My cold skin is instantly warmer as I sit in the sun-baked 100-year-old Adirondack chair on the old stone porch next to the dock. Once the foundation of a lakefront house that burned decades ago, this porch has a view across a vast lake, reflecting the blue overhead and the distant forests that surround it. The water is splashing against the shore from the wake of an old aluminum rowboat en route to the next secret fishing hole. The roaring sound of its 1950s-era outboard motor briefly disrupts the chirps from the branches above. As it passes, the cheery chirping returns.
Sly and the Family Stone
Pondering memories created here at the lake with the family, I’m reminded of a song from my youth, “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” The kids will never forget their summers here, sailing across the lake with friends, cruising in speedboats towing inner tubes or skiers, hiking the deep forests, even cleaning up garbage cans invaded by rogue raccoons and bears. Though my own lake memories growing up did not involve bears, forests, or raccoons on Lake Wawasee, in Indiana, I can remember the freedom I felt driving the boat as fast as I could, long before I ever got my driver’s license, and my summer friends who lived in different places the rest of the year.
Flames of Memories
Last night my kids went to a bonfire with other kids on the lake, all reconnecting in person after a year apart. Though they are in contact minute-by-minute all year on Snapchat and Instagram, it’s the ghost stories, the starry sky, and the roaring fires with friends that will create precious lake memories.
A Magnet to Draw Everyone Back
One of the biggest gifts I can give my family is the gift of summer memories, and it is my hope that they will come back to this place during and after college with their families, and that their kids and grandkids will also have these experiences in this special place. Our intent is to be a magnet so we can see our family more often. It’s the gift my father gave us at his place, drawing us together summer after summer, and it’s a tradition I hope to continue in our own place.
One of the great joys of my life is watching my kids grow into teens and young adults, watching their phases of growth, seeing the struggles they share, and knowing there are things that have them confused or perplexed, but they’ll never talk about them to us. It’s that time when they really start to find themselves, time when we can contribute but not control. Letting go, yet keeping a lifeline, is a delicate balance for a parent.
When I think back to the difficulty of being a teen, it was a struggle to find myself. In an old bit, comedian Jackie Mason said, “I went to find myself, but did not know where to look. And what if I find myself and don’t like what I find?” I wish I could give them all the answers to make their paths easier, yet they have to make their own paths, their own mistakes, and probably wouldn’t listen anyway. Still, I try to impart some wisdom, hoping it will sink in somewhere down the road when it’s needed. I share the little secrets I’ve learned in this life of experience. Here are a few I’ll be sharing.
Listening Is More Powerful Than Speaking
Being a know-it-all is part of growing up — our egos are still in control and provide brash confidence. And though we need ego to push us through life, it’s not till we learn to listen that we see real progress. As a young business owner, I was demanding, knew all the answers, and was not very considerate of those around me. Little did I know then that listening to others is the key to everything. The Bible says, “There is wisdom in multiple counselors,” and those who think they have all the ideas are missing out on some of the best ideas by not listening. Listening to your co-workers/team members, listening to your customers, listening to outside advisors is all priceless. Ultimately, you have to take it all in and make a decision. You may or may not use those ideas, but some of the best things in my life and career are a result of listening.
Surround Yourself with the Best and Meet with Them Often
A variation on listening is to be a part of a mastermind group, or getting some mentors and advisors who are the best in their field. A mastermind group is a combination of great minds working together, as one mind, to help solve your problems. It took me decades to discover this treasure trove of help, and it has made more of an impact on my life and business in the past five years than all my years of experience combined. Why take the time to figure something out when you can find the best people in the world at a particular skill and ask them to help you solve your problems? No matter how good we are, we cannot see the bottle from the outside. We need others with experience to give us feedback. Seek to surround yourself with the best of the best. I’ve considered offering an art marketing mastermind group for artists, and may do it one day. The moment you let go of your ego, let go of thinking you have all the solutions and start listening and getting others to help, is the moment you see real progress begin.
Stories and Emotion Are the Most Effective Communication Tools
Facts and figures are rarely remembered, but stories almost always cut through. Stories are memorable. People visualize stories, so if you want to communicate anything to be remembered, tell it in story form. This is one of the most powerful yet simple things, and it changes everything. It’s worked for thousands of years. I can lecture my kids or my team members and it will never be remembered, but if I tell a story about the point I want to get across, it’s rarely forgotten. Just yesterday my son brought up a story I told him a decade ago, and he remembered it as clearly as the day I told him.
A Spirit of Generosity Amplifies Your Success
Giving is getting. The more you give, the more you get. In my early career it was all about me (ego), and all about getting from others. Frankly, it did not work all that well. The minute I decided that I should approach everything with a spirit of generosity, not interested in what I get, but instead interested in how much I can give, how I can help others, everything changed. For instance, we carved out a significant part of our profits and gave it to our employees. We carved out another significant piece and donated it to an organization that helps homeless people. And our attitude of being generous impacts the way we approach and address everything, hopefully making it better for everyone we encounter. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10.
Lastly: Life is short, then you die. We are each given life for a purpose. The sooner you focus on finding purpose and doing something that plays a significant role in changing the world, the more you will be fulfilled, and things will go better than ever. For me it was finding ways to help people in my two areas of passion … radio and art. Focusing on making people’s lives better, creating experiences, and helping others change their lives by finding something of value has made a giant difference.
It took me decades to discover the power of these five tips. I discovered them one at a time, and they had a huge and powerful impact on my life and my business. They are simple principles that I have found amplify everything disproportionately. They can apply in life, in business, in charity, and in anything you do.
PS: When we start to reach mid-life, we start thinking that there must be more to life than this. It’s when most of us start to explore our inner thoughts and try to find our soul work. It’s when most of us discover our creative side. If that’s you and painting is what you’ve discovered, I’ve got some free lessons on some important principles you may want to learn. Don’t ignore the voices in your head. There is more to life. We are born to create. For me the discovery of painting was another life-changing moment, so another tip or secret … find something you love doing to create something. Find your art, and your life will be filled with interest, challenge, and joy.
PS2: When you walk into our 120-year-old camp on the lake, you’ll find a photo of a young girl planting a birch tree with her father. Today that tree at the edge of the water is a giant. We continued that tradition this week with our triplets, planting a new birch by the water. This birch has three trunks, representing our triplets. Its photo will hang beside the other for future residents to discover when this tree also becomes a giant.
PS3: A shout-out to Dean Pickering, editor supreme who helps create our art instruction videos. Today is his birthday! We love him and honor him today.