June 23, 2009

{Enjoying the Silly Moments With Your Kids, and Don't Forget Running Shoes}

Next time I run through the airport to go to a presentation with my daughter I'll take an extra pair of shoes.

I am in DC working on a project with Raka and Joie, the pillars of the teen division of our consulting company.

Our journey started on Sunday morning at 6:30 AM. Once we got to the airport, the two near teenagers were racing each other on every escalator. There was so much energy in the air. But as I was going back and forth from being a dad watching my daughter and her friend to being a professional watching two direct reports it was tough to keep quiet. In flight we watched the movie "Confessions of a Shopaholic." It was funny to see the two teens next to me giggle like little children as they watched the movie. Finally when we landed in DC and the race continued (there were a few near hit and run casualties in the airport) I had to put a stop to this whole madness. "Come on girls…!" I did not know how to finish the sentence.

The first day in DC was uneventful. We walked to a local deli in Alexandria for lunch. After a short afternoon nap (I needed it), we went to our client's restaurant to see it for ourselves. Then we came back to Old Town and did a ghost tour. The tour was led by a sweet old lady with a lantern. She was a great story teller, but Raka and Joie had a different take. "She was so cute that we didn't get scared by her stories." Before we returned to the hotel, we stopped at a local ice cream store. Just before I was retiring to my room, I got a big final hug from Raka wishing me again "Happy Father's Day, Dad!"

Monday morning we started our journey to Rockville for a client presentation. Joie and Raka were practicing the presentation in the car. They probably rehearsed at least five times in the one hour drive. I did not understand why they were carrying an extra pair of shoes, but I didn't want to ask as I knew the mystery would unravel when the time was right.

Raka started the presentation. There was a nervous smile for the first few moments. Then she was on a roll. When Joie's part came she was equally brilliant. The team has come a long way. They did not look at notes, they were articulate, they were authentic, and more than anything, they connected with the client. Very soon the client was completely engaged the two teens. It was simply amazing to watch.

I asked myself "are these the same teens who were racing at the airport?" Then I realized I was asking the wrong question and to the wrong person. I should be asking myself "Why am I serious all the time? Should we not simply enjoy the moment when life gives us a chance, and then be serious when it is required?"

A simple lesson learned. So on Thursday, if any one of you is in the DC or Denver airport and see a middle aged man running with his laptop on his shoulder, please move aside as I am racing to set my personal best time on an escalator. That shouldn't be too tough when I do it for the first time.

Oh, I forgot all about the shoes. After the presentation, when we came back to the rental car, immediately Raka and Joie took their work shoes off and changed to their walking shoes. As we were walking to different stores and locations, I wished I were wearing my walking shoes too. I have to admit girls know their shoes.

June 21, 2009

{June 21, 2009, Father’s Day}

Raising a Father is a journey to celebrate every father and every child one at a time. It am saddened to hear that my close friend Lane lost his father the day before Father’s Day. Let us celebrate Lane’s father, Frank, and his life in Lane’s own words. I dedicate this Father’s Day blog to Frank and pray for the Cardwell family.
A Tribute to Franklin (Frank) Lane Cardwell

My father died today. It was 83 years and 9 days after his birth, one day before Father's Day, and six days before I was going to be in Orlando to visit him and my mother. Plans change. Now I will go to Orlando earlier than planned, visit my mother and sisters, and honor my father's life.

His life really needs no honoring. The way that he lived, loved, and laughed always spoke volumes about the man, the husband, and the father that he was. Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone. He will always be remembered that way.

Most of his friends, former co-workers, and family members will not be able to come to see him off. He outlived most of them, and the others can't travel. No matter. They will be there in spirit.

He and I have not spoken for many years. Not that he didn't want to, he just wasn't able to with his condition. I spoke, he smiled, and I always wondered what he thought about what I was saying. I hope that he approved.

He went out on his own terms. He almost died two and a half years ago. The doctors didn't want to perform the surgery that could have killed him on the operating table. They told us that even if he lived his quality of life would be poor. To have not done the surgery would have killed him as well. His tears upon hearing that they may not do the surgery told us all that we needed to know. He wanted more life, even if it was a poor life. The surgeon performed the surgery, and my father lived until today soaking up all that he could until he had feasted enough and decided that today was the day.

His decision, his life, his way. He went to sleep and never woke up. I can't help but think that sometime over the past few days he thought about his life, the way that I think about a meal, and decided that he was full.

He will be missed by many but will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.

Sleep well, Dad. And Happy Father's Day.


June 18, 2009

{The Big Event: Raising a Father at Madcap}

Tuesday night marked the first major talk on the book.

Before Tuesday, I had talked in churches and at different rotary lunches, but yesterday was the first full-fledged talk with bookmarks, a backdrop, and everything else branded as Raising a Father.

Yes, I was honored to get the opportunity to share my story with the audience at Madcap theater, but what touched me even more was how involved my friends and family members were in making this a “wow” presentation. Starting with my brother Oni in India who was directing me, to Cody, Phil, Clint, and Raka; they all went the extra mile to produce the talk.

I chose Trey Hall to introduce me. Trey has been a friend and business associate over many years. I have known quite a few cool dads but Trey has always been a little extra special. Professionally, Trey is simply amazing and I feel he is one of the smartest marketing minds on this planet. But as a dad, he is always there. I have seen him schedule his work life around his sons’ lacrosse games. On numerous occasions I have seen this deeply spiritual man to be a great family person. He has amazing balance between professional and family life. Trey, it was an honor for you to introduce me.

