“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.


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.

Waking up is hard to do.

25 03 2010

“Daddy!  I pooped in my pull up.  I need to change into my big boy underwear.  Can you dump my poop into the potty so I can put my Spiderman underwear on?  Daddy – your job is to clean my poop!” 

In the long line of ways to be woken up that is about the best I‘ve ever heard.  My son, all of 3 years old, clearly understands my roll.  I guess at times I may be the only one who doesn’t.  After romanticizing what a 35th birthday morning would sound and feel like my son’s needs and desires never really came into the equation however I guess I should not have been so short sighted.  My job is that of Daddy – poop dumper, ass wiper, encourager, provider, influencer, teacher, mentor, and role model to this 3 year old treasure.  He is the embodiment of all of my dreams coming true.  You know its funny, looking back at March 25th of 2000 – I never would have guessed this would be where I would wake up. 

March 2000 was the last time I found myself staring up at the ascension of a mountain range.  I was 25 years old.  I called my father from my office in the car dealership and asked him, “Dad, when you turned 25 did you feel like as much of a failure as I do?  I just can’t take this anymore.  This job, this life, this direction, this feeling of utter emptiness.”  That phone call lead to 6 months of stress leave from work, therapy, pretty much a complete overhaul of my life.  You see at that time I was pursuing my dreams on the side.  I was the lead singer in a gigging rock band, I was dating A LOT, cavorting, you know – the whole sex, drugs, and rock & roll thing.  I never wanted to get married, never wanted children, and DID NOT want to be selling cars.  Selling cars was easy and allowed me to focus on what I loved – performing.  As I reflect on that time and that crossroads I chose safe over dreams.  What was I thinking?  Have you ever done that?  Chose what you were supposed to do?  What was responsible rather then following your heart’s cry?  And nothing you do from that point on seems fulfilling?  Let’s be honest – we’ve all done it.  Maybe it’s a relationship we stayed in too long, a degree we got because we didn’t have the courage to study what was really in our hearts, chose to stay in the “friend zone” rather then really telling them how we felt (now we creep them on Google and facebook), or maybe just been terrified to even start dreaming because simply dreaming is irresponsible? 

It’s been 10 years since I looked closely in the rear view mirror.  What I discovered today looking back on the past 10 years is I have been trying to follow my dreams by taking small steps towards change without ever really executing.  Doing just enough to have the change feel like a rest but never really jumping off that ledge.  In 2003 I changed automobile brands and starting selling a different line of cars under the same ownership group.  In 2004 I almost accepted a job as financial planner/advisor but I was talked out of it by my new father-in-law so I accepted a managerial role at the car dealership instead.  In 2006 I almost went into vocational ministry until I chickened out.  Instead I accepted a promotion into a larger managerial role.  In 2007 I was weeks away from accepting a vocational ministry role again until the situation blew up and left my family, my dreams of working in ministry, and my entire church experience in shambles.  Instead of taking the opportunity to go for what I wanted I retreated into what was safe and secure and continued to run the dealership.  In 2008 I took over 2 dealerships with 4 divisions and in 2009 I moved companies for a better opportunity.  That opportunity hasn’t come to fruition so I find myself back where I started – selling cars.  I’m staring up at the ascension of another mountain.  All of this to say now is the time.  The common denominator to all of this is not bad luck, poor timing, or wrong decision making.  I haven’t been screwed over, taken advantage of, or used in any way.  The common factor in all of this is me.  I have not stood up for myself or my dreams and taken it upon myself to make it happen.  That has changed.  Its now time.  There is nothing left to loose other then more of me.  What is holding you back?  What is keeping you in the safety grooves of your life?  What would you do if you could get out of your rut?

Some amazing new dreams have come to reality in the last ten years.  I have been blessed with an amazing wife and best friend, 3 amazing children, good friends, and an amazing support system.  I have been able to dabble safely in my dreams for a few years and this allows me to know I can succeed at whatever I set my mind to.  Hey, if I can accept the role of Daddy, of poop dumper, ass wiper, encourager, provider, influencer, teacher, mentor, and role model to my 3 year old treasure of a son certainly I can do anything.  He deserves that.  I deserve that.  You deserve that.  Be the embodiment of your dreams coming true. 

“Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.” – Nelson Mandela.