Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

Six years ago today, in this town (Monticello), my wife and I stood before her father and God and became a family. I was the happiest man there that day, and I had only begun to know how fortunate I was to join this family. In the time since - through three reunions, various holidays, and other occasions - I have come to appreciate that I had married into the perfect family for me. My brothers-in-law are all much like the friends I had in high school, though they're mostly nicer. I love hanging out with any or all of them. My sisters-in-law are kind, generous, and gifted as well. My mother-in-law is wise, but good to share her experience in ways that are not at all judgmental. My father-in-law inspires me more every day. Truly, they are all a wonderful family.

When I married my wife, I knew I had found a diamond in the rough. She thinks so little of her many talents - herself in general really. I grow to love her more every day as I see how those talents effect the lives of our children and our friends, not to mention my own, for the better. She has a huge heart, and I am glad to know her. Getting the bonus of a wonderful set of in-laws is almost more than I can believe at times.

So on this, our sixth anniversary, I say thanks to all of my wife's family - especially my wife - for the wonderful memories. I look forward to many more.

-- Robert

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Authentic Leadership

I spent some time this week delving into the research on the subject of leadership. The focus of two articles so far has been the idea of "authentic leadership". What does the term mean? Much like it sounds, it means a leader who is real about himself, his expectations, and his desire for his group. It also goes a step further, though, at least in this literature, to mean someone who is genuine AND positive - someone interested in the growth of his team members, interested in being open and honest about strengths and weaknesses, and interested in building an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be ethical, work for personal and organizational improvement, and who upholds the importance of accountability.

In short, authentic leadership extends very logically from the area of positive psychology and positive organizational behavior. I could see arguments to the contrary - someone can be genuine and still not be positive. Yes, but those people do not tend to remain leaders. The great point raised at the end of the article was the long-term nature of building an environment of positivity and trust. What can be built over decades can be destroyed in minutes. It is only in continuing to put forth an open, honest, positive image that a person can rise above and stay there.

I can think of quite a few examples of people in my life who have stood tall amidst the crowd as moral and ethical giants. Those men and women remain etched in my memory, and I find they tended to be very successful. Perhaps they did not have large material wealth, but they were happy in life and enjoyed their work. That defines success for me. I hope to bring these ideas to future students, hopefully by example as well as by my words. I know I owe a huge debt of gratitude for those who have been such examples to me.

-- Robert

Monday, July 13, 2009

Texas, My Apologies, I Never Knew You

To the state of Texas (this section of it at least),

I apologize completely and whole heartedly. I had no idea living here could be so nice. I saw people leave the driver's license office smiling here. The tag office gave me my choice of four agents to work with, and when I didn't have my wife with me, they filled out everything so she just had to sign her name a few times and I could bring it back to get tags and titles for our cars.

This state - at least this town - has been very welcoming. I am not saying it's Heaven on Earth. I've only been here a few weeks. Still, it's very nice to feel so comfortable already. I'm even beginning to connect in my head where places are despite using a GPS to go everywhere.

We have a drive in theater here. We have plenty of stores to meet our various needs. It's just a great little town. It doesn't hurt that there are a lot of people in similar places in life at our church - or that there's a temple right behind said church. This town just has so many things we could want and so little of what we don't. And it's in Texas, so again, I apologize. This state has at least one little slice of Americana that I will cherish for the rest of my days. I look forward to getting to know it better in the days, weeks, and years to come.

-- Robert

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Does This Mean I'm Fired?

My last official act as an employer was to let an employee go. She was hired to help with back office processing, but let's just say it never worked out for her. On her last day, I explained what the duties were that we had hired her to perform, pointed out that she never had really shown a desire to execute those duties in a timely manner, and let her know she needed to look for other work. I then put her on the phone with my father so he could make it clear that I was not acting on my own. After he said, "You're either not understanding what I need you to do, or you don't care, and either way I don't need you." she asked, "Does this mean I'm fired?"

I thought it might be fun to ask if anyone else out there had ever worked with someone who had said something so poignant - so perfectly descriptive of the problem being presented to them - either as they were being shown the door, or at any other point in their employment.

-- Robert

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Three Great Writers

In reading Schumpeter, he explained that the work of Adam Smith explained reasons for colonial expansion better than Marx. I did not recognize the name, so I googled him here. I had heard of his Wealth of Nations but have never read it. It amazed me to see how many ideas that seem so "modern" can be attributed to that five-volume series published in 1776. He expounded the benefits of specialization, self-interest as a proponent of economic well-being for a system, and the differentiation of wage rates. Somehow when I studied those concepts as an undergraduate, I took them to be fairly new, at least from the last fifty years. I might some day seek a copy of that series to enlighten myself further.

