Tinkering in America

Observing the unique American life in his book, On Paradise Drive, author David Brooks says, “In America we have space-saving pop-up disk racks, prewaxed home dusters, turkey-and bacon-flavored dog biscuits, and self-propelled vacuums…built-in compass cuff links, and antibacterial toothbrush purifiers.  Behind each of these ingenious and highly unnecessary items there is some inventor, some tinkerer, some junior Thomas Edison dreaming of his patent-protected millions and his contribution to humanity.”

Brooks was echoing what Italian journalist, Luigi Barzini (1908-1984) said in the middle part of the last century.  Barzina said that upon arriving in the United States that he was struck with “our compulsion to tirelessly tinker, improve everything and everybody, never leave anything alone.”

Our nation has long been a collection of dreamers and tinkerers, optimists, and tireless workers.  Compared to our European counterparts, we work longer hours, get less vacation, and even when we are on vacation we are constantly monitoring our emails and responding to those important queries.  We just can’t leave work behind.  And regardless of pleas to work less and relax more…we’re not changing.  We are who we are; we are a nation that believes we can fix it – whatever it is.

We will fix the car, the bike, the company, the economy…it’s in our eclectic, mongrel DNA…but we should be careful that we don’t scrub this tinkering DNA out of our future generations.  Parents need to allow children to struggle, tinker, and find their own solutions.  And just as a child’s discovery of their God-given talents can be thwarted by well-meaning parents who don’t allow them to struggle, easy government handout programs for every malady or misfortune can also be an impediment to discovery.

So in the spirit of Luigi Barzina, tinker in your garage, tinker with your craft, tinker with some writing, tinker with other volunteers to find solutions, tinker with that new business idea, tinker and be satisfied that in the end, you may not find a solution but what you may find is your thought process is expanding…and then…who knows you may find some real “luck” and tinker yourself into some good old fashion, well-earned success.


Getting to “Did”

I want to learn more, have better relationships, exercise more, make a real difference, travel there.

I will start a new business, finish that book, volunteer to help, address that issue in my life.

I did it.

We all “want.” Some will even commit to “I will.” But getting to “did”…that’s work! But it’s also where we satisfy the longing of our souls.

You should…

…worry more, trust less, find the worst in others, assume the most dire, focus on your failures, doubt yourself more, aim lower, be less enthused, try nothing new, believe you are destined for failure, and when all else fails – give up.

Sounds ridiculous when you put it that way – is there a way to put it where it sounds less ridiculous?

This is life…unplanned

We spend a lifetime planning…

we plan for our education

we plan for our wedding

we plan for our family

we plan for our retirement

But most of life unfolds before us unplanned.   We live day-to-day with our family, spend time with friends, work with our colleagues, and generally go about our business.  Most of life isn’t planned…it just is.

Rather than looking forward to the milestones in life and expecting fulfillment in those events, we should plan to find joy in the present moment – where life is lived.

How will Your Giving Impact Someone’s Life?

In a land far away… a long, long, long time ago – there was a gangly kid kicking around the halls of a city school when he heard a voice from the stern-faced math teacher, “Hey Hahn, are you going to run?”

The long-haired goofy looking kid peered up through his hair, “Ah, yeah, sure…when’s practice?”

And thus began my lifelong love of running, a passion that has included a lifetime of memories.

Robert Kent, math teacher at Lincoln Jr. High School in Pontiac, Michigan was a memorable man in my life, and it wasn’t because he was an excellent mathematician.   It was because he spent his own time with my brother and me and “schooled us” in the art of running track and cross country.   He opened our eyes to a world of competitive running that we never knew existed.

Bob Kent’s unselfishness allowed two kids from the little industrial town of Pontiac to experience Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sanctioned track meets across our region.  I remember the first time running under the lights at a large AAU meet – the stands were packed and looking at the other runners I thought, what am I doing here?  These guys are real runners; I’m just a kid from Pontiac.  I walked away with two trophies that day.   It was the proudest day of my young life.

Mr. Kent’s generosity made it possible for me to attend a week-long cross country camp where I experienced some of the most incredible training in my life.   When Mr. Kent returned from the 1972 Munich Olympics, he did so with a box of kangaroo-skin Addidis running shoes for an entire team of inner city kids.

So what’s my point and what is this story doing in a business blog?

Life is more than your business, your blog, your followers, your advancements, and your recognition.

A real rewarding life is about giving back – and I’m not just talking about your money.   That’s far too easy for many people.  Give of your time and give of your talents and experience.  Give and see how the simple gift of your time makes a real difference.

Give…as it has been given to you.


Blinded by the light

Dr. Orin Gelderloos would remind us (students) in his field biology course to keep the sun to our back when identifying birds in the field.  Looking toward the sun would distort the image and lead us to an improper conclusion.

Facing the sun in business or in life may result in a distorted image as well.

  • Get blinded by your most recent win, and you might start to believe your own hype.
  • Get blinded by the most recent defeat, and you might just believe that you are a failure.

Balance, perspective, and don’t take yourself too seriously.


Tired of trying?  Tired of digging deeper…yet again?

Have no more tenacity of purpose, no more sticktoitiveness, no more “one more tries” left in you?

Can’t even consider another class, one more counseling session, one more revised business plan?

The answer is easy – quit.

That’s right, quit.  No more disappointments, no more frustrations, no more trying to find the right formula, the right words, the just-right solution.

Total surrender to the inevitable; mind, body, and spirit.

There is a reason we struggle with quitting and why it doesn’t settle well with us – it may be that “still small voice” reminding us we are not designed for quitting.   It goes against our very nature.

As difficult as “it,” whatever it may be, is…quitting isn’t the answer.  Quitting can be damaging and even damning to our soul.  As Douglas MacArthur said, “Age wrinkles the body.  Quitting wrinkles the soul.”

One more try…till we take our last breath.



Your New Year Blueprint

Where did the year go?  It is the same sentiment every late December; twelve months have passed and we are left to wonder, did I do all that I should have or could have this past year?

As we consider the new year, and before we start with grandiose dreaming, perhaps a better starting point is to take an inventory of what matters most to us.

For me, faith and family are the most important things in my life.  So if I am considering new career or other personal goals, I should consider these goals through the lens of my primary values.  Sacrificing my faith or my relationship with my wife or that of my adult children to achieve a personal goal, is not a goal worth considering.

By all means, dream big, try something new, and paint the palette of the new year with with outrageous plans.  But do so honoring your values, and I believe you will have a year without regrets.

Choosing Wisely

We have a choice, I think.

Either the events that unfold in our life can teach us, change us, shape us, and make us better than we are…

Or we can (wrongly) assume that we have already arrived at perfection and it’s everyone else that needs to change.

One leads to frustration and regret, the other leads to growth and a life more fulfilled.

Five years ago I wish I would have…

Most of us have a few regrets in our life, things we wished we would have done.  Sometimes they are big regrets or events that we passed on (usually for lame reasons).  But many times it’s the little regrets that pile up that lead to a life unexamined.

There are some classes at the local university that look interesting.

Maybe next semester…next semester never comes and you miss an experience that could have changed your career and your path in life.

How would you like to meet a new group of people at this event?

No, I have to get up early…lifelong friendships are never forged.

Join us for worship?

No, I’m just too tired…self-pity, rather than soul searching, begins to define your life.

I would like you to meet someone!

I’m pretty introverted and quiet…and a relationship that could have been…never is.

Consider those seemingly small decisions, those “no thanks, not this time” in the context of tomorrow.   What will you be glad you didn’t pass up in November 2012?

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller