If

I’ve become acutely aware of the word “IF.” It is a simple little word, seemingly unimportant, but it gets wielded in powerful and sometimes dangerous ways.

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster provides for If is this: conjunction; on the condition that. This is the one that scares me and it is the one that I have started hearing like fingernails on a chalkboard…

  • If my boss realized how hard I work, I’d get that promotion.
  • If my spouse would only appreciate me, we’d have a better marriage.
  • If my company really valued me, they’d pay me what I’m worth.
  • If my kids would only practice their sport more, they’d be Division 1 prospects.
  • If I could just lose the weight, I’d feel better.
  • If I had only taken that job a few years back, I’d be happier now.
  • If __(fill in the name here)___ would only call me back, I could make that sale.
  • If we put ___(that important thing now)__ off, we’ll be able to do __(that bigger thing)___ later
  • If I wanted to run a half marathon again, I could.
  • If I were in charge of my happiness, here’s how I’d spend my life…

Those last three are mine, which is why I’ve been thinking about this recently. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used all of those other conditional phrases in this list too, but the last three are my most recent.

It was on the trip pictured at the top that I started thinking about this. It was my daughter’s 10th birthday and she had been promised a trip with dad to anywhere in the continental U.S. for a long weekend (her older brother had opted for Washington D.C. on his). My wife and I had been hoping to take the family to Europe in the next few years, so we debated as to whether or not her dream trip to New York City was a good use of money. We kept using the “if” to place conditions on the opportunity. In the end, we decided the father-daughter trip to NYC was worth it and Europe would have to wait. Man, am I glad we did.

On that trip, one morning I woke up early and wrote a journal entry I titled “Living my best Life.” It was all about the things I would do IF someone would pay me what I want to make to do what I want to do. After I wrote it, I reread it thinking, “wow, that would be awesome!” And then I sat back and asked myself – “What are you waiting for? Why is there an IF in this list? Why can’t you just do these things?” I didn’t realize it so much at the time, but that set in motion a series of changes in my life that have caused me to believe that the word IF has no place in my vernacular.

And then yesterday, on a morning run, I found it creeping in again. As I was doubting how my body was feeling I kept saying to myself, “you’ve run a marathon and several half marathons, IF you wanted to run another half you could.” There is was again, putting a condition on something instead of just doing it. That’s how those “IFs” become dangerous – they give us an excuse (the condition we place on the thing), that allows us to blame why we’re not doing something on that condition. I could blame the Europe trip for not taking my daughter to NYC or I can blame my current job situation on not living my best life, or I can blame not wanting to for why I don’t train harder to run another half marathon. That little word wields a lot of power in these scenarios.

So I’m eliminating the word “IF” from my vocabulary. I’m looking back at that journal post regularly and doing the things on my list as much as humanly possible; that actually was a major factor in a recent job change. I’m dragging my butt out of bed more and running a little farther every time because I AM going to run another half marathon. And I’m not allowing myself the excuse of “IF” for simple day to day things. Either do it or don’t do it; no conditions.

What IFs in your life are holding you back?

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Friendships

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I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships over the past few weeks during a time of transition in my life. It seems like these times of change, struggle, challenge, triumph, or tragedy often define friendships in many of our lives. It is that word “define” that has me hung up; what “defines” a friend? For me, the answer to that question isn’t necessarily straightforward.

I have several types of friends and what I’ve realized during this time of transition is that they all add value to my life and they all play an important role in my mental well being and overall happiness in life. Without these varied relationships, life would be less full, less interesting, and less satisfying. And maybe most importantly, none of these people can be all of these things so it is important that they all are my friends.

Like many, I am blessed with an abundance of great relationships with people I engage with every day. Whether they be co-workers, fellow non-profit board members, guys in the running group I am a part of, or clients who I’ve developed relationships with over the years, my friendship with these folks goes beyond just being acquaintances. For each person in this circle of friends, I’ve been through some challenge or shared struggle with them.

This past weekend I ran 205 miles from Columbia to Charleston, SC with 8 other guys. We had a great time together and grew closer in our personal relationships because of the shared challenge of finishing the race, encouraging one another, and talking about our fears and hopes during the 30 hours we were together. It was so awesome to hang out with and share this time with this group of men. These guys are my friends.

For almost six years I’ve been a part of the Adams Outdoor Advertising work family. We have struggled together to make budgets, come up with solutions, and help our clients advertise their businesses in the most effective ways. We’ve argued, cried, laughed, and shared great times together. I have learned and grown so much alongside some great leaders in this organization. Many of these folks have been the first ones there during some difficult personal and professional times. These people are my friends.

