Using my Amazon Gift Cards

I recently celebrated a birthday. My lovely wife got a group of friends together for a nice get together. Actually she got them together twice, as on my birthday weekend I had to fly to Florida to move my Mom back to Las Vegas. Joyce patiently rescheduled for a week later.

Many of my friends got me gifts, which was totally unnecessary but always appreciated. And a few friends got me Amazon gift cards.

Amazon is just about the place Joyce and I spend more money than anywhere else. We go to the grocery store every week, but we buy less and less there. Anything that doesn’t expire pretty much gets purchased at Amazon. As do a lot of things I used to get at more “specialty” stores even if online.

So how does an entertainment executive spend $200 at Amazon? Here you go:

  • Right Guard Xtreme Defense 5 Antiperspirant Deodorant (pack of 6)
  • Quilted Northern Ultra Plush Toilet Paper, 24 Supreme (92+ Regular) Bath Tissue Rolls
  • Sensodyne Extra Whitening Travel Size Toothpaste – 0.8 Oz, 5 Pack
  • Kleenex Facial Tissue Upright 4 pack (Pack of 2, Total of 8 Boxes)
  • Nike Mens Metcon 3 Black/BlackWhite

Sexy list right? Well, the last item is pretty cool. I stumbled onto these shoes when Nike sent me an email about them, on their special “eclipse preparation” direct email. Which may be a separate topic, but usually I don’t like such themed emails, but if you look up these shoes, they actually DO look like an eclipse! So I wanted to reward them for their creativity and bought a pair.

Also, we all know (I think) to buy in bulk. I probably could get better pricing if I went to Costco, but I have increasingly come to believe the value of my driving and shopping time is just too precious almost no matter what the price. Plus Costco selections in store are often limited and Joyce and I are picky about some of the essentials.

I did do some more fun purchases with the Total Wine gift certificates I received! But I will leave those details to the friends we have over to enjoy the fruits of their gifts.

leadership, personal, Uncategorized

Human Spirit

I saw a post on Twitter earlier today about the flooding in Houston that grabbed my attention. It showed me, once again, how powerful the human spirit is.

I always wish it didn’t take a tragedy for people to come together, and for heroes to emerge. But then I think about it, and the beauty of this gentleman is he is likely this unselfish all the time. This is how he is wired, or we wouldn’t have said it so quickly, so matter-of-factly. And then I just wish we could all be like him. Including me. What could we do in this world if everyone thought like this? We are a giving society generally, but we still see too many times where folks ignore the trials and tribulations of others because their issues would inconvenience us. Let’s all look up to the heroes of Harvey, and learn just a little bit from them.

family, personal

Getting an assist from a loved one

My wife Joyce has been an incredible partner, especially in the last few months. Allowing me to take several trips to “check in” on my mom; talking me off the ledge when I was there to move mom out of Florida and she “decided” she didn’t want to leave; being a calming force for my mom as she gets settled into a new place.

Life is not easy, and it’s especially hard when doing it on your own. I am very lucky to have Joyce, and my brother, and my friends, and my assistant Helen (yeah, flowers for mom, air conditioner appointments for the house we are selling, getting mom’s Nevada Medicare set up…too much) and colleagues – all of whom have been supportive, flexible, great listeners, and many other things for me. Sometimes we just give each other hugs, sometimes we laugh about the predicament, sometimes we cry.

I also have to say how much I admire professionals in the field of assisted living. Maybe I’d say the same about school teachers, but they have way more patience than I do and their grace in the midst of seeming chaos is unbelievable. Talk about unsung heroes, they are literally saving our parents lives. Not medically, but in terms of quality of life. My mom is getting three good meals a day, something she wasn’t really doing for herself. She does multiple activities a day with others, when she used to sit alone. And she is watched for any issues, like falls, that she used to be exposed to living alone.

All amazing. But let me come back to where I started. Joyce has never asked if she could help, she just has. She has never complained about helping, rather celebrates when we get good news about mom. She walks alongside of her, she gives her joy through her smile. She has been so unselfish. We still have both of Joyce’s parents and in good health (knock on wood). I am taking lots of notes on how she is supporting me so I can do the same when needed. I am eternally grateful for her support, it is priceless.



