Tailwinds Day #4 – Running Because I Can

“There will come a day when I cannot do this… today is not that day.” 

Jack’s brain when the alarm sounds in the morning.

I just got back from a run. I thought it important to get this down before the dopamine wears off.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with running. Actually, “love” is a rather strong term, let’s call it more of a “tolerate” / hate relationship.  Before anyone gets riled up and tells me that I “just have to give it a chance” or “you need to break past the barrier and it gets better,” trust me, I’ve given it a shot.  I’ve run two marathons, three half marathons, a series of 10ks and a few random triathlons.  If there is such a thing as a runner’s high, I need to find a new dealer.

Not running sucksAll this being said,  I am very aware of health benefits and the reasons I need to run.  Yes, there can be a meditative brain flush when the jams are pumping.  But more importantly, I’ve spent enough time on crutches to understand what it must be like to lose or never have mobility. So, why do I run if it’s such a chore?  Because I can….. and I like cake.  While I am physically able, I will maximize the benefits of this laborious task and be thankful for the opportunity.

Besides, unlike swimming, when running I have all the oxygen I want and the scenery changes.  But that’s for another blog. Stay tuned….

Tailwinds Day #3 – “Jimmy Jam” Johnson

On this bright sunny Monday morning, it seems fitting that today’s Tailwind is brought to you by Jim Johnson. When I started with Radio One, “Jimmy Jam” was a major influence and deserves a lot of credit for success I may have had during my early years with the company. He was a veteran seller who knew almost everyone in Baltimore, yet he spent more than one late night talking this young account executive off of ledges and navigating the problem du jour. He didn’t need to do this, but I’m glad he did. His generosity and willingness to help “the new kid” when I had absolutely nothing to offer in return made a huge impression that has not been forgotten. Jim has since left the company but think of his guidance often.

Fast forward many years to present day. I don’t speak with Jim as often as I would like. However, thanks to the power of social media, I am still inspired by Jim on a daily basis. Every morning, without fail, by the time I get out of bed Jim has completed a daily walk regardless of weather conditions and has posted a synopsis on Facebook with a few daily headlines. I enjoy reading updates and draw motivation from the fact he is already up and taking on the world.

Thanks for all of this Jimmy Jam.

Tailwinds Day #1 – Genetics

Genetics PictureI said these tailwinds were not in any particular order and technically they won’t be.  But for the sake of foundation, I’m going to start at the beginning.  Today, I am going to acknowledge Genetics as my Tailwind.

Despite a lack of hand-eye coordination and a limited attention span, I’d say I come from pretty good stock.  Both of my parents and my grandparents on my mom’s side were fully functional and cognitive well into their eighties.  My dad was physically active taking daily walks, riding his bike, hiking and camping up until he had the stroke.  I’m the youngest of five siblings and we’ve all been fortunate to be healthy thus far.  Almost half a century into my time here, I can still run around a soccer field with some measure of aptitude, able to muscle through Julia’s 8th-grade math, keep up with Aidan’s quick wit, and my Dr. is still surprised to see me when I am in his office.  These are good things.

Headwinds and Tailwinds

So I am taking on a challenge….

It stems from a podcast I listened to earlier this week on Freakonomics Radio. This episode titled “Why Is My Life So Hard?” was centered on a paper the guests published  called The Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry: An Availability Bias In Assessments Of Barriers And Blessings.” In the paper, they study why everyone tends to believe their road is more difficult than others.  This is something I’ve noticed and pondered before.  Obviously, these dudes have wondered the same thing and figured out a way to get paid for an answer.  Color me jealous.

We all do it in one way or another.  It’s natural.  Some common examples were “Why you think your parents were tougher on you than your siblings,” “Why both sides of the political aisle are convinced the deck is stacked against them,” “Why our profession is more demanding than others” etc.  The tendency is to notice the obstacles (headwinds) without paying attention to strengths or positives (tailwinds). Even if we do notice the tailwind, appreciation is fleeting.  One analogy they mentioned that resonated was a running with a strong wind in your face. When heading into the wind, it’s the bane of your existence.  After finally turning around, and the wind is at your back, the appreciation lasts for only a moment until thought turns to the next hill that’s in your way.

