A Quick Story About Paying Grace Forward

Advertisements

El Gusto es Mio … the pleasure is mine.

There we sat like knots on a log, two late-40-something men bored and useless at one of the tediously never-ending Junior Auxiliary fundraisers, when my buddy offered a dubious reading recommendation.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-9-27-39-am“That new Truett Cathy book is pretty good. I think you’d enjoy it,” he said, staring off into space toward the luxury porta-potties apparently necessary for this particular outdoor charity event at the “ranch.”

“Chick-fil-A?” I responded, silently scoffing at the likelihood of some fast-food propaganda promo and how I might benefit from it.

“That’s him,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll check it out,” I lied.

“Hey, did you check out those porta potties?”

“Yep. Sweet. Very sweet. I think I’ll go back in and pee again.”

Two days later he shows up at my office Monday morning with his used, dog-eared copy.

Trapped. Great Caesar’s Ghost.

But I read it. And something stuck.

***

Truett Cathy was a fine man. He did a lot of good, instilled much goodwill, set an example for the kind of life to which I aspire.  He had his haters. Who doesn’t these days?

But Cathy founded his business with good people. From corporate execs to the janitorial staff, everything was/is personal. And he successfully created an environment that makes people happy to work at Chick-fil-A. He wanted people to give customers heartfelt service with a genuine smile – the kind that comes naturally.

The next time you run through a Chick-fil-A, listen for a key word.

Pleasure.

What do you hear at the speaker greeting? “Welcome to Chick-fil-A. It will be my pleasure to serve you. Order whenever you’re ready.”

Need ketchup? “It will be my pleasure.”

Soft drink too flat? “It’ll be my pleasure to replace that sir/ma’am.”

Cathy created an environment making it a pleasure for his employees to work there, and they pass their pleasure on to the customer. However you may feel about their public positions on certain issues, rarely will you have a bad experience at Chick-fil-A.

***

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-1-16-13-pm

Civility’s rapid decay during the last two years has on occasion made me physically ill.

Through modeling from public figures of the highest profile, by way of mass media, the entertainment industry, the lingering effects of a recession from which some will never, ever recover, and the slow, drip, drip, conditioning it creates in a very numb society, it’s now easier to treat others with incredulous disdain than with kindness. We’re almost unconscious in our rude behavior.

The Resistance??? There are may things we need to resist now, and the players in and around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be our least worries. We must resist becoming void of all kindness and civility. The hard part is, no one can do it but you.

I made a decision in October than I will not bow to civil decay. That requires an intentional, conscious effort every day in taking responsibility for myself. Add to a plan of a balanced diet, exercise and spiritual well-being, this:

Intentional gratitude. I’m pausing for it several times a day now.

As I focus on what’s good, (especially people in my life) it actually requires less and less effort over time. It makes it much easier to take my eyes off myself and look outward.

Truth is, it makes almost everything a PLEASURE. Regularly, throughout the day, and with no force of thought I find myself in conversation regularly saying …

“It’s my pleasure.”

“The pleasure is mine.”

“It couldn’t be more of a pleasure.”

And I’m laughing as I write this, but I mean it. Things are much more a pleasure now than they were when I paid attention to all the garbage. I’m not going back into the mire. That behavior is unacceptable. I reject it. This is my Resistance.

And so in everything I now pursue, it’s become an unintentional mantra, and I wasn’t even going for that.

El Gusto es mio…

AND THAT’S A PLEASURE!

-30-

Announcing “Buena Vista”

Buena Vista

***

After three weeks we are pleased to kick off this work week with the announcement of our first major property offering in a new development you have to see to believe.

We call it Buena Vista (Good Views) Ecuador, and “good views” doesn’t come close to an adequate description.

This property is being released to the market today, and in this new year we will host three complimentary “Discovery Weekends” that can accommodate 12 couples during each weekend.

Come explore, and check out our new website by clicking on the Buena Vista icon to the right, or simply go directly to http://www.buenavistaecuador.com for more information.

