Thursday, December 29, 2005

Managing Expectations

"Ohmm....Ohmmmm....cheeseburger...cheeseburger...ohmmmm..." Such was the mantra of one Arnold Jackson of Different Strokes TV show fame.

I often think about what I have as my personal mantra. My wife would say it is "manage expectations". I think that is just about it.

Two events occurred recently which caused me to rethink and clarify my mantra. One was when a friend started a blog which he has titled Managing Expectations and the other was a conversation with my wife about career choices. What does it really mean to manage expectations? When does it come into play? What limits come with it? What does it not do?

My thoughts... ohmmm.... ohmmm.... manage expectations.... ohmm..... ohmmmm.... manage expectations...

There are two ways to manage expectations:
  1. Internally (your own expectations) and
  2. Externally (the expectations of those with whom you interact)
In both situations managing expectations should always be accompanied by planning a response should the expectation managed come back different than foreseen.

For internal expectation management it is important to be make sure that you understand that managing your own expectations does not mean you should accept less than you deserve, need or want. It is a matter of being a realist. Being a realist allows you to think through scenarios without putting all eggs in one basket hoping for the best. It lessens the disappointment you might feel when expectations are not met.

For external expectation management with clients, friends, family, kids, etc.. it is about helping others see the reality of a situation. If you do this there are three possible scenarios that may result:
  1. The result is what you expected. Your client is happy because they got what they expected.
  2. The result is better than expected. Your client is thrilled with you because you came through with more.
  3. The result is less than expected. Your client is not happy. But thankfully you've got a plan of attack to address the less then desirable result. It is now time to take action on whatever those options are that you have had time to consider.
To see how this works at home or with family just insert "kids", "wife", "in-laws", etc... in place of "clients" in the above list. And remember that as the artist Meatloaf once said..."two out of three ain't bad." Speaking of Meatloaf... he's the king of managing expectations. Here's the line from that song:
And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad
'Cause two out of three ain't bad
Talk about managing expectations!

Managing expectations properly prepares you for a less than desirable response. The key word here being "desire". It affords you a point of view that allows you to prepare a response in advance should you find out that what you asked for, need or want has not been delivered.

Should your expectations be exceeded the time you spent thinking or planning a counter response to a less than desirable result should not be considered wasted time and effort. It is preparation that is necessary in order to respond appropriately and swiftly to a situation that you wish to change.

So here are some expectations for you as you read my blog. I will:
  1. Try to make at least one new entry a week. Possibly more given time and opportunity, but expect at least one per week.
  2. I will mix up the subjects based on what is going on in my life.
  3. I will try to make a point with each post when I can. Sometimes I will have no point at all, just an idea, thought or information to pass along.
  4. I will take requests!
Hopefully I have managed your expectations well. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ron Santo - This Old Cub

For Christmas my brother Rod gave me a copy of the DVD This Old Cub about the life and career of former Chicago Cub Ron Santo.

As a life long Cub Fan I am aware of how great Ron Santo was as a third baseman. For those unfamiliar here is the entry on Ron Santo from Wikipedia:

Ronald Edward Santo (born 25 February 1940 in Seattle, Washington) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball who played almost his entire career with the Chicago Cubs. He was named a National League All-Star 9 times in his 15 seasons of play from 1960 to 1974, and won consecutive 5 Gold Glove awards for fielding excellence from 1964 to 1968.

Santo made his debut for the Cubs on 26 June, 1960. He played with the team until 1973, then finished his career with the cross-town Chicago White Sox in 1974. During his 14-season run with the Cubs, Santo hit 337 home runs; he was the first third baseman to hit over 300 home runs and win five Gold Gloves, a feat since matched by only Mike Schmidt, a hall-of-fame player with a lifetime batting average 10 points below Santo's .277, in an era noted for weaker pitching.

During his playing career, he carefully concealed the fact that he had Type 1 diabetes. He feared that had this information come out, he would be forced into retirement. He was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 18, and was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo has had both his legs amputated below the knee as a result of his diabetes; the right in 2001 and the left in 2002. Today, he is a Cubs broadcaster on WGN radio with play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes. He has also worked with Harry Caray, Thom Brennaman, Wayne Larrivee, and Bob Brenly.

Santo has been endorsing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago since 1974, and has raised over $50 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In 2002, Santo was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Person of the Year."