Eventually, they got to the point which I will now as well.  The people they find are the most balanced and successful are those that continually show gratitude to the tailwinds. Showing gratitude, more specifically, documenting the good fortune that has helped you along the way, creates a symmetrical counterbalance and highlights strengths that may be underappreciated. The context can be anything, but it needs to be specific.  It can’t be just “I appreciate my health.” This claim might be true but what specifically do you appreciate about it?  Same thing goes for people. You can’t just appreciate a person, what is it about them or what did they do that you appreciate?  If you want to double down, they suggest letting the person know.  Besides emotional vulnerability, what’s the harm in letting someone know they made a positive impact?  For some reason, we rarely do this enough.

Swimming-Upstream-Bear
This is me swimming up hill.

Let’s be honest; I have it harder than any of you.  I’m kidding of course. At my core, I am well aware that I am extremely fortunate in more ways than I can count.  That being said, I am not above contradicting myself and admitting that, I sometimes lose sight of my tailwinds and it seems like I’m swimming uphill.  If you are with me, let me hear you say, “Go ahead with your hypocritical self Jack!!!”

Taking all this into consideration, I thought I’d conduct a little experiment. I am taking on a challenge with a friend of mine to acknowledge one tailwind every day for 30 days.  To make it stick, we decided it needs to be in a public forum. I will probably use this blog.  I’ve been told I can be a bit long winded with the words.  This will be great practice in constructing short, concise, deeply profound, impactful, one thought posts. We’ll see how that works….

To be clear; what this is not:

  • With the exception of my girls dominating the CYO U-14 Soccer season, 2016 was a very difficult year for several reasons. This 30-day effort is not a cry for help or an effort to recover from a tumultuous downslide.  I’m fine. I just had an idea and thought I’d see where it goes.
  • This exercise is not comfortable.  It probably should be, but for some reason, it’s not. Which seems all the more reason to take on the challenge.
  • This gratitude is not to be confused with satisfaction.  Appreciating something doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for mediocrity when I know it can be better.
  • This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it in order.  I don’t have it written as of yet; I intend to go with what presents itself along the way.
  • This is by no means a solitary effort.  If you would like to join me and potentially start my first viral movement, please feel free.

Who knows; maybe if we use social media for some positive energy, instead of venting about political headwinds, or telling me “You’re not going to believe what happens next in this video,” …… the world might just be a better place.

I’d be interested to know; what are your tailwinds and do you appreciate them?

Thank you wind

“Yeah Julia; One More…”

So this post is a bit delayed. It’s been in my head for a while; recently I was motivated to let it roll.  I’ve posted a few times about my chronicles in coaching. This edition will be the next in the series.

Julia’s in 8th grade, her final year at ICS which means we are now headed down the home stretch of this adventure.  The fast-approaching milestone was crystallized in one succinct emotion piercing phrase last August.  I’d heard the phrase dozens if not hundreds of times over the past seven years.  This time though when I heard it through the twilight, it meant something completely different.

Each season I’ve enjoyed the wins, found positives in the losses and without question enjoyed every minute of the ride.   When I look back on all of this, the moments I will cherish the most are those almost no one could see.

After practice, parents come and claim their player, whisking them off to finish homework or start a bath. Eventually, everyone would be claimed, and it would just be me, my kid, 6 or

encore
Encore!

8 balls and an empty soccer field.  We would stay and take shots on goal, play one on one or some other type of made up game.  About the time the sun was almost gone I would announce it was time to go. Julia would object, and I would continue playing with the enthusiasm of an aging rock band cheered back on stage for another encore.  This dance repeated itself a couple of times, usually well past the point of darkness.

