Fragile, Quick, and Beautiful

Friday 2 November 2012 @ 3:05 pm

Yesterday at 8:30 in the morning my wife called me and informed me that my brother-in-law, Lyman Huntsman, had just passed away. 

Lyman was an amazing individual who faced many hard challenges through his life. His first wife passed away from an aneurism a few weeks after having their sixth child leaving Lyman with a newborn and a young family to raise. He met my sister-in-law Marie, also an amazing individual, such a pure, good heart and a determined, strong woman who was always committed to raise her children well and properly. She had the courage to exit a very difficult and abusive relationship. She and Lyman met and fell passionately in love. They had a child together, one that Lyman would affectionately refer to as their “Love Child”. You could tell every time their child walked through the door how his eyes would brighten and just glow. As a matter of fact I think all his children had that effect on him. Although he came across as gruff and grizzly at times everybody knew he was a huge teddy bear.

I remember talking to him last Thanksgiving. He was talking about his kids and tearing up, talking about another situation, and becoming emotional. We did not know then that Lyman would be diagnosed with a quickly spreading brain tumor. We only discovered this a month and a half ago. The situation worsened and two weeks ago we knew that this was going to be a very difficult situation. I felt strongly prompted to go down and say goodbye to Lyman and regretfully I didn’t get down there in time to do it. I was planning on going down this weekend to honor and respect Lyman, express my love to him and thank him for the man he was and for the courage he showed in how he raised a family of “Yours, Mine, and Ours”, coupled with how he treated and adored my sister-in-law.

Lyman, I couldn’t tell you face to face, but I do want to tell you publicly: Thank you for being the man that you were. Thank you for being strong. Thank you for having courage. There are not a lot of real men left that have the tenacity to stand up and to do the hard things and to do it with love and respect and to have the courage to really stand up. You treated my nieces and nephews as your own and raised them as such and I can do nothing but honor you. I hope I can be and show the attributes of being a real man as you did. I respect you in every way, Lyman. Thank you for all that you have done for me and my extended family.

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Retracing Footsteps

Friday 10 August 2012 @ 10:22 pm

How incredible would it be if the important people in our lives were able to pause and retrace the important events and experiences in our lives in a kind of celebration tour?

Indeed I was able to do that exact thing a month ago with a sweet Japanese woman named Mrs. Yamagami. I met her husband, Mr. Yamagami early in my engineering career when I worked at Mitsubishi Electric. I remember Mr. Yamagami as a silent, quiet individual, but very deep and thoughtful in his approach. I gained a lot of respect for Mr. Yamagami as we both advanced in our respective careers. He came over from Japan several times to visit me and we always made sure he had a nice room with a view, that we went out to a nice dinner, and that he came to my house to meet my family.
Little did I realize how meaningful his visits to my hometown were to him.

Sadly, Mr. Yamagami died of sudden heart failure in 1998 leaving behind a wonderful wife and two young children. Mrs. Yamagami worked very diligently to raise these children and was very successful. Her youngest son graduated this last year and is now a doctor.

Mrs. Yamagami loved her husband very much and recently decided that she wanted to celebrate her husband’s life by going to four or five of the most meaningful places in his life. One of those places happened to be Provo, Utah in connection with his experiences regarding myself and Novell. 
Mrs. Yamagami flew in from Japan and we spent several days retracing her husband’s footsteps by taking the time to appreciate the beautiful mountains, eat delicious seafood dinners, and I also made sure we spent some time in the conference rooms where Mr. Yamagami and I held discussions those many years back.

I have often said that a stupid man never learns from his mistakes, a smart man learns from his mistakes, and a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. How healthy it is for us to look back and reflect. If we could learn from the prior generations especially from those who have gone before and those who have done great things then just imagine the powerful lessons we could learn. 

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Extreme Zig Zags

Monday 4 June 2012 @ 6:39 pm

Thunk. ZZZZZZZZZ. Screech, go the tires. I look over to Matt who is desperately wrenching on the wheel and veering across both lanes of traffic. His 2001 Ford Excursion is in a full-out skid, doing 75 mph down a mountain pass, dropping into Kingmen, Arizona. I look in the backseat to see the looks of fear and panic on the faces of the six young men in our vehicle. We are on our way to hike Lake Havasupi Falls in the Grand Canyon.

By a freak of nature Matt is able to take his SUV from sliding to the extreme left zag along a cliff edge, to a right zag, and the safety of the shoulder as he pulls the Ford Expedition to a complete stop. I immediately remove the kids from the vehicle and have them stand along the hillside to ensure their safety.

We are very lucky that we were able to get the car stopped. Indeed, later the mechanic told us in most of these situations the car rolls. Apparently, the individual who last worked on the brake calibers, had failed to properly secure the bolts. The calibers on the front left wheel had completely seized up and caused the slide.

This week in the Grand Canyon I replayed this near miss and the zig zagging on that road multiple times.  I thought a lot about what do we do when zig zags are imposed on us—especially since sometimes the path is an extreme zig zag.

Once we got to Lake Havasupi there was a very difficult switchback trail down. At one point the path drops into what is called Mooney Falls. It requires extreme zig zagging and often requires holding onto chains and ropes and carefully working ones way down the face of the 200-foot cliff.

Today as I sit here in the shade of this beautiful environment remembering the events of this entire week, I shudder as I contemplate what could have happened had we actually rolled that Expedition with eight passengers. I also start to understand that sometimes we are forced to zigzag physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. Events cause us to react in drastic ways because everything is not always perfectly methodical and thought through. We have to take detours, and give ourselves time to recover.

Today we are preparing to hike out of Havasupi. We have 1600 feet of elevation gain and 10 miles of trail on this hot day. It’s going to be extremely difficult to zig zag back out of this canyon. But I finally landed on a thoughtful conclusion. We saw a group with t-shirts that read, “Come what may and love it.” I’ve decided that is the attitude that we need to apply to life.

Each day is indeed a precious gift.
–    We have to cut ourselves, and those around us, a little slack.
–    We have to add the attitude of “Come what may and love it.”
–    In the end we must embrace every zig and every zag.

Sometimes we have to act extremely, and wrench that wheel back into alignment. But even when life requires extreme zig zagging–it is a good life.

A final thought: Tomorrow we leave for Guatemala with a group of young people ready to provide humanitarian service. They are great young people. From the smiles on their faces we see they embrace the attitude of “Come what may and love it.”

Look for updates from our trip.

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Maintaining Balance – Zig Zag Principle #69

Thursday 5 April 2012 @ 8:32 am

Now, that doesn’t mean I lost my intensity. It doesn’t mean that I never end up out of balance. But my short session with Dr. Horne brought great clarity to the fact that it’s not worth giving up the things that matter most for the things that matter least.   This insight was part of what helped me see the Zig Zag Principle as a far better way to approach life.  Now, as I zig and zag from goal to goal, I will still put intense effort into achieving my dreams.  But at each turn, I’ve established a reward that for me inevitably includes my family (your approaches, of course, may differ).  And for each goal I pursue, I will set up guardrails that will determine the amount of time and effort I am willing to invest. There are not many ways to succeed without going out of balance for a period of time.  The key is to realize that you are going out of balance for a short period and then bounce back and take some time off to enjoy your life. 

My philosophy involves having a line of balance.  Many people think you achieve this line of balance by being at work exactly at 8 a.m. and leaving within minutes of 5, by getting eight hours of sleep each night, and by controlling life with a rigid schedule.  I don’t live my life that way. At times I live my life extremely out of balance. I’ll work so crazy hard that I think I’m going to die, and then I’ll cross over and go for a cruise where I sleep eighteen hours a day. Then I’ll charge back across the line and spend some incredible family time, then I’ll go work my guts out again and literally not sleep for a couple or three weeks while I start another new business. Then I’ll spend a month in the Himalayas with my family. The way I define balance is not to try walking the perfect line, but to cross that line of balance as frequently as possible.  This is the final form of zigzagging I would suggest.

Added to my own bad example of charging straight toward a goal is the example of an individual who completed his MBA program the same time I did.  He was a charismatic and brilliant man.  He had everything going for him—far more than the rest of us, really.  During school and after we graduated, he was fixated on the same path I was on.  He was going to the top and he was going to succeed at all costs. I guess the only real difference between us is that I am fortunate enough to have a wife who has helped me become grounded and remember what really matters in my life. (Sometimes she has had to beat me over the head, but I count that as a form of help.) 

This man was relentless in his pursuit of wealth.  He racked up frequent flier miles and spent even more time away from his family than I did.  He did whatever it took to get to the top, and he got there.   In fact, by some measures, he has achieved a level of success I might have been envious of at one point in my life.  But now, as I look back over my life and this man’s life, I see some significant differences. He has been married and divorced multiple times.  He has had more flings than I can count with my hands and my toes.  He has no relationship with his children; in fact, they will not even talk to him.

