Monday, March 28, 2011


What a week!  It seems that most people that I've talked to this week were having especially busy weeks with their work and home lives.....OH, and we also had to study for our second economics test (joke intended as if it were an after thought HA).  As it turned out to be a busy week for us all, our learning team had another person from the class to join with us in our study session this weekend for the test.  Then, two of us decided to join his group the next day to continue the study.  That time studying together proved to be priceless and I think we all did well on the test.

Leadership Study:
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Last night I took the Strengths Finder survey online and got my report.  This survey is like the typical personality type survey where you answer questions by choosing one option over another.  There were 177 questions and I made myself answer the questions immediately without trying to over-think them. I asked my wife to read the report first to give me her first impression of it before I read it.  I always find the type of personality/strengths tests both annoying and intriguing.  Annoying because I don't like to be "categorized" or put "in a box", but yet it is intriguing, because I found that it was right on the money with 95% of how it attributed me.

Additionally, I enjoyed the reading assignment for the class far more than I thought I would.  Because of the busy week, I didn't read the books until today.  I took a long lunch and read.  When I got to the book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by Arbinger Institute, I read the first five chapters as assigned and found that I didn't want to stop.  The story is engaging and you naturally want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

Photo by Cammie Wilkerson
Tonight, we spent time learning what others' strength attributes were and roamed the room interviewing one another about those strengths.  I found that completely fascinating.  I really appreciated the transparency of the discussion, not just from Dr. Ford's facilitation, but from my cohort.  A portion of our time dealt with the subject of vulnerability including a great video of Dr. Brene Brown discussing the value of vulnerability.  I shared with the cohort that I have always felt transparent and have not been resistant to being vulnerable, but still, the video challenges me to ask myself if I really am vulnerable or can I be more vulnerable.  I highly encourage you to check out that video...

As I reflect on the week and this evening's classes, I find myself, as usual, appreciating my learning team, but the experiences of this week and the discussions in class tonight make me appreciate the total cohort that we're  on this journey together.  I think that appreciation started a couple of weeks ago when the individual presentations started, then last week with group presentations.  During those two weeks, I heard people speaking in class for the very first time.  Now tonight, we just went a little deeper together in class.  From someone that gets energy from learning about others and knowing their stories, this evening has supplied me with lots of energy.  So to my fellow cohort members, thank YOU.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 10: Time Flies....

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Spring break....what spring break?  Actually, spring break couldn't have come at a better time.  While most undergrads were probably speeding off to home or vacation, our learning team was using the time to finish our marketing class project paper, presentation, Facebook project paper, and economics paper.  All were due on our return from spring break.
I don't want to sound like we worked the whole time on the project, but we all did spend a lot of time on our projects.  We each found some time to "detox" for a few days during the "break".  Some went to SXSW, one went away to Houston, and my wife and I went to Dallas for a few days.  But, the break was needed for the rest and to catch up.

Reflections and Expectations:
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It's hard to imagine that our first class is coming to an end.  Preparation for tonight brought our team closer than we've been yet.  We're now working with much more understanding of each other's strengths (and weaknesses) as well as digging deeper on getting to know each other.  One evening we all met at Maudie's on 360 to have dinner together before we went to work on our projects.  Had a great time having each person share with the group one thing that no one would know about them.
In our last meeting together on Sunday, we met for 6 hours to finish our projects.  We experienced the whole roller coaster ride downward, feeling the pressure to finish the projects, and peaking with multiple times of laughing at one another.  I'm really enjoying our team.....each and every one of them.  I believe this time together has helped put our team puzzle together.  (Ramon, that picture is for you....since you love puzzle pics so much)  :-)

Class Time:

Tonight was the last night for our Managerial Marketing class.  Since the class time ran out last week, four people had to do their individual presentations this week.  Once they finished, we went right into each group's presentations.  The four group projects involved: San Disk, Best Buy, NFL, and the State of Texas.  It was obvious that each team had put a lot of work into their presentations and I enjoyed seeing their team dynamics, style, and creativity.  All the teams did well with their presentations and I was equally proud of the performance of our team's presentation.  We then reviewed our Facebook projects and I'm happy to say our team won the "Likes" contest this go round.  We created a page for people to share their top 3 things they'd like to do before kicking the bucket.  Even today, another person joined the page and shared their bucket list.  We are going to leave the page up so visitors can continue to enjoy reading and even be inspired by others' bucket lists.   And with that....Managerial Marketing has come to a close.