 

Back in August, I was once again on a darkening soccer field at reality-ball-gifRidgely Middle School watching Julia’s shadowy silhouette line up another shot. I called
out to announce it was time to pack up and head home.  Almost immediately as if it was a rehearsed response, her voice cut through the darkness. “Nooo…..  Dad….. ONE MORE…..”  I’m not great with hints, but with the subtlety of Mr. Trump at a N.O.W. convention, The Universe provided a reminder of reality. As of then, we had “one more” season.

I’m well aware  of the impermanence of raising kids and that times like those are numbered. I try to be mindful and not wax poetic about days gone by.  Yes, the moment stopped me in my tracks and made this dad melt inside. In my world, there could not be a more direct way of saying “enjoy this!!!”  Even at that moment, I knew her words were a gift.  We don’t always get the notification that there is only “One More.” As I watched her in the darkness, I knew I needed to appreciate not only the time we had left on a dark soccer field but all of the random situations and great moments yet to come.

The referee will eventually blow the whistle to signify the end of our last game. I will surely be sad and would give anything to begin again with practice #1.   The memories of soccer will serve as one more reminder that the clock is always running.  We can’t stop it from getting dark; we can’t stop the kids from growing, but we can stay when you hear that call.  With that in mind, I will try and repeat the same answer I gave that night in August ; “Yeah Julia……. One More……….”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making A Molehill Out Of A Mountain….(Chunks Of A Mountain; full version)

This past weekend I was skiing with my daughter Julia, a couple of her friends and their families. We don’t ski very often, maybe once a year. The girls are pretty athletic, and their progress in just this short two-day trip was pretty amazing. By mid-day on day #2 they were feeling comfortable on their skis, maybe even a little cocky, and were ready for a bit more challenge. It was time for the “Black Diamond.”

Anticipation had been building for weeks. The “Black Diamond” slopes were the toughest our Western Mayland mountain had to offer. Once the gauntlet had been thrown, and the girls called each other’s bluff, it was “go time.” We headed to the fiercely named “Odin’s Chute.” I skied to the crest of the “cliff” and watched as the girls cautiously approached. Even through their tinted goggles, I could see their eyes increase in size as they began to realize they could see the bottom but could not see the hill itself.Drop

Being teenage girls and great friends they are usually full of chatter. At this time, however, there was silence. By now they had descended a preliminary hill and knew there was no going back. As a Coach and a Dad, this is the type of teachable moment you dream of….. The expressions on their faces said,

“I will listen to anything you have to say if it keeps me alive.”  

There were no arguments, no rebuttals, just a united focus that non-verbally said… “yes, I’m listening.”

The other parents and I refilled the girls rapidly depleting reserves of confidence and assured them that they were completely capable of accomplishing what they set out to do. They just needed to take this on like they would any seemingly insurmountable task. In bite sized pieces.  It was one turn at a time and to cut it into small “chunks.”  By this I mean, ski across the side of the mountain, turn and ski back.  With each turn, they would descend a little more.  Don’t worry about the next turn, only what’s in front of you.  One turn at a time.  That’s exactly what they did.  They took on the mountain, cut it into bite size “chunks”, accomplished their goal and claimed a well-deserved victory.

The girls know me well enough to realize I will always find a deeper meaning, and this was no exception.  Throughout life, we are continually faced with projects, tasks, long-range goals, which make us shake in our boots.  When we break them down and take them one turn at a time, eventually we get where we want to go.  Sure we are scared.  Sure we question if what we are about to do is a wise decision.  We probably won’t even accomplish the goal our first attempt.  But when we earn the right to pose for the picture, it’s worth a thousand words.

Black D
The sign above them says it all.

What’s your next Black Diamond????

 

 

 

Go Ahead, Call Me Names…

As I mentioned earlier this week, for a few months a year I don an alter ego as “Coach Jack.” In all honesty, this is a bit of misnomer as it is the opposite of “alter” and all about “ego.”  When I’m on the soccer field with “my girls” I’m as inherent as a forty-something guy with a mortgage can be. There is a reward that comes after walking that undefined line and pushing a player beyond their comfort zone to a point where they may be rather unimpressed you, only to watch them accomplish things they did not know they could do.  When you laugh with the player later, the bond is stronger and unequaled by many things in life. During the times mentioned above, I am quite confident the name they are calling me is not, Coach Jack.  When a breakthrough finally happens that I help instigate, it makes everything right. It provides a feeling of invincibility that lasts until the next 12-year-old puts you in your place.