Explaining the affirmations – part 5

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 6-8 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with these:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

I will build rapport and relationships with others. I will put myself “out there” to the point where I am uncomfortable.

Relationships are what matter. I will learn more about those around me, and share my story with them.

In my last four posts, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with the first set of affirmations.

Today I will discuss my fifth (and final at this point) affirmation:

I will ask, not tell: I will ask questions so others learn; I will not give them the answers or do the work myself.

This affirmation is about me becoming a multiplier. I have always been a good teacher, but many times I miss opportunities to teach by taking on work myself, not involving others in “higher level” processes, and missing teaching moments when time seems short. These each are incredible chances to teach others:

  • Not doing the work myself. I got this habit in college, always doing too much of the work in group projects. The better way is through collaboration, proper explanation of the vision of the work, proper project planning, and accountability. Work can take longer, but it gets done better because it is a team process, not an individual process. And for this affirmation, importantly, those involved in the work LEARN.
  • Not involving others in higher level processes. Particularly at the start of a complex initiative, I need to get others up to speed quickly and not take any meetings alone or hold information to myself (confidentiality and other factors of course to be taken into account). If I keep the info close, this one becomes related to the first one – I get so far in by myself that it seems inefficient to get others “up to speed” and I will just keep going on my own.
  • Missing teaching moments when time seems short. It’s “easy” (or at least easier) to ask questions when you know you don’t have any more meetings for the day, or there is a break between meetings. It’s harder to ask questions when time is short. But I have to focus on asking some threshold questions, getting folks going on some work, and then ensuring regular check-ins for more questions. In this way, they get the learning and I don’t give them answers – but I also don’t set them up for failure by sending them off without enough guidance.

I feel like a lot of leaders have issues in this area, because we were once functional “experts” who got promoted because of our speed, quality work and dependability. But we have to give up some of that to be truly better leaders. I also tell newer leaders they will learn this lesson the easy way now or the hard way later, as it only gets harder to delegate effectively when you have more responsibility.

leisure, travel

A quick trip report – annual Shakespeare Festival trip

Third annual trip to Cedar City to see the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Here are the highlights of another amazing trip.

  • Recall we go with the Selwoods, great friends, my former boss. This was their year to drive. One year, I want to hire a driver for the whole weekend.
  • This year, I got to exchange books at Main Street Bookstore. Picked up an eclectic mix of new books, including a cool “bracket” book where they take any topic and do “bracketology” with it (like best chick flicks, or animal food mascots), while Joyce stayed true to her romance books by getting Beauty and the Beast.
  • We made the annual visit to IronGate Winery, but this year they are in their new location, which is beautiful. A first class wine room.
  • This year we had dinner at Milt’s, which is sort of a legendary local steakhouse, on the way to Brianhead. We took advantage of free corkage as well, and all had a great time except Joyce who still likes exactly one restaurant in Cedar City – Centro Pizza. Oh, and the Chick-fil-a in St. George, where we stopped on the way up. We had The Fugitive and Kim Crawford for wines.
  • The next night we of course went to Centro, once again with free corkage and an amazing meal of salad and two pizzas, plus gelato. The Paring and Four Graces were the wines.
  • The two plays we saw were Romeo and Juliet and Guys and Dolls. Both were quite good. We barely got the end of Romeo and Juliet in with an impending thunderstorm, and then ran back to the hotel in a downpour. Fun!
  • Our hike was back to the Alpine Pond trail (same as two years ago), and it was lovely. Of course we grabbed coffee at The Grind before the drive up. Bob and Ginny make the absolute best rollup sandwiches for snacks, and this year we drank a lovely Josh rose wine. At the visitor center, Bob bought a lifetime all-National Park pass for $10 (cool senior rate), and we looked at the sun through two super powerful telescopes, something I’d never done before (they are getting prepped for the eclipse).
  • The BrianHead beer and spirits event wasn’t as good as last year in terms of variety of vendors, but the band was good (Closure, based out of St. George)and, hey, it’s fresh mountain air!

That’s a pretty quick summary. My favorite part of this trip is having an “anchor” deep in the summer that we can look forward to, knowing we will be with great company and relax as much as possible. We are already planning for next year – might stay at a different Best Western than the one from this year and last, will we ever find a restaurant Joyce likes other than Centro, should we go up earlier, and maybe try a matinee one day? These are all things to look forward to for next year!