Economics:  Similar to the marketing class, we had our economics project paper due tonight.  Each team's paper will then be critiqued by a different learning team and then we will be given an opportunity to address that critique.  So, this should be an interesting few weeks ahead.  Tonight, we continued to cover the structure/characteristics of monopolies, monopolistic competitive, and oligopolies.  The highlight of the evening for me was when we got Dr. Estrada laughing so hard he couldn't continue explaining the concept of the Sweezy Oligopoly for  a couple of minutes.  It's always good to see your instructor laugh heartily!  The laughing was good, because the tension in the room was high as most seemed anxious about the test next week.  This test will primarily be on theory, so there's no problem sets to work through like we had for the last test.

Personal Thoughts:
During our two weeks between classes, I decided to invite a guy from one of the other learning teams to lunch.  I figure, if I'm going to be spending the next two years with these folks, I'd like to eventually know everyone's stories.  And wow, what a story he has.  We spent about 3 hours talking and I appreciate his transparency.
After our economics class, three of us stayed behind to ask Dr. Estrada a few questions about the test.  On our way out, I had a good conversation with another member of the class and I've asked him if he'd share his story in a couple of weeks over lunch.
My wife, Antoinette, and our dog, Dudley, for his 15th b'day.  
While I am proudly biased towards our learning team, I am still reminded that our cohort has a lot of bright and talented people that I look forward to getting to know in our remaining time together.  Each person not only has a story, but a different perspective they bring to the cohort - perspectives that are valuable.
Most importantly, I am so thankful for my wife being so supportive in this journey.  I've spent a lot of time in books, researching on the internet, and writing - even during our time in Dallas - and she has been nothing but understanding.  I can't convey how important that has been.
Lastly, for the benefit of my learning team.  Here's the reason I was a little late for our last prep meeting together.  This is our dog, Dudley, and it was his 15th birthday and YES, we did give him cake (specially made for dogs) and ice cream.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Week 9: Stetch.....

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This section is Sunday's post!  Lots of prep in the midst of work and life, but the initial waves of this Tsunami are just hitting shore.  Spent most of Saturday finishing my paper for marketing and Monday completing powerpoint for the individual presentation.

Reflections and Expectations:
Because I had just posted on Sunday, the preparation & reflections are basically all wrapped up in that post, so I will not add anymore to it, except to say that blogging this journey has been more therapeutic than I ever would have imagined.  Early in my Christian walk, I used to journal daily and over the years had gotten out of that habit.  This particular exercise has rekindled that desire again to journal aka blog.

My expectations for tonight's class are simply wrapped up in a question:  How in the world are 20 people going to present their individual presentations in one night in 4-5 minutes each?

Class Time:
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About half of the class had shown up outside the doors to our room at 5:30pm so that we could load our marketing presentations on Professor Warren's computer.  However, the class before ours was running late, so we didn't get the room until about 5:50pm.  By the time everyone got their presentations loaded on the notebook, the first presentation didn't start until 6:20pm.  My first thought....."Who's getting punted to next class meeting?"
I enjoyed the presentations that my colleagues shared and it was obvious that everyone had put a lot of time in their research.  I especially loved the passion that people brought to their presentations, whether it was a burrito passion with Chipotle as David Pfahler let us know what is included in his perfect burrito or Travis Roberts' passionate presentation about TOMS ShoesAs I had thought, it proved to be very tough for each person to finish within the allotted time, but all in all I enjoyed watching our class do their presentations.  Especially hearing from those that almost never speak up in class.  My thought at the beginning proved to be true, as well.  Four people did not get to do their presentations due to time constraints, so they will start our next class time.  Thankfully, I was able to squeeze my presentation at the very end of class, so at least that's off my plate!