I serve on the board of the Carolina Raptor Center, an unbelievable non-profit that ignites imaginations and inspires engagement in the natural world through the exploration and rehabilitation of birds of prey. The Board of Directors, our Executive Director, and our staff have played an important part in my life over the past two years. They have shown me the impact environmental non-profits can have in our community and inspired me to challenge myself further in this field. We have tackled tough issues and challenging projects together. These people are my friends.

For the past 6 years I have been the Director of the Jay Bilas Skills Camp here in Charlotte. When Jay and I started this camp we just wanted to provide a place for high school kids to be taught the game the right way. I had no idea what a huge impact operating this camp would have on me. Besides giving me the opportunity to stay involved in the game of basketball, I have developed so many unbelievable friendships through this camp that never would have been possible otherwise. Coaches, trainers, sports business professionals, parents, and vendor partners have all become valuable relationships that go well beyond the 4 days a year when we host the camp. These people are my friends.

I have a group of friends that I’ve been colleagues with in the past, with whom I’ve found many common interests and shared viewpoints. This group of folks are my sounding board, my confidants, and my litmus test for professional challenges that arise. These folks know and understand me well because they’ve worked alongside me, but we’ve also developed a personal trust and appreciation for one another that has led to deeper and more personal relationships, sharing our family times together, and some great fun. These people are my friends.

There are a handful of people in my life that I rely on for complete honesty at all times. I rely on their critique of decisions I’m thinking through and I rely on their honest encouragement when I’m uncertain about whether or not I’m going the right direction. And they give it to me. Some of these guys I only see once a year. Some I get the opportunity to see regularly. But all of them answer the phone when I call and they listen. And I do the same for them. These guys are my friends.

Most importantly, my wife Jessi is my best friend. She knows every fear, every victory, every defeat, every worry, and everything that excites and scares me. She listens like no other but doesn’t shy away from speaking truth into my life. She has been with me through good and bad, through poor decisions and triumphs, and loved me through it all. We have a partnership of a marriage with kids, finances, house needs, fun, and responsibility. She is my friend, my best friend.

To ANY of my friends reading this; thank you. No matter which of the groups above you think you fit into in my life, know that it is an important one. I’m an extrovert, so I have acquaintances all over the place and I’m “friendly” with just about everyone because I feed off of being with people. Rising to the level of FRIEND in my world is different and it is valued. Without every friend above, my life would be void of interesting relationships and each one of you teach me something about myself when I am with you. You are my friends and I am grateful to have you. If we haven’t spoken in awhile, let’s catch up soon.

The Value of Breathing Room

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Today was a rare Friday afternoon where I had time on my hands (see how happy I am!) and it got me thinking about the value of breathing room in our business lives and how we use that room to think, plan, and reflect on our work.

I recently ran across this interview with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett about the value of your time and it was a great reminder to me of something my dad said to me early in my professional career – you better leave margins in your day to think and reflect or you’ll never have any creative or new thoughts.

Some weeks when I look at my calendar on Mondays there isn’t hardly a gap between any meeting all week. This is not healthy or productive. As Warren Buffett says in that video, time is the only thing we can’t buy more of so we had better protect it. In our personal lives we all agree wholeheartedly with that so why is it so difficult for us to believe it or adhere to it in our professional lives?

I believe that it is because we’ve been trained and brainwashed to think that the fast movers, the rising stars, and the top performers just run, run, run all day in the hustle for business. The reality is that those who succeed in business do work hard, but they also think and reflect. They stay in the moment with the people they are with, care about what they are doing to give it their full attention, and understand that QUALITY, not QUANTITY is what leads to a successful portfolio of business. They are patient enough to know that it is better to work through things with a challenging client that can do things at a high level than speed through things with a client that wants to cut corners and penny pinch.

So today I’m so glad I had some time for reflection and thinking. I’ll make it a higher priority the rest of the year. Have a nice weekend.

Snow Day

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We don’t get too many snow days here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, but when we do, they are AWESOME! My kids have both pretty much been raised in the South, so snow is definitely a novelty to them. The fact that we have THE BEST sledding hill in the neighborhood is a plus. (You just have to make sure you bail before you hit the lake!) Snow days for my kids are simple – sleep in, more media time than usual, read some good books, and hit the snow for a day of fun before it melts tomorrow. It got me thinking about the value of a mental and emotional “snow day” for me too. And I needed it.