On September 28, 2003, Santo's #10 was retired by the Cubs organization, making him the third player so honored behind his teammates Ernie Banks (#14) and Billy Williams (#26). His life and career were explored in the 2004 documentary film This Old Cub, directed by his son Jeff.

In 2005 he came within eight votes of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee. Bill James, arguably baseball's most respected statistical guru, feels Santo's elevation to the hall of fame is long overdue.


What impresses me about Ron Santo is not found in his baseball statistics. It is his heart. Here is a man who had to live with Juvenile Diabetes in an era when glucose meters did not exist, was told that he had a life expectancy of 25 years, and eventually lost both of his legs. And yet he did not/does not let this disease control him. Instead he has chosen how he wants to face life. Because of this approach to life and his continued fundraising support of JDRF, Ron Santo has earned the respect of many people, including this Cub fan.

Ron Santo is a great example of the power of positive attitude. I recommend this video to anyone who wants to see a life lived gracefully.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sell More Meat

Guy Kawasaki calls it “making mantra". It is a guideline for employees to do their jobs. It is a company’s North Star, Greenwich Meantime, or simply put a guiding principle. It is a short phrase that sums up all that the company is about. It is a three-word abbreviation of a mission statement. Examples? Here are a few company mantra's that Guy shares in his book Art of the Start:

Authentic Athletic Performance (Nike)
Fun Family Entertainment (Disney)
Think (IBM)

But what about a mantra for an advertising or marketing agency that provides a service for clients? Can an agency adopt a client mantra? Not if they want their own identity. Can they make their own? I think so. I call it "Selling More Meat"”. What is it? It is a singular focus that should drive all the decisions you make for your client. And clients want one thing -– to make more money by selling more of their goods or services.

It is simple. It is to the point. It is the one thing you must always follow to ensure you are staying on track. It is the way in which you are trying to make money. For an agency it is what you do to make money for your client, their shareholders and employees. If you do it right you will also make money.

It is a lesson that I have carried with me from my early days with Oscar Mayer.

Life as a Hotdogger begins with an intense week of training & education on all things meat related at Oscar Mayer'’s Corporate Headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. All new Hotdoggers attend this training period, affectionately known as "Hot Dog High"”.

The week is spent learning everything you need to know to be a successful Hotdogger. Driving skills, vehicle maintenance, media relations, store calls, how to write an effective press release, working with sales team, travel guidelines, proper dress, etc., are all covered at Hot Dog High. There is even a tour of the production facility so that the new recruits can say with conviction "“I'’ve seen how they make hot dogs, and it really is a very clean process. I love hot dogs!" Which is actually quite true for me. Only Oscar Mayer for my family!

At one of the last meetings we attended that week, Russ Whitacre, the Director of the Wienermobile program, was wrapping up all that we had learned that week and was getting us ready to hit the road. Before he handed over the keys he asked the group why a car in the shape of a hot dog existed? What was its purpose? Was he getting existential on us? Not really. He just needed to make sure that before twelve kids hit the road for a year, without ANY direct, day to day supervision, that he was sure he had instilled in us the information we needed to be successful ambassadors for the department, company and brand.

A few of the answers he got included "“To bring miles of smiles to children of all ages", "To reconnect a generation of kids that missed out on the Wienermobile while it was off the road for all those years"” or "To get positive media coverage for the brand". All of these were correct to a degree, but they did not touch on the fundamental issue of why a hot dog car?

I answered, "To sell more meat." That was it. No matter how much fun we might have going to Super Bowls, getting an article placed in the Wall Street Journal or applying some guerilla tactics to get on the Today Show, our job was ultimately created to help sell more meat. It does not exist solely to get media impressions. Nor just to make kids smile. The single reason the Wienermobile exists is to help sell more meat. When it can no longer help sell more meat it will be taken off the road.

Don't get me wrong. I love to see it driving down the road. It makes me smile every time I even think about what it was like to drive around. But if I am in charge of the marketing budget or even just there to make recommendations, I need to take a hard look at where it is being spent and cut out programs that are not as effective as others in accomplishing the single issue that the company needs the marketing department to help deliver through the tools to which it has access and influence.

So if you are an agency and a client, marketing partner or coworker suggests something for the brand or company that seems off track, unusual or a waste of effort - just as yourself one question. "Will this help sell more ________?"” It should. If it does not then you are not properly using the funds you have at your disposal and it is up to you to tell your client as much as stewards of their money.

