Sunday Spiritual – Easter

Just me being me on this significant day called Easter.

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, is one of the most well documented events in human history. He was executed, confirmed dead, his body made ready for burial, then placed in a guarded tomb. He was not present in the tomb on the 3rd day. This was verified. But it wasn’t just that the tomb was empty. He then appeared bodily to many, hundreds, actually. This was documented as well. He spoke to those to whom he appeared, further explained what was up, what it all meant,  how he had told them about it, that he was leaving to go back to the heavenly realm, and that he would  send the “one my Father promised,” the Holy Spirit.

The doctor, Luke, carefully records this in his letter to Theophilus, which we now call the gospel of Luke. Many chose to undertake to write an account of the life of Christ and Luke’s account stuck, along with the accounts from Matthew, Mark and John.

Here’s a brief account from the end of Luke’s letter, with direct quotes from Jesus, after he rose from the dead:

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:45-48

I never knew anything about this until I was 19 years old, when I heard about it for the first time. At 24 years old it became life changing. Literally. That was when I felt such a great burning with the reality of this truth, that I had to make a commitment and follow Jesus.

It is just too good to keep bottled up. Anyone who knows me, should know that if I can be forgiven eternally and walk in peace, anyone can. I don’t deserve it, but none of us do. We’re all cracked pots. Thanks to everyone who helped along my path. There were many, some of whom may be reading this.

Personally, I dont think the questions are whether Jesus existed or not, or whether he really died or not, or really overcame death to live again or not. That’s old stuff.  I think the question is “What are we going to do about it?”

There’s another life. It’s available here and after our time has passed here. Life to life.

Happy Easter.

He is Risen. And that makes everything different.

The Island

You can see it in the feet. The tan lines, the little cuts, the dirt under the toenails, the weathered soles. “Island feet.” Shoes are optional. Flip flops are the norm. Barefoot works often as well. Feet on dirt, feet on grass, feet on sand, feet in saltwater, feet on the warm deck wood. All feelings we lose in contemporary society as adults. Unrestrained feet. It’s strangely freeing. I am reminded of this every time I go to the island to spend some extended time. The roads are all dirt. There are no cars, just golf carts, fat-tired bikes, and legs for transportation.

Tee shirts are the norm. The more eclectic the better. Collared sport shirts are considered dress-up. Clothing decisions are simple. Getting dressed takes a minute or so. Shorts, shirt, flip flops, go.

Most weekends, just put on the bathing suit and water gear in the morning. No need then to change. People understand. No one really cares or judges by clothing choice anyway. It’s the island.

Islands have their own rhythm. Wind, sun, rain, tides, sunrise, sunset, fish movements, all are variables that impact the rhythm. Weather has a lot to do with it. The more remote, the more impactful these realities of nature. Sun up, sun down. What’s the wind speed? Is it a beach day or bay day?

The island I am referring to doesn’t have a bridge, so it takes work to get there. It’s only accessible by boat. When I say boat, I mean a private boat service, or your own boat, not a public ferry. So if you’re there, you’re there for a reason. For an island, the more remote, the harder to get to, the less infrastructure, the more intentional a person’s presence becomes. This creates a culture; a certain common thread. People there for a reason. Certain mindsets.

Friends get together on “island time.” Island time means “go ahead and drop in,” or “come on over.” Island time means “sometime around 4:30,” but it’s not rigid. Island time is fluid. It’s less restrictive.

“Friendly” is a big value on an island. If you don’t need someone now, you’ll need them at some point for a tool, a boat ride, flour, an extra set of hands, and for a hundred other things. Mutual dependence is normal. Community creates a much better experience.

Tired at night is really tired. Island tired. Days are long, nights are dark, fatigue settles in quickly. Physical fatigue, not just mental and emotional. The fatigue of being out in the elements, using the body heavily. The fatigue I remember as a kid in the summertime after running all day from early to late.

It’s an island. The feet know it. The body feels it. It’s simpler. It’s slower. It’s freeing. It’s life giving. Once experienced, it’s tough to live without it.

