Tag Archives: spirit

Lessons from a near death experience….

So Facebook was kind enough today to remind me that four years ago on this day, I was testing for my black belt in American Karate.  It was a night that I do not remember and one that I will never forget.  That was the night I discovered I had an Atrial Flutter.  It was a night that started a week long hospital stay that included medically induced comas, CAT scans, EKGs and eventually a cardiac ablation (want the full story?  Read it here).

“You do realize you almost died, right?”    –     Dr. Kevin Wheelan

Even though I had just awoken from a 36 hour medically induced nap, couldn’t remember large sections of the previous 48 hours, had two black eyes and was sore everywhere – the severity of my situation did not really hit me until I heard my cardiologist reinforce those words.

The days are now few and far between when I do not think about how lucky I was to survive.  They are also few and far between that I do not think about the lessons that experience taught me.

Prioritize your health:  If I had not made a specific effort in the 18 months leading up to the test, I firmly believe I would not be here today (did you read the link above?).  The majority of the leading causes of death in America are due to preventable diseases that can be controlled/prevented through diet and exercise……so DIET AND EXERCISE!!!

Listen to your body:  If I had not been so hard headed and determined to do whatever it took to get my black belt, I would not have ended up in the hospital.  I knew early on in my test that something was off.  I think I even knew a couple of weeks before that during one of my training sessions.  If I had really listened to my body, I would have had it checked out.

Pay attention to what you fuel it with:  One of the questions that the medical staff asked me repeatedly was did I fuel up with Monster or Red Bull or place energy drink name here.  They only asked me about drugs once.  That crap puts people in the hospital regularly, I avoid it like the plague.

Prepare for the worst:  I have been fortunate to have good guidance on planning for the inevitable.  If I had not made it, Joy and the boys would have been taken care of.  However, not everyone is in that boat.  If you aren’t, get there.  We are not promised tomorrow but we are promised that those around us will have to carry on.  Take care of them.

Bonus learning – If you are in the Dallas area, immediately go to www.lifefight.org and become a member.  Should you or anyone in your family ever need their services, you will thank me.  We spent months of effort and thousands of dollars avoiding a huge medical bill that is completely avoidable.  Think of it like AAA for your family should they ever need air ambulance service.

Pray like it depends on Him:  Between this event, Joy’s Breast Cancer diagnosis, Tyler’s Papilledema and Charlie’s depression, we have learned to pray in earnest around here.  My prayer life got immensely deeper as I recovered and gave thanks daily.   With it came a deeper peace I had not experienced to that point in my life.  Pray like it depends on Him…….because it does.

Now are those the only things that I learned, of course not, but they are the ones that have stuck with me and I think about almost daily.  Knocking on deaths door will change you.  Hopefully I can have done enough knocking for all of us to learn the lessons.

Get the most out of your RealWorld Experience!!

realworld

Yep, it is that time again already, the annual RealPage User Conference aka REALWORLD 2016!!!

Now this is going to be my 6th RealWorld Conference (how can that possibly be?).  For those not in the know, RealWorld is the conference specifically dedicated to RealPage and their partners where we showcase the latest developments in the industry, the product improvements being delivered/developed and most important, thank our partners for their continued partnership.  It is 3 days of networking, learning, previews and fun but let’s face it, it is also long days, longer evenings and tight schedules.  In order to make the most of the sessions and travel fit, you have to have a strategy to thrive.

This is also my 3rd year of providing a few of my tips and tricks to not just surviving the conference but really making the most of it for both education and fintess.  So here are my RealWorld rules to live by:

Tip #1: Plan ahead:

I know I say this every year but I cannot over emphasize this one enough; Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  If your plan is showing up at the conference and “figure it out” you are in for a rough time.……not going to happen.  There are just too many great options of sessions to attend and fellow RealPage users to meet.  If you don’t plan ahead you are guaranteed to miss a ‘can’t miss’ session and for sure your workout is not going to get done.

Realworldapp

So if you haven’t already, go download the RealWorld App right now.  Seriously, I’ll wait.

Now, immediately start adding your must attend sessions to your calendar.  Might I suggest ‘Stack the Deck with Business Intelligence’ on Tuesday morning as a starting point?  I hear the speaker for that one is sub-par but the material should be great!!