Now that you'’ve got that, don't forget the second part critical part to consider. Will this just move units or will it actually help your client be profitable. If the idea has merit and will help sell more meat that is good. If it sells more meat and costs too much that is bad. Not too complicated.

What is the fundamental question you ask when making decisions about your brand or company marketing efforts?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rookie Marriage Mistake

Mary and I had been newlyweds for about six months when I made my rookie marriage mistake. I think everyone has one. You know, the thing you might have done or said to your new spouse that almost ends the marriage right off the bat.

Mine was bad. Real bad. So bad that I shouldn't repeat it. But I will even though it made Mary really mad and took a long time for our marriage to recover from it. The fact is I always thought it was funny. Mary won't admit it but I think that looking back on it now, she'd even admit it was hysterical. Okay, maybe not so much "hysterical", as much as "now that you've started, you've got to tell the whole story".

One night about six months into our marriage Mary and I went out for drinks with our good friend Brian. One of his good friends was in town visiting. Her name was Rita. We'd heard of Rita before, but had not met her yet. They weren't dating, but were still very good friends. The whole platonic thing going on, etc... Brian also invited a guy he worked with and his fiancee. I think his name was Derek - but I don't remember. There are some things about that night I've blocked out.

We met up with Brian, Rita and the other couple at the Beaumont Club in Kansas City. Now, this isn't the type of place I would normally go to, but Brian likes country music as does Mary so I had no say in the matter. It's a big club with dance floor in the center and tables and chairs set up around the perimeter. On the south end of the dance floor there used to be a electric bull pit. I haven't been back there since the incident so I don't know if it is still there. There was no bull riding this particular night. Instead we sat on bar stools around a high top table off to the side of the dance floor so we could chat, listen to music and watch the cowboys and cowgirls from Overland Park get their giddy-up on with some line dancing.

We'd had a beer or two when the subject turned to marriage. It is inevitable that you will talk about being newlyweds, your wedding ceremony or anything remotely matrimonial related when you are: 1. Newly married 2. In the company of an engaged couple or 3. Looking for something to talk about when you have met a new couple and you don't know anything about them except that they know your friend - and did I mention that you are newly married?

As it happens we met all three components that night and so of course began talking wedding stuff.

When Mary was in medical school she had a classmate who, while being very smart, really very nice and a good friend was also a bit of a male chauvinist. He was married (still is actually) to a woman who Mary would describe as "you know, that girl who was the cheerleader in college? The gorgeous girl with natural, long, bleach blonde hair, a great body and super sweet... basically every guys dream and every other woman's nightmare". To top it off she waited on her husband hand and foot. They had a 1950's marriage arrangement, but she also worked outside the home as a dental hygenist. He was studying to be an Orthopedic surgeon.

So Mary begins to tell Brian, Rita and the engaged couple about what this guy said to his fiancee before they got married. The med school classmates were out drinking one night when he shared a conversation that he had with his fiancee. He was complaining about how once girls get married they all "cut their hair and get fat". He told his wife that he didn't want her to do that. He expected her to stay the same and never change.

Mary was stunned and more than a little bothered at this comment. What a thing to say to your fiancee! Mary continued "So of course I am appalled that this guy, who is really a very good friend is such a chauvinist pig. He was unbelievable. I cannot believe that he was such a Neanderthal." It really made her mad. But then she added with a giggle "so what do you think I did while I was on my honeymoon? I got my haircut!"

I should have kept quite. But I couldn't. I should have kept my mouth shut, but after Mary finished I immediately jumped in and said... are you ready?

"And then she got fat!"

I was kidding of course. I thought it would be funny to add "and then she got fat!" because that was the second thing that Mary's classmate had warned his fiancee against doing. I let out a laugh. That was a good one. The timing was perfect. I didn't miss a beat with my delivery. I killed!

But no one else was laughing. Mary shot me an icy stare. Brian looked at me as if to say "Oh no you didn't just say that, did you really???" and the engaged couple just looked at Mary in stunned silence. Rita took a drink.

It continued to sink in with Mary how mad she was. The longer I looked at her and said "C'mon! That was a joke. It was meant to be funny!" the angrier she got. And the angrier she got the more shocked the engaged couple became. The more shocked the engaged couple became the more Brian tried to diffuse the situation, which in turn made Mary angrier because she was now the focal point that we were trying to shift away from, which made the engaged couple more uncomfortable. All of which just made me start laughing even harder!

