“Who’s Bad”

21 04 2010

January 8, 1988 was an interesting day.  It was the last day of the first week back at school in the Powers’ household after the Christmas holiday.  The world was a week into the Soviet Union’s new economic reform called perestroika.  The Dow Jones lost 140 points or 6.5% in a mini-crash closing at 1911.31. (wow – 1911.31 – it’s now cresting 11000)  The single most important thing to me from that day was the release of a single by an artist you may have heard of.  His name was Michael Jackson and the song is ‘Man in the Mirror’.  Quincy Jones commented Michael Jackson was looking to add an anthem to his follow-up to Thriller, a project which would eventually become his 7th studio album entitled Bad.  Jackson was looking to have a song which would inspire and be a call to arms for his fans to add value to their lives and to the world.  For me as an impressionable 12-year-old Michael Jackson fan – I just liked the song.  It wasn’t my favorite though.  I always gravitated to his more up tempo songs.  The Way You Make Me Feel, Bad, Dirty Diana, and Sooth Criminal were all on that album.  In fact, it was the first album in history to have its first 5 releases hit #1 and the only album ever to have 10 of its 11 tracks released chart in the top 10.  However, Man in the Mirror didn’t hit me till later in life.  Maybe I simply did not understand the significance of the lyrics.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror.  I’m asking him to change his ways.  And no message could have been any clearer.  If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.”  Why couldn’t I have learned the power of this statement at 12?  Or 22?  Or 32?  It’s not like I haven’t had opportunity.  My faults and flaws are clearly on display for all to see and have been as long as I have been around.  At 12 I could write it off as being twelve.  At 22 – well nuff said.  At 32 it was a little more difficult however I was still well head of the success curve for my age so it could be chalked up to stress or pressure or coping.  The fact of the matter is this; I haven’t really had to “take a look at (my)self and make a change” .  I have been able to continue entrenching my weaknesses as I have made excuses or blamed the result of my weakness on others or other situations.  It has been harder and harder to look at the man in the mirror as I climb Dream Mountain as I have grown very aware the extra weight I carry up the mountain is not the supplies which will help my dreams come true but rather the weight I carry is the excess baggage of not having “changed my ways”.  The ascension of Dream Mountain and the decisions my wife and I have made over the last 7 months have removed all excuses as to why I carry the extra weight except for one – the man in the mirror.  As we prepare to climb to Base Camp 2, although the path of the climb may have been altered a bit, the extra weight I carry needs to be removed.  I “want to make the world a better place” therefore I will continue to “look at (my)self and make a change”.   Would I change how these years and experiences have unfolded?  No.   Would I do it all differently?  No.  If I were to do things differently I wouldn’t have the wealth of experiences I do now.  It seems to me leading others to change or managing people through change is one thing but managing the change in my life is a whole other story.  Managing the change in my life takes a constant awareness of what and who is in the mirror.  How easy do you find it to look in the mirror?  What do you say to your reflection?   

I’ve heard it said we are all creative, resourceful, and whole and that I have all of the tools to make the wholesale adjustments needed to be the best me possible.  To be the man God created me to be.  It seems to me the only person who, in the past, has not bought into that vision is me.  Maybe I’ve thought it would be too hard, maybe I haven’t had to try, and maybe I haven’t wanted to?  It is hard, I am trying, and I do want to.  I’m starting with the man in the mirror and I’ve asked him to change his ways.  No message could be any clearer.  I want to make the world a better place.  So, I have taken a look at myself and agreed to make a change.


I think I’m pregnant

14 04 2010

I feel like I am pregnant.  At least I think I do.  Not in the Oprah/Dr. Phil kinda way.  There won’t be an hour-long TV story based on my pregnancy anytime soon.  I may have been screwed over a few times lately but certainly nothing that would produce a child.  But I digress.  My wife described the process of pregnancy as delight at times and agony at others.  Particularly when she got to that point when she said she was “done.”  You may have heard of it before – pregnant woman so graciously carries her little bundle of joy and happily endures, I mean, enjoys her pregnancy until she wakes up one morning after a night of pseudo sleep because she can’t lay any particular way comfortably and says, “I’m done”.  Then she stands up and realises she no longer has feet…or ankles.  All of that to say that’s kind of how I feel. 