Once you know when your ‘Can’t miss’ sessions are, you can fill in the rest of the time slots for meetings, networking, product demos and down time.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated:

water bottle refill

You know you should normally be drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Well , this year we are at the beautiful Wynn hotel.  If you have never been to a conference at this hotel, I will give you fair warning, it is a long way from the rooms to the conference center.  A LONG WAY!!  So you are going to be walking more than you normally do and potentially imbibing on an alcoholic drink or two in the evening, and oh yeah, this is all happening in the middle of the dessert.  I am going to recommend you up your water intake from the standard 8 glasses.  Trust me, you will thank me when you are waking up on days 2 & 3 of the conference.  Now this is where planning comes in again.  I find that it is a very rare thing to find a conference center that keeps the water pitchers/bottles full throughout the conference.

SO BRING YOUR OWN!!

You may not always be able to find a nice chilled bottle of FIJI but you can usually find a water fountain to fill up your own bottle.  And if you are anything like me, you find an empty water bottle strangely motivational.

Tip #3: Recharge:

weary traveler

This will look different for each of us but I find I need a point in my day to recharge more than just my phone.  For me, it is time in the gym.   I can get my head on straight and work all the kinks out that I am feeling from standing all day.  For others it is a power nap in the room, others it is 15 minutes in the sun out by the pool.  Whatever it is that recharges and helps your re-center your mindset, make sure you have time built in each day to accomplish it.

Now we also need to think about that phone, so don’t forget your mobile charger!  We want to hear your thoughts throughout the day (follow the hashtag #RWconf2016 to join the conversation).

Tip #4: Eat well & Eat often:

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Make sure you take the time to eat like you should.  Do not sacrifice the quality of your diet because you need to rush somewhere.  Stop by the store on the way to the hotel and grab some snacks for the room (don’t get me started on the mini-bar options for $10 bucks each).  Put a bar in your purse.  Throw an apple in your bag for later in the day.  Your body needs fuel to thrive vs. survive.  Give it what it needs.

Bonus Tip:  Most hotels that host conferences have pretty good gyms.  Gyms where they actual stock fruit for the taking.

Tip #5: Have fun:

If this is your first RealWorld Conference, you are in for a treat.  It is a blast, especially the party on Monday night.  Although not themed this year, in the past we have celebrated the lives of people like Dr. Seuss or given our best superhero impersonation.

wolverine ABDr. Seuss

The party is a celebration of our partnership with all of you and we pull out all of the stops.  This year promises to be a lavish affair….even if Wolverine will not be showing up.

Bonus Tip #6:

For those of you who are runners (or are even thinking about running), I cannot recommend skipping the treadmill in the morning enough.  Running the Las Vegas strip in the early morning is in my top 5 runs in the country.

Seriously, the people watching is unbelievable!!!

In fact, even if you don’t run, wake up a bit early on Monday or Tuesday and head out for a walk.  I promise that not only will you feel better but you will have conversation topics for the rest of the day!!

Time for me to go pack and finish my presentations but hopefully I will see you at RealWorld!!

How does your wife deal with it?

I get that question a lot.  Especially from women who learn how much I travel.  So today, on our 20th wedding anniversary, I am asking myself that same question:

How have we done it?  How have we made it work for 20 years when others haven’t?

Our marriage has not been the most conventional (no, not like that).  Since the time we were first married, we have spent significant amounts of it apart.  Even as far back as our first year of marriage, I was working in Los Angeles while she was down in San Diego.  And back then we did not even share the same days off.  We were constantly ships passing in the night as one of us was always driving up or down the California coast to spend time with each other.  Since then, I have basically spent the better part of 3 months each year in hotel rooms away from my family.

So as I have been thinking about what it takes to make a marriage successful among the crazy demands of business travel, I keep coming back to the same six things……..

Take time to understand their Love Language:

If you are not familiar with the concept of the 5 love languages, I suggest you stop reading this and immediately click here.  This was probably the most impactful self-development exercise I did when it comes to the impact on our marriage.  Understanding how Acts of Service speaks to Joy and literally says “I love you” to her changed the way I look at tasks around the house.  Which brings me to….

 Embrace the ‘Honey-do’ list:

Did you catch that Joy’s love language is Acts of Service?  That means that when I get stuff done around the house, she feels valued and loved.  So if there is a research project that needs done, I will do it on a plane.  I try and get stuff accomplished around the house on the weekends.  I love to check things off of lists and she loves to put things on lists.  It works for us.

When you are home – put them first:

I love to golf.  I don’t play golf.

I would train all day everyday on a martial arts mat.  I limit myself to only classes I do with my boys.

These are things that fuel and refresh me but THEY TAKE TIME!!!  I have pontificated on this before but when I am home, I vehemently protect that time.  I can train on the road.  I can work late on the road.  I can only spend time with my family, specifically my spouse, while I am at home.

