Category Archives: Blog

The Art of Reinvention

Art of Reinvention

 

Have you ever had the desire to completely change major parts of your life? I have, and I do. I’m currently going through a reinvention of sorts. Several weeks ago, I decided that my current career path was not working out. For the past six years, I have hosted trivia at restaurants across North Georgia, and for the past five years, I have been working in I.T.

“Do I really want to keep doing this for another 30 years?”

That’s a question that has been going through my mind A LOT during the past few weeks. I keep reviewing 401(k) plans, and health insurance benefits. I look at all the money that I’ve been able to make to provide for my family. I struggle with this internal desire that there’s more. I finally decided to commit to this reinvention and canceled one of my shows to free up some more time. I am now ankle deep in this reinvention.

For years, I’ve talked about this with my wife. Eventually, I started going to therapy. That led to creating sort of a “home base”. We worked on the internal questions about why I feel unsatisfied. This past week, I hired a career coach, and we are starting on a new journey looking at my skill sets and my personality traits to determine what the appropriate next steps are.

For the record, I have “reinvented” myself before. I once lost my job as an insurance salesman. I had to reinvent myself quickly. Eventually, that led to becoming a Trivia Host. When I’m in the process of reinventing, I try to find someone doing something that I want to do. I then study what they do well, what I think they could improve on, and what makes them overall successful. I’ve been lucky enough to seek advice from these people before too.

In the end, I don’t try to copy their success as much as I try to go down the same trails that they’ve marked. I’m now doing this again, except this time, on a much larger and challenging scale. The two people I’m now studying, from afar, are successful full-time authors and speakers.

Their personalities have both similarities and differences from me. Their audience is different than what I picture mine will become. But they’ve both followed similar paths to arrive where they are.

I’m now at the starting line of their trail. And while I may take a turn or two that they didn’t, and there may be a new obstacle that has fallen onto the path since they came through, I’m looking forward to meeting them at the top.

What I was reminded of in front of 4.4 Million people

Bobby Moynihan (L), and me winning $50,000 (Source: ABC)

Bobby Moynihan (L), and me winning $50,000 (Source: ABC)

This past Sunday night, I was on The $100,000 Pyramid. It was a game show that I grew up watching the reruns to, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to be selected to be on the show. Of course, things of that nature don’t just “happen”. It was a long six-month road that I traveled to get onto the show.

When I learned about the open-casting call, I began doing some light practicing with my family. We would play “Catch Phrase” which is very similar to the main game, and we would review subjects from the Winner’s Circle of old episodes on YouTube. The day of the tryout, I almost did not go, but my wife said, “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

When I arrived at the Atlanta hotel, I started chatting up with our potential contestants. I immediately realized that I probably wasn’t the person they were looking for. I felt out of place. But, I decided to stay and take a chance. If nothing else, the audition process would be fun.

We met with a casting director and I did okay, but we received a variant of the “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You.” I said my goodbyes and went to the car wondering if I had blown my chance. My phone immediately rang and I was told to come back in.

From there on it was an intensive process that lasted several weeks through different Skype sessions, applications, and photo uploads. Eventually, I got THE call.

“We’d like to invite you to play Pyramid.”

All of a sudden the light practicing turned into a full training camp. We bought an old version of the board game. We studied every nuance of the rules. We learned all of the hidden tricks of the game. For example, if the word/phrase is “BETTY WHITE”, you just have to get your partner to say “WHITE”. And if that’s the case, instead of a long drawn out clue about “The Golden Girls”, simply say, “opposite of black”. Boom!

When we arrived on set I looked at the big game board. It was an updated version from my childhood but still very familiar. I met my partner, Debi Mazar, and we began to play. The first game was tough and I lost by one point. My opponent went to the winner’s circle and came 1 clue away from winning $50,000.

At that point, I was trying to not panic. I wanted to keep smiling and keep pressing on. It’s been the thing I’ve tried to do my entire life. When the pressure is turned up, do what you do as best as you can. The next game I partnered up with Bobby Moynihan from Saturday Night Live. We won the game and headed to the Winner’s Circle for my chance at $50,000.

It’s amazing how your training, your skills, and your life’s experience can all converge in a sixty-second moment. The first clues we got quickly (CITIES, and SCHOOL JOBS).

