Life Happened for Sean Adams

Photo courtesy of AM 1300 THE ZONE‏ @am1300thezone

Austin media personality Sean Adams passed away yesterday at the age of 46. That could be one of those impersonal headlines that you see and think nothing of. For many people in the Austin area it is very personal. It is for me.

I recently wrote about change. Yesterday things changed for a lot of us.

Sean and I were not close friends, but we knew each other and liked each other. I went to church with him for many years and always admired him. There were many exceptional things about him. He was a great son, husband, father, and friend. He took all of those roles and responsibilities seriously. He was a man of faith, and he had a remarkable breadth and depth about him. He had talent coupled with a terrific work ethic. He and Chip Brown in the mornings were a special team discussing sports. There was true chemistry there, and it was great to listen to. It was a morning staple for many of us. It was about more than just sports – it was sports generously seasoned with wit and wisdom.

I had lunch with Sean a couple of times at his favorite restaurant, Cover 3. We talked about our families, business, and he encouraged me when I was writing my book. He was also an encouragement to our children. When I got the stunning news yesterday about his passing, I looked at my text message history with him. There is nothing profound there, but I will always treasure it.

My heart goes out to Karen, Damon, Alex, and Sean’s mother and siblings. I also grieve for Chip Brown, Mike Hardge, Mike Weigand, Anthony Williams, Thomas Graham, Geoff Ketchum, and all of the other many people who shared a close bond with Sean. He had a lot of true and genuine friends all across the country. You cannot say that about many people.

My lasting memories of Sean will be his faith and his heart for elevating others to higher planes. He was famous for the wisdom in his many sayings. They will stick with me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately. Go to work.”
  • “Do something good for the world today, because the people who are making it worse aren’t taking the day off.”
  • “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”

Photo courtesy of Enrique Garza‏ @goodstuffcvms

He and I also shared a perspective on the value of sports. He spoke often of the huddle. The huddle is sacred, he would say. It is the one place where northerner and southerner, rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal, come together, put their arms around each other, and bond for a common goal. They sweat and bleed together, and special things happen.

Sean often said: “Life happens for those who show up.”

Sean showed up.

Life happened for him.

Thanks for showing up for all of us, brother. Rest in Peace.

Unbelievable!

Reflections on Mike Wozniak

wozniak

Shannon with her father, Mike Wozniak

If you ever met Mike Wozniak and asked him “How are you doing?,” he had two potential answers.

With a twinkle in his eye he might say, “Hey, it’s your world – I’m just living in it.” That always brought a smile to my face.

Or he might just say:

Unbelievable!

That was my favorite. To me it always seemed like Mike lived with an understanding of the wonder of life. I know his faith was the foundation of that understanding. He was a joyful and optimistic man.

I cannot say that he and I were close friends or spent a lot of time together. It was our daughters’ softball pursuits that introduced us many years ago, and it was softball that always seemed to keep us connected. Mike was a great teacher and communicator. He most certainly loved fastpitch softball, but what he really loved was helping young women learn to play the game.

The last time I had coffee with him was on July 6, 2015. We talked about his daughter, Stefanie, and the rest of his family. We talked about my daughter, Kellen, and the rest of my family. He gave me an update on JoJo, another of Stefanie and Kellen’s teammates. He was so excited about having the opportunity to be the head softball coach at Hendrickson High School. He also spoke of his love for classroom teaching, especially personal finance.

Mike was the kind of person you want coaching your daughter, and he was the kind of teacher you want teaching your son or daughter. Those players and students who drew him got a blessing. He coached and taught with the joy that sprang from his view of this amazing gift called life.

That day in July 2015 that we got together, I gave Mike a signed copy of my book. He was grateful. Later that day he and I followed up with emails. Ever the encourager, Mike wrote:

It was great to catch up, and I am very proud of your accomplishments to date.  Thank you for the book……..I look forward to reading it this summer.