Set them up for success:

Part of my weekly weekend ritual is to set my wife and kids up for success for the week.  That means getting meals planned out, buying the groceries, meal prepping, making sure laundry is done, projects are completed and ready to be turned in, schedules are clear for the next week, and so on, and so on and so on.  The weeks that are the most stressful on all of us are the ones where I fail to plan for the week.  My job is to provide and more than just a paycheck.

Hide all evidence of travel:

When I get home I tend to unpack right away.  Not because I am super diligent about processing my laundry but because if I leave my suitcase out all weekend it serves as a constant reminder that I have either been gone all week or will be gone all week.  Unpack quickly and pack at the last minute.

Communicate:

This one was the hardest one for me to learn.  Seems silly but for years I would wait till the last minute to let my wife know I was going to be traveling.  She would consistently get mad when I was leaving so if I left it to the very last minute, I got to enjoy a few more days of ‘happiness’.  This does not work.  Communicate early.  Communicate often.  Communicate regularly.  Call, text, email, skywriting……communicate.

Now please understand, developing these habits was a process.  There have been times when I have been incredibly selfish.  When I didn’t put her and the kids first and inevitably, our largest fights have been centered around those times.  Also, I think this list can be applied to any marriage and approaching what separates you.  For us, it happens to be literal distance.  For others, it may just be time.

So hopefully this list will help you and your spouse survive the pitfalls of business travel, whether you have a short season of travel or whether you become a salty veteran like me.

See you on the road!!

Make the time!!

Every once in a while when I am traveling across the country, I land in a spot that is truly unique and when I do, I always try and dedicate the time to enjoy the uniqueness of the area.  Recently, that trip brought me to Buffalo, New York.  You see, Buffalo is a ‘stone’s throw’ from Niagra Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world.

So as this trip originally got booked, I started the researching where I could fit a visit to this natural wonder in.  The spot was obvious – morning before my appointment in the early afternoon.  Of course between when I first planned the whole thing out and the morning of, all that empty time got filled by all kinds of assignments, calls and follow-ups being scheduled (it is amazing what looks good on a calendar).  By the time I went to bed last night, the only way a visit was going to happen was if I got up early and headed up that way.

That morning was one of those ‘Steinbeck Mornings’ – you know, the kind with the best laid plans of mice and men.  Plans that I immediately wanted to ditch.

When that alarm went off at 6 AM – I immediately turned it off.  I had arrived after midnight the night prior, was tired and idea that I could sleep an extra hour was really enticing.  For whatever reason though, I could not go back to sleep.  I knew that if I did not take this opportunity to see the falls, I probably never would.  So begrudgingly, I arose, got dressed, had coffee and headed out on my 20 minute “stones throw” drive to Niagra, NY.

I am so glad I did!!

The falls are amazing.  To see that much unadulterated power falling over the precipice is simply breath taking.

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Was getting up early worth it, unquestionably, yes.

So much so that it is really questioning one of my “Guardrails”.  When I am on the road, I try and pack as much work in as I can.  The thought process is if I get it done on the road, I am not doing it at home.  But at some point there needs to be a balance of effort vs. spirit.  Seeing something like Niagra Falls did more for my spirit and productivity than the extra hour of sleep (or email) ever would have.  It was awe inspiring, humbling, rejuvenating and uplifting.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

Flip-flops, Jeans and Mickey Mouse – a lesson in wardrobe

I have a confession to make, I am a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to what I wear on a plane.  I make it my mission in life to make sure I am dressed comfortably before walking down the jet bridge.  I have changed in to “street” clothes in the restrooms of more airports this year than most people will visit in their lifetime and if being able to completely change outfits without any item of clothing or patch of skin hitting the bathroom floor were an Olympic sport, I would have a really good shot at medaling.

You see, I like to travel comfortably.  Really comfortably.

I would say that on 95% of the flights I take, I am in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops (assuming the weather permits).  It is what I am most comfortable in and actually what I feel most confident in.

flip flop

Those who travel with me on a regular basis have gotten used to my obsession but this was not always the case.  When I first started making this a habit, I often felt judged by both my coworkers and fellow travelers.  When you are in sales or service, you are always on.  Just because you left the client’s office does not mean you are ‘off stage’.   One of the women I used to work for was a fabulous leader and was keenly aware of this fact.  She was always put together and on point.  I think my habit of being in t-shirt actually really bothered her for a while – until we unexpectedly sat together with a client on a flight back from a conference.