During my tenure as Coach Jack, there have been many players that have fueled and fed this drive along the way.  There was Danny of course, my nephew, who started it all.  He was the first person that caused me to be simultaneously angry and proud when he passed the ball in front of an open net so that a teammate could score his first goal.  In that same era, there was “Rachel Defense.” An eight-year-old girl that had a natural ability for timing and position that caused many a young man to rethink his future in soccer.  I think of “Ella the Goalie,” a dainty 9-year-old girl with bows in her hair that wanted nothing more than to be the last line of defense for her team.  By the end of the season after bumps, bruises and tears she learned her craft and stopped a point-blank shot in the championship game that earned her my eternal gratitude.  There was Caroline, who’s parents told me “she should play defense because she’s more comfortable when the ball rolls towards her and all she has to do is kick it.” Two years later, mid-way through the season, Caroline was our leading scorer.  These players and many others* pushed me to be the best coach I can be.  (*This short list intentionally omits current players, but I promise there are many more examples published in my tell-all novel.)  There is one player however that in my eyes has a highlight reel all to herself.
Her drive to compete second only to her overzealous coach.  She (and her smaller, but an equally important partner in crime) unknowingly push me not only to be a better coach but to be a better person.

As a coach you are not supposed to play favorites but I unabashedly admit, #10 is one of two very favorite players who has ever walked on a soccer field.  And it’s not just because of this moment:

Championship Game – Score tied 0-0.  :30 seconds left.

She doesn’t have things easy.  She’s the coach’s kid.  Every team has one. It’s the kid who has to be at every practice early and stays past the last player has been picked up.  The player that has to perform with higher expectations than the others to get praise, so it does not look like the coach is playing favorites.  They don’t get to leave practice or a game “on the field”. There is the talk of the team or strategy all week long.  This

IMG_1311
Game Jersey, Goalie Jersey Elected Captain on Opening Day by her teammates.

player that is forced to play goalie, or offensive line or any other potentially undesirable position because the coach can’t put other players in situations where he or she would not put their child.  Other factors make this role more difficult.  The big loud guy who yells a lot is not always the most popular guy on the field.  He or she is an easy target for peer ridicule.  That’s not easy to hear. And lastly, but certainly not least, the coach can and will say things to this player that are a bit more direct and possibly cutting. They do this because…. well… there is no good reason.  It just happens, and I’m sorry it does.

 

Julia, #10,  is that player for me.  She had to stay in the goal long after the Julia kickother girls who wanted to try it realized it wasn’t always fun.   Without complaining, she accepted her fate and put in extra time outside of regular
practice to learn the position.  Now, even though it’s not her first choice when she plays in the nets with a confidence that makes me nervous and an ability that makes my voice crack when I congratulate her on a save. Other instances seem to have left a scar.  Such as the time that despite having scored two goals in the first half and making, at least, ten saves in the second half, she was not awarded the “Game Orange” because another girl had yet to receive such an honor. This offense took place five seasons ago.  I’m not sure of the shelf life for this atrocity.  In the time since then, I am fairly sure I could have grown an orange tree or two that would have repaid my debt several times over.

Julia Breakfast#10 turns 13 today. It’s gone by in a flash.  She’s been #10 since her grandfather first held her and proclaimed her a perfect 10 for being the tenth grandchild. I wish I could say that I remember every game, every moment she had made my life special, but that would be impossible. This morning I tried to explain that I not only love her because she’s my daughter which is almost mandatory, I like her and truly enjoy being around her.  She was quick to remind me that she was now 13, and that may change. Both of our statements may be true. Time will tell.  But I for the time being she’s one of my favorite people to talk with and spend time.
She’s an incredible big sister and a daughter that makes Patty and me proudIMAG0119 every day.  image1She does a spot on Dad impression, has a creative mind that connects unrelated topics with ease and an ability to make me laugh almost on command.  She is intelligent, caring, giving and compassionate for most of her waking hours. However, once she crosses the sideline to walk on the field, she’s a five foot, three inches, blonde haired, blue eyed, ball of Catholic school girl fury in a Lululemon headband.

