our relationships renewed and vibrant by fighting the inevitable incremental creep.

Don’t Panic. Like a towel is to an interstellar hitchhiker, investing in our relationships has great practical value and immense psychological value….more importantly, it is the Kimray Way.

Searching For More Than Eggs

When I was young, dying Easter eggs was a big event. Being an engineer in training, I and my siblings experimented with myriad ways to decorate the almost magical yet misshapen orbs that would almost immediately be converted to deviled eggs. Over the years we tie-died, batiked, painted, wax coated, dipped, and dyed (natural and store bought) hundreds of eggs. When I was very young, my parents and grandparents hid those eggs and we hunted them. That is until one year when we failed to find one that had been tucked in-between the cushions of the couch. A couple weeks later it became obvious that something had been missed and that was probably the last year we hid the real eggs and started using plastic eggs instead.

Next to hunting eggs, the other two things that stand out in my memories are new Easter clothes and Easter dinner. For years my grandmother Vera (the wife of our founder) would take us to buy a new set of “church” clothes before Easter. While this was certainly a wonderful gesture on her part, I did not see this as a gift but rather as a particularly cruel form of punishment. I remember vividly the discomfort of trying on stiff and funny smelling clothes, usually consisting of a coat and short pants with a collared shirt. To make things worse, for years she bought matching outfits for my brother and me.

Easter dinner was another thing altogether. Vera was a wonderful cook, and every Easter she cooked a leg of lamb. I remember mint jelly, peas with little white onions and lots of butter, warm soft rolls, and always a delicious dessert. We would eat in the formal dining room on fine china plates with real silver utensils and crystal water goblets. We were required to place our cloth napkin and left hand in our laps, and eat politely and slowly. That meal made me feel grown up and special. Often, after dinner, Garman would wet his finger by dipping it in his water and then slowly rub the tip of his finger along the edge of the goblet. Very soon the goblet would begin to ring a clear and piercing note. This vexed Vera, but she allowed us to follow suit, and we marveled at both the magic we were causing and the fact that Vera was allowing it.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized why we went to all that fuss at Easter. Easter is special. Special things deserved to be treated differently. The way we dress, the things we eat and how we eat them, the things we do, and the places we go all serve to create memories and set a day or event apart from the normal routine.

What makes Easter special? For people who are followers of Jesus, Easter recognizes the most significant event in history. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Because none of us are capable of living a blameless and perfect life, we each find ourselves in need of a savior, someone who could live a perfect life and then take on the penalty of our failure. Jesus, the son of God, was able to live a perfect life, and at Easter we celebrate that after dying in our place and erasing the debt we owed, he rose from the dead and now his spirit lives within and through us. This is fantastic news and an amazing gift. It deserves to be treated differently.

So, on Easter we hunt eggs because eggs are a symbol of new life (though a somewhat ironic symbol since we boiled them first). We have lilies in our homes and churches because they are one of the first flowers we see in spring and they rise from a seemingly dead bulb. We get dressed up in colorful clothes because we are celebrating life, not death. And at my grandmother’s we ate lamb because that’s what the Israelites ate the night before they were delivered from bondage in Egypt, much like we have been delivered from bondage through Christ’s death and resurrection.

I still like to color Easter eggs, and we still only hunt the plastic ones. I have gratefully outgrown the matching clothes and short pants, but I still wear the best I have when I go to church on Easter. Vera went to be with her savior many years ago, but I still have a special affinity for lamb because of her and what it meant. Ultimately though, Easter is special because it is the memorial of the reason I have life and can have it abundantly.

If you don’t know Jesus and would like to talk about him with someone, there are lots of us at Kimray who would be happy to listen and share. Just ask. If you ask me, I might end up telling you other stories about my childhood and family, because they are the ones who taught me so much about love and grace. I would love to be part of you knowing about that, too.

It turns out we were searching for more than eggs.