The next one was “THINGS A PEACOCK WOULD SAY”. This is where my preparation had paid off. Prior to my arrival at the studio, I scoured the internet for any clue of who would be participating when I played. I had found out on the website to get tickets that two SNL cast members were scheduled. I refreshed myself about everything SNL before that day.

I looked straight at Bobby and told him “I’m the NBC logo”. Bobby, being a cast member on a weekly NBC show said, “Things a Peacock would say?!?”

You could hear the audience gasp at the quickness that we got that clue.

We moved on up through TYPES OF BATTERIES, a clue that my wife and I had actually practiced, and THINGS THAT ARE SMOKED.

We got to the top of the Pyramid and to the final clue. THINGS THAT ARE TRIANGULAR. I noticed we had 30 seconds left (the clock being viewable for the first time in the show’s 40 year history this season). I took a breath and remembered the rules, no prepositional phrases, and you must give a list.
I’m looking at a Pyramid. That’s Triangular.
“A Pyramid”

Bobby looks at me and says, “Things that come to a point” and actually makes a triangle with his hand.

“A Flat Pyramid”

“Triangles?”

BOOM! $50,000 and a bear hug from one of Network TV’s biggest stars. Later a handshake and hug from Michael Strahan.

In front of a live studio audience of 200 people, and 4.4 Million people watching at home, I was reminded about: how important training is, why to keep a positive attitude, why not to panic when the pressure is on, and why to give something a shot even when you believe you are not the person for the job.

Later, I was told by someone that I was the only person asked to be on the show from that Atlanta casting call.

Transitioning from survival to thriving

Over the past several years, my wife and I have been fighting. Not with each other, but against the grind of trying to survive the world. We made some stupid decisions when we first got married (bought a house we couldn’t afford, racked up a ton of debt, stayed employed at a job that I should have left). We are in year 11 of our marriage and are finally starting to see some real progress.

 

That’s an advantage of getting married at 23, you can screw everything up for the first decade and still be in your early 30s. Of course, had we waited, maybe we wouldn’t have been so young and dumb.

 

Over the past few months though we’ve really seen some good things happen and our focus is now able to start shifting from fighting for survival to fighting tactically. And as I look around at people that are in similar situations, I realize that there are lots of us that don’t understand that switch is needed.

 

Have you worked so long in “panic mode” that when things are relaxed you feel like you’ve missed something that needed to be done? I have. When bills are paid and there’s money left over in the savings account I feel extremely uneasy. After becoming accustomed to money always being tight, as we’ve started to do a little better, surplus money feels like I’ve made an error.

 

Do you sometimes self-sabotage things because if there isn’t a crisis you don’t know how to stay on track? I keep using money as an example because it’s so familiar to me. Have you ever been financially on track and then go buy something frivolous that messes everything up? Afterwards you think, “Why did I do that?” but then you take a sort of sadistic pleasure in bearing down, tightening up, and out working your mistake? I have. As a matter of fact it happened this week. I decided I wanted a Playstation 4. And instead of waiting, like an adult, until I had saved the money, I just bought it. Childish urges ruin me sometimes.
But as we continue to do well, I can understand that I haven’t worked on the skills that are necessary to make decisions when decisions aren’t cut and dry. Several years ago we would have been making a choice between food and electricity or a Playstation. That makes decision making easy.

 

The lesson here is to keep looking for skills that you haven’t developed as you move into a new mode of life. Because you will not be equipped for new phases when you get there. We are all learning on the fly.

The Right Way for Me, May Not be the Right Way for Someone Else

This young couple should get my prayers, not my criticisms.

This young couple should get my prayers, not my criticisms.

A quick reminder to everyone including myself, just because someone isn’t doing something the way you would do it, doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing the right way for them.

This week a friend of mine’s daughter is getting married, after a very short engagement, on a Wednesday, at the age of 18. I immediately started thinking about all the reasons why I would never advise anyone to do this. And then I was reminded that her father has cancer – and it’s been a tough battle so far.

And all of a sudden every bit of it felt right to me.

All of a sudden I realized that my pretentious views on someone else’s life don’t matter. It’s amazing how quickly I was to judge when I am standing on the mountains of mistakes that I have made. I wonder why I should be so quick to act is if I’m right.