I've said it before... I'm an idiot. But this was pure hilarity to me because Mary is not fat and never got fat. She only cut her hair and it was a really cute haircut at that! After a few minutes it calmed down and everyone agreed that I was an idiot with no sense of boundaries. Mary needed a break from my presence, so she excused herself to go to the ladies room. It was a wise maneuver. When she came back she was much calmer, even managing to brush it off with a chuckle and said with a sneer/smirk in my direction "I married an idiot."

And then it got even worse.

For some reason the country bar/dance hall had a strolling balloon artist on hand. Why? I have no idea, but it nearly contributed to me getting served divorce papers. This "artist" came by our table and asked if anyone of the guys would like to buy a nice balloon animal for one of the ladies. Derek said "sure" and the balloon guy made a cute little poodle for his fiancee. Rita didn't want a balloon animal so Brian asked him to make a cute balloon flower for her. And then it was my turn.

All I said was "can you make her a hat?" I thought a cute little bonnet might put a smile on Mary's face. She of course looked over at me as if to say "what are you doing? A hat? Oh, you are gonna get it!" She was shooting me cold daggers again from her eyes. The thought of it now still give me shivers.

At that request and maybe feeding off of the reaction Mary was giving me, the balloon artist put away the balloons he had been working with and pulled out some other balloons from a secret stash in his coat pocket. These were much longer and much bigger than the other balloons. As he built it the group got quiet. Mary started looking angry again, which made the engaged couple nervous, which made Brian try to diffuse the situation, which made Rita take a drink and of course made me start to laugh. And then he put it on her head and I burst out into tears because I was laughing so hard at the site of Mary and her new hat!

It was a six foot tall, red and pink phallic symbol. And Mary was now wearing it as a hat!

I promise I had no idea that this was the type of hat she was going to get. All I said was "can you make her a hat". Mary was so angry with me. "So Derek gets his fiancee a nice balloon poodle, Rita gets a flower and I get a six foot penis hat? You are a dead man!"

I don't remember much else of the rest of the evening. It was pretty much a mess after the hat incident. I think I slept on the couch that night.

Thankfully we made it through my rookie mistake, the first year of marriage and even the seven year itch. Poor Mary, it looks like she is stuck with her idiot for good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We Should Tell The Priest

Prior to moving to our new parish we had been members of St. Agnes Church. It is a very small, but beautiful church. If you arrive late you most likely will have to spend mass back in the vestibule with all the other late comers. Seats in the main part of the church are hard to come by unless you arrive right on time. As parents of a two year old and 3 month old we rarely made it to mass on time. Thus we often spent mass in the back with the other late comers. Most of them had little children too.

On one particular Sunday Hannah had to go potty during the Homily. Mary stayed with Grace while I took Hannah to find the bathroom.

The bathrooms at St. Agnes are located downstairs just off the big common room where we get the donuts after mass. Since she was still little I took her to the men's bathroom. What is the cut off age for girls to stop going to men's rooms and boys to stop going to the ladies room with their parents? Anyway, the men's room is very small. It has one urinal and one toilet.

Someone was using the toilet at the time, so we waited.

And waited.

Finally he opened the stall door. He skipped washing his hands and headed to the bathroom door to leave and head back upstairs to mass. Just as he was exiting the bathroom Hannah burst out "Daddy! Look! Why did that man use sooo much toilet paper?!?!?"

I tried to hush her, in order not to have a confrontation with the excessive toilet paper using, non-handwashing, fellow church goer. But she was right. That man had used far too much paper and clogged the toilet. And he didn't even try to flush! Apparently he either did not hear her or chose to ignore her comments - much like he chose not to wash his hands.

Hannah was complaining that she really needed to go badly so I had no choice but to take her to the ladies room. There was no way I was going to set her down on that toilet and that nasty mess.

While she sat on the impeccably clean potty in the ladies room she started grilling me on why that man had behaved he way he did. She was clearly fascinated by this and would not let it go. Why did that man use so much toilet paper? Why did he clog the toilet? Why didn't he flush and why didn't he wash his hands? I told her I didn't know why. Maybe his mommy and daddy never taught him proper bathroom etiquette when he was a little boy.