Contemporary Work

I’ve got my work gear now able to fit into one Italian leather soft shell briefcase. Its got one center compartment, a pocket in back with a zipper, and a couple storage pockets inside. It’s got a strap so I can throw it over my arm and go where I need to go. I can run my business and life from anywhere with this bag and gear. In addition, I have my mobile device. I can’t work without it. The gear includes a Dell Laptop computer, power cord, key for electronic signature, earbuds for meetings or privacy, work journal (5 × 8 Picadilly with grid paper,) positive focus journal sheets to record wins, and some coaching reference material to remind me of my focus. I also have an emergency power supply for my phone just in case I need it. I use secure wireless when out of my physical office, which is typical. If it is not available, I use my WiFi hotspot on my mobile device.

I’ve got connectivity via SharePoint, MS Teams, and the company VPN. Meetings with staff or clients are done exclusively via MS Teams, except my Creating Structure podcast which is done via Zoom.

I can write proposals, do meetings, review work products, PE seal and sign documents, and sign legal documents, all electronically. I can meet with staff, leadership team, clients, vendors, banker, accountant, lawyer, agents, all via virtual means.

If the grid goes down, if I have any connectivity issues, and I am in region, I have a physical office as a back up. Isn’t that funny to say? It used to be that remote connectivity was the back up. That’s not the case any more for me. I’ve got a great office, but at this point it’s really optional. Clients don’t care about my office. They just care about results. They care about accessibility and responsiveness. They care about value, work product delivery, schedule maintenance, and integrity.

That’s speaks well to my current position and infrastructure. It’s speaks well to our core values at http://www.wheatonsprague.com which are “communicate, integrity, collaborate, client conscious, capable.” Nothing restricts us from supporting this regardless of context or location.

In fact, for me, and for many professionals in service related businesses, the phrase, “I’m working remotely,” is irrelevant now. So is “I’m in office.” I’m either at my work or not. I’m either at my “desk,” wherever that is, or I’m not. I’m either on or off, available or not available.

I couldn’t envision 30 years ago, that there would be a day I could run a business from anywhere, work from anywhere, connect via many platforms. But here it is. It’s only going to advance and accelerate more, as long as there’s a grid, power, access to food and clean water. But that’s the subject of another blog post.

Push the edges, but take nothing for granted.

What’s your gear, office, and connectivity look like?

Backwards

I think that we often have our values reversed; or maybe it’s just me.

Why would we want to sleep longer in the morning on our day off ? Don’t we want to get on with our free time?

Why would we want to spend the best of our energy during the work day prioritizing answering emails? Shouldn’t we save it for later, when we have used up most of our creativity on more important problems or value propositions?

Why would we consider it a win, like we’ve cheated the system, to skip a workout day, or a good nutrition day, as if we deserve it? Don’t we want to pursue health every day in some form?

Why do we prioritize the tyranny of the urgent over that which is important? Do we always want to be responding to other people’s priorities for us to the exclusion of everything else?

Flip the paradigm. Own rather than be owned. Initiate rather than just respond. Rethink the value system. Start in some measure immediately.

“Limbo”

There’s a word and phrase in my culture that we may speak to ourselves when we feel stuck, delayed, or unable to make a clear decision- “I’m feeling like I’m in limbo.” Or “I don’t like being in limbo.”

The other day I woke up in that space. There was a conflict in my mind between two major issues that unexpectedly presented themselves, issues that required attention, disrupting the exact timing on another major event I scheduled many, many months ago.

My first thought was, “I can’t be in limbo anymore about this.”

Then I reflected. There really is no “limbo.” Limbo is a mental construct. Limbo is the tension created internally between what I want to do versus what the situation is requiring me to do now; the true NEED versus my WANT or DESIRE.

Limbo is a signal that I am not living in the moment. That I am not being present in what’s before me.

Once I made the shift, I moved out of that tension. There is no LIMBO.

I get to choose. You get to choose.