I look at him, and I am so grateful that Dr. Horne took the time to counsel with me—and then put me on a transatlantic flight to think about what he said.  As a result, my son Nathan, who would not let me touch him because he did not know who I was, now calls me his hero.  Success is not worth heading over a cliff or getting so out of balance that we lose control.  Everything in life requires balance.  The best skiers cross that line of balance as often as possible as they race down the hill.  But they know how to keep their momentum and stay upright through the race, rather than crashing and burning.

A key to maintaining our balance in life and in business is not getting so tightly wound up and so intense that we do not get in a rhythm, or what the best athletes call flow.  In his book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked with many of the world’s greatest golfers, talks about the mindset the best golfers have to get into. When golfers are playing at their peak, Rotella says, they are only using a part of their brain while the other part is shut down.  It is almost as if they are in a trance.  Things just come naturally to them.   They are relaxed, and they let the intuitive and creative part of their brain do the work.  That is flow.

Many of us, on the other hand, get so stressed and uptight that we create our own failures.  Our stress then creates a form of reverse psychology, similar to what happens when I’m golfing and see a water hazard off to the left.  If I allow myself to think (which Rotella would suggest I not do!), I tell myself,  “Don’t go left into the water.” And, just like that, the ball invariably ends up going left right into the pond.  The same thing is true as we pursue our beacons in the fog. If we get fixated on the things we think we can’t do or if we get consumed with the possibility of a little error or failure, we get wound up too tight.  And that actually translates into negative behaviors that undercut our efforts.  

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…And Where Did You Get Those Opinons?

Monday 20 February 2012 @ 5:00 pm

Tonight I attended the 90th Birthday Party of my Uncle Dan. As I entered the room I saw my aunts, my uncles, and all of my extended family. I was instantly thrown into déjà vu.

I grew up in a very peculiar environment. My father lost both of his eyes at the age of five and is completely blind. He is a brilliant man. After completely his schooling he served as the County Attorney for 36 years. If you got busted in our community you were going to jail.

My uncle was the mayor for most of the time I was growing up. I had two aunts that also lived close by and you’ve never had your ear chewed on or your arm twisted and bent until one of them got a hold of you.

I stepped into the party room and my Uncle Robert (the mayor) instantly cornered me and proceeded to tell me about a pipeline that was coming in and I remembered that I better put my A game on. You see, half of my family is extreme strong Republicans, the other half Democrats and there is no middle ground in this family. When you stepped into a dinner table in my family you had not only better have your logic lined up, but you better bring your A game with presentation. This indeed is a family of very strong opinions.

I watched with great delight as the head table, seated with all of these siblings (all of them over 85 years old) proceeded to table and espouse their views of the world. I took great joy in understanding of where I got my strong opinions.

I have two resounding thoughts that fall out of this little experience. The first is: Have opinions. Take a stand. Don’t be afraid to espouse and stand up for what you believe in. The reality is, it adds value and if you don’t do that, then you are nothing more than a flag flapping in the wind.

Here is the second. I have often stated (and many of you that have followed me, have often heard me state) “A stupid man never learns from his mistakes, a smart man learns from his mistakes, and a wise man learns from others mistakes.”

We need to pay honor to the sages in our lives. Those who have went before who have made a difference. Tonight I was able to sit around with this group of individuals and watch with great interest as they espoused their views and beliefs and indeed through my life I have been able to learn much from these great individuals. I pay respect and honor to my Uncle Dan on his 90th Birthday. I honor my Aunt Louise and for her feisty, dog-headed determination. I honor my brilliant wonderful father and my Uncle Robert and those uncles and aunts that have went before me.

We need to make sure that we honor and pay respect for those that have knowledge that we can learn from.

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Give Me a Break

Saturday 4 February 2012 @ 3:23 am

Every year at the end of the year, my wife and I sit down and prepare our goals for the next year. This year one of the major things we added to our list was cut those around us, each other, and ourselves a little more slack.

Too frequently we wind it so tight and demand such a high level of performance from of ourselves, that we miss the real, joyful opportunities around us.

The reality is no one is perfect. 

Each of us makes mistakes–irrespective of trying to do our best. Sometimes we just have to live in this messy imperfect world, bungle a little bit, and accept it. I have found this in business too. I have found this in my spiritual life, and I have found this in my personal life. Often times the biggest tragedy that occurs is being too harsh, too critical, and too demanding on ourselves (and at times, on those around us).