I’m not sure if he ever got around to reading it, but it does not matter. Mike was a man who had already written a beautiful story in his life. His future was well planned for, and he thought of it as great adventure.

I’m sure if I could ask him right now, “Mike, how are you doing?,” his response would be:

Unbelievable!

On behalf of Kellen, Matthew, and Margot, I extend our love, thoughts, and prayers to the Wozniak family and all those who have been impacted by a life well lived. May we continue to learn many lessons from Coach Mike.

I will miss you, my friend.

Prepare the Child for the Path

Train_ChildSeveral years go we bought a little stone tile with a quote etched on it. At that point in our lives our children were still at home, but were nearing high school graduation. We knew the time was short for them to be under our roof and under our control. The aphorism (brief statement of principle) on the tile seemed very relevant to us then, and it still does today. It reads:

Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.

It’s meaning is clear. The path ahead for all of us is uncertain and can be frightening. This includes the path ahead of our children. Our parental instincts are to run interference for them and to smooth the path. When our children are very young, this is normal and required. As our children mature, though, and begin to approach adulthood, it is dangerous to try to prepare the path for them. When Mom and Dad always step in to make things right, fair, and easy, it can give them the false idea that difficulties won’t come. It teaches them that someone else will solve their problems for them. That is irresponsible.

We are at somewhat of a disadvantage culturally when we do not have adolescent puberty rites. In tribal cultures boys and girls did not have the option to remain immature. When their bodies began to change, they were initiated into adulthood through rituals that most of us would find appalling. There was no doubt, though, after the ritual that the boy was to be considered a man and the girl was to be considered a woman. Mom and Dad were not going to run interference any more to keep their children children. I am not arguing that we need to invent puberty rights, but I am arguing that it is the responsibility of parents to grow children who are ready for the path and not afraid of adulthood.

As difficult as it is to do, as parents we must focus our energies on getting our children ready to face life on their own. We should equip them so that they can deal with whatever life throws at them. Sure, if we are still around we can help them and counsel them if they seek such guidance, but they have to learn to deal with life on their own. We will not always be around. Even if we are, we cannot handle their adult problems for them. That is their job.

I have not lived in my parents’ house for over 32 years. They prepared me for the path, and I have functioned as an adult for a long time. I do have to add, though, that while I am no longer under my parents’ control, I am still under their influence. I say this to assure parents that if you adopt the approach I am encouraging, you will raise children that are ready for life’s path, but you will retain your influence. In fact, you will likely have more influence than if you have always tried to control their lives and circumstances. Strangely, children who have been reared in an overprotective way often grow up to resent that level of control and interference.

It is also true that one of the great joys in life is to observe your adult children adapting to life and handling the path they are on. That is when you know you have done your job well and that they will be OK on their own.

In what ways do you prepare your child for the path?

Mind-Mapping the Nearer Term – Adding Age 25

In our last article our 18 year-old John completed his mind map for the time-frame 12 years down the road when he is 30 years old. He put in writing in his mind map his various dreams and goals across three areas – family, career, and personal. However, there is a large gap between where John is right now at 18 and where he wants to be when he is 30. Now comes a crucial step for John. He must answer the question, “How do I get there from here?”

When we introduced John in this series we identified the time-frames that he will plan for. The exact time-frames are flexible and can be defined as John desires. The most important thing is that these time windows make sense to the person creating the mind map – in this case John. Here is the mind map we laid out for John: (all images will enlarge when clicked)

With his age 30 mind-map completed, the next time-frame for John is the next seven years. At the end of that window he will be 25 years old. This period is exactly five years before the age 30 period he has already completed. With each new time period, John has to review the plans he has already written to make sure that what he plans in this new time-frame truly enables him to accomplish what he has already written in his longer time-frames. For example:

  • Family. John wants to be living near his parents when he is 30 in order to be able to take care of them. The likelihood of that happening will depend in large part on John’s decisions by age 25. He has to make sure that this new time-frame takes location into account.
  • Career. John said that when he is 30 he will be in his 7th year of work as an engineer. In order for this to happen, John needs to have already been an engineer for two years by the time he is 25. If he were now to write that by age 25 he wants to start his first job as an engineer, there is no way he will be in his 7th year of work when he is 30. This is why he must review what he has already written.
  • Personal. Since John wants to be under 190 pounds by the time he is 30, he will want to make sure he is setting a realistic goal for his age 25 time-frame with regard to his weight and health. If he does not pay attention to his weight and instead gains weight in his early to mid twenties, John may have weight problem to deal with when he is 30.