As an adult – a parent, a husband, and a leader in my organization – I feel like I have a lot going on. I’m certainly not the busiest man in the world and I try very hard not to project to anyone that I am too busy for them. But the reality is, I get mentally and emotionally tired sometimes; then I come home and we run around all weekend with family and kid activities. And then on Monday, we’re back at it. Sometimes us adults need a snow day too!

I woke up this morning thinking about what am I going to do with my snow day? Here’s what I came up with…

Rest. I laid in bed a few extra minutes and just rested my mind. I tried to control my breathing and think of nothing. It was calming and opened me up to the possibility of the day.

Read. I have a few books I’ve wanted to get started and I know today will be a great day to do that. Usually once I get started on a book, I make the time during the week to continue it and I almost always feel better about reading in the evening than I do watching tv.

Write. I don’t know why it is so hard for me to make time to write in the midst of the regular week. I know I enjoy it. I know that it makes me feel good. I know that it helps me work out my thoughts and feelings better than just stewing on them. Yet I still don’t make it a priority. I think that part of me feels like I need to be unhurried and clear minded to write well and I don’t have too many of those moments in the week so I just don’t do it. This morning, when I knew I would have some time and nothing really rushing me, it was one of the first things that popped into my head.

Organize. I have a few places at home that I’ve been meaning to organize and clean up but always feel daunted by the task. Today I’m going to tackle at least one of them and I know I’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment when I finish.

Play Games. The whole family will be at home all day and I’m sure we’ll get on each other’s nerves a bit. What we will most likely do to relieve that is play board games. It is a trick to get the kids to hang out with us and each other, but it usually works and nearly always leads to laughing, talking, and sharing in ways we don’t during the regular week.

Think. Today I will have time to just sit and reflect. Drink a casual cup of coffee and think about stuff. Think about my family. Think about my friends. Think about work. And dwell on how much I have to be thankful for in this life. And dream about what else I can accomplish.

As I refill my coffee for the third time and tap out these words I pause and reflect…

What stops me from doing this stuff during a regular day? Yeah I’m busy. Yeah the family is busy. Yeah I have a lot of responsibilities. But how much time do each of these things really take? My phone told me I averaged almost 3 hours of screen time per day last week. Of that, over 8 hours of it was on social media. I’m pretty sure I could have cut that in half to rest, read, write, organize, play, or think.

It’s really all about priorities, isn’t it? I have placed more value on scrolling through social media than I have on those six things above that make me a better person in some small way. It’s an indictment on my own depth as a person that I value “liking” a funny video someone posted or checking out the latest outdoor gear on Instagram over feeding my own soul. So for my snow day, I’m going to take advantage of this time to unplug and recharge. I’ll check back tonight to see how many of you “liked” this post! 🙂

Who I Am.

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Who I am today as a 43 year old man has been shaped by a lot of people. This weekend,  I realized how much I’ve been shaped by one man in particular. The picture above is of me and my Grandpa Parmenter. He’s dying and this weekend his 5 children and 13 grandchildren made the pilgrimage to Illinois to spend a few days with him and each other laughing, crying, and reminiscing about our times together. And this is how I realized how much of Who I Am has been shaped by Grandpa Parmenter.

Grandpa Parmenter took me on my first bird hunt. I still love to hunt birds and bird hunting has been a way for my son and I to bond, but that alone isn’t what shaped me in the fields of Illinois. When Grandpa was taking me bird hunting in my junior high and high school years, he was developing in me a deep love of being outdoors, an awareness of the importance of conserving wild and scenic places for outdoor recreation, and the value of sharing time outside with family and friends as a way to bond, and the satisfaction in harvesting the food you eat. This has manifested itself in the priority our family has placed on spending time together hiking, camping, biking, AND hunting outdoors together. It has influenced my interest in being involved conservation minded organizations like the Carolina Raptor Center and the U.S. National Whitewater Center and local food organizations like Carolina Farm Trust. It has greatly impacted Who I Am.

The first question Grandpa Parmenter asked me every time I saw him from the time I was around 7 or 8 years old was: “What are you reading?” I continue to be an avid reader who is married to an avid reader and we are raising two avid readers. Not only did this question hold me accountable to reading interesting books, but it instilled in me a lifelong love of learning. I know that I still have a lot to learn and though school is probably over for me, I work hard to learn every day. My Grandpa has only a few days left on this planet, but he has four books on the end table next to his chair that he is reading and when I was telling him today about a book I was reading he said “I’m gonna have to get that one and check it out.” Yes, I’ve adopted his love of history, particularly of the American Civil War, but the value of being a lifelong learner is what is most important and what has been passed on through me to my children. It has greatly impacted Who I Am.