Lean In

Lean in to the hills; the upward struggles; the view is better at the top

Lean in when the pain is unavoidable; identify the source

Lean in to good times and enjoy; there’s no guarantees

Lean into that special moment; it may never come again in the same form

Lean in to tough times; experience is gained

Lean in to relationships; there’s nothing more important

Lean in to journaling, to expressing thoughts on paper; personal growth takes place in this context

Lean in to listening; much learning takes place

Lean in to change; it’s one of the few constants in life

Lean in to hearing different views; it expands our mind whether we agree or not

Lean in to being flexible; sometimes the magic is found there

Lean in to growth; no one will do it for us

Lean in to understanding; no one can take it away

Leaning is a mental posture.

Leaning in is better than leaning out

Back at it

This is a continuation of my last blog, “What’s On My Mind.” It’s so hard sometimes to organize thoughts, so I just start to write. As I write, I go back and edit, then keep writing, then edit, and so on. Actually it’s always hard to organize thoughts for me because I have so much content going on in my head, in my brain, so many thoughts, observations, and “stuff.” I’ve got ADD brain which primarily manifests itself for me in two ways. One way is the ability to hyper-focus for extended periods of time, at depth, on a specific item, or work product, to completion. The other way is to start a bunch of things and not finish them. This is the most classic. I’ve learned over the years how to recognize it, discipline myself, and when to roll with it or not. I also have learned that they call it “the entrepreneurial brain” since the majority of entrepreneurs have the condition. (At least that what I am reading and hearing now.) I’ll talk more about this in the future as to how I manage it with exercise, nutrition, hydration, mindset practices, prayer, and more.

The way to make the idea of “start a lot of things but not finish them” actually be a positive thing is to have a staff of people that can run with them, manage them, do them, etc. My mind thinks in overlapping concentric or non-concentric circles. Everything is a layer or a domain that overlaps and connects to other items. Linear is not my thing, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s okay. There’s times when thinking linearly is necessary, but I have to force myself to think in that manner or have others hold me accountable to do so. I am finding that the best way to make this work in our company, and to not drive people crazy, is to have an integrator person, or persons, to filter things through; to cull the ideas; because EVERY idea sometimes feels right, but it’s not. And if it is, it might not yet be organized or clear enough to implement. How does it align with strategy? Can we afford it? Can we execute to that with our people? Are we ready? These are appropriate, and sometime frustrating, questions, but they are the right questions to ask. (I get bored easily.)

So today my partner and I, and our team of leaders and managers, meet for the first time for starting the implementation of “E.O.S.” the “Entrepreneurial Operating System.” This was introduced to me by my personal coach, Dr. Chuck Misja, earlier this year. Through reading the book “Rocket Fuel” and taking some tests, then further vetting the ideas, my partner and I made the decision to jump into it. Today and tomorrow are E.O.S. focus days. Vision- Traction organizing. Clearer strategy definition. Group work. I’m excited about it. Our people are excited about it. It will be hard, but it will be good. David Howard, the “biz-tech sherpa” and a trusted business consultant working with us, is leading us through the exercise and facilitating.

So, I was going to talk about our 3-D printer. That’s right. I had every intent, as I started to talk about organizing my thoughts, that the topic for today would be innovation, our 3-D printer, the “why” behind it, and some bullet points I believe you should think about as you consider tools, innovation, value-add, and market awareness. But now there’s no time for more posting. That will have to be another blog. I did manage to cover my mention of EOS from the last blog, I just didn’t expect to do it in this way. Such is the ADD brain. Like I said, I am learning to just write. The writing takes me where I need to go. It must be the right topic for today. Perhaps this will identify with one or more readers, and that will make it all even more worthwhile. If not, it was worthwhile to me. That’s one reason why I write. It’s cathartic. It’s worthwhile to me. It helps manage my over-active brain.

Be well. See ya next time

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.

The Flagship Office- The Office for the Now

Back in early December of 2020, one of my outside board of advisory members asked me this question, “So now with COVID19 reality and remote work, what are you going to do with this building?” My immediate answer was brilliant, “I don’t know.” Subsequently the board members, my partner, and I, engaged in a discussion about the pro’s and con’s of having a substantial office space that was equipped for doubling the size of our staff, assuming everyone was in the office. “What do you think the odds are that everyone will return to the office?” “Do you envision a reality where 100% of staff will be operating together 100% of the time, with no offsite remote work?” “How do we justify the overhead costs with empty space?” “What’s the value?” Many of us are asking these same questions.

