Renewed by the end of Summer and the case for Corporate Social Responsability

Refresh Yourself

Summer has come to an end and I feel renewed. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a long summer and things haven’t slowed down because it is Fall. In the last few months I have had many meetings, long business trips, late working days, and further discussions about the things that consume much of my attention. Between home and work, life has just been simply busy. Still, as I think of this Summer, I feel renewed; overflowing with memories that build momentum for me to remain committed and engaged with all that is going on in my life.

Some of the memories that fill my mind and generate this positive energy?
Taking mornings out of my work schedule to start the day sharing a cup of coffee with my wife…
Reading more books that feed both the heart and the brain (finishing John Piper’s The Pleasures of God and enjoying Joseph McCormack’s Brief)…
Spending more time with my children just talking and getting to know who they are deep inside…
Reconnecting with friends and family, and inviting new people into my life…
Opening our home to our community and serving people for who they are…
Helping a friend move into his new home…
Recommitting to speaking Portuguese more often with my family (this is a big one)…
Going on a road trip…
Attending a soccer game (Liverpool 2-0 AC Milan)…
Taking long walks on the beach…
Waking up to the see the sun-rise and taking the time to watch it go down…
Taking a day off work to do nothing but play hard with my family (Defygravity is awesome)…
Running 4 to 5 miles twice a week (just me and the road ahead)…

I could go on. It’s a simple list of memories made up of events both big and small, but each with a meaning that serves to push me forward when the stress of life starts to creep up.

We all go through those moments when life is just too busy and hectic. What do you do to regain your energy levels? I’ve learned that it is the way one responds that ultimately stabilizes our vision. It provides additional angles to our perspective of things.

For me it helps to spend time with my family; It reminds me of why I do what I do. And when I help others, this allows me to understand my situation in a different light. I believe this is why more and more businesses are pushing for their employees to focus on community initiatives. It is more than a PR move. Yes, helping the community you serve with your business is important but it is much more than a “photo pop.”

The case for Corporate Social Responsibility

In a 2004 article published in the Economist we see the arguments for why corporate america should and should not focus on social responsibility. While the message focuses on the impact of company resources on the environment, the same arguments can be made for any opportunity to serve the people that buy the product or use the widget your business provides.  Still, I believe the impact is two-fold (which is what is missing from the article linked above); not only are businesses caring for their communities, but the people that make up the enterprise are growing in the experience of giving of their own resources – time and money.

This practice is not as common in Portugal so I’ve learned much from my experience in the US. I will never forget the year 2005 as one where myself and a group of co-workers volunteered to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. The opportunity to do something so selfless allowed me to understand my position when compared to others. How fortunate I am. How blessed I am. That experience alone was a catalyst for much humility. But it also provided me the desire to be more engaged with the company I worked with, knowing that it supported the communities it served. That was motivation to work even harder.

If you are a business owner, are you providing the opportunities for your workers to serve their community? Are you allowing them to grow in this process of selflessness? The rewards of employee motivation are real in these acts.

Saudades do meu Pai

O meu Pai e eu

Saudade is know as an untranslatable word. The meaning?

“A feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese
temperament.”

That is how I would describe myself today, with a feeling of longing and nostalgia for my father. Yesterday would have been his 82nd birthday and I wish I could hug him and show him just how much I’ve been blessed. There are many things I’ve learned to appreciate in life but I feel like I could have shared those thoughts with much more courage and confidence now than I did when he was alive.

Like any relationship ours was one that had its ups and downs. Mainly because there was such a generational gap – he had turned 50 when I was born; a complete surprise to him; a wonderful surprise he would often correct me.

When I was young I knew the boundaries he created for himself and for others. He was an older man and strict to his core. A good friend to the ones closest to him, still his best companion was his memory. Conversations about his youth were scarce but every now and then he would share about his adventures. His love for history was pure and he lived during iconic times but the stories he would share were more about life’s lessons than about his ego. Still, these stories, weaved through historical moments I read in books, taught me much of who I am today. And while I didn’t notice then, I know for sure that he left a lasting impression on me. Some of these stories have mirror mine…
How my father left his small town to come to the Portuguese capital in search of a better life. I left my own country in search of a better life for me and my family.
How my father chose to forgo an educational path in order to care for his family while building a relationship with his teachers to share about their discontent for the old regime of censorship. He claimed this to be his best education. While I have a degree, my first job in the US was as a forklift driver for a Florida nuclear plant and later I worked in a call center doing things I was overeducated to do. Still I built relationships with people from all walks of life that still impact me today.
How my father traveled Europe during the Portuguese dictatorship and lost his passport in Italy, only to be called every month for a meeting with the Political Police (PIDE). Since I moved to this country I did have my passport expire and going through immigration offices is definitely not something I would wish on anyone. But that experience taught me to respect everyone, no matter where they are from.
But my favorite was more sensational than character builder: how he met a young Sidney Poitier at the opening of a club in Ibiza, Spain. I got nothing on that.