Many people have commented on how positive and inspirational this blog is.  To you I say thanks.  However, I feel discouraged.  Maybe just today or for the past few days but yeah – I’m off.  Not way off just a bit off.  I think any exploration or climbing of a mountain has some trepidation and doubt.  And it’s not really doubt as much as it is impatience.  Being almost at Base Camp 1 on my accent of Dream Mountain, I am equal parts thrilled at the progress and where we are and frustrated we are not further along.  This is why I love the pregnancy analogy.  When my wife was pregnant there came a time all she wanted was to deliver the baby.  I’m at a similar impasse.  Have you ever been there?  Waiting on something you know will eventually happen but agonizing over the time it will take to get there.  Maybe you were waiting to hear about acceptance to a certain school, for a boyfriend to ask you to marry him, for a baby to come, for a settlement to finalize, for a certain promotion, or maybe to finally be free of a very bad situation.  Regardless I think we’ve all been there from time to time.  My hope is to be completed the climb and living my dream by the fall.  I’m just terrible with waiting.  Patience is not a strong suit of mine.  Even after reading my own blog (the process of progress) and drinking my own Kool-Aid, I am having a hard time not being anxious.  Anxious to get going already, not anxious in an unsure kind of way.  Sometimes I pray God will give me the patience to see this through, the courage to endure, and the strength to believe in myself and the gifts He has given me.  God has a great sense of humour doesn’t He?  How is it exactly God grants us patience without also granting the situation in which patience must be practiced?  Or courage?  Or strength for that matter?  It’s been my experience God answers some prayers by giving us what we want and others by not giving us what we want.  In this case, He has answered by giving me opportunities to practice.  Uhhhh.  This climb is long.  The steps are relatively easily completed and each little bit sized success gets us closer to the goal.  But FRIG – let’s just rent a helicopter and get to the top of Dream Mountain already!  I mean really – isn’t that why helicopters were invented?  To fly quickly in areas planes, cars, and feet cannot get in the quickest fashion possible?  Like seriously, who ever says, “no thanks, I’d rather climb the mountain.”  I do I guess.  As much as I hate it – I do.  I need to.  This is a weakness I need to manage and walking through this process with the awareness of my impatience and not becoming the impatience is the next crevasse to be scaled.  Hey that sounds like a new challenge.  Cool.

My wife tried to figure out how to get unpregnant from 7 months on.  Whether it was castor oil, walking, aerobics, nesting, whatever she could to be finished her pregnancy as soon as possible she did it.  She just wanted to get on with it.  I’m feeling like that now.  Let’s just start living the dream.  Enough of the climb – let’s get to the summit.  You know it’s funny.  A few weeks after my baby was born my wife said to me, “sweetheart, I miss being pregnant, this Mommy thing is a bitch.”  On second thought, I’m enjoying the climb.

The process of progress

6 04 2010

Progress is an interesting concept.  Some say we are progressing as a society, some say we are regressing.  Some say our economy is progressing while others say the next bubble is about to burst.  Some say going from diapers to pull ups is progress – others…maybe not.  All of that to say we have differing perspectives on progress.  What is progress to you?

I’m an “if you’re not moving forward – you’re moving backward” kind of person.  Whether it’s being 15 minutes early to an appointment (if you’re not 15 minutes early you’re 15 minutes late) or dreaming up the next big idea I like moving forward.  Certainly that is not to say I don’t get stuck in ruts, have bad days, I have bad months for that matter, but in general I like focusing ahead.  Focusing ahead allows me the perspective needed to assure safe travels in rough and unknown waters.  For me this is why my written goals are so important.  Kind of like a road map to where I’m headed but also a reminder of where I’ve been and where I’ve come from.  Some of us keep a diary, some take enough pictures to have stock in Kodak, others choose addresses to mark their journey but whatever the conduit – we would all agree it’s important to keep tabs on the progress we make. 

To continue my mountain climbing metaphor I am almost at Base Camp 1 on the ascension of Dream Mountain.  Of the 7 actions in my 3 month plan I have been able to cross of 5 of them.  My wife and I have found tremendous power in the crossing off of action steps.  We have until July to complete all 7 but as it looks now we are ahead of the game.  My natural tendency is to get ahead of myself and move into my 6 month steps but the key to all of this I think is in the process – not the progress.  To learn the ability to enjoy the growing.  To accept the setbacks.  To love the planting of the roses let alone stopping to smell them.  In my estimation we all have the power to be whatever it is we want to be if we will accept the process it takes to achieve progress.   I am ready for the challenges and looking forward to overcoming them.  Setbacks will come from the most unexpected places.  Expect the unexpected right?  But even with setbacks on the horizon this opportunity for growth and becoming “the me” I have always wanted to be such an awesome trip.

