Legacy

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It’s 5:45 in the morning and I’m up, looking out the window. The dawn is starting to break on the familiar hill above the farm. The sunlight is filtering through clouds and trees, onto a dew-covered pasture littered with cows and their calves.

The upstairs is a little cold, but I can smell the coffee and conversation coming from downstairs. I walk into the kitchen bleary-eyed to see my grandpa in his chair, drinking coffee while talking to grandma. She’s cooking eggs, bacon, and toast. I get brought into the conversation immediately, sitting on grandpa’s lap, telling him an important story about something only a seven year old (and, apparently, a 65 year old) would care about.

Days like that were made for my grandpa, Lawrence D. Shinn, who left this world at 90 years young just a week and a half ago. On any given day, there could be any number of things on the agenda with a few constants. Maybe moving the cows to a new field, or feeding them hay. Probably cutting wood for the winter, especially in the waning days of summer or early fall. Or working on any number of barns, outbuildings, or house projects. He loved working with his hands, on his 160 acre farm north of Portland for more than seven decades.

There were the constants of food at the farm: lunch at noon sharp, strawberry jam, fresh and canned homegrown vegetables, ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, finding hard candy in random shirt or jacket pockets, and slicing apples or eating oranges in the recliner in the living room.

There was a rotating cast of characters who came and went throughout the day. An uncle or aunt. Cousins — so many cousins. A neighbor dropping by. A friend, maybe from out of town. They were always welcome. Some of them were up for a farm adventure or just visiting, but it always came back to grandpa.

He was a man with a great sense of humor and a great laugh. He made quick friends with the people who met him. He was strong but had a soft heart for his wife of 56 years, his kids, and the rest of us. He was devoted to his family. He taught us that actions spoke louder than words and that the way we treated each other was important. He was honest, humble, and he gave back what he received from this life several times over.

He was stubborn and ornery at times, a trait many of us inherited. He made sure his family made it to church, even when the roads were covered in snow and the only vehicle that could hold the whole brood was a 1963, rear-wheel drive Cadillac that better resembled a sled than a vehicle intended for driving.

He was smart and could figure out any mechanical issue with ease. He never saw problems as unsolvable and came up with ingenious ways to accomplish the challenges that farm life presented. A little cabin built decades ago was expanded again and again, becoming one of the best built Frankenhouses ever. Its halls and basement put up with decades of kids running, yelling, and spilling. Somehow it stayed in pretty good shape.

He loved the outdoors and had an appreciation for the beautiful country he lived in. He also loved traveling, especially via the road. Many of our fondest memories involve traveling the west with him. Long trips were made easier with family and easy conversation, though he truly loved getting away with grandma.

He lived a full life, shared with the people he loved, doing work that he was good at and enjoyed. And in the end, he left with little else to accomplish. A life complete. We should all be so fortunate.

The farm is a little quieter these days but the legacy of my grandfather lives on — through seven kids, 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren, and dozens of people who married in, invited themselves over, and shared a hug with him.

When I look around the family, I see parts of my grandfather everywhere. We all have our own separate pieces of his personality and wisdom. But I worry about the family he leaves behind. I wonder what happens to us when we forget that despite our differences, we’re all connected to a man who wanted more than anything for us to love each other like he loved each of us. I hope his influence doesn’t wane in us.

It’s a sad day for me because I’ll miss him being a part of my daughter’s life like he was part of mine and that the lessons and example I’ll be able to pass on can’t compare. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was perfect for us and our family.

Grandpa Shinn was one of a kind, and I’ll miss his stories, laughter, wisdom, and deep love he shared with our family and with me.

We all have a finite time here on this world and he made the most of each day in simple ways. It always started with that coffee and laugh in the morning, though. That’s what I’ll remember most.

Four Months

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Dear Elida,

We’re four months into our journey together in parenthood. Everything that everyone told us about it is true, too.

  • Babies don’t sleep well
  • Babies need things
  • Babies are disgusting

So…

  • I don’t sleep well
  • I don’t get things
  • I get to clean up disgusting things

All of the good things are true, too. I mean, look at that picture of you. That’s what I wake up to at 5:00 am. That gives me the energy necessary to brew my first pot of coffee. Everything takes care of itself after that.