Those were incredible life lessons that have shaped the person I am today – sacrifice, hard work and respect.

But it wasn’t always pretty with us. Not all of his convictions matched mine and we had our fair share of disagreements. In a moment of defiance he took a stand against my maturation process and said no to my wedding. That would be his greatest regret. Not being there on the most important day of my life was difficult and I’ve learned to cope with it.

In the later years before he passed, sickened by cancer, I saw what he must have looked like when we was younger. While definitely with less energy, the outer layer come out and his ability to love and care became more evident. They were always there but not as visible as now. I might have doubted he was able to do it so freely when we were going through our rough patches. But when he asked for forgiveness to me and my bride for missing our wedding, that example of courage made it all worth it. To acknowledge your wrongs. To be bold in accepting your convictions as wrong. To make that transformation known through words. I didn’t see that often from my Dad. Still, I will never forget it.

I miss him. I miss his conversations about soccer. I miss his simple compliments. I know he would have loved to see the wonderful family God has built for us. I know he would have loved to see the relationships we have built in our community. I know he would have loved to see his grandkids growing-up.

The feeling of saudade is inserted here… in the nostalgic remembrance of how much I loved him; of how much I indeed learned from him. I think there is great motivation for me to learn from his life. While I didn’t admit at first, there is much more of him in me. And I’m proud to admit it.

Remembering Maya Angelou and Celebrating her Legacy

maya-angelou-learning-quotes-wallpaper

The last few months have been busy. We all go through these seasons where in a blink of an eye one wonders where has all the time gone. In moments like these few things make you stop and look around. The passing of Maya Angelou was one of those moments.

Like many in my generation I learned about Maya Angelou through interviews, documentaries and of course, her famous quotes. One of my favorite quotes is both symbolic but real; as a palpable statement that you feel when you say it. It is one of my favorite quotes because it is true and it shapes the motivation for my actions:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

I never met Mrs. Angelou but I would have loved to have spent just one afternoon soaking in all of her experience and life’s lessons. The main reason her poems connected with people was because you could hear the real impact life had on her soul. From the early life as a singer to the later part of her journey as an activist, her message was one of self-confidence and self-belief. These are attributes that weren’t always poured out onto me but that I found through my role as an adult who could positively impact the circle around me.

I’ve intentionally soaked up this quote when interacting at home, at work, at the neighborhood pool or at church. The reality is that people won’t forget Mrs. Angelou because she made them feel valued and she made them believe in themselves.

I want to leave that type of legacy as well. Do you?

Celebrating Mother’s Day on a regular day

Yesterday was a great day; it always is. Every year we take the second Sunday of the month of May to celebrate Mother’s Day in the States (a week later than in Portugal). 

On this day Mom’s are supposedly able to take a day off and relax under the sun, while the rest of the family does their best to match the level of comfort only a mom can bring to the home (most of the times the husband just tries to contain the children and make quiet enough while avoiding getting the house on fire). We do this because we love our Moms! We appreciate the continuous giving of themselves even when there is little to no praise in return. The pouring of their heart through the ups and downs of life is an always present, always ready, and never-say-no quality that makes a long-lasting impression on a child. I’ve been blessed to witness that with my wife and she is an inspiration to me and our children.

Her motives are pure and her desire is clear: to raise our children in the way of love, confident in themselves and aware of others, knowing that they can make a difference in every circumstance. She is not working for her praise. She is working for something greater then herself.

So today, the day after Mother’s Day, much of the excitement will go away. Mother’s will take the behind the scenes approach and step back from the lights that once a year shine on their work. Still their work won’t stop. It never did; not even on Mother’s Day. Today they will continue their craft of love, pouring more and more of themselves to the growth of their children. Today they will…

make meals,

take children to school,

work around the house or in the office,

pick up groceries,

help with homework,

do baths,

and tuck children in bed.

Most of the day’s hard work and sacrifices will go unnoticed and that is okay. The rubbing off of character will continue and make a difference in the life of a child. Even if it does go unnoticed, she is making a difference.

My goal, and every one’s goal should be to remind them of that labor of love. Motivating them to know they are making a difference. So today I say again, as I said yesterday and as I’ve forgotten to say so many times, Happy Mother’s Day!

Getting you Pumped Up

He believes in you! He is your biggest fan! He cheers you in public when the crowd roars with excitement! He pulls you up when loneliness sets in! No matter what may come your way; no matter how big the challenge; no matter how high the mountain may seem; He is there for you!