The name “Coach Jack” is a natural extension of my personality.  Thirteen

2012-11-17 007(0) copy
Yellowjackets WIN!  Our first title and she hit the game-winning shot.  I thought it was ok to show a bit of public favoritism.

years ago today, #10 joined my team.  She gave me the name “Dad”, and suddenly my entire world changed in ways I could not possibly have Julia Posterimagined. I am a very fortunate man in many ways.  Two amazing kids call me this name every day (they also use Mac Daddy, which is acceptable and maybe even encouraged).  Granted, the name Dad is not always said in the most positive light.  Much like the situation above, when a player is pushed out of their comfort zone, the method to the madness is not always understood or appreciated.  When it’s a
parent that’s causing the discomfort, the irritation to the child is magnified.  That’s ok with me; they can say whatever they want as long as they call me Dad. I’ve answered to many nicknames in my life, but Dad is the name that I am most proud.  I’m more than willing to tell everyone why.

 

Happy Birthday, Julia.  We love you.  Dad, Mom and Aidan.

Goals and Wins…. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Championship…

“This season, all I care about are Goals and Wins!”

     –Coach Jack

Those were the words that started off my first speech of the season. I’m a firm believer that when leading a team of 7th-grade girls it’s important to establish priorities immediately. This being my 3rd full season, the girls were aware their coach was a little off kilter and may take his role of “Coach Jack” just a bit too seriously. Even with their measured expectations I could tell this statement took them by surprise. I’m confident they felt duped and were wondering what happened to the guy who used to promise fun and just wanted them to try hard?

Old Soccer
Yes, Jorts were part of the uniform and all the rage back in the 90’s.

I became “Coach Jack” in my early twenties when my nephew Danny’s, team needed a coach. I had nothing better to do so I coerced my buddy Doug into joining me for an adventure that would surely impress the ladies. Minutes into our first practice it was glaringly obvious to both of us that we had absolutely no idea how to communicate with wide-eyed, nervous 8-year-olds. There we were, standing in the middle of a huge field on a hot summer night. Fourteen pairs of brand spanking new soccer shoes and oversized shin guards waiting to be scuffed. We looked at them,… they looked at us… and we looked at each other. You know that awkward moment when you run into an old friend and have absolutely nothing to talk about despite having something big in common?  Yeah, that’s what it felt like. I was scrambling words to wind up our first pep talk when I backed Doug and me into a corner by concluding with an overly enthusiastic….. “you are going to have a GREAT time and we PROMISE you are going to have fun!!!” or something along those lines. I could see the veil of polite confusion lift. Their faces were lit up and all eyes were focused on the guy who promised FUN. It was easy to see I struck a nerve and was now speaking their language. And just like that, “Coach Jack” was conceived.

It didn’t take long to see they were buying what we were selling. We worked hard to make sure the kids had Fun. Our not so secret ulterior motive was to turn these kids into Spartan-like athletes that would drop their surname to become one of the greats like, Pele, Maradona, and Doug. I think we only lost two or three games those first couple of seasons (but who was counting besides me). That season turned into another and eventually into several years of rec teams, travel teams and indoor soccer. Eventually when my nephew Danny grew older, I hung up my whistle.

 

Yellowjackets Victory
U-10 Championship For the Yellow “Jack-ets”. After this Julia and I were off the CYO League. Julia is in the back row 2nd from the right.  Credit to Liz Sweeney for realizing my name was in the already agreed upon team name.

When my daughter, Julia, began playing soccer six years ago, I was more than willing to once again break out the whistle and “Coach Jack” was back again. Thankfully Julia tolerates her Dad’s antics. We’ve had our successes along the way that seem to validate my methods. Like any daughter, she lets me know when I go over the top, but I catch her laughing so I consider it a wash.

