What’s on My Mind?

What is on my mind? That’s a good question. For anyone that follows this blog, you’ll know I haven’t written for some time. Seth Godin says there’s no such thing as “writer’s block” any more that there’s such a thing as “talker’s block.” But talking is easy, writing is hard. Talking feels less permanent; like standing by a stream watching the water flow by; it’s there and it’s gone. Not that the words we speak have no meaning; they do, but it feels less vulnerable, less permanent. What we write is fixed. It’s harder to take back. It’s permanent, or at least it’s memorialized in a more fixed manner, like a photo of the stream; a fixed point in time. No taking it back

Why so long between writing? I don’t know. I am busy running the company, Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc., and affiliates. I have been devoting more time outside of that to the Creating Structure Podcast, which is now producing Episode 23 and with two more scheduled coming up in August and early September. Those take time to produce; the show notes are like a mini-blog in themselves. I’ve been busy with The Garden (see Instagram posts and other articles in prior blog posts.) It’s summer and I spend less time inside. I’ve been really busy with family matters, friends, and adjusting to post-Covid19 lifestyle. Actually I don’t think there is yet a “post Covid19” reality since the pandemic rages on. It’s just a different state of another “normal,” a new adjustment. Actually it’s worse than prior to, and during Covid, from my point of view, since now there seems to be this expectation to live in both realities. I find it less sustainable, therefore, prioritization of choices is required more than ever. There’s just a tension in the air.

The above are all just excuses of course. Even as I write this, I am starting to FEEL better. Why? Well, I like to write actually. I spend most of my writing time crafting emails, drafting company briefings, writing memos, proposals, work products, and more. But putting this out to the public, and to the followers of the blog, feels different. It is different. I am crazy enough (call it what you will) to think that I might have something to say; that perhaps my experiences might positively impact one person. Even if that’s not the case, it impacts me. And writer’s write because they need to. They write for themselves. One writer said, “If you really want to make an impact, write something that would make your friends feel uncomfortable reading. If you want to make an even deeper impact, write something that will make yourself unconformable.” I’m not quite there yet. I’m able to be just vulnerable enough to do this; to share these thoughts in writing with the world.

What’s on my mind, though, you ask, since I still haven’t answered the question? There’s a lot on my mind. Organizing it and sharing it in a substantive way is the tough part.

What about REMOTE WORK. Well there is no such thing anymore as “REMOTE WORK.” There’s just contextual work; work from various locations. As a business owner I used to work “remotely” often since business ownership is more of a lifestyle than a job. Now I never use that term. First, working in different contexts now belongs to almost anyone that is in an office environment or working a traditional “office job.” It’s no longer in the realm of the business owner alone. I actually feel better about that. I never say “I am working remotely.” It doesn’t matter- not at all. I say things like, “I will be working from my home office this morning,” or “I will be working from my car, between appointments.” (Yes from my car.)

If I turn on “out of office” for auto-response to email it’s because I am on “personal time” or “handling matters that will not allow me to stay in top of email in real time.” There is no more “out of office.” Do I have a physical office? Yes. I am there sometimes five days per week, sometimes zero days per week. All that matters is whether I am engaged or not; whether I being productive or not. Never has it been more obvious to manage by results or outcomes than now. Manage to results and outcomes, not appearances.

What’s on my mind? I don’t know. Have I gotten to that part of the blog yet? “Hey John, what is your company doing about return-to-office vs. hybrid work vs. work from home? Which one are you guys doing?” My answer is yes. What? “Yes, I said.” We are doing ALL OF IT. Is there one better than the other? I don’t know. It’s all contextual. If we are not creative in our approach to people and work contexts, we will struggle with retention and recruiting for sure. Like I said, manage to results and outcomes. Not everyone will survive the change. Not everyone has at our firm. But many will like it more, and they will thrive, plus new people will come into a context they are familiar with if we hire within this paradigm.