Who?

The father in the lounging chair?

The neighbor sitting on the front the porch?

The teacher standing in the hallway?

The student hanging out in the playground?

The co-worker filling out paper forms?

YOU!!! Get up and move! This is your chance to make a difference. To make an impact. To pump someone up and see the effects as it spreads out! 

I was a reminded of this power as I saw a motivational calendar my team and I created for our sales channel. I made the cover page based on some of the expressions that inspire me. And as I look at it again, I feel inspired to be better myself. To get up and move. To lead at home. To lead at work. And to lead in my community. As a husband; as a father; as a son; as a brother; as a co-worker; as a mentor; as a friend.

Pumping you up

Let these words pump you up!

Life is like a run

Running

Have you ever felt like you were meant for more? Like you could be doing more? Potential is such an easy word to use. I use it often and see that it has some energy to it. The power to achieve something that you earnestly look for; that you aim for. But what about when you look back only to see that you’ve made little progress. Like a morning run where you’ve gone out full speed ahead only to see that you’ve ran just a mile in and most of path is still ahead of you. There was potential for so much more. Sometimes I feel that way. Like I’ve been giving so much only to look back and see that I’m only a few steps ahead.

This thoughts echoes in my mind as I sit in a hotel room for another business trip and after hitting the road for a morning run. After a week of Winter Storms that provided much time to think, this is the perfect time to write this post. With more trips and more meetings life can become trivial. The road twists back and forth as the weight of the body settles through this run. Only to look back and see that you’ve only gone a mile. That feeling arises again: there was potential for so much more…

I wish I could be ahead and further down the road. I wish I could have breezed through the hills and be ahead; I wish I could be on mile marker 3 or 4! 

But what about the road behind? There is power on looking back too. On the fact that I’ve started the run. And through it all I’ve exercised will, commitment and power. I’ve experienced a new scenery with a new path in front of me. By hitting the road and going on the run I have lived! One step in front of the other.

I’ve experienced new growth through my marriage…

I’ve become a better father through the hills…

I’ve enjoyed fulfilling friendships that helped me up while in the valley…

I’ve grown in my work life with better balance between the needs at home and the needs at the office…

I’ve also met other runners on this road…

Overall it was tough and I which I was ahead, but I’m glad I got out and went on the run. Period!

Some might say that potential has an age limit; an expiration date. I beg it different! Everyday there is progress. Everyday you can be better. The truth is that in life as in a run, achieving all we were meant to be is just one step away from us.

To run is a blessing. For how hard, how painful it may be I got to run. To experience this run, this life, is a blessing.

The key is to continue to step forward.One step in front of the other.

Stepping up to the challenge

taking a step

What does work changes, family health and extreme weather have in common? You have no control over either of them. That is basically what I experienced in the last few weeks.

It first started with increase work-related projects that needed my undivided attention as our business grows and reaches for additional success in a new year. My business trips started adding up to my calendar as each day unfolded a new opportunity for me to provide guidance and leadership. While all of this is happening a winter vortex fast approached the southern states that I’ve come to enjoy for their early spring. And because in a perfect storm it doesn’t simply rain, my wife and kids all got the flu at the worst time possible.

In that moment I remember thinking of what I could do to accommodate all the areas that were pulling for my attention. Have you ever had a moment like this? Where when you least expected the perfect plan becomes… well, not perfect at all? In these moments many of us tend to be stressed by the demands instead of being excited by the opportunities it poses for personal and professional growth. The way one juggles all responsibilities does provide a window to share on the demeanor and focus needed to overcome a challenge.

So that was my situation. I won’t deny that at some point I wanted to crawl into the fetal position and simply wish for all to go away. That lasted for about 1 minute… I didn’t have time for much more; in reality there was no time do stand still. My role as a husband, father, family leader, committed worker and team member required me to step up to the challenge. In moments like this I embrace the adrenaline and take in the opportunity to shine and grow. Will I make mistakes? Yes. Could I have done things differently? Yes.

But instead of getting bitter I want to get better.

We all go through moments like this, where our plans don’t go according to our…well, plans. To step up to the challenge all you need to do is take that first step. There are no manuals in handling unexpected challenges and so my main direction in these circumstances is to push through and take that step. I didn’t know all that was unfolding until it actually happened. Still, I took a step. With flexibility I changed by work plans to re-arrange my traveling. With commitment I took the time to be present for my family and take care of their needs. With engagement I made up my work time by working earlier mornings and later nights to handle all my responsibilities at the office.

I didn’t plan my last three weeks to be like this but I took a step to face my challenges head on. What challenges are you facing? You may not know what is coming up but all you need to do is take that first step.