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The Journey

We were on our way to somewhere. Traveling in a large RV through the countryside, we watched the sun dip below the horizon and the bright greens of summer slowly become shades of black. I looked down to see the gas gauge floating at half-full and I had not seen a gas station for miles.

Not knowing how far we were from where we were going, I turned to dad and said, “I’m going to stop at the next gas station I see to fill up. I’m a little worried about running out of gas.” Dad seemed lost in thought, but he turned to me and the familiar gaze indicated to me he hadn’t understood, or maybe had not heard what I had said.

“I’m going to stop for gas, soon,” I repeated louder. Dad nodded and smiled as if to acknowledge he had heard what I said this time.

A few miles later a white clapboard store appeared on the left. Several cars were on the lot in front and a neon “open” sign pierced the dusk. As I got closer I could see two old gasoline pumps in front of the store under a small canopy just large enough to protect the pumps, and maybe a customer pumping gas, from the day’s weather.

“I’m going to stop here, dad.” Dad just stared ahead and said nothing as I pulled in next to the pumps. I climbed down from the RV, opened the tank cap, pulled the hose off the pump, flipped the pump switch and began refueling.

It was dark now. The one fluorescent blub flickering above the pumps and dim glow from the store window was barely enough light for me to see the gallon markers slowly roll by as I refilled the tank....

Thank You, Greg Henshall

Greg Henshall
Greg Henshall (Circa 1983)
Photo by Brandon Walsh

I have always been interested in photography and many of the earliest pictures of me show me with a camera. Whether it was the Kodak Duaflex III that belonged to my dad, or the Instamatic-X35 I received as a gift just before my 6th grade safety patrol trip, I loved the idea that I could capture a single moment in time. It came as no surprise to my dad, then, when I told him the summer of 1978 that I wanted a 35mm film camera.  I had saved some money, but not quite the $800 I needed for a camera and a couple for lenses.

I had morning paper route then and dad decided it would be a good time to teach me about finances. He offered to co-sign a one-year loan for me at his company’s credit union so I could buy the camera equipment. Before I made the investment, though, he wanted me to learn more about photography from someone who worked in the field. He asked a photographer he worked with at Union Carbide to come by the house to give me a primer on photography and equipment.

It wasn’t long before Greg Henshall showed up with several camera bags filled with different cameras and lenses. Greg was in late 20’s, loved people, loved photography, and was close enough to my age that dad thought I might listen to what he had to say. I liked him immediately and not just because we shared a common passion. Instead, I liked him because he was genuinely interested in me, a gangling teenager looking for a way to express himself.

Greg spent a few hours with me that night, teaching me the basics...

Change

Photo by David HarkinsThe work I do causes me to think a lot about how and why culture changes, how businesses change to respond to cultural change and how we, as individuals, adjust engagement and consumption behavior in reaction to an external disruption–that change in our normal state–when it is forced upon us. Throughout my career, I have helped many companies facilitate change, and the most important thing I’ve learned from it all is most of us hate change because it is usually something we are forced to react to, rather than participate in. This is especially true in our workplaces, with the businesses we deal with, and even with our favorite products. If you need an example, consider “New Coke,” or the attempt by GAP to change its logo.

I think everyone realizes change is constant and there is no rational choice but to embrace it, evolve with it, or at least find a way to adapt to the impact it has on our work. Embracing, evolving, or adapting is how most of us manage change in our personal lives, too. Although, we probably manage change in our business and professional lives much easier than we do in our personal lives.

My friend, Wendy Lou, believes most of us just want someone to change with us. I believe this, too, and I think this is why a change in business and professional environments, as painful as it is, can feel much easier for us than personal change. While each of us may approach change differently based on our background and life experiences, we typically experience workplace change with colleagues who are all moving, together, in the...

It’s in every one of us: Remembering Richie Pearlman

I originally wrote this essay in February 2009 for Scout Sunday and shared the excerpt below on my business blog September 11, 2010.  In 2011, I decided to make this an annual post in remembrance. Every trip I have made to New York since 2002, I go down to the WTC site and pay my respects to Richie, an 18-year-old man who answered a call of service to others with such passion and commitment, he never saw his 19th birthday. In May 2013 I saw this, a more permanent reminder of his remarkable courage…

I hope you’ll consider joining me in a moment of silence at 8:46 AM Eastern Time today to remember Richie Pearlman and the nearly 3,000 people who died twelve years ago. 

From February 2009…


A few weeks ago, I was in NY and made a visit to the World Trade Center site as I have on every trip to the city since 2002. This trip I was able to go to the museum for the first time and reflect on that tragic day. As I made my way around to the photographs of the three thousand or so individuals who lost their lives, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was the face of Richard Pearlman. Suddenly, I couldn’t contain my grief. Standing there looking at that wall, at the picture of Richard, the tears streamed down my face. Although I did not know him personally, I did know his story.

In February 2009, I had the privilege of sharing the message for Scout Sunday at my church. My message that Sunday was based on the New Testament book of Luke 6:17-26, commonly known as the “Beatitudes.” I closed the message with a...

A rabbi, of sorts

I did not know my parents while growing up. I knew what they looked like and where I could find them every day because we lived in the same house. They were my parents, and I never saw them as individuals. I thought their job was to take care of me; to make sure I had food to eat and clothes to wear.  I think most children feel this way about their parents until they’re well into adulthood. As for me, my perspective changed the summer of 1982.

momandad_fall1981

In 1982, my dad was on the board of directors for our community swim club and one summer Saturday decided he was going to fix a malfunctioning sump pump at the pool. He was up and out of the house early that day, as he usually was, with my little brother in tow. Mom was working. My sisters were sleeping. The house was still and quiet, making it the perfect morning for a 19-year-old college student on summer break to sleep a little later, too.

The phone rang about 11:00 a.m., my sister answered and then woke me to take the urgent call. When I picked up the phone, a family friend told me dad had been injured, and I should come right away. I grabbed a shirt, put on my shoes, and drove up to the pool alone, wondering what had happened and what I would need to do when I go there if I could do anything at all.

I pulled into the parking lot to see paramedics, firemen, and a crowd of concerned friends. They told me the sump pump dad had been...

On the third day

My mother and I did not always agree.

As a child, I followed the rules and did what I was told,  but as an adult, I was prone to speak my mind. Once, at age 19, I chose to be too vocal within my mother’s reach and promptly had my mouth smacked. Stunned, I walked away in silence, not to rethink what I had said because what I said was the truth. Instead, I needed to consider the timing and delivery of my words and whether it was worth a pop in the mouth for being what she thought was me being disrespectful. I thought I was being honest and direct, not disrespectful. I struggled a lifetime to find that balance with my mom.

Mom shared my gift of impulsive honesty, which is why she likely did not like to be the recipient of the same. Often she would speak without thinking, saying those things on her mind before others were ready, or even needed to hear them.

My dad once told me, “Your mother thinks you should not say some of the things you say to her.”

She saw value in her trait to cut to the heart of matters and speak honestly; she was less appreciative of it in others, particularly when she was on the receiving end of the words.

We lived apart much of the end of her life, yet this did not stop our honest conversations. On the phone several times a year, in the silence of waiting for her response to something I had said, I would hear a “click,” and then a dial tone. Although the distance saved me from a slap across the mouth, I felt the sting just the same. Silence became my mother’s punishment of choice, or perhaps of necessity.

It was best to let mom take the...

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