The winter Olympics have started. I like the Olympics. There is something special about an event that only occurs every 4 years where the participants train their entire lives for perhaps one defining moment. pyeongchang-2018The Olympic event happens in various locations around the world. It is enjoyable to learn about the diverse cultures and see the beautiful sights the world has to offer.

I like the timed and racing events better than the judged event. The human element of judging adds some uncertainty that lowers my interest level. I do enjoy the entertainment value of events like ski jumping and snowboarding. My favorite Olympic event by far is downhill skiing. I like the idea of skiing on the edge to get down the hill as fast as possible. Push the edge too far and the skier will crash. The speed of this race is breathtaking with skiers hitting 80-90 mph.

My initiation to downhill skiing occurred while watching the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics.  I was 15 years old and it would be 3 more years before I would go on my first ski trip, so I was watching this event as a complete novice. These Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Franz-Klammer_250x300Austria, where downhill skiing is like the Super Bowl in the USA. The top Austrian hope for the downhill was Fanz Klammer. The pressure on Klammer to win the downhill for his native Austria was immense. Klammer was set for his final run and he was .5 seconds behind Swiss skier Bernard Russi’s blistering pace. Klammer took incredible risks on his final run. He looked like he was constantly on the edge of a major crash. It was almost like Klammer was putting his life on the line to win the gold medal for his country. Klammer beat Russi, won the gold medal and moved on to become a legend in the sports world.

Watching the video of Klammer’s gold medal ski run still inspires me today. I learned several important lessons from this event. First, I learned that winter sports are awesome. As a person born and raised in the mostly snowless southern USA, I had never attempted activities like snow skiing and watching Klammer’s run motivated me to begin a lifelong love for this sport. Second, and most impactful, Klammer’s 1976 gold medal in the Olympics taught me that there are times when we need to throw caution to the wind and go for it. While we can’t constantly pull out all the stops due to limited energy and common sense, there are opportunities to put all we have into a task. When we put everything on the line there is an enormous risk of failure, but the reward is worth the risk.

An example of “putting it all on the line,” is a career defining career project. For me this was the development of a new, revolutionary for the time, desktop computer in the mid-1990s. The company’s success was on the line with this product and my team and I put our hearts and souls into its development. While we all worked very long hours during this time I distinctly remember spending all night in a factory while my team tried to sort out a manufacturing issue. The team was able to overcome the various obstacles and launch the product. This product ended up being one of the most successful in the company’s history. Clearly none of us could have kept up this relentless work schedule for long, but we recognized this project as a defining moment and a time to be “all in.”

How do we recognize these Franz Klammer or “all in” moments? Identifying the stakes is a critical first step. Ask yourself if the project or event is important. Not just important, but critical. These events can fall under the categories of personal, professional or spiritual. Some people take the safe route and are hesitant to risk going “all in” on anything. Always taking the safe path and never risking anything is failure tainted with the bad taste of regret. Achieving remarkable things calls for greater risk. Garth Brooks sings a song called “The Dance.” In this song the singer is racked with pain from a break-up, but in the end would not change a thing because he would have missed “The Dance,” or the experience. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we grow from failures. It is important to have the courage to risk failure. Equally important is to learn how to deal and grow with failure.

I hope you are able to watch some of the Olympics and learn from the folks “putting it all on the line.”


I received a Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welder for my birthday this past year. The fact that I had another birthday is not that great, the fact that I now have a welder is very cool. You see, I have some stuff I need to weld. Mostly welders are just awesome. It has been a long time since I have welded. Although I have always loved the idea of welding, I had an incident way back in high school that suppressed my welding urge for many decades. Despite the excitement regarding my birthday present, this prehistoric incident has slowed down my engagement with the new welder.

When I was in high school, we had to take either art, shop or band. The high school art teacher told me not to sign up for art. Apparently, she knew the middle school art teacher well and they discussed my very limited artistic potential. For some reason, I was not interested in band at the time. I leaned towards shop classes because I liked to work on cars.

Selecting shop meant taking classes in drafting, wood shop and metal shop. Drafting and wood shop went okay, although I was not good at drafting and I saw a kid get his finger cut off by a bandsaw in wood shop. I will never forget the looks we students gave each other when our teacher told us to “go look for his finger in the exhaust bin.”

Finally, I started metal shop. I really liked this class where we learned to grind, forge, and use a lathe. Towards the end of the class we learned how to weld on an ancient Lincoln 225-amp stick welder. I loved welding and created many projects with my new-found skill. Towards the end of the semester as I was welding my final project, I discovered the true power of electricity. I had been electrocuted before, but nothing serious. As I lowered my helmet and struck an arc, I somehow inserted myself in the circuit of the welder. I was blown several feet away from the welder. My chest swelled up and I felt like I had been in a car wreck. There were burn marks on my legs and I was struggling to breath. My teacher must not have wanted this incident on his record because he gave me a glass of water and sent me to my next class. I felt horrible the rest of the day and for several days later. After this incident, I resigned from welding the rest of the semester. In fact, until recently, I have had no desire to weld at all since this episode of almost 40 years ago.

You have heard of the idea of getting back on the horse after falling off. The thought behind this is, you need to get back on the horse quickly before developing a fear that will keep you from horseback riding.  As much as I enjoyed welding, this shock made continuing to participate in this interesting hobby a low priority. I simply could not get back on the horse.