There I was with two of the most influential personas in my industry, having an in depth conversation about trends in the industry, future advancements and speculating on the next generations of tools to come forth……..

And I am wearing a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt!!

mickey mouse

I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin (or at least that shirt).  Here I was, trying to make a name for myself and I am wearing a cartoon character across my chest.  I was left with a choice, cower and apologize for not being dressed ‘more appropriately’ or be confident in who I was rather than what I was wearing.

Of course the story has a happy ending and I managed to not make a fool of myself and in fact, that shirt spurred on conversations about our families, vacations and my obsession with the company that is Disney.  It also taught me a very important lesson, the clothes do not in fact make the man.  I firmly believe that the man makes the clothes. I was far more confident in jeans, flip-flops and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt on that plane than I had been just 4 hours early in a sports coat and tie.

The clothes do not make the man.  The man makes the clothes!!

Since then, I would like to think that not conforming to the khaki pants and blue blazer uniform of the typical business traveler has become somewhat of a trademark for me.  I even think that some of my clients/coworkers would be disappointed if showed up for a flight in anything but a t-shirt.  The message in all of this?

Confidence is more important than conformity.

I would rather lose a client/deal because I was transparent than win one because I put on a false front.  It really is that simple.

Life is too short to put perception ahead of transparency.  So travel in a t-shirt, or a bow tie, or yoga pants or a 3-piece suit.  Just make sure it reflects who you really are and the skin you are most comfortable in.

Can’t wait to see what you are wearing.

Bad travel hobbies and Harper Lee

What you should be asking yourself right now is “What does the beloved author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and travel hobbies have anything to do with each other?” – I am so glad you asked.

No matter how productive you are on the road, there is still significant downtime you have to fill somehow.  You are always going to run into the situation where you can’t make a call, not enough time to make powering up the laptop worthwhile or quite frankly, you are just done with it and need to do something else.  This is the time that most folks fall back on their hobbies.  Those time fillers that also help to sooth the soul and restore the mind.  For my son it is streaming game play on Twitch, for my wife – streaming TED talks and fitness advice, for my Mother-in-Law it is knitting.  I on the other hand have some bad travel hobbies.

When I really analyze it, I have four hobbies – and none of them are conducive to the travel lifestyle:

Bad Travel Hobby #1 – Martial Arts: 

I actively practice American Karate and have just started my study of Brazilian Jui Jitsu.   Now I will actively admit that there are times when I can get out and roll as I travel but for the most part, it is a hobby (lifestyle) that I  practice only when I am at home.  I watch videos and study the arts while I am on the road but the reality is the only way for me to get better is to get out and participate.  As I am writing this, it has been nearly 3 weeks since I stepped on a mat and I am Jonesing for my return.

Bad Travel Hobby #2 – Aquariums:

Way back in the day I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, so much so that I actually have degree in Aquatic Biology.  Well life happened along the way and I took an alternative direction but I have never lost my love for the water and aquariums. I have a reef tank in my house that about once a month looks great.  The reason it is only once a month?  You have to be present to take care of a tank the right way.  It takes time, attention, detailed monitoring and basically good old TLC to have a salt water reef tank really thrive.  That is really hard to do from 1000 miles away…even if you are staring at the ocean (osmosis is not that strong).

Bad Travel Hobby #3 – Gardening:

See everything above except think above the water line.  Every year I plant a garden on the side of the house.  Every year it starts off strong (before the TX heat really kicks in) and every year about this time, I watch it begin to wither away in 5 day increments when I get home.  I love getting my hands dirty and cooking with fruits of my labor but it really is a bad travel hobby.

Bad Travel Hobby #4 – Home Improvement:

I really do love working around the house and am pretty good with my hands but again, you actually have to be home to be able to work on the house. Watching DIY videos of the closet organization system you want to put in will not ever really get you any closer to actually putting in that closet organization system.

So how does Harper Lee fit in to your self-realization Mr. RoadWarriorFit?

Again – so glad you asked.  I recently saw that a publisher is releasing her little known manuscript that preceded To Kill A Mockingbird and it made me realize that I used to read.  A lot.

Before we had iPads that had every movie I have ever owned available and/or a Wikipedia page on anything I could ever want to know, I traveled with a book….or three.  I devoured Presidential biographies.  Read extensively on the Revolutionary War era and would consume business books like they were a part of the breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant.

Somewhere a long the way my time filler shifted.

I am not even sure how or when it happened other than the introduction of the iPad.