What’s on my mind? A lot of things. How can there be so many “hiring now” and “help wanted” signs compared to the time prior to COVID19? Are there that many people that have bowed out, gone to gig economy, freelancing, or just decided not to work? I don’t believe the statistics from the labor department. I just believe what I see; a LOT of jobs available and not enough people available to do them, willing to do them, or that have been trained for them. What a shift. The shift is dynamic and continuing to play out. Take your 5-year plan and scrap it, unless your 5-year plan is “be nimble,” or “make cool stuff,” or “impact the world through clean drinking water,” and similar. I like the “be nimble” part. The job of my company, our “why,” is to “Create Structure” to the world, physically and operationally. Being nimble is required (that’s sound better right now than “pivoting” which is an overused word.)

What’s on my mind? I don’t know. I guess quite a bit. But I am coming to the end of my attention span and available time for this priority today. I’ve not touched on the spiritual, the garden, updates regarding the company, technical posts, discussions about project management, client relationship management, faith and work, the natural, supernatural, discussions about BIM, innovation, 3-D printers, point clouds, time sheet discipline, strategies behind billing report audits, leveraging of time, prioritization, game-changer tasks, the importance of relationships, implementing EOS at our firm and more. I guess those will have to wait for the future blogs; tomorrow, next week, as soon as I prioritize and choose to write more.

What’s on my mind? I guess there’s quite a bit. Let’s talk more later. See you in the next post. Have a great day.

Days

A Sunday blog post

If we live to be 80 years old, we will encounter and participate in about 29,200 rotations of the earth with respect to the sun; sun rising, sun setting, one day to the next. That’s a lot of days. Let’s break down just the days between age 18 and age 75 and assume them to be productive days of choice as adults. That’s still 20,805 days. Still a lot of days, yet a finite number.

What’s the visual look like? If 6 grains per second fall through the neck of a hourglass, the device contains about 21,600 grains. So the number of days in our reality on planet earth are similar to the number of grains of sand in an hour glass, each grain equating to a day, or about 24 hours.

The Old Testament Prophet in the book of Lamentations writes in Chapter 3 verses 22 and 23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

New every morning. New each revolution. Every morning. One day at a time.

We get a new day every day. New mercy, new refreshment, new opportunity, new choices, new love that doesn’t consume us, if we choose it.

Choices, awareness, opportunity.

How then shall we live today?

Disruption and Change

Love Disrupts Hate

Light disrupts darkness
Truth disrupts lies
Peace disrupts violence
Unity disrupts separation
Inclusion disrupts exclusion
Integration disrupts Segregation
Justice disrupts injustice
Resurrection disrupts death

These disruptions are not met with ease and appreciation by the systems and people that create them (systems and attitudes governed by power, fear, division, etc.)

Change doesn’t happen by fighting the symptoms of the problem in the same manner as they are manifested. Change happens by disrupting it in the opposite manner.

A fire isn’t stopped by adding fuel. Arguments stop not when the last person has their say or outlasts the other, but when one of the persons chooses to seek understanding, listen, or create a boundary. If we want to change something and bring about a different consequence, we’ve got to do the opposite of “the thing.” Shouting loudly when others are shouting only works when we have the loudest voice. Try whispering instead.

Change happens first on the individual level. We can model bringing positive change in our homes, families, businesses, workplaces, and broader circle of relationships. We don’t have to wait for others to do it. We own our responses and attitudes. When this is connected together in common cause with others, it can bring significant change in communities. Darkness can’t stand against light. Light drives out darkness. The brighter the light, The less the darkness. The more lights strung together, the bigger the impact.


Jesus, the God-Human, who bodily resurrected from the grave embodies all those qualities of change and more. I’m not talking about the versions of Jesus that are manipulated in the wrong way for personal gain. I’m talking about the real, authentic, middle eastern, Jewish carpenter, Jesus, the Son of God who is the way, truth and life. Light in the darkness. Healing in pain. Resurrection instead of death. Love instead of hate. Disruptive to a world set in it’s ways. A still soft voice. May those of us who are Christians, show it by our love.

