June 17, 2019

Y Family

Several years ago, I sat with a bunch of young couples in their 30’s who all worked for the Y during their high school and college years. They laughed and I cringed as they reflected on all their hi-jinx and games. A few of them met at the Y and are now married. It seems we are some kind of dating service!

Eventually the conversation turned to gratitude. Several of them shared how important the Y was to their personal development. It gave them confidence. It taught them discipline and built character.

Last week I got a text from a past staff person who was walking his daughter into her first day of Y camp in Charlotte. He shared, “I think I am more excited than she is. We have been singing camp songs for weeks.”

Recently I started putting family pictures of several of the past staff, that have been part of our Y family through the years, up in my office. Several were long time employees and then there are the staff that only stayed a few years.

I put the pictures on the back of my door, so I see them constantly. It serves as a reminder that my opportunity and privilege to lead people has the potential to impact and influence long past the time at the Y. I am not sure that when we hire a part time employee, we think about how that will shape their leadership 20 years in the future. I have said for years that EMPLOYMENT is our number one teen program.

Seeing the pictures reminds me on how much I have been blessed. Blessed to have worked beside some courageous leaders. Blessed to watch people grow into great husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. Blessed to have such wonderful memories of lives changed and people impacted – mainly my life!

One past staff person, even though he hasn’t worked for me for more than 20 years, always text me on Boss’s Day! A clear reminder that we will always be Y Family. (His daughter now works for us as a GWU Student).

Leadership is an incredible privilege, gift and opportunity. And most importantly, leadership is a blessing. #Blessed

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why? It is the only thing that ever has.”

May 30, 2019

That's Good, That's Bad

There used to be this skit on the iconic TV Show HEE HAW. It was called “That’s Good, That’s Bad.” The skit would go something like this.

“I went on a plane ride today.” “That’s Good.”

“No That’s Bad. The plane had mechanical issues and started to crash.” “Oh, That’s Bad.”

“No, That’s Good. There was a parachute for me.” “That’s Good”

“No That’s Bad. The parachute didn’t open.” “That’s Bad”

And the skit would continue to go back and forth until it reached a punch line.

Sometimes it feels like life is a constant “That’s Good, That’s Bad.” Monday is a good day and then Tuesday goes sideways and it’s a bad day. Wednesday your team wins a big game and then Thursday the star player gets hurt. Friday you pay off your final credit card bill and celebrate and then Saturday you find out that you need a new AC unit.

“Hey look everybody, I got a promotion and I am the boss.” “That’s Good.”

“Nope, That’s Bad. There are a bunch of people mad and guess what? You’re the Boss so deal with it.” “Oh, That is Bad.”

Age and experience have proven that life is a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. Anticipation, exhilaration, fear – In the end you are thankful that you survived, and you just hope you didn’t pee on yourself. I have also learned that if I look around, my That’s Bads actually pale in comparison to real problems.

My personal challenge is to be equally thankful and grateful in the “That’s Goods and in the That’s Bads.” Virginia’s National Championship Basketball Coach, Tony Bennett, said recently, “As a team we are committed to remain equally Faithful in the wins and in the losses.”

I am learning that what can be the BEST part of my job, can also be the WORST part of my job. What can be the best part of my day can quickly turn into the worst part of my day. What feels like a huge win often balances out with a big loss. But that old sage  Darrell Corder would say to me, “What doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.” In other words, learn from it, shut up and move on.

And more importantly Give Praise and Be Thankful. THAT’S GOOD.

May 14, 2019


Millennials or Generation Z, I am not sure what you call them. All I know is that working with them is kind of like negotiating with a terrorist – you should never show fear or weakness.

That line always makes me laugh and makes the young people on my staff roll their eyes.

Actually, I like “Hanging” with the young folks. Can I use the term “Hanging?” Does that make me sound old?

You have to worry about stuff like that. Making the wrong gesture, phrase or un-trendy statement will get you ridiculed. For a group that doesn’t like bullying, show them any weakness and they will pounce on you faster than a cheetah on an antelope with sore feet.

I took a few staff to lunch the other day and the XM radio station was playing my 80’s music – the soundtrack to my high school years. They laughed and cackled at the music. They never knew that Chicago and Boston were bands not just major cities. I almost ran off the road when they questioned, “What are the Commodores?”

My goodness, what is the world coming too. I have one goal, teach them about good music!

There are probably many things I could teach them. But as I reflect on our times together, I realize that they have been teaching me. They are so far beyond me at 25 its crazy. And at 25 I knew everything or at least thought I did. #CoachingUp

Life humbled me as it will humble them. One of my father’s friends told me once, that life has a way of bringing you back to reality every 90 days and that has been so true. I’ve learned not to let the highs be too high and the lows be too low.

With these staff, I have never texted so much in my life. I am an email guy but all of a sudden, I catch myself in the middle of a group text. My phone going BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ. Finally, I jump in and text, “how do you do the little picture thingy’s (GIF which I pronounce G I F just to annoy them)?”