In this way John reviews what is already planned in longer time-frames and begins to write a coherent plan for the shorter time-frames. It is important to note that John’s already completed age 30 plan is not chiseled in stone. In working on an earlier time-frame he may discover that something he has written for age 30 cannot be accomplished by that time. OR he may determine that he has been too conservative and that he can really accomplish more in that more distant period. In either case he will need to go back to age 30 and make changes so that his plan has a realistic shot of success. In this way, the entire process is really an iterative process. That is, it will likely take several iterations (or repetitions) to develop a coherent plan.

Back to Age 25

After reviewing his age 30 mind map, John will now begin writing for age 25 across all three realms. Here is the blank template for age 25 with the familiar fields to guide John in his planning.

Since John has already completed his more distant time-frame, he can more easily step back in time and create his goals:

Family

  • Family Status: Mom & Dad 62, Steve 27, Jane 24, Kate 20
  • If we are not already living near Mom & Dad, we will look for career opportunities to move closer.
  • Steve may have children by this time, and it is important to me to be a good uncle to my nieces and nephews. This is true even if we do not live near one another.
  • I will have contributed my love and help to Jane and will have a healthy, supportive relationship with her as an older brother. I will maintain healthy boundaries.
  • I will continue my strong relationship with Kate and assist her in whatever ways she needs me.
  • I may be an uncle to Jane and/or Kate’s children at this point. As with Steve’s, I will invest in these nieces and nephews and be a wonderful uncle to them.
  • Robin and I will be celebrating our third anniversary.
  • I will support her in her career, life, and interests.
  • I will spend quality time with her and work seriously on making our marriage great. I will invest in us.
  • We may have children by this time. I will take fatherhood seriously and will look out for the well-being of them all.

In reviewing his age 30 map, John notices that he failed to say anything about his in-laws in what he wrote about family. He address this now in the new time-frame by writing:

  • I will make it easy for Robin and the kids to spend time with her parents.
  • I will look for ways to help Robin’s parents.

Also, now that John has identified this oversight from the age 30 plan, he will go back to that age 30 map and add his thinking about his in-laws.

Career

  • I will be in my 2nd year of work as an engineer.
  • I will establish a reputation as a person with a strong work ethic.
  • I will cultivate relationships with engineers I admire in order to learn from them and grow my network.
  • I will look for and participate in continuing education opportunities.
  • I will earn at least $60,000 per year.
  • We will practice wise budgeting and will pay off all student loan debt.

Personal

Body/Health

  • I will keep my weight under 190 pounds.
  • I will play tennis and walk regularly.
  • I will eat a healthy diet, and continually educate myself about the latest in nutritional science.
  • I will get annual physicals from my doctor.

Fun

  • I will take guitar lessons and review the fundamentals of music.
  • I will play in at least one charity golf tournaments each year for fun and to support good causes.
  • I will hunt annually with my Dad and brother.

The World

  • I will explore various charities and volunteer my time to determine the place I am most passionate about serving.
  • I will explore the mentoring a young person through Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
  • I will financially support humanitarian relief efforts through world-class charities.
  • I will vote in local, state, and national elections as an exercise of my civic duty and of patriotic gratitude.

Spiritual

  • I will continue to learn and explore my own spiritual nature and the nature of God.
  • I will focus on my spiritual journey with my wife and grow along with her.
  • I will explore and identify a good group of people/church to belong to and to do spiritual work with.
  • I will strive to be consistent in my religious beliefs and allow them to guide my actions in work and personal life.