Authenticity

“Authenticity is the new apologetic.” I heard this quote from James Thomas Talbot, one of the brothers and pastors at our church, Citizen’s Akron. But this isn’t about church. This is about the quote; about the statement; about the truth portrayed in it. I’ve been seeing this and stewing on it for some time. I’m watching the reality of it unfold more and more.

“Apologetic” is about one’s ability to defend, justify, appropriately argue a belief, belief system, theory or religious doctrine; systematic argumentation and discourse.

But people are tired of words. I’m tired of words (as I type words). Actions and realities are the best defense. People and groups can sniff out a lie quickly these days. So many words, so little fruit. So many words, so many incongruencies.

Authenticity, the visible reality of the manifestations and consequences around our life, this is the new apologetic. Our life, the fruit of the life, what we do, how we act, these are the defenses. “Show me don’t tell me.” It’s not easy to argue against a life well lived, or against specific results surrounding our life. It isn’t about what we say, it’s about what we do.

Our actions, which flow from our identity, should support our words which support our thoughts. What’s visible on the outside of our life is a result of our choices, behaviors, thoughts. Rather than speaking and expecting people to believe us, we should be doing.

We may as well choose authenticity. We aren’t fooling anyone forever if we are saying one thing and doing another. The person that is typically most deceived in that way is ourselves, but that’s another topic for another day.

Authenticity is the new apologetic. In business, in spirituality, in life, in relationships. Thanks James.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th, November, 2020, was one of the best days of the year at our company. It was an increasingly positive end to one of the best weeks of the year as well. We had six specific outcomes that manifested themselves in one day after many months of ongoing work, engagement and investment (time, energy, etc.) Those six outcomes included three new hires, one client-initiated interaction around additional monies due to extended project costs, and two contract extensions.

I don’t ever think about Friday the 13th and the superstition around that date. In fact, I didn’t even remember it was “Friday the 13th” when I went to the office. It just was a Friday in November. I brought the best Friday version of myself to that particular day, along with the best Friday version of our people. I engaged in the work, responded to clients, and took care of the business of the day.

Positive, thoughtful, caring, innovative, connected, collaborative, actions and stewardship over an extended period of time, day after day, week after week, month after month, eventually produce in-kind; in like manner. When we are on a really good path as well, assessing what’s working by monitoring results and running with it further, these actions can produce multiplied, positively-leveraged outcomes.

Superstition about a numbered day, or a specific number, like “13” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not showing up due to a doubt or worry is just a self-created setback. It helps to bring about the very outcome one may fear.

Keep standing, keep showing up. Trust in the provision of God as truth is acted upon and deployed in actionable behavior and energy.

Tomorrow

Proverbs 27:1 “Do not brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.” (The Message version)

“I’ll do that tomorrow.” “Tomorrow things will be better.” “Tomorrow I am going to do (fill in the blank.)”

Maybe it’s okay to do that “thing” tomorrow because we can only get so much done in one day. We all have to manage our energy.

The idea of things getting better tomorrow is purely subjective, unless we plan to make ourselves better tomorrow; to build our mindset and character to respond better to tomorrow, or to make a better tomorrow. It’s based on the human quality of hope.

Planning to do something tomorrow is fine as well. Why not have plan? Planning is good, looking to the future is good. We humans have that innate character and image of our Creator God in order to envision what a plan for tomorrow may look like.

But tomorrow doesn’t really exist. Tomorrow is a hope that we’ve come to expect based on all the past “tomorrows” which are now yesterday’s. Tomorrow actually is an abstract. We hope tomorrow will come, we think tomorrow will come, and we expect tomorrow will come. That’s alright. But there’s no guarantees. So we can’t announce boldly with certainty what we WILL DO tomorrow. We don’t control or govern the turning of the planet and the reality of tomorrow.

