I’ll Never Be a Wine Writer plus Raising Successful Kids

Today I learned:

1. I’ll never be a wine writer:  I fancy myself as a bit of an oenophile – my expertise may be questionable, but it is improving and I at least approach the subject with a relentless enthusiasm to which the empties in my garage can attest.

That is why I am saddened to admit I would never make it as a wine writer.

This lesson hit me today, like the feeling you get after quaffing too much (or really any) Yellowtail,  as I read this month’s edition of Ask an Oenophile in BC Business Magazine. One quote sealed it for me:

Everybody should drink more Beaujolais. It’s romantic, it’s sexy, it’s lyrical, it’s ethereal. Really good Beaujolais smells like you just made out with your first love in a field of fresh strawberries – there’s a smell of wet earth, a little sweat, ripe strawberries…This wine, especially the 2009 vintage, has this incredible Audrey Hepburn character. It’s lithe, but there is this enormous charm and depth behind it all. 

I can’t talk like that.

More precisely, I won’t talk like that.

I could learn, but I need to be able to enjoy a nice bottle of Syrah and then respect myself in the morning.

2. Raising Successful Kids: I came across a thought-provoking blog post today about 5 Unusual Ways to Raise Successful Children (link below).

Several interesting points are made – I think there could be merit to the concept of giving incentive to learn from the masters. I particularly like one of the responses to the post which included a suggestion kids could learn alot from Ted videos. This seems like a viable way to introduce new ideas and it may be worthy of experimentation with our oldest daughter. With the recent explosion of TedxKids events, I expect age appropriate content may be more and more available, making this idea quite tangible.

The point I really keyed in on though was the final one in the article – teach kids to be powerful.

This led me to reflect on our approach to parenting. As the author recommends, we try to avoid any form of negative self-talk. We encourage the kids to avoid expressing actions in terms of accomplishment (i.e. “I am good at riding my bike,” or “I can’t tie my shoes.”) and instead we ask them to frame everything around the idea of practice. The thought is that this will ensure our kids understand that if they set a goal and then put in the time and effort, eventually they will be able to do whatever they want.

For example, when my daughter learned to stand up on skates, we congratulated her and then we talked about how the first time she tried she was not able to get up, but she practiced (by doing x, y, and z) and she gradually got better, to the point she was able to do it by herself. The idea is to re-enforce the concept that it doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do, it only matters what you are willing to put the time in to learn.

Thinking back now, this approach seems to be working.

Our oldest daughter now tends to frame her comments around the process of learning as the accomplishment, rather than the activity itself. We don’t hear things like, “Mommy, I cut my fish!” but rather she says “Mommy, I learned to use my knife!”  Hopefully in the long run this type of framing goes a long way to helping our kids understand that setting goals and practicing will allow them to do anything they want.

Link to the original blog post referenced above: 5 Unusual Ways to Raise Successful Children.

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Perpetuating One Stereotype and Disgusted by Another

Today I learned:

1. Perpetuating a Gender Stereotype: I hate to say it, but there is no denying it: Girls are natural caregivers.

Following surgery I was worried my little ones would be too rough on me or too demanding.

Two days in and nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to an overwhelming desire to see my “owie”  every 5 minutes, they seem to possess an innate understanding of how to take care of people. There is no jumping, no rough play, no crying, no demanding. I am being showered with hugs and kisses, gifted with cards and artwork, and lent even the most treasured of stuffed animals if they might conceivably give me some level of comfort. Pillows are adjusted, paths cleared for crutches and snacks retrieved. Nothing but the best for daddy.

I have no set of boys to compare this behaviour too, so it is possible this would be true of all kids, but I don’t get the sense that would be the case. My only real knowledge of little boys comes from the fact I was one once, and I hate to say it, but I don’t think I possessed the same patience and understanding at their age.

2. Disgusted by Another Stereotype: “Linsanity” looks good on the NBA. Ever since the Grizzlies left town in 2001 I have sought out, and enjoyed, every new reason I can find to despise the National Basketball Association. I still hold quite a grudge.

2011 Lockout?  Petty greed, on both sides. I was sad it ended.

Lebron’s  prime-time signing?  The best of bad TV.

Ron Artest becomes Meta-World Peace?  That would never happen in hockey.

Out of all of it though, I haven’t enjoyed anything more than “Linsanity.”

For two straight weeks, media outlets have been tripping over stereotypes – firings, inappropriate headlines, embarrassing graphics, over-compensation, and just generally making fools of themselves. It appears just about everyone in or around the NBA doesn’t quite know how to act when an Asian male (born in L.A. for goodness sake!) finds success in the league.

The one exception in all this of course is Jeremy Lin himself who seems to be taking his sudden rise to fame with a sense of grace and humility. No embarrassing quotes. No off colour remarks. No over-the-top chest pumping. He just keeps showing up and proving his game night after night. This is one of the few opportunities I can think of – Steve Nash aside – where we can learn something about how to behave properly from an actual NBA player. The NBA finally has a good story to tell, and it seems they just can’t find anyone to appropriately tell it.