After the talk I wanted to learn from those present to see if I was successful in delivering the message... what could I do differently?

First I went to Raka. She was simply on cloud nine to have new friends in Cody and Phil. Every time I asked her, she shrugged her shoulders and said “Dad you did great”. Then I went to Cody, Clint, and Sheri. They, being believers in the project and big supporters of me, felt this was great. As I started talking to my other well wishers, I realized there are quite a few things I could have done differently. E.g. The wires were not tucked in properly, the shirt too was not tucked in properly (maybe I was having an overall bad tucked in day), the volume was too loud, and perhaps I could have shown some pictures and graphics.

I read some of the feedback and follow-up emails from a few attendees for more direction. This is what I got:

First: Tim. He was in the next cube when I was doing some data analysis for a client. All I knew him as was an amazing guy and great with numbers. Over the years he regressed more and more into the world of regression and I never tried to figure out who this person was. Tuesday, after the presentation, he wrote:

“The bribing story rang bells. I used to take my son (reluctantly) to the store to spend his pocket money. He'd have $10 to spend but a $20 appetite. I'd love it. With $2 per week pocket money - I'd not have to go shopping for 6 weeks!”

I felt so fortunate to connect with another father who too has been going through his own growing pains of trying to be a better father. Happy Father’s Day Tim, and thanks for sharing.

Next: Patti, another professional connection. But I knew little more about Patti. She is a great human being and always has a smile on her face and greets me with a warm hug. Patti wrote back to me after the presentation that “The talk profoundly affected me.” Wow. I felt fortunate to connect to this super professional.

Third: Carol. She wrote:

“At least you saw enough value in this relationship to develop it. Surely a blessing for a caring father to watch his daughter grow up. I appreciated you being so humble to not cover up any parts of the story. Being real is what you gave us. I pray that many fathers will listen to an important message, but they have to be willing to change as well. Change doesn't come overnight, but overtime. Many blessings to you.”

I have not had the opportunity to get to know Carol much yet, but her deep, sincere thought made me realize that I had touched another heart.

The intended journey for the book started with a dream that I could touch one more father, one more parent. At the end of the day, feeling this connection with new friends and connecting on a personal note with current colleagues, made the evening a great event.

Thanks all for attending.

June 10, 2009

{Lesson 2: Addiction Comes in Different Forms}

The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines addiction as:

ad•dic•tion (-dkshn) n.

1. Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance;

2. The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something.

Anytime we read the definition of addiction, we right away think of alcohol, drugs, or even food to be the driver of the addiction. But do we ever look at work or corporate life as an addiction? Most of us do not. If a friend of mine confides in me that he is addicted to drugs, I would jump in and intervene. Such behavior is always looked at negatively and deserves remedial action. Unlike drug addictions, if the same friend calls me and confides in me that he is working very hard, extra long hours, I would be proud of him. I would wait to hear about his accomplishments and use him as a role model.

Corporate life addiction is more dangerous than any other form of addiction given that society supports the act. As I think about my corporate days, I was putting 12 to 14 hours a day into work. That does not include sitting with my laptop at home to stay up to date with my emails. Life was exciting. There were new challenges every day. I never worried about where this was leading me. I just did what I needed to do as I needed to do it.

As I was writing Raising a Father, I asked myself over and over... "Why did I not balance my life and work? Why did I not spend half that time with my family?" Then again, a drug addict does not say, "I will not use drugs every day." Instead they use drugs every chance they get, and without intervention, drug usage increases with every possible chance.

For sure, addiction comes in different forms.

June 4, 2009

{Lesson 1: Respond to Wakeup Calls}

As the publishers are hard at work getting Raising a Father ready for print, I have got a lot of time to reflect on the book.  The reflections have been further magnified by discussions with attendees at different places after I am talking on the book. All these reflections have helped me come up with six lessons.

The first of the six lessons is: Respond to wakeup calls in life
My life thus far has been full of wakeup calls. To me a wake-up call is an interruption in state.  Wikipedia defines it as “an event that brings about a sudden realization.” What we do after that is our choice. There have been times I have woken up after a wake-up call, and there have been times I have snoozed. Every wake-up call in my life, figurative or literal, has had a purpose, and it has always been up to me to figure that purpose out.

This morning when the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., I had to make a choice: do I somehow get myself out of bed and get ready to go to the gym, or do I snooze and go back to sleep. However loud the wake-up call is, we individually make the decision on whether we will wake up or not.

I feel wakeup calls come to us in our relationships too.  They come in the form of events that make us think, challenges that bring us down to our knees, cry for help from our near and dear ones, or other events. When the wakeup events come in, they shake the very existence of our life.  But not always do we respond to the wake-up call.  Many a time we just close our eyes and wait for the intensity of the pain to be over, so that we can go back to sleep.

My life’s worst wakeup call came on the day after 9-11 when my eight year old daughter told me that I did not know her. She was right. It was one of those shattering moments where I could not deal with reality anymore. I was forced to wake up and try to change my life.

When you wake up, normally your immediate response is that of regret for not staying in your previous, status-quo state. Life was more comfortable and easier before you woke up. But if you are one who measures life by no-regrets, waking up is one of the sure ways to minimize the biggest kinds of regrets in life.