The truth is we actually perform at a much higher level when we take the pressure off a little bit. If we cut ourselves, and those around us a little slack, the end results improve.

Now, I’m not proposing that we subscribe to a level of mediocrity either.

This week there was an event that I became aware of, and one that really drove this point home for me.

A young man that I know is having a couple of small challenges–nothing serious, but still a series of challenges. Recently this brought him to a conversation with two spiritual leaders. When I became aware of this, my heart was instantly frozen and softened simultaneously. This enigma because I know that one of those spiritual leaders is a very harsh, direct, smack-it-down kind of individual, where the other individual is kind, generous, tender, loving, building and supportive. 

I was anxious about the implications on this young man’s life. I knew that the first individual would indeed buoy him up, support him, lift him, and help him reach his height, despite several small mistakes. On the other hand, I was afraid that the other individual would want to smack him down, sequester him, and destroy him. 

The reality is that at some point we will be in the same position, if we haven’t already been there. Then we all need (and appreciate) people cutting us some slack.

We live in an imperfect world. There are going to be mistakes made. The challenge I give to all of us is…do your very best. The key then, is to is keep things going. 

I often tell my team members, “I expect mistakes. Great! Go make mistakes, just don’t make the really big ones.” 

I tell my sons the same thing, just don’t make the really big ones! That’s how we learn. If you have team members that are not making mistakes, I would argue that they are not trying hard enough. They are not pushing the envelope enough!

Again I close where I started.  Cut me a break, cut yourself a break, and enjoy the moments of life a little bit more.

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Blowing Kisses to Lauren – I Have Faith in our Youth

Monday 26 December 2011 @ 8:51 pm

On any given night there are anywhere between 5 to 15 young men at our house for dinner. We manage our home not by control systematic mechanisms, but by total chaos. Last night was the ultimate joy and experience of not only chaos, but just a real, joyful experience. All of you who know me, know that I have an incredible, intense passion for Nepal.

There has been one family in particular that I have become very bonded with, to the point that I consider these young men and young women my children. We first went to Nepal in 2001, met our Nuwang, brought her back to the U.S., raised Nuwang Sera Sherpa as our precious daughter.

Several years later we took our oldest sons, John and Matthew, to Nepal. They became dear lifelong friends with Tashi and Tenzing Sherpa. Indeed this week our ultimate dream was realized as Tashi and Tenzing have done very well in school. They have followed my education requirements and are now here in the United States. Tashi arrived about a week ago and was able to come to our home for the first time, last night.

He will be going to Snow College next year with his brother Tenzing. As everybody heard about it, all of our wonderful friends and the wonderful friends of our children gathered together to meet Tashi and Tenzing and to celebrate. At the top of the list were Scott Harward and Wyatt Earnst, who were John’s dearest friends growing up. Our favorite thing was when Scott would fling open the door and say “I’m Home!” that is exactly what he did when he came over.

Last night we had a huge, blow-out game night expecting Tashi to invite a young lady named Lauren to join us along with a handful of friends. What we thought would be five or six individuals turned out to be 19 young men and one young women, Lauren. As each young man would walk in the door my heart would swell with joy knowing that that was a strong, determined, intelligent, capable young man and I would add the count for Lauren saying, “Now you have 12 adoring fans Lauren, 13, 14,” and the count went until we hit 19.

We had a joyful night of eating pizza, playing games, interacting with these young men and I want to say this boldly “I BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE OF OUR YOUTH!” There are more qualified, capable, incredible young men and at least I know 1 young women out there that will make a difference in this world. I know that things are challenging and this diversification into an international economy is tricky and scary for many people, but I want to, with boldness and with confidence say, “I BELIEVE IN OUR YOUTH!”

I believe that there is brightness in store for everyone. I believe that there is enough positive energy and goodness to solve our problems. I think the next major challenge that we have, as a society, is to end poverty–to bring equality to all the world. We can make the world a better place, especially with the positive influence of our youth. I look to the youth with great confidence, because I observe them everyday! I love those 19 young men who gathered in my home last night. And what a delight it was to also have one beautiful young woman join the celebration.

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Monday 28 November 2011 @ 6:14 pm

One of my favorite books of all time is Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning. Although he covers two or three major concepts in the book, one of the major themes he discusses is that we all collaborate on a conscious or subconscious level.