I’m wrong a lot. A whole lot. And I will continue to be wrong.

So instead of being judgmental, as soon as I have the ability, I will be giving the young couple a few books that have helped me. I’ll pray for them. I will try to live my marriage in a way so that when other newlyweds glance over and copy off my sheet, they will find more right answers than wrong ones.

And hopefully, in many years I will see a 50th anniversary notice in the local paper.

My congratulations and best wishes to the bride and groom.

The Proof of the Power of Incremental Change: Starting School on August 1

This girl can't believe school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day

This girl can’t believe school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day

How did we get to a point where school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day, and what should that tell you about how to reach your goals?

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend, who made a comment that struck me: They told me that that they don’t believe that small changes ever amounted to anything. This friend believes that a person achieves their goals only by making big, important changes.

This conversation reminded me of an experience that took place during my high school years (in the late ’90s). An English teacher by the name of Mr. Brown told all of the students in my class that there was an idea floating around about swapping over to a year-round school calendar. Naturally, my fellow students and I rolled our eyes and groaned at mere thought of going to school all year long. He explained that this idea is based on the concept that, by starting the school year earlier and scheduling more breaks during the academic year, kids would learn more and do better in school. Being in high school, we all thought the idea of year-round school was nuts. Why would anybody in their right mind want to go to school year-round? Surely we did enough school already. More than enough. Mr. Brown patiently explained to us that we wouldn’t be required to go to school for more than the 180 days that we were currently suffering through, but that those 180 would just be spread out over a longer period of time. This logical explanation fell on deaf ears.

Well, in the 15 years since that heated discussion in English class, the school calendar has indeed changed. Once upon a time, the first day of school took place on the earliest Friday before Labor Day (the popular philosophy at that time was that the upcoming three-day weekend would allow students to gird themselves for an actual week of class while shopping for the supplies they would need for the year after receiving specific lists from their teachers). That first day of school, however, has slowly started working its way backwards to take place earlier in the year.

At first, that “Friday before Labor Day” became “the Monday before Labor Day”. Then it became the “Friday before the Monday of Labor Day”. Bit by bit, year by year, that starting date came just a little bit earlier. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving break (which was originally a three-day week) turned into a 5-day Fall Break. Then a winter break appeared in February. Staff development days (which allowed students to stay home on a Monday four or five times through the year) became week-long breaks. Students in my day looked forward to three major events to break up the monotony of the school year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. Kids today, on the other hand, enjoy a week-long break every other month.

Over the course of about 15 years, we can see the ending result of this calendar shift. School starts now on August 1st and practically goes year-round, with approximately an eight-week break in the middle. The change didn’t happen from the end of one school year to the next; rather, it happened gradually, allowing parents, teachers, and students time to adjust and even grow to appreciate the new calendar. That is the power of incremental change.

Of course, that’s also the power of not calling it year-round school. Instead of using that inflammatory phrase that had the power to turn my English class upside down in a hot debate, school officials just quietly started shifting the year a little bit earlier… and a little bit earlier… and a little bit earlier. As people went through the system, they didn’t know any better. For example, if you were a freshman in high school when this process started, it didn’t really feel like there was any big change. If you’re going into school now, you probably don’t realize that it used to be different.

If you think about it, this is the way every major change in America has happened. For example, the history-making event of a woman becoming the Presidential nominee of a major political party didn’t just occur spontaneously. Before that, women ran for the vice presidency. Before that, women fought for the right to remain in the workplace and seek educational opportunities when their men returned from fighting overseas. And before that, women organized to fight for their right just to vote in elections.

Marriage equality in America didn’t just happen all of a sudden. Rather, it came about after a 30-year conversation about homosexuality actually being a “thing” in America. That conversation moved through various twists and turns all the way to a Supreme Court decision allowing homosexual couples to experience the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Incremental change is the only thing that makes lasting difference. There’s that old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time.” As a leader of an organization, group, or of your own family or personal life, you must look at the big things that need to change and try to identify smaller, incremental, everyday changes that you can make to reach the end result you have in mind.  In the end, those small changes will have made a lasting impact on your journey to achieve your goals.