If tomorrow comes, we don’t know what it will bring with it. The world, sickness, nature, lava flows, gravity, careless texters, cancer, the stock market, and other forces beyond our control don’t care about our agenda. COVID19 has proven that; one day everything was fine, the next day, COVID. Our health was good today, but now the blood test revealed an issue. My friend was cancer free, and tomorrow he’s not. September 10th was fine, September 11th changed the world. You get the picture.

My attitude is to say, “If the Lord wills, I’d like to do “this or that” tomorrow, but let’s see what the day brings.”

Let’s not put off until tomorrow what can get done or said today. Let’s plan to move ahead with confidence into the future, but know that the future is still not assured.

Today is the day. Now is the time. Let’s work on our mind, body, soul and spirit to be able to endure in increasing measure whatever tomorrow may bring, good or bad. Let’s approach any tomorrow with gratitude and thanksgiving for life, breath, and hope.

Outlier

“For out on the edge of darkness, there rides the peace train.” Cat Stevens

That’s where the peace train rides; out on the edge of darkness. If it rode in the middle of light, the place where peace already resides, there would be no need for it. It gathers people from the edges and expands those boundaries. The peace train is an outlier to unrest and darkness.

Doctors ride into the midst of sickness, on the edges of disease. They do the most good when they are in those places of deep need, saving lives, doing surgical repairs, handing emergency room issues. Doctors are outliers to sickness.

Broken things, or things needing to be built, need architects, engineers and contractors. That train rides on the edge of development, expansion, rehabilitation. The deeper the need, the more value that is provided. Engineers and builders are outliers to disorder and decaying infrastructure.

“It’s is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not called the righteous but sin sick people to repentance.” Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t just ride on the edge of a fallen world, he entered right into the middle of it; he engaged as the God-man and flipped the value system on it’s head. Jesus was an outlier. In this case it went so far as to let the religious order think they had won the day by putting him to death, when they actually accomplished His purpose to offer salvation to the world. Resurrection doesn’t happen without death. A seed doesn’t grow unless planted in the ground.

The broader the gap, the bigger the need, the greater the outlier impact. The deeper the outlier is engaged in the mess, the more impact, disruption, and sometimes hatred from status quo.

Where’s the edges to our outlier space? What’s our outlier gap? Where are we spending our time and energy to make impact?

Happy Saturday

Checking in

It’s been a while since I have blogged and checked in with everyone. I hope you all are well. Thank you readers and followers. I deeply appreciate the engagement. Below I will update you on what’s up.

  1. It’s been a busy time since COVID19 hit. Our company at Wheaton & Sprague Engineering went “100% remote” work, shuttering office locations, on April 7th and we were in that mode until mid-June. We now have about 30% of our staff in physical office locations, and it’s slowly increasing, with caution. It takes extra effort to manage to the necessary level of engagement and communication when people are scattered. We are adjusting.
  2. Speaking of COVID19; I believe we are in this until we aren’t. That may sound obvious, but if anyone is thinking “when this is over and I get back to normal……” you need to adjust your thinking. This is the reality now. It’s a time to figure it out and get stronger; to build more relevant infrastructure in your company; to pursue “best practices” in this environment. My best guess for the next transition with less or no COVID, which may be too optimistic, is September of 2021. Be in the moment, manage to the current reality personally and professionally. Stay engaged. Build your network
  3. More COVID19: We lead with “care 1st” in our mindset and resulting interactions with our clients and staff. This applies to personal life too. “How are you doing?” “I hope you are well.” “Is there anything else I can do to support or help you?” All are relevant lead-ins to conversations. Positive results are produced by healthy people in mind, body, soul, spirit. Results are the outcome. Lead with care
  4. I’ve seen a recent increase in relevant, legitimate, project opportunities. Tech and Medical markets are strong. Combine that with some college work and research facilities and that is a good market presently. There’s more but you can figure out some of those. On the other hand, some past projects were put on hold and will likely push out indefinitely or be cancelled. The longer we can sustain “the gap” and sell into the current reality, the better. Our backlog is steady (up actually) and estimated work is strong (up as well.) We just landed a great new project at LaGuardia Airport and are pursuing some other fantastic projects that are in motion.
  5. Key Relationships: Nurture and foster your key relationships. Build on what you have. Nurture key prospective client relationships as well, and seek referrals. People want to work with those they trust and know will be present in this time. Reduce doubt for people and clients

What else is up?