And follow our Facebook fan page “PRO Ecuador Marketing” for real-time updates on this project.

***

Until next time…

Now that the moment’s upon us, I’m not quite sure what to say, or how to say it.

For six months now, Dana and I have awaited this hour, the time when we’d return to Ecuador to breathe new life into a very different future.

In 24 hours we’ll drive 70 miles to Memphis International Airport, take a quick flight to Steve and DanaAtlanta, then on 5,000 miles south to Quito, then Manta, grab a rental car there, and drive an hour further south to Puerto Cayo where our new home is finished and where we’ll set up shop for a new family of marketing-related businesses. Latitude 1 South. We’ve been laying the groundwork there for almost a year.

And quite a year it’s been.

My 71-year-old dad died in January, and for me it created a profound moment, when for the first time, I’d truly assess life’s “vaporish” quality. I began writing my first series of books focusing on redemption. Three months after dad’s passing we made an exploratory trip to Ecuador, purchased a 1/3 acre lot by the beach and began building second home. We joined a new church that helped us better understand our roles as “every-day missionaries,” and just more than 60 days ago the human resource director at the company where I worked called me into his office to say “the owners have decided to go in a different direction, (and you’re not going along for the ride).”

In six months, we've gone from this...

In six months, we’ve gone from this…

Enter Plan B.

Fortunately, the wheels in my head had been turning just enough to assess the possibilities for one last entrepreneurial adventure, this time in a “foreign” land. The moment we first laid eyes on Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, I told Dana it was soon to be something very special and you could see opportunities everywhere. So there’s a be-careful-what-you-wish-for lesson in there somewhere.

Now, we’re headed for a 99-day follow-up trip to see where it might further lead.

A read of Bob Buford‘s Halftime earlier in the year reshaped a part of the way I now think.

... to this...

… to this…

His book’s subtitle is, “Moving from Success to Significance.” What we’re about to do, Buford would say, is  a “seismic test,” a low-to-moderate risk to assess the bigger possibilities for the greater good. And so, our seismic test now begins.

It all means several things for Dana and me, including but not limited to:

  • A willingness to “unlearn” many of the cultural biases that are almost instinctive. We must leave behind the notions that the way we do most things is the correct manner in which to do them. That’s not necessarily true in a very big world.
  • We must exercise patience, and listen a lot more than we talk.
  • That even if this venture fails by our standards, it’s not the end of the world because you never, never, never quit, and God has a plan even when you don’t.
  • A greater understanding that life is a balancing act, and your best is all you can do.
  • Finding new ways to help others understand that redemption, in whatever form it may present itself, is a wonderful and powerful thing.
...to a view like this.

…to a view like this.

My wife saves everything. She’s not a hoarder, but somehow uses her skills to organize our chaotic life. Last night she showed me a few “fortunes” she’d saved from the cookies we’d broken over the last year during visits to some of our favorite Asian restaurants. Yes, she saved the fortune cookie fortunes. A few fortunes read:

  • “You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.”
  • “Ideas you believe are absurd, ultimately lead to success.”
  • “Others take notice of your radiance. Share your happiness.”
  • “Every production of genius, must first be the product of enthusiasm.”
  • “God looks after you, especially.”

Amazing…

We’ve said our goodbyes to family and friends. And now we go.

To all the readers for whom I’m so very thankful, my next post, and all those that follow for the succeeding 99 days, will be from a new base in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. We’ll share stories of our new adventure, grab photos of this beautiful land and invite you to enjoy it all with us.

Until then, thanks for coming along. If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.

Vaya con Dios for now.

-30-

Arkansas to Ecuador: When God Said ‘Yes’ to Our Most Laughable Dream

Dana and me back in the days of suits, cocktail parties, benefit art auctions and big business.

Dana and me back in the days of suits, cocktail parties, benefit art auctions and big business.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” ~ Proverbs 29:18

It’s been quite a year.