My Personal Leadership Essay

This is my personal leadership essay, for the first exercise in the book, “Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow” by Joshua Spodek. This is meant to be 800 words or so of my leadership philosophy, and how I came to that philosophy.

I am following the “instructions” (or advice) in the book to do this before reading any farther. I am intrigued about what is to come. But I am grateful for the stern direction, it is forcing me to document something I have spent a long time reading about, studying, thinking about. Something I’ve tried to put into words several times, but have never felt like I was terribly successful. So hopefully this time will show progress.

I think of leadership first and foremost as a set of skills. That is what captured my attention when I first read Joshua’s material on twitter and otherwise. I feel like they are harder skills to learn in some cases than functional or technical skills, but I balance that view with a realistic perspective on how much time we actually spend learning leadership. We spend 12, 16 or more years in school learning other things; we might spend an hour a month trying to become better leaders.

I admire leaders who can tell stories, who allow their people to flourish, who teach with a seemingly endless reservoir of energy when the task is building others up.

I have always loved to teach. It gives me a sense of worth, worth that I don’t often find in other parts of my life, particularly other parts of work. I generally move quickly from success to the next “thing” – not stopping to enjoy the success. Doubling down on that, I often wallow in losses or setbacks longer than I should.

In the early years of my career, I learned from leaders who had some pretty serious flaws. One yelled at pretty much everyone below him, except those he knew were actually smarter than him. Another was too aloof and never got to really know his teams. Another was socially awkward and way too prone to be the smartest person in the room, intimidating others which often squashed their ideas, dialog, etc.

I had a great, but unconventional, leader for most of my time so far at my current company. He and I are both with the company still, in different roles. He is still a mentor, more important he is a great friend. If I hadn’t of had a great dad he would certainly be a father figure also. He taught me the value of waiting, and of thinking, and of silence, and calm reactions. I still struggle with several of those things based on my nature, but I reflect often on his teachings, which he wouldn’t have even been conscious about.

So now I only have a few hundred words left to summarize my leadership philosophy. Here goes:

  • Teach your team everything you know and give them opportunities to learn way more than that. Work side by side with them so they can “see” the work develop and learn from the process.
  • Give your team exciting work to do, put them in spots where the work they do can make a difference.
  • Acknowledge those around you, and be honest with them.
  • Tell those around you what is going on, and the role they play in the team’s success.

I get in my own way when I do things that inhibit the ability to fulfill this philosophy. Most leaders have a different leadership philosophy and do different things that get in the way of that philosophy. In poker we would call these “leaks” in our game. In golf, we talk about movements that drain power, like a flying elbow or not getting our weight through the swing. My flying elbow in leadership is things like impatience, lack of self-control, and not listening enough. We all have them; will we work on them? I try to prove to myself every day that I will work on them. That I will become a better leader and live up to my own leadership philosophy. I try to ensure those around me know I am working diligently to grow as a leader.

That is why I am reading this book and doing these lessons. Doing a course of exercises like this is valuable because it keeps leadership skills front and center. It reminds us that they are indeed skills. That we have to continually practice, learn new tricks and techniques, study.

I hope to be a better leader because of it.


Explaining the affirmations part 4

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 6-8 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with these:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

I will build rapport and relationships with others. I will put myself “out there” to the point where I am uncomfortable.

In my last three posts, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with the first set of affirmations.

Today I will discuss my fourth affirmation:

Relationships are what matter. I will learn more about those around me, and share my story with them.

Obviously this might look similar to the third affirmation above. The third affirmation was all about getting “out there” and building relationships with others and being comfortable in social settings.

This one is about getting deeper with individuals, primarily co-workers (my team members, peers, etc.). It fits with one of our key employee and guest service standards – we strive to “hear their story.” So I want to share my story, tell my “why,” and hear the same from those around me.

This affirmation and the third one played together very well two weeks ago when I went to New York for a work event where I was with totally new people and some folks I knew well (ranging from relatively well to very well). I tried to focus on listening, and asking questions. I also shared my story as it related to the subjects we were discussing throughout the day.

My leadership coach uses the exact phrase “relationships are what matter.” Just the other day I saw an interview with a leader who said the same thing. I didn’t used to think this was the case, but I am seeing it now, and doing my best to learn and grow n this area.