I’m a Christian. I deeply believe that God has purpose for us in our lives. I think he has a bit of a sense of humor. And I think that oftentimes the alignment of happenings and circumstances in our lives are not just coincidental. I firmly believe that.

Although I’m a Christian, my mentor is an atheist who believes in the power of the universe. I also have dear friends who are Jewish and Hindu. Irrespective of beliefs and views, I think that we can all see that indeed, God, or the Universe, or whatever power we seek from; allows us amazing, unique, and beautiful opportunities.

I had such an event happen to me this weekend. Tenzing Norbu Sherpa is an amazing young man who has come over to the U.S. from Nepal this past year. We’ve been working with him on his college education, and we enjoyed having him join us for Thanksgiving dinner.

As we were down in St. George, Utah this weekend, we took a few minutes for a stop at the visitor center. All of the sudden, in walks my dear friend Roger Reid. Roger is a successful high school and college basketball coach.

For years Roger had been sharing with our family a story about an amazing woman from Hoang Jo, China. He tells about how when he spent time in China he and his family had a tender, wonderful relationship with this young woman. They spent time  discussing both religious freedom and personal freedoms that she was not afforded. In the past Roger had shared how deeply his family longed for this young lady to come to America.

Finally this young woman had come for Thanksgiving with the Reid family. So here we were: old friends with our amazing young international friends enjoying the holiday weekend. And to top it off at that very moment, in walks a woman who had a very profound effect on Tenzing’s life his first year of college. She helped him really live life with hope and optimism and belief.

It was serendipity.

Two minutes in the other direction and all of us would have missed each other. We had a delightful, joyful reunion. We gave hugs, we took pictures, and then we went our separate ways.

As for me and my house, I believe that God is in the details of our lives. I believe the universe does give us what we seek. Indeed as Victor Frankl points out, on a conscious or subconscious level we all collaborate.

It’s important to put positive energy into the universe and expect good things to occur. I think the energy is one part (not the only part) but one part of the equation that allows us to find success in our lives.

I’m so thankful in my life for these joyful, little, serendipitous events.

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Become an Entrepreneur–It’s a great Life

Wednesday 21 September 2011 @ 11:04 pm

I keep two pictures in my office to remind me of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Both of these pictures are of beautiful and awe-inspiring places in nature. I enjoy hiking and I really appreciate how the analogies of hiking through some rough parts of nature are so closely aligned with what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The similarities are almost unbelievable.

In life and in business as an entrepreneur, much of what we face is hard. Sometimes all you can do is grit your teeth and use your determination to work your way through without forgetting to look up and enjoy the beauty.

Please enjoy this video and my thoughts about a recent trip through the magnificent Zion Narrows in Zion National Park in Southern Utah.

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Staring Deep into the Eyes of the Dragon

Monday 8 August 2011 @ 1:35 pm

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “How do you ensure that you’ll be a successful entrepreneur?” Many people think that it requires a high degree of intelligence or some great insight or an extensive network. I continually tell people the number one factor in business, and I think in life in general, is unalterable determination—or in other words, looking your dragons in the eye and spitting on them, despite the fact that they are trying to eat you up.

I love the movie Cinderella Man. The story is of a man who is a professional fighter. He’d previously given up fighting, but because his family is starving, he goes back and faces a Goliath in his life.

There comes a point in the movie where he’s facing the most formidable opposition. This particular opponent is actually known for killing people in the ring. The protagonist takes several hard body blows…and then there comes a point during the fight where he turns and shouts “Hit me! Hit me! Is that all you have?”

He takes blow after blow until he ends up winning the fight despite the brutal beating. Sometimes we have to face such dragons.

Last week I found myself in a tough situation as I was preparing myself for a little respite I’m going to be taking with my wife. I really found myself in an impossible situation, with some factors in my life attempting to dish out every body blow that I could possibly take.

Then I experienced an interesting change that came over me halfway through the week. This change was similar to the change in Cinderella Man.

My approach and my attitude toward my conflicts became. “Is that all you have? Bring it, bring it!” Then I had to proceed to face those dragons and stare them in the eye.

Indeed we will all have intense challenges in our life, but particularly as you face entrepreneurship. The biggest challenge I leave to you is this: As crazy as it sounds, embrace those body blows! Look them in the eye. Fight the dragons. You will reach a level of exhilaration when you get through the challenge. Then go forward, prosper, and enjoy the wonderful ride and life of becoming a small business owner.

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Rich Christiansen