My dad died in January. Dana and I explored Ecuador in April, bought a piece of land and began building a house. I started writing a couple of books, and considered the world of self-employment once again. Two months ago, my corporate day job was eliminated, forcing the issue of previously considered self-employment. We paid off 90 percent of our debts. And we’re now eight days away from getting on a plane to Quito (December 21 – the day the Mayans claim the world will end, I might add) and driving into Puerto Cayo where our house should be finished and our new venture into the world of global marketing will begin.

Each night before bed, I expect to wake up the next morning in a dream, but it hasn’t happened yet.

***

October 31, 2009, is a day I’ll never forget.

Nine months prior I’d cashed out well over six figures (everything I had) to launch a new publishing business that I believed was destined for success. I hired the finest people, (many of whom were good friends) bought the best equipment and leased the most advanced facilities I could imagine to put it all in. We were hi-tech, and we looked good.

On the World Poker Tour they would have said I was “all-in.”

But the world had an ace in the hole.

By July I began seeing signs of something I’d never seen before. Getting money was tougher. Selling advertising, even to my closest of business associates, wasn’t like it was before. Businesses were holding back. I had no idea what it was.

It was then, that I understood what recession meant.

Our revenues dried up. Overhead costs were screaming every day, creditors started calling, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat.

On the week leading up to October 31, I fired my entire staff of eight and liquidated all our physical assets. Even then, I was $100k in debt, well beyond broke, and for the first time in my life, had NO vision. Not for tomorrow or next week, and certainly not for the next year or five years.

Things went dark very quickly. Very dark. I thought I’d never return the communications business I loved so much. I thought I’d never write again. And for two years, I didn’t.

***

And when daddy died, it all had to come out. So I created a blog and the world changed.

This blog site became a place of healing. Beyond the steadfast support of my wife, Dana, it was the only such source I ever found. I could write about my failures, my anger, and be transparent about it all because I never really had to look anyone in the eye.

Readers came. Comments rolled in, and slowly and gradually, I started thinking again, and a journey began to finding my former self – one blog post at a time.

After dad died in January, I took a good assessment of life’s brevity. It grew into a desire to explore, and do things I’d never before done. It guided Dana and me to an exploratory trip to Ecuador where there was a defining moment  I’ll never forget.

Dana and me, back in business, but a lot more relaxed, less stress and learning to enjoy life and savor the moment.

Dana and me, back in business, but a lot more relaxed, less stress and learning to enjoy life and savor the moment.

After a nine-hour drive from Guayaquil, we finally arrived on an elevated hill just south of Puerto Cayo, and as I looked at the small fishing village with pristine, uninhabited beach as far as the eye could see, I knew something special would happen there soon, with, or without me.

Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. My first view.

Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. My first view.

So we bought a piece of land and started building a house, and managed it all via electronic communication from 6,000 miles away. During that time, we’ve laid the ground work for a family of mass communication marketing companies in a part of the world I like to think of as the New West. Opportunity everywhere. It must have been how Lewis and Clark felt each day as they passed through and explored the Louisiana Purchase en route to the Pacific. A new opportunity around every corner.

They too, must have thought they’d wake up in a dream.

I never thought I’d write again. God got a big laugh out of that one.

“Oh yes you will,” he said. “Just never as you’ve before imagined, my son.”

-30-

My Spanish Teachers

how to learn spanish as a second language

Levi, me and Maria in the Arkansas State University library.

After a several-month period of battling with Rosetta Stone and my own lack of self-discipline during a time when every moment’s precious, I went on the search for a Spanish tutor.

And this is who I found – Levi and Maria.

Levi and Maria are students, and work at my alma mater,  Arkansas State University.

Levi has an undergraduate degree in Spanish and a graduate degree in

how to learn a second language

A lovely young couple, Levi and Maria have a bright future ahead in higher education.

geography. He works in the Center for International Studies, and will soon pursue a terminal geography degree in Texas or New Mexico.

Maria completed her undergraduate degree at the university in her home of LaPaz, Bolivia, and she is soon to complete an MBA at ASU.

They are a delightful young couple willing to help an old gringo, provided he has $25 in his pocket for every hour! And it’s worth every penny.