We are starting a basement renovation in one of our rental properties in a few weeks.  We are updating the space and making it a self-sustaining basement apartment.  This is very exciting to me.  I love the planning, creativity, breaking of stuff, and the ability to actually see the ideas in my mind coming to fruition.  As I look at the renovation going into it – the process is actually most important.  The progress will come with the successful execution of the process.  This is the same in the actualization of our dreams.  The careful following of the process creates in us the progress we so desire.  At least that’s been my experience.

“jUUUst a bit outside!”

31 03 2010

How many times did we hear growing up that walking away was the best alternative in conflict resolution?  My mom was a big advocate of this approach.  Maybe she was concerned for her son’s safety?  Maybe she was a pacifist?  Maybe she thought that had to be the message as a mother?  Who knows – for me I was more of an “eye for an eye” advocate.  The only problem with that approach is it leaves 2 one-eyed dummies rather than 2 fully sighted albeit angry combatants.  In hindsight I guess her approach is probably more beneficial because to be frank – I really like seeing.  The advice to walk away can be applied in so many different forums and sometimes, for me at least, it can be the hardest advice to heed.  And when it comes from the people closest to you – it can be that much more difficult. 

We’ve all done it.  Gotten involved or stayed involved in something we knew was, in the famous words of Bob Uecker, “just a bit outside.”  Something that had we listened to our circle or chose to look at things objectively we probably would have made a different choice.  That bad boy boyfriend we just knew we could change, the job that was sucking the life out of us, crossing the line we said we’d never cross, making the deal that wasn’t totally above board, or splicing our cable.  Whatever it may have been – we’ve all done it.  Yesterday the crossroads of ego and better judgment was presented to me.  One part of my dream is to buy, renovate, and sell resale homes.  Better known as flipping.  We inadvertently got involved in a flip in 2007 and I loved it.  Flipping is one branch in my full service real estate business.  On Sunday night I found a gem.  Well actually it was a giant terd.  It was like a gem took a dump and out came this place.  Call it a diamond in the very very VERY rough.  It’s in a gated style community facing a marina, locked on one side by a great lake and on the other side by one of the busiest freeways in the country.  It has access for commuters, gorgeous views, strong lifestyle options, and is the dump of the neighbourhood.  All very good things for market value.  The owner went bankrupt so the bank is selling the home.  We went to look at it yesterday to assess its condition and develop a business plan to see if it works within the parameters of my number matrix.  All of that to say the numbers have to work before the property can be a viable option.  My wife, a friend, and I looked through the property.  My friend measured the properties insides while I took pictures of the properties good and bad points.  Well actually it was more like bad and awful points.  What a mess!!  It hadn’t seen a dimes worth of investment in 20 years.  Ever seen one of those “Extreme Home Makeover” shows where in the beginning you look at the place and on the outside you say, “not so bad” but when they show you the inside you say “how can people live like that”?  That was this place.  It was so bad my friend (she’s also my agent) rightly suggested she didn’t want to take her shoes off.  It was awful.  Every corner of the house needed to be gutted.  A roof, windows, framing, insulation, structure, deck, landscaping, foundation, and mold.  That was just the outside.  Then there was the inside and the inside was 10 times worse.  I said to my friend, “I’d move into it and work in the reno but I’d be afraid the kids would fall through the floor.”  It was PERFECT!  Just the kind of project I was looking for.  I was envisioning the new kitchen, floors, layout, and removal of walls to open the space and give it the right flow.  Whether it was removing the overgrown tree in the front to take advantage of the marina view or a complete redo of the master suite to take advantage of the bones already there but make it the showpiece it could be – I was ready for the challenge.  I loved it.  I could see the finished product in my mind and it was great.  If I could make the numbers work this would be the first project in the ascension of Dream Mountain.  I was not concerned about going from base camp to camp 4 to continue the metaphor.  My feelings should have been the first indication of things to come.

As we were driving home and I was reviewing the pictures and talking about what I would do in the place my amazing wife looked at me a little sheepishly.  She asked, “Can I say something without crushing your dreams?”  Here it comes I thought.  “I think it’s too much right now and it may be better to walk away.  There is a lot of work to do there and I think with the basement reno on our other property coming in May, the blog, the courses, not to mention work and the family a project like that might just get you over your head.”  Ahhhhhh…the voice of reason.  You know what?  She was right.  She usually is.  She wasn’t suggesting we not do it at all – just not right now.  In this case her advice of walking away was the best decision.  I didn’t say anything for a bit.  Not because I was upset (although I’m sure my past history was leaving her with that impression) but more because I was in awe of her insight.  She was completely on the ball and there was little I could do to dispute her logic.  Looking at her I suggested the process really excites me.  It’s a passion and it fills me.  Not having these outlets keeps me feeling depleted.  However we do have a number of other things on the go and the completion of those projects, stepping stones if you will, allows for the ascension from base camp, to camp 1, 2, 3, all the way to the top of Dream Mountain without the possibility of elevation sickness.  In this case, walking away was the best decision.