Finally, after several decades, I have decided to try my hand at welding again. I must admit I am a bit nervous about getting back into welding. I have read a lot of instructional material and watched several videos on how to safely weld. The new welder is now several months old, yet I have only tried it a few times. Because I avoided welding for so long, I developed a phobia, or irrational fear, of welding. Clearly the best course of action would have been to weld again immediately after my incident.

The key lesson here to not be discouraged by a failure, such as this welding incident. It is important to dust yourself off, or in my case heal up from electrocution, and try again. Sometimes we give up on something after receiving negative feedback. Dedication and training are important if we want to succeed in something we enjoy. Don’t take it to heart and give up when people tell you about a lack of ability or talent in a subject. During my career, I was told many times about my lack of ability on the topics of finance and writing. After a few years of resigning myself to failure in those areas, I decided to develop an improvement plan. While I am clearly not an expert in finance and writing, I have worked to develop an average level of competency. When you are given negative feedback, hopefully in a constructive manner, look at it as an opportunity to improve. In fact, someone may have done you a huge favor by pointing out an area of focus for improvement. Once aware of where to concentrate, it is up to you to act to develop an improvement plan. Whether it is taking formal classes or simply watching a video, the learning options are almost limitless. Persistence and determination are often overlooked, but valuable attributes. In our constant quest for improvement, we will occasionally be “bucked off the horse.” Don’t give allow yourself time to develop fears, get right back in the saddle!

Make the most of this day!

World Series

I am a lifelong Astros fan. The intensity of my love for this team has ebbed and flowed over the years. Baseball almost lost me during the steroid era but after a multi-year lull, I returned. I like other sports but there is something special about baseball and the Astros. In case you somehow haven’t heard, the Astros won the World Series on November 1, 2017. Many folks will say it is just a game but for me, it was a life-changing event.  When I woke up on November 2nd with my World Series hangover, I began to reflect on why baseball is so important to me.

The first reason is longevity. I have been following the Astros since I was a child in the mid-1960s. I am not sure when I attended my first game, but I do remember Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub as my favorite players during this period. I recall the Astrodome as the most amazing stadium of its time. As smoking was allowed inside back in the day, there was a cloud of smoke hanging over the field the entire game. Another highlight was seeing the grounds crew dressed as spacemen as they dragged the infield during the 5th inning. There is no telling how many games I have engaged with either watching, listening or attending in person. I believe it is easily over 1000 games. When I was a child, my primary way of connecting with the Astros was my transistor radio. After my mom told me to go to bed, I would turn on the radio and listen to the game through the earphone (sorry Mom). Many times, I would wake up late in the night with the game long over with my radio still on playing music or the news.

The second reason baseball is important in my life is heritage. My father loved baseball and passed that love on to me. My father died when I was 23 and I now find elements of his essence slipping from my memory. Baseball is the crutch that clarifies my father’s presence and the influence he had and continues to have, on my life. The games we attended and times we listened on the radio are crystal clear in my mind.  Baseball revives these memories of my father like nothing else adding to the beauty and wonder of this great sport. I have been able to instill a passion for baseball in my children and I hope they can continue this legacy with their own families. Baseball is an old sport steeped in history and tradition. Baseball has been a constant for many generations and is rooted in the fabric of American history. There is a common thread of thousands of games and overlapping careers binding today’s players to those players of old.

The third reason for the significant role of baseball in my life is, baseball is timeless. In this day of distraction, instant communication and time-bound lives, baseball has no clock and is not over until the proper number of outs have been recorded. Time drives most elements of our lives and we can’t control its relentless march forward. Time is what takes away the freshness of youth and brings the pain and struggles of old age. We can’t escape the relentless boundaries of time. For me, baseball is a way to escape, at least emotionally, from the constant drumbeat of time. Many people complain that baseball is slow, lasts too long and needs to change. I support some of these changes but fundamentally, baseball is unique and provides a needed escape from the constant time pressure of today’s society.

Fourth and finally, baseball is a sport of failure and overcoming adversity. I have lived through many Astro disappointments. The playoffs of 1980 and 1986 generate particularly intense memories. I attended a World Series game in 2005 but that team was not ready for the big stage. I still flinch when I hear the name Albert Pujols. In the past I have let myself become emotionally “all in” on the Astros playoff runs and have had my dreams shattered every time. As this year’s Astros pushed further into the playoffs, I began to ask myself how far would I let myself go this time? Was I emotionally ready to have my hopes dashed again? I was slow to commit my emotions. My son was helpful in that he inspired me to attend one of the ALCS games with the Yankees. Still, I had a feeling of foreboding dread each time the next Astros playoff game started. I became strangely superstitious, for example, I would not wear any of my Astro gear while watching the games on TV. In the end, I hung in there and watched the world series, including the exciting game 7. It is truly better to love and lose rather than not love at all. The lesson for me is not to fear letting my emotions go. I should spend my emotions more freely and certainly not just with sporting events. We can’t be so afraid of losing that we don’t try. Logically I know this, emotionally it is still a struggle for me.

So, this world series victory was a defining moment for me. It was probably not so impactful for many of you. What are the key points of this self-centered, rambling post? Longevity and heritage are good things. Maintaining a lifelong passion that connects to our family helps define who we are. Commitment and connections are important elements of our personal and professional lives. Finally, we should not be afraid to fail. It takes a logical and emotional effort to try something that might end in failure. The lesson from baseball is the best batters fail ~70% of the time. It is ok to fail. We need to shake off any self-pity and quickly step back up to the plate. Are you afraid to fail? Don’t let fear of failure lead you to that dreaded feeling of regret. Don’t be afraid, put yourself out there, take the risk!

Make the most of this day!