Perhaps the greatest gift my Grandpa Parmenter has given me is a belief that my faith starts and ends with loving, serving, and caring for all people. My grandfather has modeled a life for me rooted in a belief in Jesus Christ but not tied to dogma. He has shown me that we are called to take care of the less fortunate in this world whenever we have an opportunity, regardless of their background or life circumstance. And he has been an example of how your faith can morph, grow, and change over the course of your life. In short, he has lived out the command to “love one another as we were first loved.” It has greatly impacted Who I Am.

I look like a Searby and my last name is Searby, but my Grandpa Parmenter has had as much influence on the man I am today as any other person. He has impacted ALL of the other significant men in my life – my own father, my uncles, my brother, and my cousins and they have all impacted me. I count myself among the most fortunate on this earth right now to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and I am grateful that we had just a few more precious moments together this weekend. I love you Grandpa and I promise that the impact you’ve had on me will be passed on to my son and generations to come.

JM

Push Pause

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As I was driving into work this morning the phone was buzzing already with emails and texts, employees were calling me, and the day was already stacking up in my head. And all of a sudden I looked at the screen on my dash that controls the audio and saw the pause button on my iTunes control screen. And it struck me that maybe it was time to hit pause on more than just the music. For the next 15 minutes of the commute, I pondered this thought and by the time I put the car in park at work it was pretty obvious to me that I most certainly did need to press pause. On everything.

Life gets going fast and busy for most of us. Our families are busy, our social schedules are busy, and work is always busy. We’ve got to do lists that never seem to get done and goals that never seem to get reached. We’ve got lots of people who need our time and attention and not enough of either to satisfy them all. So we just work harder and faster and sometimes we try to work smarter. We start the day earlier and end it later so we can jam just a little more into each day and hopefully catch up. We think speeding through life at mach speed will prove to everyone how much we want it and prove to ourselves that we are finally worth it.

This morning, when I pressed pause, I thought about the value of that simple act. Instead of worrying about what the day had in store I thought about the value I could add to people. Instead of wondering which deals were going to close this week I gave consideration to how I could make this week better for my staff and our clients. Instead of fixating on all of the “what ifs” out there, I thought about the “what I know nows.” And a calm passed over me. A calm passed over me because that is what pressing pause does – it stops the noise immediately and fully, albeit temporarily. It quiets your world for a few seconds or a few minutes and that quiet provides space for thought.

Do you need to press pause this morning? I know I certainly did and I feel better for it already.

What you Don’t Value Until it is Gone

I haven’t been writing here much. Maybe its the hustle and bustle of work, maybe it is outside of work things seem pretty great, maybe its self-centeredness, maybe its just laziness. Any excuse will do. The reality is that it is probably most closely linked to undervaluing daily mindfulness; all of those other things are just contributors to that core problem.

This week, however, my family has been gone visiting grandpa and grandma so outside of the 8-5, I’ve had a lot of quiet, alone time. I’ve had some really meaningful conversations with friends I haven’t talked to in awhile. I’ve been completely on my own schedule. And I’ve probably done more self reflection than I’ve done in a long time. This morning, I went for a slow, quiet run on this final Saturday before they get home, and it dawned on me…

You don’t really value things appropriately until they are gone.

I undervalue sitting and reading a book with my kids or running a few errands with them on the weekend. And they’ll both be gone from our home in less than 10 years. I hadn’t thought about that until I didn’t have the luxury of their time this week.

I undervalue a 10 minute conversation with my wife about something that is important to her or important to me. And when we don’t do it, those 10 minutes are gone and wasted. I longed for just a few minutes after dinner with her every night this week.

I undervalue the importance of writing in my life to express things that are in my heart, not just in my mind. And every time I don’t write it down, I lose a little bit of the passions of my heart.

I undervalue sitting still and being quiet even when there is a long list of things to do. The list of things to do will never be gone, but quiet moments are fleeting.

I undervalue the beauty of the place I live and take it for granted when I don’t stop to appreciate the blessing of our home. And the place we live is ever changing.

And I undervalue the importance of allowing my passions to be a more central part of my life; casting them off as “dreams” or “things I like to do when I can.” And opportunities to purse our passions don’t stay open forever.

I’d like to sit here and say “NO MORE!” I’m not sure that is realistic. Life gets going fast sometimes and takes us on wild rides we don’t anticipate. But I will sit here and say I will try harder. I will try harder to be more reflective and value mindfulness more regularly. I will try harder to slow things down in life and appreciate them for what they are before I lose them. And I will try harder to develop a consistent and deliberate appreciation for those things that are right in front of me and may soon be gone.