Economics:  For the past couple of weeks, we have been learning the concepts in chapters 5,6 and 8.  Learning about org structures....perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopolies and monopolies.  But, the shark just beneath the waters is the project papers that are due when we return from spring break.  Our learning team is planning to meet at least a couple of times over the break to finish our econ paper as well as our group presentation for marketing.  Both are due the night we return from spring break....not much of a break :-)

Personal Thoughts:
This journey has been incredible!  Who could imagine how much we'd learn, experience, and get stretched.  And this journey is only the beginning!  Nine weeks into this 2 year journey.  I hope as you read this (especially if you've read my previous posts) that if you are considering this same journey for yourself, my advice is jump in, the water's fine!  But, jump in with eyes wide open and ready to work.  I know my posts have centered around my struggles with time, group dynamics, business, and family balance.  But, I want to make sure you understand that I am so glad I'm on this journey.  Here are just a few of the things about this journey that I am thankful for:
- Forging new friendships that I'm sure will be long-lasting
- Learning things that I am already incorporating into our business model
- Understanding my limits
- Appreciating and respecting the knowledge, talent, passion, life stories, unique perspectives, and authenticity of my cohort and instructors.
- and many more.....I will pause toward the end of each semester to give this same list and we'll see if or how it changes as the journey continues.

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I'll close this week's blog with the concept of stretch.  I've posted about the juggling and struggling with time due to the nature of my business schedule, family time, and school.  Struggling through this has definitely stretched me and is already making me a better man.  It's made me appreciate my quiet time's reading.  It's made me prioritize exercise and healthy eating.  What do these have to do with business?  Everything!  If I am not growing, I'm dying.  If I want to be an effective leader, I need to be stretched to my limits especially to the point of humility.   Stretch is good.  Stretch is often preparation for a journey (before jogging) or often required if not properly prepared for the journey (cramping).  So the question is:  when is a rubberband the most useful.  When it is stretched!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


The first time I've not posted immediately after class.  It's now Sunday, I just got back from church and I feel the need to capture some of the past couple of weeks before we head into class tomorrow.  So, the normal format for this post will not be used....just some random thoughts.
According to Webster's Dictionary, busyness is:
1: a : engaged in action : occupied b : being in use <found the telephone busy>
2: full of activity : bustling <a busy seaport>
3: foolishly or intrusively active : meddling
4: full of distracting detail <a busy design>
As I look back at the last post, I'm reminded of my struggle with margin and am putting that in the perspective of busyness.  See those definitions above?  Definition 1 is good, "engaged in action.....being of use".  Sounds good.  "Full of activity" - not bad.  But unfortunately, the past couple of weeks have felt more like 3 and 4, "foolishly active" and "full of distracting detail."  Sounds harsh and I know this blog (for all 3 of you reading it) is just one man trying to be transparent on his keep in mind this journey is not just homework, class time, class prep....this journey is life.  So, you get to read the good and the struggles as I've committed to be transparent in my writings.
My accountability partner has asked me and prayed for me that I would be more discerning about adding margin back into my routine.  I so appreciate his prodding!!
After last week's classes, I came home and went straight to bed because I had to leave for Dallas the next morning.  I spent the week in Dallas working, in meetings, visiting our printer in Ft Worth and found myself completely exhausted each evening, by the time I got back to my condo.  I had high hopes of catching up on some school projects and I actually did, but not until Thursday night.  I got back to Austin on Friday afternoon and spent the evening with my wife, Ant, (Antoinette, but we all call her Ant) work, no school.....ahhhhh, margin.
I worked most of the day on Saturday writing my paper for Marketing and then went dinner with Ant.  After dinner we went to Barnes and Noble where I sat with a book in their coffee shop and actually ended up watching this elderly gentleman in a wheelchair enjoying his coffee and a cookie.  As I watched him, I began wondering what his life's journey had been.  Did he enjoy the journey?  Did he travel?  Did he have family?  What did he invest his life into?  As he sat there struggling to get the cup of coffee to his lips just to take a sip, I wanted to go over and sit at his table and ask that he share with me his story.  But I didn't, regretfully.  Within a couple of minutes, his son came over to check on him, they chatted a few minutes and then they left.  I probably don't do this justice in conveying my profound moment, but in those moments of observation I gained some perspective.  MARGIN
I prayed last night for direction or at least discernment on what to do with all these thoughts running circles in my head.  Ant and I went to the early service at our church this morning and I felt like the past couple of weeks had prepared me to hear this particular message.  SABBATH.  The whole message was on priorities, perspective on ownership, and rest.  While the message was challenging, its timing was perfect and just what I needed to hear. So, that's all good, but what am I going to do with it?  Stay tuned.....