Levi instructs me in basics and fundamentals: proper conjugation, tenses, especially on permanent and temporary tenses, which I find quite difficult. Many times we use flash cards, and that’s helpful for a visual learner.

With her background in business education, and parents from the corporate world in Latin America, Maria instructs me in proper business protocol, ethics, how a friendly relationship almost always comes before business, and how to “unlearn” most of what I’ve learned in the U.S. business world. Because things (everything) moves much slower in Latin America, I have to back off my tendency to be so aggressive in business.

If you’re looking to learn a second language, Rosetta Stone and many other programs are good, but there’s no substitute for the interaction that comes with a tutor and practice by speaking.

Gracias y mucho gusto en conocerlo Levi y Maria!

-30-

The Parable of Two Doors: Not a Choice, But a Point of Entry

Door of Perceived Opportunity

Photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins

Joseph had taken every personality profile assessment you can imagine, and multiple times.

Eventually, he thought, the results would come up different, but they never did.

Joseph was driven, intense, introspective and a strategic thinker. He also had a compassionate heart, and the latter only added to his internal drive for change. He’d always believed, that together, with a like-minded group of friends, they could change the world.

He worked at a small company, independently owned, and somewhat entrepreneurial in culture. Joseph loved the diversity in his colleagues, especially because they were smart in so many ways he was not.

For two years, every morning around 7:20, Joseph arrived early for work, each day entering through the front door.

***

For all its forward thinking and self-proclaimed image to embrace new ideas, each day Joseph walked in the front door, he quietly wished his colleagues would turn their culture upside-down and get really radical. He wished they’d take on a genuine “what-if” mentality, because the world was changing, and changing fast.

Some days, Joseph did what he could to impose a new way of thinking, but it never quite took hold, and he wasn’t senior enough to come right out and say some things. Imposition of change never works anyway, he’d learned.

On occasion, when he was bold enough to cross a certain line, his thinking was listened to, but not really heard.

The days, weeks and months went on, and the culture eventually took its toll on Joseph. He’d becoming something he really was not – accepting of the status quo.

So Joseph walked through the front door each day at 7:20 a.m., and privately felt as if he were betraying his own heart.

***

One day, hope arrived.

Before 8 a.m., (everyone in the company was an overachiever), a senior company team called Joseph in to take on a major project for which he’d previously solicited leadership responsibility. They told him to go with it, and to use his own creative gut instincts to get it done.

So Joseph was elated.

Creative freedom was offered, accepted, and now, he started once again to feel true to himself. His strategies were bold, radical and counter to anything that’d ever been done, and he was thrilled with all the possible outcome scenarios.

They might just change the world after all.

At some point, a company client got wind of the culture change to which Joseph had been assigned, and they called senior management with their disapproval. “Things have been just fine for 30 years now,” they said. “Let’s not go and start changing now.”

Yes, the client had been with the company from almost day one – and with that came a certain freedom to call some shots.

***

Quickly, senior management back-tracked, called Joseph in, and asked him to call the client explaining the new approach wouldn’t be so radical after all.

The follow-up meeting brought only one phrase to Joseph’s mind: “Thrown under the bus.”

Door of Perceived Opportunity

***

Prone to sometimes quick and emotional decisions himself (after so much bs), Joseph got up, and walked out the door that gave him safe passage every day.

For years, he obsessed in disgust, and for years he never went back, until one day something prompted him to go back and visit old friends.

His parking space, long-lost over the years to multiple generations of new “idea” guys, Joseph parked in the back lot, and took entry through an obscure warehouse door.

Oddly, Joseph noticed, the back door was slightly cracked.

He was warmly greeted as he walked the warehouse aisles en route to the area where all the real thinking went on. Around the next corner, he bumped into an old adversary who “managed” the company’s entrepreneurial culture.

Then the adversary asked something interesting.

“It’s just you and me here in the back of the warehouse. Since we’re here, would you remind me about the vision you had for the corporate culture change?

-30-