I could now carry ALL of my books with me at once!!!

It was a wonderful theory but the application sucked.  I was distracted by games, email, movies and YouTube.  I lost my way and now time fillers are no longer productive they are actually destructive.

So here is my commitment, I am going to rekindle at least one good RoadWarrior habit – Reading.  The first book to put back on the list, the High School required reading list favorite, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  I remember liking it well enough back then (unlike Catcher in the Rye) and maybe, just maybe, the southern tale of Atticus and Scout Finch will rekindle my friendship with my long lost friend, the book.

So what are your good RoadWarrior hobbies?  How do you fill time productively?

Can’t wait to hear and look forward to seeing you on the road.  I will be the one with the iPad actually reading.  If I’m not, you have full permission to call me out on it.

An introverts guide to driving social interaction – the conference edition

So I am just off the largest conference of the season for my industry.  Four days, 9,000 attendees, 3 keynotes, 5 hotels in Vegas and a whole lot of networking.  Basically my nightmare, so this post is all about keeping the spirit fit and healthy in an environment that may be a bit trying to you.

Simply put, I am not good with social interaction with folks I don’t know.

There, I said it.  I can present/lecture to the largest of groups without hesitation but put me in a room with 20 or so people I don’t know and say ‘go socialize’ and I want to crawl out of my skin….literally.  I am not socially awkward but all of the networking is taxing.

Years ago, I had a supervisor that I highly respect and who was incredibly gregarious.  When he walked in a room, everyone knew it in all of the right ways.  I would observe him work a room of any size in absolute awe.  After a conference about ten years ago, I asked him how he worked the room with such ease.  I have never forgotten his response;

Andrew – two people can walk into a group of people with the same goals; total number of people to meet, conversations to have or leads to generate.  At the end of the evening, one leaves the event absolutely exhausted.  The other leaves so amped up they are ready to run a marathon.  Either way, both have accomplished the same result.”

Needless to say, he fell in to the group that walks away charged up.  I on the other hand, find the interactions beyond exhausting.  His analogy was completely true though, some people feed off of the energy, others are fed upon.  Throughout the years of working conferences/events/dinner parties, I have developed a strategy to feed rather than be fed on.

Let me put this out there, I suck at initiating small talk.

I innately believe that the vast majority of people would have no reason to actually want to talk to me as opposed to the business/product I represent.  If I were to step back from the situation, I would probably come to the conclusion that my logic is flawed but it is deeply rooted in who I am.  Therefore I feel the need to compensate and create opportunities for people to create conversations around me.  Most recently that came in the way of #snowleopardpants, but as much as I would like to wear them every day (not), I have to have other ways to drive conversation.

For me, it is socks and cuff links.

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I wear cuff links that mean something to me and socks that will drive conversation.  In the above picture, each pair of cuff links represents something that means something in my life (even the $$ cuff links as I represent a software system that maximizes revenue).  Eagle Scout, Star Wars fanatic, Disney fanatic, Black Belt, Angels Fan and husband to a Breast Cancer Survivor.  They all define me…..or at least explain me.

And each pair has driven numerous conversations.  Most recently, I had a Regional Manager comment on my ribbon cuff links (my favorite and least favorite in the same breath).  A Regional Manager who was a survivor herself, conquered breast cancer, inspired others and been an inspiration to hundreds (and who is now evidently Facebook BFFs with my wife).  It was a conversation I never would have had without a trigger point.  My cufflinks are often my trigger point.

My socks are a bit more frivolous.   I used to be a guy who only wore plain socks.  Black or brown, that was it.  You never had to worry about a match and to someone who is often up at 4 AM to head to the airport, not having an issue finding a match appealed to me, until recently.

I now own probably 20 pairs of sock that are not interchangeable.  US Flag socks, TX Flag socks, colorful socks, Star Wars socks, Ninja socks, Nerd socks (a personal favorite of mine), amongst others.  My socks have driven at least as many conversations as my cuff links.  The point?

If you have trouble starting a conversation, incorporate something with you that can.

So my tip for the day for all of you Road Warriors?  Use what you bring with you to drive the results you ultimately want.  Remember, the spirit is just as important (if not more so), than the body and if you are constantly doing something that taxes your spirit, eventually you will shut down.  So what is your road block?  What is it that you have to muscle through in your day to day interactions?  Identify it, strategize around it and implement a plan for conquering it.  For me it is cuff links and socks.  What is it for you?

So for all of my American readers out there, enjoy the holiday weekend and I hop to see you on the road.