I recently participated in a PSMJ (Professional Services Management Journal) webinar about current compensation strategies and the future of human resources (HR) in A/E firms (Architecture and Engineering.) Multiple surveys were taken from the 300+ participants during the 1-hour session. All were dealing with the questions of remote work, partial remote work, in-office, out-of-office, and so on. Interestingly, while multiple hybrid work models were the largest percentage of the sampling, a follow up analysis showed that only 5% of people wanted to remain remote and work at home 100% of the time. If you had gotten answers to the same question one year ago in February of 2020, prior to everyone actually doing remote work, you would have gotten a much higher percentage.

The debate is real. The questions are substantive. We’ve seen big companies choose to not occupy new headquarters buildings, to cancel new leases, and to stay in current spaces. We’ve seen some say “we’re going to be 100% remote now forever.” We’ve seen some still going ahead with buildings equipped to house all or part of their staff. But the reality is, everything has changed. What was once the norm is now disrupted. It was going this way, but the COVID19 pandemic reality accelerated the process; it created the cause-effect response available in a connected, internet-based, digital world. Response to the remote-based work environment, hybrid models, or 100% in-office, are going to vary by industry, company, and position. All I know is that it’s going to be different.

Once again, the question: “So now with COVID19 reality and remote work, what are you going to do with this building?” I’ve been thinking about this continually, monitoring our experience, getting input from others on an Executive forum thread with PSMJ, listening to staff, to podcasts, gathering information, talking to clients, related businesses, and more. I’ve been watching the realities hitting retail in the pandemic and digital environment as well. We all know that the future, and the “now”, of “brick and mortar” retail is quite different. Smart retailer’s have gone digital, while also showcasing some of their work and products in specific stores. Outlier stores have been closed, inventory in the remaining stores reduced, and more invested in online and warehoused inventory. So what about the future of the “office?” What about the future of it in the context of professional services? How about more specifically in A/E? Here’s how I envision it.

Think “flagship store.” The future of “the professional service office” is a multi-dimensional experience for all who enter, all who are affiliated with the company, including staff, clients, vendors, affiliates, referrers, advocates, collaborators, students, recruits, and more. Just as smart retailers have put in place digital infrastructure while creating a physical retail location that is experiential, showcasing products, services, and supporting their brand, such is the future of the professional services office. What does this multi-dimensional office look like? What is the envisioned experience? What is it? What is it not? It will depend on the location, industry, work type, and so much more.

It is no longer simply a place to go work for 8 hours a day and go home. It is no longer a static space to just do work and collaborate with clients and staff. It’s a “watering hole” a “community well” a “gathering place” for the industry, domain, practice segments. It is a representation of brand through physical placement of things representing the work, through digital experiences accessible in multiple areas throughout the facility, where clients can access and reference the showcased services, engage electronically, or personally. The 3-D printer is continually printing samples of products and goods supported by the service. Spaces are nimble and flexible for collaborative teams. Spaces are hybridized. Glass is more prevalent in creating separation and visibility at the same time. People can talk to a representative like they do at a bank. Services can be ordered and procured on the spot if desired. Clients, supporters, and other people connected to the company can come and use common spaces as a “third space” to use wireless, collaborate, take a coffee break. Staff members work productively whether from home or from office based on the need, the work typology, and tasks at hand. Projects are displayed physically, and electronically. The space is a shared work space, brand support, resting space, and more. It is a media center as well. The podcast (if you have one) is produced from a studio in the office such as the one I produce called “The Creating Structure Podcast.” When not accessible, staff, clients, and constituents can have a virtual experience.

Everything we do, including the facilities in which we work, are an opportunity to support and express brand; to express innovation, attract, retain, support and care. The facility, in my reality, has always been required to communicate as much as possible about who we are in the physical expression of the space.

I’m looking forward to creating more of a “flagship” office experience. That’s what we are going to do. That’s how we will use the space. Now let’s see how much we can make it a reality.

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.