Living my dreams is such an exciting process.  What an amazing opportunity to grow, discover, learn, and create.  As I learned yesterday sometimes living your dreams means saying no to the very thing you want in order to sustain the dream itself.  And sometimes, at least for me, the best vice – is advice.  Thank you sweetheart.

My life in the glove box

30 03 2010

The package arrived around 3pm.  Nothing special really.  The UPS driver asked for the signature as is expected.  The box was simple and nondescript.  Inside was the first step in the ascension of Dream Mountain.   Frankly I thought there may have been more excitement as I opened the package.  In my mind I was recalling the anticipation of my childhood Christmas presents or the first birthday present my wife ever got me.  But this was more peaceful.  More of an exhale I think.  More like the safe return of a loved one rather than the first time you laid eyes on them.  What arrived was the first course in my correspondence real estate licensing.  Phase 1 will teach me the initial portions and what-to-knows of the market.  For me right now it’s less about what’s in the workbook and more about the workbook’s presence in my home.  The last time it was in my home was 2004 and at that time the story was quite different.

My wife and I had just built our first home and we were blissfully unaware of the heavy weight decisions we were making.  Months earlier I had been approached by an investment company to work with them as a financial planner/investment consultant.  After careful deliberation and conversations with people I respected and trusted I declined the offer.  However by January of 2004 I was looking for a change.  It was a few months since I had moved from selling domestic cars to luxury cars and there was one common denominator – I was still selling cars.  A friend was just getting into selling real estate and my wife and I would often comment on how interesting and fun it seemed and that I’d be good at it.  We loved looking into real estate, property values, design and decorating, all the things the HGTV have built an entire network on.  So together we decided I would get take the real estate courses necessary to become licensed and pursue my next endeavor.  Nights were filled with study and calculations.  Workbooks became filled with details and completed case studies.  3 months of work culminated in the 4 hour written exam on a sunny Saturday in March.  However a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.  Saturday morning I was to write the exam.  I was to head to the office for a meeting, slip out and drive the 15 minutes to the exam, write it, and head back to the office for 12:30pm.  No problem right?  Well, needless to say I never got to the exam.  A customer showed up and bought a car.  Then another.  By the time 1pm had rolled around I had sold 2 cars but my dreams of selling houses were packed up like the junk in the glove box of one of the trade-ins from that day’s work.  The window of opportunity had closed and rather than cracking it back open and trying again I settled for more responsibility in the place where I was.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t right?  It’s taken 6 years to get back to the place where I am opening the workbook and cracking the window however the difference this time is regardless of the number of distractions and obligations I will complete this endeavor.  This is step one on the path to the goal.

It’s funny to see things coming into focus as I pursue living my dreams.  My 12 month plan includes 3, 6, 9, and 12 month smaller goals.  Of the seven 3 month goals, I have completed four and we are working on the completion of some of the 6, 9, and 12 month goals as well.  It’s interesting to me how the momentum begins as we focus on the things we love doing.  The dreams are beginning to take shape.  A friend asked me yesterday how to know where to start.  My suggestion was to find out what it is you want to do and the way you do that is to figure out what you’d do for free if money wasn’t an issue.  I love the parts of real estate I have been exposed to.  I am certain there will be parts I don’t like or don’t do well at.  There are those parts with anything we do.  For me, Marcus Buckingham said it best when he suggested the best way to live the fullest version of you is to live in your strengths.  That is to do the things that make you feel strong.  Conversely, while doing that, Buckingham suggests one needs to be mindful of their weaknesses or those things that leave us feeling depleted and manage them effectively.  Find people and processes that mitigate the feeling of weakness or the weaknesses negative effect on others.  I feel like achieving my goals is allowing me to play in my strengths.  So awesome!  What are the things in your life that make you feel strongest?  Are you doing everything you can to spend the majority of your time in them?  How are you managing your weaknesses?

The package was opened and the information downloaded into the computer and course 1 has begun.  We’ll see how well I do at that.  I am not a student by nature.  Not a strength for me at all.  However I am so looking forward to re-writing the history of my life and allowing the diversion of 2004 to finally find its rightful place in the glove box of my life.  Never to be seen again.

Where’s the game?