 


A Tale of Two Bicycles and The Nesting Man

Today I learned:

1. A Tale of Two Bicycles: You enjoy your bike ride around the neighbourhood more today…

…when you know the only bike you will be riding for quite some time starting tomorrow is this one:

2.  The Nesting Man: Prior to the birth of our two kids, my wife went through a predictable cycle of nesting. The walls were painted, crib assembled, clothes and diapers bought and arranged. Everything was ready much earlier than necessary, and all the work seemed to satisfy whatever innate instinct she was experiencing.

I didn’t really get it all until this morning, when some sort of abbreviated pre-surgical version of the phenomenon seemed to kick in for me. Today I became The Nesting Man.

It all started when I woke up with a sudden urge to go grocery shopping. Knowing I am faced with about 2 weeks where I will barely leave the house, my sweet-tooth made a pre-emptive strike, trying to entice me into shopping for a bunch of junk food that I can enjoy in the surgical recovery period. Thankfully, this desire was easily killed with a review of my Basal Metabolic Rate.  At about 1850 calories per day for my age/height/weight, you quickly realize that if all you plan to do is lie in bed all day then you can’t afford many empty calories!

Next came organization of my work and play spaces. I setup an office in the kitchen printer et. al (to avoid the stairs to my regular home office). I also made sure all the fun things I might want in the day (books, music, electronics) are within reach of my side of the bed.  Once everything was good to go, I moved on to other things that could weigh on me – unreturned emails, anticipated bills, laundry – anything I might need to do in the next couple weeks.

Oddly it all helped, and now I seem to have moved on to whatever the male equivalent is to a woman’s “just get this over with already” stage.


Happily Oblivious or Just Plain Ignorant and a Desire to Dance

Today I learned:

1. Happily Oblivious or Just Plain Ignorant? It is a toss-up: I was either avoiding the issue or ignorant to it. I was skipping through life (figuratively at least), waiting for my ACL Reconstruction assuming it would just create a minor blip in the road. That ended today when I finally allowed myself to more clearly understand just how long I will be laid up.

I received a call to advise when to come in to the hospital for surgery on Monday and this led to a long discussion on follow-up visits, therapy and driving restrictions. Essentially I was told to “get ready to tackle that book you have always wanted to write” because you won’t be doing anything else for the next few weeks. I knew exactly what the long-term recovery picture looks like, but I hadn’t spent much time thinking or planning for the short-term.

With the sudden realization, and forced acceptance, that surgery is going to upset my routine for longer than I had hoped I spent this morning in a panic trying to prepare for the inevitable. The bottom-line: Frantic preparation or not, I am not ready to spend 2-3 weeks sitting on my butt.

2. Desire to Dance: When you know you will be laid up for awhile your desire to spontaneously dance with your daughters skyrockets.

To be clear, my desire to dance generally sits at about a 0.1 on a scale of 1-10, but knowing I will be off my feet for a couple weeks, and certainly not dancing for months, I found myself dancing around the kitchen this morning with the girls. Notably, this was pre-caffeine dancing, so no artificial stimulants were involved.

It makes me think of the song lyric, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” and seems to be part of an innate desire to fit in all the things I need/want before I can’t do them for awhile. It is an odd emotion, and I better go feed it while I can…


The most gratifying purchase you can make and You can’t fool a 2 year-old

Today I learned:

1. The most gratifying purchase you can make…is a new belt one size smaller than your previous one.

2. You can’t fool at 2 year-old: About a month ago our daughter lost her prized stuffed bear at Costco. For 2 1/2 years it had been at her side for about 23 hours a day so this development was relatively problematic.

We immediately went into problem solving mode and within about 2 hours we were out $60, spent on 3 potential replacements. None exact, and each with some flaw that we were well aware of, but it was the best we could do. By bedtime she was somewhat satisfied.

I just didn’t feel right about it all though.

I understand the attachment kids have to these sorts of things. I actually still have the stuffed dog I had as a baby. I can’t even stand dogs now so it is about the only one dog I ever loved. And no, it is not immediately at my disposal. I don’t sleep with it, or keep it on my desk at work. It is in a box at my parents house. But, I know it is there, and there is something oddly comforting about that.

To solve the problem I looked to eBay.  The 21st century version of the “replacement hamster from the Pet Store.”  An exact replica was on it way, and another $30 was out the door. We even told her the people at Costco would mail the original bear to us if they found it, to buy some time.

Fast forward two weeks, and we found the original bear in the camera bag.

It was never lost.

When “eBay bear” showed up we noticed it looked a bit too new. Despite this, we tried to rotate it in to see if we could pass it off.

She was having none of “clean bear” and wouldn’t even let it in her bed.  She banished it to the toy box. It distressed her so much that we had to secretly switch in the original when she wasn’t looking.