Here is all of this information in the mind map for age 25:

When both the age 25 and age 30 map are included, here is John’s map. Remember, this image will enlarge:

Now that we have gone through two different time-frames for John we can begin to understand the process for doing a complete mind map. I think you will agree that it is actually hard work. We have not even completed John’s plan yet for his two closest time-frames. One thing that will emerge as we look to the closer time-frames is that the specific goals will become more like tasks as he begins to realize actions he will need to take to make his longer vision a reality. In our next article we will examine how the closest time-frames will drive John’s actions.

Getting Personal About Forward Story Through Mind Maps

This article is part of a series that began with “Using Mind Maps to Develop Your Forward Story.” We have used fictional 18 year-old John as an example and have started building his Forward Story by using the creative tool of mind mapping. In the last article we continued looking at John in twelve years when he will be thirty, and we focused on his career realm. He defined his career ambitions in light of his commitment to his family. As a reminder of where John is so far with his age thirty mind map, here is the map with those two realms completed. (All images will enlarge when clicked).

John has set some excellent goals for when he is thirty. The statements contained in each branch feel right to John. He gets excited thinking about it. The old saying goes: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” John wants to be a mature adult, but he also wants to have some fun. He does not want to be a dull boy. He wants to enjoy life and to live in a meaningful way. So the next realm he will think about is what we will call the Personal realm. We include in this realm body, health, fun, the world, and spirituality.

Body/Health

John knows that thirty is still young, but he wants to take care of his health so he will be able to handle all of the other goals he has already chosen for himself. If he gains a lot of weight, develops diabetes, and suffers from heart disease (like his father has), he may not be able to take care of his parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or his wife. He  has seen this happen to other friends and family members, so he is determined to make his health a priority.  John writes the following statements:

  • I will keep my weight under 190 pounds.
  • I will exercise at least three times per week.
  • I will eat a healthy diet, and continually educate myself about the latest in nutritional science.
  • I will get annual physicals from my doctor.

For fun John really likes playing guitar. He is currently a novice, but would like to be much better in twelve years. He knows he can do it, so writes the following about guitar and other “fun” activities:

  • I will be able to play guitar for my family and friends without embarrassing myself.
  • I will play in three charity golf tournaments each year for fun and to support good causes.
  • I will hunt annually with my Dad and brother.

Also in this personal realm, John needs to think about the larger world in which he lives. He is aware of people in other places and of his responsibility as a citizen of his own country. He writes:

  • I will regularly volunteer my time to help with our local food pantry.
  • I will mentor a young person through Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
  • I will financially support humanitarian relief efforts through world-class charities.
  • I will vote in local, state, and national elections as an exercise of my civic duty and of patriotic gratitude.

Finally, John will address spirituality. He is not quite certain where his spiritual life will take him, and he has a lot of questions. John considers himself a seeker after spiritual truth, so he has some expectations that by age thirty he may have found some answers to his questions. He contents himself with the following for now:

  • I will have an understanding of my own spiritual nature and the nature of God.
  • I will continue my spiritual journey with my wife and grow along with her.
  • I will find a good group of people/church to belong to and to do spiritual work with.
  • I will strive to be consistent in my religious beliefs and allow them to guide my actions in work and personal life.

Putting all of this together into his mind map, here is what John’s personal realm looks like at age thirty:

John’s final mind map for age thirty is pretty busy. Here is what it looks like all put together:

This branch of John’s map represents a lot of hard work in thinking, visualizing, and writing. As good as this is, this is what John envisions his life looking like in twelve years. In order for this to be more than a fairly tale, he has a lot more work to do to bridge the gap between now and then. So, as a reminder, the thirty year branch is only a small part of John’s overall mind map. Here is a visual reminder of what is left to define:

In our next article we will look at the way John’s closer timeframes relate to this age thirty branch.

How do you think John’s completed branch will affect his thinking about the next few years of his life? How is it likely to impact his behavior?