  1. I have been gardening. We started garden at a community garden and have been working to reclaim the plot and grow veggies and plants in raised beds. It’s a family affair. It’s a great way to refresh and take some measure of control over questionable supply chains, to build community, live in a sustainable manner
  2. I just started a PODCAST called “Creating Structure” Podcast. It’s in the business category and you can find it on BUZZSPROUT. We also are listed now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, and Listen Notes. The next Podcast will be recorded Wednesday 8/19/2020 and will be edited and uploaded probably by 8/25/2020. You can find the first episode here https://www.buzzsprout.com/1236827/episodes/4965362
  3. Speaking of the next podcast: It will be relevant to the GLAZING, Subcontracting, Architecture, and Delegated Design-Engineering category. This podcast will feature a discussion between my Branch Operations leader and I at the request of Katy Devlin, for Glass Magazine and their “Outlook Tuesdays”. Stay tuned for future uploads and postings from us and NGA.
  4. The Patio: I turned our patio at Wheaton & Sprague from looking like a prison yard to a workable, desirable, space. It is amazing what a couple patio umbrellas, flowers, and tables can do. “If you build it they will come.” Make spaces INVITATIONAL.

Well, that’s all for today. I’ve got 13 drafts in the blog queue and much more to share. I hope you all are well. Remember, identity drives behavior as my personal and business coach taught me, and reminds me still. What we manifest on the “outside” is produced from what is on our “inside.” Focus on internal health of soul, mind, and spirit, and the physical manifestation will come on the outside. Healthy inside=healthy outside. Life is tough. Look up, lean into God, count each day as a blessing. I do that through the Lord Jesus Christ and provision of His spirit in and through me. I’m “just passing through” this reality, trying to spread blessings while do so, and while on the way to an eternal home without end. For now, I am striving to give thanks in all circumstances. Let’s inform those in our lives rather than letting them dictate to us.

Be Blessed

John

The Garden

I wanted to start a garden this year. It was really a response to the shelter-at-home Covid-19 situation initially. I’d wanted to do it for a long time, but I drug my feet. Concerns about potential food supply chain issues downstream pushed me over the top. Now was the time. Even if I failed and bugs ate the entire garden, at least I was doing SOMETHING.

So my wife and I started the garden. She and I are 100%/100% partners in this. She’s the brains, I’m the brawn. She found the place; the context. God revealed to her that there was a plot at the community garden next to our daughter’s plot (hmmm..quite the “coincidence.”) I had never considered doing it offsite. I envisioned it here, at our home. But this context was perfect. Despite my heavy reluctance at first, I said yes, and we proceeded.

Fast forward. We are now deep into the garden work; still cultivating and reclaiming what had been a neglected plot; planting in raised beds, sowing seed, laying down mulch and more. It’s still a supply chain issue, but it’s become much more than that. There are other gardeners there. Other plots. There’s community. It’s a beautiful location. It’s gets me out of my home and to a neutral location. It’s people, air, breezes, birds, water, open space, resources.

As I muscled the wheelbarrow back and forth the other night, stepping through puddles, as the sun was in it’s advanced decline to the horizon for the day, as the breeze blew across my face, I realized it’s not about supply chain any longer. It’s about freedom. The garden is freedom. The garden is choice. That garden is earth, mind, muscle, and faith. The garden is community. The garden is mindset. I smiled and rested as I made my way to the car to head home.

What helps set you free?