Not wanting to let the issue die, my wife has spent the last 2 weeks staining “clean bear” with Ketchup, rubbing it with dirt from the garden and distressing the fabric. She even left it in the mud for almost a week. It looks like crap. We thought it was a pretty good match.

Last night we tried to switch it into the rotation again, sneaking it into bed with her in the middle of the night. At 2am this morning we awoke to a screaming 2 year-old sitting up in the the pitch dark yelling “it’s not right.”

You can’t fool a 2 year-old.


Why I won’t hire you and Girls’ toys suck

Today I learned:

1. Why I won’t hire you:  I read a great blog post on hiring today that echos many of my opinions on the subject.  While I agree with quite a few of the points in the post, it made me reflect on other things I look for in a candidate. For me, there are a few additional things:

  • You treat me differently than the receptionist: When you leave the first thing I do is ask her how you acted on your arrival, before I showed up. If you showed me more respect than you showed her it me gives a good sense of how you really treat people.
  • Your resume sucks: You can’t spell. You can summarize accomplishments. You can succinctly tell me what your skills are. If you can’t create a professional document given no time limit, I assume this will carry over when time limits are applied.
  • You know nothing about where I work: If you haven’t done your leg work to know who is interviewing you and what our company is like, I assume you will take short cuts in your work too.
  • You don’t ask me questions: This means meaningful questions that help me understand what is important to you in the selection process and not basic things like “what are the hours?” I want to know you have put some thought into this and you aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants.

2. Girls’ toys suck: While replaying the day at the dinner table the other night, my daughter expressed an interest in Lego. This led me to do some research into what kinds of products Lego is making these days. I was familiar already with some pretty cool stuff, like Super Hero and Star Wars products that my nephews are addicted to. I was excited to see what I could find for my daughter.

It turns out girls’ toys suck. Or at least, in my humble opinion lego for girls sucks.

With hundreds of creative products for boys, all they seem to have managed for girls are things like a beauty shop, doll house, and bakery.  At least give me a pink doctors office or something that I can work with her on to aspire towards, rather than a weak knock off of Barbie’s convertible.


Disney Day 5: The (Un)happiest Place on Earth, plus Service Recovery

The final post in a series of Disneyland-based learnings. A.k.a. Day 45 @ The two things blog.

Today I learned:

1. (Un)happiest Place on Earth: Apparently, if you treat a 2 year old to 4 days at Disneyland, somewhere on day 5 she will return the favour by rewarding you with a 65 minute meltdown in Tomorrowland. The location was, at least, a fitting backdrop for the tantrum – about 1/2 way through it felt like tomorrow would never come.

I tried moving to Fantasyland to see if it was really happening, but unfortunately it was not a dream. At least when we made it to the Tea Cups and Dumbo the sight of a 2 year old screaming at the top of her lungs was not even a notable spectacle. The behaviour was more prevalent than Mickey Mouse ears.

2. Service Recovery: I have been searching for an example of service recovery to see how Disney responds to problems. As we are appraoching the end of this adventure I was starting to conjure up a plan to buy something, just so I could return it and see how I was treated. “Fortunately” there was no need to fake it – I had the opportunity to test the system this morning.
We bought the girls some small toys (basically the Disney version of Polly Pockets which they know and love). Unfortunately Disney’s manufacturer doesn’t quite meet the exacting standards the Polly Pocket brand and within 15 minutes both girls broken the arms off their dolls.
High ho, high ho, back to the store we go.
To make matters worse, unfortunately in their brief play period one of the toy shoes went missing so we weren’t even returning the entire package. Broken and incomplete. A better test!
At the counter we apologized and stated we felt bad we broke the toys. We were immediately told, “Please don’t feel bad. You shouldn’t feel bad. I feel bad. This must be tough for your little ones to deal with. Let me make this right.” She had no concern for the missing piece and immediately refunded the purchase price to my Visa.
The return experience? 100% positive.  
The result? 2 happy parents. 2 happy kids. 4 happy customers. We returned $32 worth of toys and promptyl purchased $43 more. Despite the broken toys I suspect Disney still managed to eke out a profit from us on the purchases.
This service recovery example made me reflect on my experience with the return policies of other major retailers. There are those that do things exceptionally well, like Costco which “guarantees your satisfaction with the merchandise you purchase,” and in return they keep me coming back again and again. And there are those like Future Shop. Believe it or not I still hold a grudge over a failed attempt to return a defective answering machine in 1994. Eighteen years later and I still make a point of shopping elsewhere based on one single negative experience. When things go bad you can lose the customer forever.
A simple lesson to businesses. Treat the customer right in the good times and the bad times. How you respond when things go wrong, as much as when things go right, defines whether of not the customer comes back. It also doesn’t hurt you if they plan to blog about their experience with your brand either later that day, or even 18 years later.