When we got back upstairs we joined Mary and Grace in the back of the church. Hannah immediately began to relay her latest bathroom experience to Mary. She said, in a voice that at the time I was sure everyone within twenty yards could hear, "Mommy, there was a man who used way too much toilet paper and clogged the potty! He didn't even wash his hands!"

And then she saw him. He was in the back of chuch with his family. Hannah pointed right at him and said "Mommy! Daddy! There he is! Do you think we should tell the priest!?!?!" I was mortified.

Thankfully, I do not think he heard her. Or maybe, again, he chose not to hear her. Either way now that we are at a new church we have a new rule. Everyone goes potty before leaving for mass.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Haiku for You

nothing is better
than a haiku for sharing
quick, deep, thoughts on life

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Translation Please?

Part of the bedtime routine we have established for the girls includes a bedtime story. Each girl picks out a book and either Mary or I will read it to them.

Tonight Grace picked out a book titled "My First 500 Spanish Words - Mis Primeras 500 palabras en espanol". It was a gift from her Aunt Ann who lives in El Paso.

We're up for the girls learning Spanish, so we read a few pages. On page four there was a picture of a boy in a swimsuit with arrows pointing to various body parts and words in English and Spanish describing the body part. We learned nose=nariz, foot=pie, eye=ojo, and a few more. Grace would point to the body part and Mary would read both the English and Spanish word.

Hannah was listening while she danced around the room. She dances a lot. She interrupted the lesson to ask "do you know the Spanish word for vagina?" Without hesitation, Mary said "actually, yes, I do know the Spanish word for vagina. It is "vagina".

Next summer Mary and I are going to France for ten days. I wonder if Hannah will ask us when we get back home if we know how to say vagina in French.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Kobe the superhero

Hannah made up this story.

Once there was a boy named Kobe.

Kobe wanted to be a superhero but he did not have a superhero costume. He decided to make one for himself. He went into his mom and dad's closets and got a bunch of old raggedy clothes that they would let him use. He cut pieces of different fabric and sewed them together to make his superhero costume.

One day he saw some people in trouble. He didn't have his superhero costume with him, but decided to help them anyway.

Kobe learned that you don't have to be a superhero or have a superhero costume to help people. You can do it anyway.

I am constantly amazed at what she comes up with.

"Girly Shopping"

The local school district cancelled classes on Friday, so Hannah and I got to spend some quality time together all day. We went to get some "cheesy egg bagels" for breakfast at Einstein Brother's Bagels in Prairie Village. While we were eating Hannah suggested that since we had the day to spend together that she wanted me to take her "girly shopping".

I asked her if we could do some other kind of shopping, since "girly shopping" sounded to me like "girly shopping". No such luck. She suggested that we get her some water proof mittens (pink or purple with some girly design on them) and maybe a dress or two and some girly toys.

We found her some gloves. They were purple and very girly. I escaped without having to help her try on dresses or buy any girly toys. She was happy. In the end that's all that matters right? Dad and daughter bonding over decisions of which is better - pink or purple?

I asked her if we could go "manly shopping" sometime. She said no, just "girly shopping". I hope this is just a phase. I miss going to Home Depot. They sell girly gloves there don't they?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just the way it is

Hannah and Grace get along most days, but not all the time. Lately Gracie has not only been standing up for herself, but also initiating fights with Hannah.

Last Saturday I had to send Gracie to time out. In our house the time out space is on the stairs going up to the girls bedroom. Gracie went trumping off crying. Hannah and I remained at the table eating our meal.

Hannah then said to me "Dad, you sure are good at putting people in time out". I guess we've had to do that a lot with the girls as they seem to be fighting non stop lately.

I told Hannah "it makes me sad to have to send you girls to have a time out. I wish you two could get along better so I wouldn't have to send either one of you to timeout."

To which this little five year old responded "Well Dad, that's just the way it is."

How true.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Gracie's Purple Birthday

Friday was Gracie's birthday. She turned three years old. For the past year all she has talked about was her "purple birthday". Neither Mary nor I knew where this came from. We had never heard of a purple birthday before. Did she get it from watching Dora or Arthur? From a friend at her daycare?

While we had no clue where this purple birthday idea had come from, Gracie was clear. She was going to have a purple birthday. What made it really cute was that she can't really say the word "purple" very well. It comes out something close to "Pupple" or "puppa". Either way she knew what she wanted and we, as the good parents we try to be, were going to deliver.