 

I currently coach the Immaculate Conception 7th grade girls. It’s a school team made up almost entirely of classmates. There are no tryouts and the team is the team. You take the players you get. Julia began playing for this team in the middle of her 4th-grade year. I became the head coach the following fall. Before my first full season with “my girls”, one of the parents of a long time player said, “good luck getting these girls moving. There is no chance of getting them to play aggressively.” I know a challenge when I hear it. This guy had history on his side. “those girls” hadn’t won a game in three years and scored only 3 goals in the past two seasons. My first season didn’t fair much better. We scored three goals en route to another 0-10 season.

Interspersed in the fun, I preach soccer philosophy over and over until the girls are sick of hearing the self-proclaimed “Coach Jackisms”. It’s known by all of them, that I’d rather have smart players than good players. Smart players can become good, good players don’t always become smart. Like most coaches, there are a few phrases that I probably repeat hundreds of times throughout the season. I continually tell them that my goal is for them to “understand the game”, “make good decisions” and the one that is emphasized loudly at least once a practice…. “We play smart soccer!”

Version 2
Worst to First…. from 0-10 to 10-0.            2014 ICS Eagles.

Somewhere along the line something clicked. We went from 0-10 the first year to 10-0 the second year. At the end of the season, we entered a tournament and did not know what to expect. We ended up winning the U-12 division to cap off an amazing season.

 

Towsontown Champs
2014 Towson Soccerfest U-12 Champs. I was freezing and the girls were in short sleeves. It’s moments like this that help Julia (next to me) tolerate the rest of my behavior that would make most 12-year-olds cringe.

So this year’s coaching mantra was “Goals” and “Wins”. When explained further, after the shock value of my opening statement wore off, “Goals” are what the girls would set for themselves and “Wins” happened whenever someone achieved their goal. When wins started to accumulate, our wins as a team were sure to follow. Before practice, I called on each girl and asked them to proclaim their goal for that practice. After practice, I asked, “who had a win?” Sometimes a girl would raise her hand and others a teammate

Soccer clap men
“Who had a win today?”

would point out, “Cindy played aggressive” or something to that effect. We would all give the soccer clap of respect to a player who achieved their goal and that’s how we ended the practice.

 

The timeliness of this post is a result of one of those moments of clarity that stops you in your tracks. It occurred during the game I coached on Sunday. This year we entered the same end of year tournament in a higher U-15 division to play against a mixture of 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade girls. Hopes were not that high since as 7th graders we were younger and smaller than the other teams. Surprisingly we were one of two teams that made it out of the first day undefeated.

In the semi-finals, we were playing a very tough team from Columbia MD. It was half-time and we were winning 1-0. All of the things we had been practicing were coming together. It was truly fun to watch. I called the girls together for my halftime review and started with the question; “are you having fun?” Almost in unison I heard and enthusiastic, “YES!” One player raised her hand. Before I said a word, she described a scenario on the field and how we could capitalize. Immediately another player chimed in with something they had noticed and how a teammate can benefit. Then another player spoke up, and another. All the comments were accurate. I didn’t have to say a word. All of a sudden I saw it in front of me….. “my girls” were indeed smart soccer players. They knew the game. They were playing for each other. They wanted to win and despite being probably the youngest team in the division, they believed they could. I barely said a word during the rest of halftime.

Then, as if it was something from the movie “Hoosiers” – I started the hand pile for our customary “Can’t Stop…. Won’t Stop” battle cry as per our custom before games and at the end of halftime. Still feeling the emotion from what I just witnessed, I said a the tone of pure pride; “listen to your teammates; trust your teammates; trust yourselves. You know what to do; I’m proud of you all and I love you guys.” This was a bit awkward for me, as I’ve never gone THAT deep as to tell a team I love them. Any perceived awkward moment was erased when voices responded immediately and almost in unison “we love you too coach”.