I’ve never been one to complain or be particularly argumentative. Fights between your mom and I are a rare occasion. When they do happen, I make it worse by laughing and saying something like, “Come on!” I’m not saying that being fairly laid back is a requirement for having an agreeable parenting experience. It does help, though.

There are still limits to that laid back attitude, though. We were visiting your grandparents down in Portland a few months ago and I set you on the couch to make a bottle really quick. I’d done it a bunch at home.  Not 20 seconds later do I hear a little thud. You kicked herself off the thankfully low couch onto the thankfully carpeted floor.

I ran over to grab you and found you half upset/half startled. I picked you up, put you over my shoulder, and you started bawling. Very sad and dramatic. That was the first time that you really grabbed on to me and held me like a little person.

So, while I don’t leave you unaccompanied on anything except for a crib or pack n’ play anymore, that moment will burn forever in my head. Not because I’m an idiot, either.

I’m an idiot a lot.

But that was really the first time I saw you as something separate from your mom and I. Before that, I always just thought of you as an extension of us. You were always around us. You did whatever we wanted you to do. The limit of your emotions were around being tired and being hungry, both of which had pretty predictable cadences. That time felt like the first time you knew you needed me right at that moment.

When you’re older, you’ll be smart enough to realize that I was the one that put you in that spot in the first place. I imagine a feistier, older Elida punching my arm for that.

Now at four months, you grab a hold of me all of the time and do other things to remind us you’re really a distinct person. In the morning, after work, when you’re grumpy, when you’re happy… we start seeing little pieces of both of us independently expressed. Simple personality traits now but certainly on their way to becoming more complex.

It’s exciting. While you’re just starting to hit the fat, adorable baby stage, you’re also starting to discover your world one day at a time. Having a cute baby is nice but having one independent and observing of the world is a joy.

I never thought I would love having a baby. I always imagined that if I could skip the infant stuff and go straight to an adoring older toddler with good listening skills, I’d be the happiest person in the world. It’s great to go through this stage day by day, though. I realize why people really love it and why, in spite of crazy amounts of sleep deprivation, having another one sounds appealing. Not now, but maybe later.

There are a million things I could write about your budding personality but the biggest parts that stick out are your independence and your ease of loving anyone who takes care of you. While we have a primary nanny, we have a variety of fill in care as well as family members and the daycare at the gym that regularly interact with you.

You’re always happy to see us but you also seem content with nannies, family members, and whoever else is willing to give you some attention and laughs. No tears yet when mom leaves for work or dad leaves for a long trip. At least not from you.

In closing, I can’t wait to see what the next few months of development bring for us. We can’t wait to show you the world. And maybe we’ll start to get some more sleep? Hey, I can hope, right?

Love,

Dad

Fighting the Parent-Industrial Complex

I’m not joking when I tell you I didn’t read any parenting book or blog before our little girl arrived four months ago.  It’s not because I thought I knew better than the countless parents that have written about parenting. I have no idea what I’m doing, just like the rest of you guys.

Given my wife’s penchant for research and reading, she probably read a lot more than me. I just took the approach of, “Well, if we get stuck, we’ll Google it or call a doctor.”

In the first few weeks, I was trying to get my wife some sleep and trying to get our little girl sleeping for longer periods of time. It was 1:00 am and I thought, “Oh, let me Google that.”

What a mistake.

Well, investigating it wasn’t a mistake. For example, the Mayo Clinic has some excellent resources. Diving into blogs and forums devoted to parenting was. The specific advice wasn’t necessarily good or bad. Just kidding, some of the advice was bad and downright dangerous. But that’s wasn’t my biggest problem with it, that’s simply a hazard of the unfiltered internet.

What I saw was people who tore others down over not just common things like cloth diapering versus disposable, but which disposable diaper you use. Then there was another group of people that seek validation (or seek to validate everyone) and lashes out at people who may disagree with you putting raw honey on your one month old’s pacifier.

That’s a bad idea.