29 03 2010

“I want to be a firefighter, figure skater, singer, and a crane operator.”  My 3 year old son understands in the current age of career and work experience – diversity is the mother of prevention.  Prevention from a life of what if’s, when we were’s, and wish I would have’s.  At 3 he believes he can do all of these things and as parents we seem to encourage his ideas and dreams by saying things like, “you can do anything son” or “that sounds fun”.  When does this change?  At some point we start to encourage and guide our children and ourselves away from the I can do anything attitude of our childhood and more towards a make up your mind and be responsible type of positioning.  What happened to us?  Was it the disappointment of our first attempt and failure at following a dream?  Is too much riding on where we are now that to leave the comfort of the day-to-day rhythm is too daunting?  Are we embarrassed to start talking about our dreams and aspirations?  Have we no one in our lives who is willing to step up to our sides and walk with us as we finally start living happily and wholly rather than as a reasonable hand drawn facsimile of our best selves?  I don’t know when things change however I am convinced we can change it back.  We can take back the childhood wonder we gave up and build the life of our dreams.  In fact, I’m going back to my childhood for the wisdom to move forward.

Growing up my mother was the consummate list maker.  In fact you could walk into to her home today and find countless numbers of lists posted to the fridge, countertops, and side tables.  This seemed to keep the Lithium dosages to a minimum.  These lists seemed to keep everything under control and ensured all was well through the day.  My father was a budgeter.  He would have a budget, add to the budget, pour over the budget; maybe those budgets were his lists in disguise.  All of that to say – I have a reason to HATE lists.  Maybe you’re not like me but if my parents did it, for most of my life that was enough reason for me NOT to do it.  I mean really – how many of us wanted to be just like our parents?  Not me!  But funny enough I think we may share a name for a reason.  The older I get the smarter they get.  Weird.  So in the spirit of honouring our parents I look to my mother’s lists for inspiration.  The first step in living my dreams is to write them down.  In fact, if you walk into my house today my 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals are front and center on the fridge.  My daughter’s colouring and our real estate agents magnet have taken a side stage position for the goals I have set.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I have looked at that list for 2 weeks since it went up.  The list of goals has become almost like a mantra to realizing our successes and dreams.   We have been able to check off 4 different smaller stepping-stones in the ascension of Dream Mountain.  You see my mother taught me if I wrote down my goals and worked daily to stepping slowly and doggedly towards each smaller goal the big picture gets completed with each little check mark.  You are reading the second check mark now.

In 1986, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze starred in a “blockbuster” of a movie called Youngblood.  It was a coming of age story of a hockey player (Lowe) and his team.  As an 11-year-old hockey goalie this movie was the best.  My father tolerated the film with me but a funny thing happened on the way to his kiddie movie slumber.  In a scene which would impact my life unlike any other, the coach of the Mustangs (Lowe’s team) screams at Lowe from the bench, “Dean, where’s the game?”  As Lowe looks over to his coach the coach puts his fingers to his temples.  The game clearly is in your head.  If I had a dollar for every time my father screamed at me from the stands in my hockey games, in the kitchen of my childhood home, or on the other end of a March 2000 phone call from my office, “where’s the game”, the realization of my dreams would be much easier.  But imagine the impact this one small scene had.  24 years later the movie starring Rob Lowe and featuring the guy from Dirty Dancing and a young Keanu Reeves with a really bad French accent is the engine that drives my dream realization.  The key to my father’s insight is visualization.  I have taken to seeing my dreams coming true in my mind.  The talent, determination, and drive needed to be successful in the new world I’m entering is already at my fingertips.  I have everything I need and as I visualize success in my mind and I walk closer and closer to the goal.  The goal for me is not the end but the beginning.  Not the achievement or completion of the goal but the active participation in the world of small business ownership.  What is your dream?  What goals do you have as the stepping-stones to realization?  Are you visualizing yourself winning?  Where’s the game?

For me, the combination of childlike belief and parental wisdom has been the key to living my dreams.  Whether it’s a firefighter, figure skater, crane operator, or real estate mogul I believe anything I set my mind to I can achieve.  Heck, if I’m going to tell my kids they can do anything they choose I’m going to start telling myself the same thing.  We deserve that don’t we?  I mean if we’re not going to believe in us – who will?  However, the words and ways of my parental experience ring loudly for me.  Write it down.  Read the lists and adjust them as needed.  Visualize the success and it becomes a reality.  I am so glad I moved out of my parent’s house when I did.  The longer I’m out of their house the smarter they become.  What can you do today to live your dreams?