Friday, May 13, 2011

The end of an era?

Yesterday, our extended family said a formal goodbye to Mac Adamson.

Mac, just a few days short of his 99th birthday and his 10th anniversary of marriage to my mother, Dorothy, decided last week that his journey was completed.  Fortunately, I was able to spend a little time in conversation with him the day he moved on.

After yesterday's service and witnessing the transforming power he had on my Mom's life over the past decade I was both thankful and fearful.  Thankful because he had shared himself so willingly with my Mom and showered her with kindness, patience and perhaps the most genuine love I have witnessed.  Fearful because I wonder if his passing brought to a close an era when a true gentleman could survive and prosper.

Don Henley (of the Eagles) asked in one of his great songs, "How can love survive in such a graceless age?"

Henley clearly never had the opportunity to meet Mac Adamson as he would have discovered the answer.  It is that love can survive in this graceless age only when someone as selfless as Mac makes the conscious decision to shed showers of patience and understanding to all who came in contact with him.  Without any sense of self-absorbed pride Mac taught us that a legacy is created not through monetary, boastful acts but by living every day according to well-learned principles of faith, hope and love.

When Lawrence Lovasik wrote "A gentleman has his eyes on all those present; he is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absent," he could have been using Mac as his template.

Mac, I am only sorry that I didn't have more time in my life to benefit from your gentle character, to revel in your quiet yet rich sense of humour, and to learn to bring into my own life the transforming power of love.  Especially in such a graceless age.

Gone.  But never forgotten.

R.I.P. Mac.

And a special note to his son Murray and daughter Barb: thank you for sharing your very special Dad with me, my wife and my sons Gabriel and Samuel.  Your Dad's last conversation with me revolved around ensuring that Gabriel received the last coin jar Mac collected.  Bless you all.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why we strike out on our own.

Yes, I am pissed off! (But it was several years ago.)

We look forward to the time when the power to love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace. William E. Gladstone

I won't, for a moment, suggest that I know why solopreneurs strike out on their own.  I will posit however that for some of us it comes down to a simple question of how we handle authority.

It was always a core belief of mine that to accept accountability in the absence of authority was a mug's game.  It still is for that matter and it's at least one of the reasons why I do what I do.  The picture above was taken a few years ago while I was visiting London, UK and while I was employed by one of Canada's larger design firms.  This shot was taken just moments after I foolishly answered a phone call while sitting Thames-side enjoying a pint of bitter with good friends.  The call revolved around my being held accountable for a program for which I had absolutely zero authority and this was a tipping point for me.  Within months of this photo being taken, I launched Grace Hanna Inc. and said so long, farewell to the corporate world - at least as an employee.

Since that day, there have been moments when I was almost as pissed off but never as a result of actions and outcomes over which I had no influence.  

Taking ownership of your outcomes is an empowering act.  Can it result in sleepless nights?  Can it bring about the 3:00 a.m. yips?  Of course.  If we don't occasionally experience those moments of discomfort it occurs to me that we're just not trying hard enough.

But, at the very least, we are not engaged in a mindless pursuit of power for the sake of power and that is why I so love this quote from Gladstone.  We can find peace as we operate our own businesses and at the end of the day our accountability is ultimately to our selves.  

At least, that's what I think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good advice for sole proprietors and entrepreneurs

It has been my good fortune to recently become a member of a small group of exceptionally bright and highly-motivating entrepreneurs.   Our group, Masterminds and Muses, is comprised of five sole proprietors who each have at least one thing in common - a desire to succeed coupled with the realization that we're stronger when supported.

In our meeting yesterday (just our second) we made some very real progress on the accountability front and in establishing trusting relationships which are crucial to arriving at mutual respect and mutual benefit.

One of the issues we all face is the sometimes daunting mountain of tasks we must all undertake as sole proprietors.  Regardless of our business mission we're all on the hook for everything from bookkeeping to timely billing (assuming we have any!) to business development to client service to actually doing the work for which we've been contracted. 

What is great about our group is the early onset willingness to support each other and to open our kimonos in so doing.  This got me to thinking about how valuable advice can be when we effectively state our need and are in the company of people who will listen intently before chiming in with commentary.  It also got me thinking that we each of us have to take off bite sized chunks of our tasks if we have any hope of succeeding.
Now, I've written about Shel Silverstein before on this blog so if you've ever visited you'll know I'm a fan.  What I didn't expect however was to gain really solid business advice from poems primarily targeted to kids.  That written though, we can all stand to approach our daily lives - personal and professional - with the open minds that little ones so briefly possess.  That's why I think the following poem is so apt and relevant to any attempting to find their way through what might seem insurmountable odds.  To summarize - one bite at a time folks.

And now, with thanks to Mr. Silverstein, here is the story of Melinda Mae:

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would, So she started right in at the tail.
And everyone said, "You're much too small,"
But that didn't bother Melinda at all.
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a good girl should...

...And in eighty-nine years she ate that whale

Because she said she would!