On Adam Smith's page, I saw a reference to Milton Friedman, someone I had heard of (there were also pages on Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who I'd heard of but didn't choose to click on). I got a kick out of how many ideas from Keynesian economics - which is still taught in many undergraduate courses as a logical method for governments to curtail depressions - he shot to pieces. He showed that the Great Depression had more to do with poor government policy than to do with rampant capitalism, and so offended the Federal Reserve that they commissioned a defense of their efforts from another economist (they also quit publishing the minutes of their meetings). I almost laughed out loud (yes, I probably do belong in the ranks of nerds and professors) at how many times he inspired the revision of a Keynes disciple in his textbooks over the years. Any time someone can compel the competition to literally change their point of view, that is success in my view. So I might be looking for the works of Milton Friedman as well in the future. My stack grows without any real shrinkage resulting from my having completed any of these texts. Still, I can see I am learning, which is what matters (hopefully).

-- Robert

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seen While Driving in Lubbock

My wife and I decided to stop at the Far East Market to see if they carried some Thai food she likes to make, but the placed looked a little... scary. As we were looking around at the surrounding stores, next door was "Crossroads Ministries" which had a small sign next to it showing that "Jesus [named omitted] Tax Preparation Services." Our immediate thought was a cross between "Interesting to see what Jesus is doing these days" and "Wow, I guess he really does want us to render unto Caesar..."

We really don't mean to blaspheme, but the two signs together made for a funny moment. It also helped us feel better - but not better enough for either of us to enter the market.

-- Robert

Thursday, July 2, 2009


No, I don't have someone tagging me for some must-do post. I simply wanted to say that, after all the hullabaloo I heard about how bad it was to get tags in Texas, today was probably the easiest trip to a government office I've made, certainly to a new town. There were no lines - I actually had my pick of four or five deputies (I believe that was the title), and except for not having my wife with me, I'd've left with tags within half an hour. I came back and in another twenty minutes I had them (the second woman had to review everything the first one had done). I'm hoping the driver's license is that easy next week. Now if we could just get someone on the phone from the school district to enrole my daughter, we'd be just about set.

As for other moving in news, I spent the day in the garage doing an inventory of what exactly is out there (we had the movers put most of the boxes there). I was able to empty half a dozen boxes and sort many more (no idea how many). I filled an entire "wardrobe box" (as movers call it) with paper we wrapped fragile items in and started on another. That would be the third such wardrobe, and that's not counting the dozen or so empty boxes I've broken down to throw away. Things are moving along. Tomorrow I'll finish my inventory of the garage and start unpacking the ones I've brought into the house, probably starting with our closet and moving to the kitchen, or vice versa. Maybe by next week we can park one car in the garage again... maybe.

-- Robert

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking in the New Neighborhood

Last night we went for a walk as a family around 8:30 or so. It felt like it was about 75 - very pleasant. I cannot describe how much nicer it is to feel a cool evening than South Georgia's swelter. Our neighborhood was already getting settled down for the night, since we were one of only two families we saw walking, and very few people appeared to be coming and going. It was a very peaceful experience.

I told my family I thought I might get up for a morning walk because it was so lovely out. My daughter said she wanted to come with me every day. I hadn't said I would walk every day, but I told her we might consider it. I asked if she wanted me to wake her up for it, or leave her in bed if she was asleep when I went. She wavered, but she seemed to settle on me leaving her in bed if she wasn't up yet.

I got up this morning, not really thinking about walking so much as getting myself up. I was just about done with a bath (we need to put our shower curtains up but haven't found the rods in our unpacking yet) when she came in to ask, "Am I up early enough?" I was so proud of her for remembering and asking so nicely, I decided I definitely would go on a walk.

She and I had a lovely morning walk - and it wasn't too slow of a pace for exercise, either. She kept up very well, and we discussed how nice our new neighborhood is. She reported to me on all sorts of things, but it wasn't at all bothersome. I enjoyed it. And the temperature? Not much warmer or cooler than the night before - right about 75. There's nothing lovelier, I have to say, than living somewhere with cool mornings and evenings at this time of year. I look forward to more walks with my family or my daughter in the future.

-- Robert