So we went all out. We had a purple table cloth, purple ballons, purple streamers, purple plates, purple cups and a purple Care Bear cake that Mary made for her. Everything was purple - even the invitations. Gracie was getting her purple birthday.

We set up the house the night before so that when she woke up on the day of her party she would see all the things purple we had set up. After putting the finishing touches on the cake and taping up the last purple balloon it dawned on me. Did we hear her correctly? Was it really a "purple birthday" she wanted? What if she had been saying something else the whole time? What if what she really wanted was a "turtle" birthday or something else we couldn't decipher? We chuckled at the thought and then decided that it was too late in the game to make any changes. She was getting a purple birthday.

It turned out just perfect. Gracie woke up Saturday morning and walked into the living room where she saw her decorations and exclaimed "Oh my gosh! This is my best birthday ever!"

Mission accomplished. Now all we have to do is figure out what kind of birthday she wants next year. Maybe a Mauve birthday?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

You Can Do It Daddy!

When Hannah was little and was learning to walk up stairs I used to stand behind her and tell her "you can do it. Just take one step at a time."

Just before Grace was born we moved Hannah out of the crib and into a big girl bed. We set the crib up on the landing area going up to the master bedroom. We had converted our office on the first floor into a room for Hannah. Now that she was in a big girl bed we had a gate in the doorway to keep her from wandering about at night.

One particular Saturday morning when Mary was at the hospital and Grace had not arrived yet, I thought I might be able to get some extra winks in before starting the day. As a new two year old Hannah was pretty good about waking up and playing by herself for a while until it was time for breakfast. But not on this particular morning.

While I tried to slumber on, Hannah stood at the gate in her bedroom doorway and kept calling for me to come play with her. I begged for a few more minutes of sleep. "I'll be right there honey. I promise." We went on like that for about five to ten minutes. Then she said it.

"C'mon Daddy! You can do it. Just take!"

I never had better motivation to start my day.

Friday, December 02, 2005

You Are What You Build

A sandcastle story...

Somewhere on the other side of the lake we built our castles in the sand. There were four of us. We built more than we knew. We created memories, stories and a stronger bond of friendship than we had ever experienced prior to that weekend.

We had been friends, good friends, for several years. But that summer and the three days we spent at Mike’s grandparents beach house was a time when we really connected.

Fresh from high school graduation we were all looking forward to the fall and starting new chapters in our lives. We thought we were more sophisticated as high school graduates. In reality we were just a few kids who didn’t know squat. We did childish things. We didn’t know it at the time, but at least one of those childish acts we all participated in that weekend showed us who we really were. If only we could see it then.

As Ed and I caught some rays on the beach, Mike floated in an inner tube out on the lake. Enio was the restless one. With too much pent up energy to relax he started building a sandcastle. As he worked relentlessly on his masterpiece, Ed, Mike and I began to take notice. That looked like fun. We started to build our own right along side Enio’s.

First Mike, then Ed and finally I joined the activity. We were building with childlike delight. There were explanations, calculations, bragging and teasing on what was being built. There was frustration when the sand wouldn’t stick. There were times when I swear I saw tears when a wall came tumbling down. We were having the best time. It was fun.

Later that evening as the sun began to set across the lake behind the Chicago skyline, we built a fire on the beach. The plan was to spend the night sleeping on the beach around the fire. The fire was more than a source of heat and light for us that night. It was a time and a place for us to talk to each other about anything. With the light of the fire to protect us nothing was held back. It was what we all wanted. We needed a good talk before the foursome headed for opposite directions in the fall. It was a night for reflection. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner.

We talked about everything. The whole time a few feet away, in the darkness sat the sandcastles we had built earlier in the day. I couldn’t stop thinking about them and what they represented.

Enio had begun to build because he was bored. It was something to do. It was a way to keep busy. As he continued to work he became more and more determined to make it the ultimate castle. It was going to be perfect. It was his dream and his goal that day.

He worked slowly and meticulously on one wall of the castle at time. No detail was to be overlooked. He spent too much time on the details. The longer he spent on one wall the less time he had to finish the rest of the castle. More than once a completed wall fell down much to his frustration. He had to start all over again and again.

Enio had worked on his castle all day long. It got too dark to work before he was able to complete it. The part of the castle that was completed was perfect. It was incomplete yet perfect for Enio. It didn’t really matter to him that it was not finished. It was more about enjoying himself and having fun with the creative process.