We didn’t win that game. We lost 2-1. The girls were upset with the loss of a contest that could have gone either way. That’s completely understandable and I would have liked to have advance to the finals as well. For the rest of that day (we had one more game against a team of 8th-grade girls and won 6-1 in case you were wondering) I watched them differently. These were girls who loved to compete and loved to play. They knew the game and were having fun. All I wanted to accomplish when I set my personal “Goal” during that very first practice a long long time ago was playing out in front of me. Regardless of the score, I felt like a winning Coach. I know I will consider that game one of the biggest “Wins” of my career.Whistle

Somewhere along the way, in the midst of all this fun, the lessons, the yelling, the sweat, the bumps the bruises, the measurement of being a successful coach went beyond win / loss records or championships.

Thank you, ladies, for continuing to teach me something new and being the reason I achieved my goal. To answer my own question; “are you having fun?” My response is; “more than ever.”

The Oreo Cookie, MBAs, and Me

Admittedly my affection for “off the rack” cookies is way beyond reason or the acceptable norm.  I know, I know, I know….  I get it.  There are all kinds of arguments that can stem from that statement.  They are made using mass produced, low quality ingredients, hydrogenated oils, etc. etc.  But lets move beyond that because it’s my blog and I choose the topics.  In my opinion Chips Ahoy is the golden standard.  I’m talking about the original, crunchy, regular allotment of chips; Chips Ahoy cookie.  There are now 31 varieties of Chips Ahoy if you include the Jello Chips Ahoy Pudding.  All of that so called product “improvement” non-sense was for naught as they peaked with the release of the original.  The Oreo is a different story.  Nabisco waited 63 years for what I would consider one of the biggest “a ha” moments in culinary history since the invention of the cupcake (1796).

Here’s the scene I picture; the workhorse of the Nabisco cookie kingdom is now 63 years old and sales are becoming a little stale (pun intended).  They need to develop some type of revolutionary development.  Then, as if a result of divine intervention, one high level executive pipes in

“Eureka!!!  I’ve got it!!!! LET’S DOUBLE THE STUFF!!!”

The response to which must have been a gasp throughout the room followed by a thundering round of applause.  I am assuming this person had an MBA if not a doctorate in Amazing Ideas.  I’m making this assumption not just because he was an executive at Nabisco, but because… well… he had one of the greatest ideas known to modern man.  From that moment on, Double Stuff Oreos have been super-sizing the american public.

Again... Logic.
Again… Logic.

So what’s the take away from this amazing statement of the obvious?  What it boils down to is a basic key to success.  Find out what you do well, and do more of it.  This simplified concept is spelled out at length in thousands of leadership books, seminars and classes. “Strength Based Leadership”, “Maximizing Talent” it’s all the same Double Stuff Principle. (Double Stuff Principle, is a JackFacts original as far as I know.)

Something funny happens when you apply the Double Stuff Principle.  Usually, when you do something that falls into one of your “strength” categories, it’s rather enjoyable.  Which naturally makes you want to do more “Stuff”.  I don’t need to be the brilliant Nabisco MBA to suggest that by doing things more, one tends to become better at said task or activity. In his book “Outliers”, the impressively quaffed Malcolm Gladwell malcolm-gladwell will tell you that if you spend 10,000 hours of practice in a specific field, you will achieve mastery. Along the same lines, in his song “10,000 Hours” rap artist Macklemore (with a nice “do” of his own) Mackwill tell you, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot”.  Gladwell goes on in his point to show that natural talent is not important.  I’m not disputing his findings.  I do however subscribe to the line of thinking that if you pursue a natural strength, your 10,000 hour journey will be easier and more enjoyable. (And yes, one could argue there is nothing “natural” about the actual double stuff filling in the cookie.  I do see that flaw in my analogy.)

So at some point this week, ask yourself “what’s my Stuff?”  Are you using your Stuff?  How can I use it more.  If you are interested in learning more about your personal Stuff try Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath it’s $16 on Amazon. Included is an on-line assessment in the form of “either/or” questions.  There are no right or wrong answers.  When you complete the assessment you are given a complete report of your top 5 Talent Themes (Strengths) and how to use them in your life.  It’s pretty cool.