Nothing beats a face to face meal where you can just laugh and be real. And I believe that everyone loves the hand written note, but this crowd will text you a thank you or text about a great day in a heart-beat. And I love it! Thank goodness I have learned how to “emoji!” (Is that a verb?) #GetWithItDude

One night I sat holding my silent phone wondering why they weren’t texting me. Are they texting each other and leaving me out on purpose? Had I made them mad? I felt 15 years old again waiting for some girl to call me back.

This crowd has no fear. They want to conquer the world and they probably will. As “old farts” we joke about how they all want to be the boss at 25 without paying their dues, but I would rather have a staff person that I am pulling the reigns back yelling “SLOW DOWN” than trying to drag someone along with me. The smarter ones understand the need for humility. I had one young staff person who applied for another job in his first 30 days on the job. As parents, bosses and mentors, often you have to let people fail. Several years ago, we had a sharp young guy with a bright future in the Y. He left to be an executive of another non-profit. I tried to tell him to be patient, but he would not listen. 12 months later he was out of a job. A bright future extinguished by over confidence and impatience.

On the flip side, I love that their hand goes up high asking for more responsibility or to lead a new initiative. “Hey old man, get out of my way. I will do that for you.” #NoFear

I have found one sure fire way to stoke the fire within the young staff – have fun! Work for them is like the constant 5th grade field trip. They are always walking the hall ways, “Hey, we’re going to Starbucks, want anything?” “Time for a run on chicken nuggets – want to come with us?” “We are going to work outside in the sun. Its such a beautiful day!”

20 minutes later I will get some random selfie picture of the group playing. And I struggle to get my selfie stick out to send a response – It is just not the same.

A great day is when you can get one to laugh so hard that the milk shake comes out their nose! #FUN

I love this old Tom T Hall song, That’s How I got to Memphis. The song is not about Memphis. Memphis is really if you love wherever you are and whoever you are with – that’s your Memphis. These “Whipper Snappers” are all about family. They bring in strays, they adopt people and they fight to the death for their family. They demand loyalty and if you are loyal to them then they will be loyal to you. I like the family concept because we have to be able to fight and argue and still be family. Often times family is tough and troubled, but it is still family. And in the end, I know I am in the right place at the right time with the right people – My Memphis! #FAMILY

Probably the greatest gift that the young staff have given me is the belief that you can lead with LOVE. I think it is more than just telling a staff that you love them, which I try to do, but it is about showing them. Kind of like learning the “Love Languages” of 30 people. Who needs acts of service, or words of affirmation? I catch myself re-hashing earlier conversations and wondering if I should send the gift card. Who did I forget to ask for lunch? I need to add that to my job description – LOVE YOUR PEOPLE!

“My Cup Runneth Over” from their love. Nothing beats walking in your office and having a sticky note on your lap top. Sometimes I feel like the cool kid when they invite me to lunch. Even if they only invite me because they know I will pay, that is OK by me. #LOVE

Our lives are just a story. I have learned to not only share my story but listen to their story. My dream, my goal, my strategic imperative – however I can describe it – I want to impact the story of their life in a way that somehow gets me a mention in their life’s appendix or footnotes. This “young family” of mine has me re-writing my own story. How grateful I am to be a part of theirs and how awesome it is to share how our stories have blended together.

I hope that a few of them continue to let me feel like I am part of the cool crowd. I know they will continue to inspire me with their passion and love for the mission of our work and for each other. I hope they continue to believe that they can change the world. I believe it. I hope they know that I am proud of them and I wish I could tell them how much I love them!

I think I will text them an EMOJI - BIG HEART! #FISTTOHEART

1.   Be Brave
2.   Have Fun
3.   Be Family
4.   Serve with Love
5.   Be a Part of a Bigger Story

March 26, 2019

The Snap Chitter

Young people.

How can you walk around with ripped up Blue Jeans? And you paid for them like that!

Constantly fidgeting with your phones, texting the friend right beside you.

What the HELL is Venmo and why do I need it? I have a wallet.

What do you mean, “What is a wallet?”

Changing jobs every 18 months. Not a single care in the world. Except that you want to change it!

How are you going to change the world when you have barely lived in it?

You sit around coffee shops drinking Half Caf, De Caf, Herbal Something Mocha Freaking Lattes and playing on the Snap Chitter. Try drinking some harsh Black Coffee in a real mug while eating some eggs and reading a newspaper. Then call me!

And if you say, “What’s a newspaper, I am going to scream.”

The truth is, I am a little jealous.

My parents deny they ever spanked me, but real life is being chased around and beaten with the sizzler race track.

My mom was upset when I told her to throw away the dozen or so trophies and plaques I got growing up. I can’t imagine the award case you will discard someday.

Try asking someone out on a date in the hallway at school or even over the phone.

You cannot even fathom living with 4 guys in a sparsely decorated dorm room and sharing one bathroom. (actually maybe the best 4 years of my life.) Except for being married and having kids of course.

I am jealous though. You have so many skills and such confidence. You don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Maybe you can sit with me and show me how to do that Venmo thingy? I’m not interested in the Snap Chitter. You teach me a little about technology and I will help you enjoy real music!

I may even let you use my selfie stick!