Mike took the opposite approach. He built up a rather modest pile of sand, smoothed it out, stuck a stick in the top for a flag and finished it off with a very simple moat all around his creation. Within minutes of starting he had finished and headed back into the water to float.

Ed’s was all about thinking big. He didn’t just make a sandcastle. He made a resort complete with ski slopes, guest houses, ponds, ice skating rinks, golf course and well defined road and path systems.

I didn’t build a sandcastle. Instead I spent my time helping the others. Mike’s was so simple and quick that he didn’t need any help. Enio wouldn’t listen to my suggestion about building the basic structure first and then adding the detailed touches, so I went over to Ed’s. He was the architect and I became his idea man. We developed opportunities for the resort to make money. We created events and features to keep guests at the resort as long as possible. I helped Ed make it fun. And it was.

Flash forward eighteen years.

Enio is a writer living in L.A.. He is still working on creating his master piece, a big hit screenplay. Mike is married with three kids and working for a firm in Chicago that he has been with for over ten years. Ed is also married, is a dad and is living in Chicago. He buys and sells companies. He’s the king of the deal.

And me? I am married, have two darling girls, moved to Kansas City when my wife was in medical school. I am a marketing/advertising/public relations consultant helping clients solve problems to make more money.

Forget Myers-Briggs, Jung, Keirsey and Enneagrams, etc… all you need is a sandcastle to figure out who you are and why you act and behave the way you do.


I just read that Enio's script "Arabian Night" will be made into a film due out in 2007. Way to go Enio!!!

Yellow Wallpaper

Yellow wallpaper is all you need to think about to be able to pee in public. I know it works. I can prove it too.

During my last year at Syracuse I lived in a house off-campus with five other guys. There was Andy, Collin, Mark, Dan, Chris and me. Chris was also called "“Duff" because his last name was Duffus and I guess it was easier to call him Duff than Duffus. So, yes there were two guys called Duff living in the same house. There were also two guys named Dan. It caused plenty of confusion trying to figure out whom anyone was talking about at a given time. Were the phone calls for "Dan"” for Dan Powers or Dan Duff? When conversations or stories involved "Duff"” was it Chris Duffus or Dan Duff that they were referring to? Confused? So was I. All the time. But I back to advice on how to pee in public...…

Anyway, one night we went to Chuck'’s, aka Hungry Charlies for a few pitchers of beer and general carousing with our fellow students. Somehow, someone mentioned that they had "“stage fright"” whenever they had to pee in public. You know, the inability to pee when other people were either waiting in line behind you or at the next urinal?

Mark shared with us that he no longer had that problem. Turns out that Duff had a bathroom at his home which had yellow wallpaper. Whenever he had to pee in a public bathroom, he would just think about the yellow wallpaper back at the bathroom at his family's house and he instantly was transported to a place of comfort where he never experienced "stage fright". Mark had heard about this from Duff and one time had a chance to travel to visit the Duffus household and see the yellow wallpaper for himself.

Mark wasn't sure if someone else's visual cue could help him or not until he was out at a bar and encoutered "“stage fright"”. He tested it out. He visualized the yellow wallpaper at Duff'’s house and the seal/dam/floodgates were broken. Peeing in public was never again a problem for Mark. So while it wasn'’t a memory of his own bathroom at home, he was able to adopt it for himself once he had seen the actual wallpaper.

When Mark shared this remarkable story with me I thought I'd try it myself. It was Duff'’s visualization of his own family'’s bathroom so that made sense that it worked for him. Mark had seen it and was able to adopt it as his own. So knowing that it worked for these two I decided to test it out for myself. Now I had never seen the bathroom, the shade, color or pattern of the wallpaper. But that didn't really matter, right? I knew that this worked for Duff and Mark, so all I had to do was imagine what the yellow wallpaper looked like and I could use this as my own escape tactic to avoid not being able to void.

Let me tell you it works. Every time. Like a charm.

I still have never seen the bathroom that helps me out. That's why I know this can help anyone. If you ever feel a bout of "“stage fright"” coming on while you are using one of the public troughs at a sports stadium, just think about yellow wallpaper. Any shade or pattern will do. Just know that it worked for Duff who grew up using that bathroom. It worked for Mark who saw it once, and it worked for me because I believed in its power.

How'’s that for free advice?