And a special note of warning that can be learned from following the Double Stuff story a little farther; they got a little cocky and tried to go back to the well one too many times.  Following a mantra from the Eighties, everything bigger was better, Big Stuff Oreos were introduced in 1987 .

Big Stuff Oreo

These monuments to gluttony were ten times the size of regular Oreos.  Again, I’m not an MBA, the smartest guy in the room, or overly health conscious; but ….. yuck!  Nabisco, I’m available for taste test and focus groups if you like my Stuff.

Closing note – if you are ever going to use the word Yukon-CorneliusEureka you better either be Yukon Cornelius or have an idea equal to or great than double stuff.  In other words; don’t do it.

Hot Towel, Happy Jack

Here’s a hot marketing tip, straight out of the microwave…

I took a client to a Chiyo Sushi the other day. I arrived first and my mind was still racing from the crazy hectic pace of a normal morning. I’m thinking of all the things that need to be done as I check my phone to see emails continuing to pile on and have no respect for my overcrowded day.  I pick one message and make a valiant effort to eliminate something off my list of things to do.  Of course my thumbs could not move fast enough and the effort was thwarted when my client walked through the door.  As the conversation started I kept thinking back and wondering if she would understand my need to finish this world-changing extremely important message.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the universe sent a messenger in a kimono.

In front of me the waitress placed a plate with a Hot Towel!!!  She didn’t have to of course, I could have had my sushi, a conversation with a client and been on my way. That’s what most restaurants do. With this small act, she decided to take this lunch experience to the next level.

Happiness...

On the surface this Hot Towel may not seem like a big deal.  But I want you to think about it for a second; there are very few simple pleasures that equal the Hot Towel.  Walking in the grass with you shoes off is nice, but there is the possibility your feet might get wet or dirty, thus making the end of the experience a downer.  This is not the case however with the Hot Towel.  The Hot Towel immediately changes the way you feel about what’s going on around you.  Just grabbing it, holding it, feeling it in your palms, between your fingers, then the cool sensation on your hands when you set it down. For the record, I did resist the temptation to take this mid-day vacation to the next level by going for the face cleanse.  I was with a client after all, and some decorum needs to be observed.  By the time I received an impatient look from the thoughtful waitress that suggested it was time to return the towel, my day was transformed.  The mission of the Hot Towel was was a success. I had completely shifted gears and was completely engaged in the moment.

Since that moment, I have begun to wonder why all restaurants don’t provide Hot Towels.  I can promise you I am not the only one that feels this way.  I always make a point of watching the face of my lunch partner whenever a towel arrives.  I’m pretty in tune with body language and trust me I’m on to something.  For the cost of a few packs of towels and a microwave, you can change your restaurant from a place to eat lunch to a place to enjoy a meal.

So what’s the point of it all?  Why am I rambling about a Hot Towel?  Well first because Hot Towels are awesome and can change the way you feel about the day.  But more importantly because it was a small gesture that makes such a big impact.  Think about why you frequent certain businesses or continually use certain sales people.  Many times it’s because of the little things.  It’s these little things (or Hot Towels as I like to call them) that can set you and / or your business apart.  It’s the card saying “Thank Your For The Business”, it’s the follow-up call asking if you are happy with your service, it’s your sales person calling when there is nothing to sell just to check in, it’s the text outside of business hours to let you know they are thinking of you.  It doesn’t take a lot, sometimes it’s as simple a trip to the microwave.

And a special note to the only person I have specifically sought out to cut my hair again and again;  Thanks for the extra hot towels Kat.  I’ll be calling for an appointment soon.  (side note: because great service should be passed on – Kat Paskawitz at FX Studios she’s the best.)

Ok, so this is not me in the picture but dude looks pretty relaxed.  Someone has obviously changed the way he feels about the day.  Be that person.
Ok, so this is not me in the picture but dude looks pretty relaxed. Someone has obviously changed the way he feels about the day. Be that person.