Of course, most of these blogs and forum sites are funded by advertising from huge consumer packaging goods and drug companies. And hey, look. I’m a capitalist. I don’t really care. But tell me these companies don’t love this idea of an empowered, yet completely confused, angry, and misdirected group of parents. Nothing makes you overspend on smashed cooked carrots like someone telling you that you’re a better parent for buying a particular brand.

It’s easy to over-complicate issues as a parent. Looking to the internet for the answers isn’t a bad idea but being aware of your sources is a requirement. People naturally seek validation for their ideas but it is amazing how things can improve when you open your mind to the right information from the right places.

I’m not a “stick it to the man” sort of guy but it doesn’t hurt to take a little bit of the confusion out of parenting. Not only for yourself and your kid, but just to take back information from sites that focus on everything but the relationship between you and your child. The toys, the clothes, the food… yes, you need it. But you also need to observe your kid and see what they like and don’t like. You can’t buy a great childhood for your kids in a package or medicine bottle.

Morning Person or Night Owl?

I don’t think my sleep trajectory is any different than a lot of folks:

  • From high school through college and a little beyond, I was a flat out night owl — staying up until 2-3am consistently, regardless of when I had to get up.
  • Beyond college, I adapted to a more normal schedule of sleeping at 11 or mdnight and getting up around six.
  • Now, post kid, I find myself starting getting down to bed at 9-10pm and up at 4-6am  (with all of the interruptions, of course).

The reason I mention this is because I haven’t slept in for awhile. While I was in Las Vegas for summer league though, I ended up sleeping in until 10:30 in the morning — almost missing my lunch. It was the first time I had slept past eight for… who knows how long?

There’s research out there that actually says a night owl’s brain is different than a morning person’s or just a regular person. They don’t know if night owl tendencies resulted in brain changes or if genetic variations cause brains to be different and therefore, be more of a night owl.

Many successful CEOs wake up early, but so do bakers and sanitation workers. I don’t think you’re destined for success just because you wake up early.

While I thought I was getting a lot of stuff done when I was closer to a night owl — after all, this blog was mostly written at nights from 2006-2009 — the fact is, I get more accomplished when I wake up earlier. I may not be bouncing out of bed at 5am most mornings but by 6-7am, I’m a pretty functional human being!

What’s your take? Do you get up early — by choice or otherwise — or do you stay up late and sleep in whenever possible? Have you found it affects any part of your life positively or negatively?

The Need for Community

I’ve been working from home for more than five years. It’s a wonderful thing that would be tough to trade for a commute and an office again.

That’s even more so with our little one in the house full-time. Between her and our nanny, it’s the first time I’ve had full-time “coworkers” in the same space for more than a few days. 10176249_10101285321352773_874860828545337944_n

That’s if you don’t include my cat. I certainly don’t.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s been nice to have human interaction between the hours of 7am and 6pm that didn’t involve going to a coffee shop or a Subway. As an introvert, I didn’t think I missed it but I did.

One of the things I love about working for The Starr Conspiracy is their liberal use of Google Hangouts. It’s actually nice seeing other people’s faces at least once a day.

The thing that was really weird about living in the Seattle area was how strangely cool people were and how genuinely nice people are here in Richland. We joked about the Seattle freeze until we actually lived there. When we walk out on the street or in the park away from there, people say hi and even the kids are friendlier.

I’m not making a value judgment but I will say that the last few months have opened me to the idea that I may need a local community. We’ve been so mobile in the past, it’s been easy to just forget about it and just have a few friends that we knew. Even though it’s tough to make friends after 30, who says it isn’t worthwhile?

We have a great community of friends back in Portland we’d love to get back to one day. I don’t know when that will happen, though. There’s no sense in waiting it out anymore.

Finding “A” Talent is Overrated

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I just got back from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. For those not in the know, it’s a time when rookies and those looking to make a team’s 15-man roster come to play for almost two weeks in scrimmages. The event is small and fairly inside. It was my second year going with the guys from The 8 Man Rotation.

The biggest names in the NBA aren’t there. There was no LeBron James. Nor was there Kevin Durant. Instead, you had rookies getting their first taste of team action and free agents and walk on’s looking for a shot at riding the end of the bench (or just making the roster) because there is usually better money in trying to make it work in the NBA than going overseas.

The basketball can be ugly at times and while these are — by any objective measure — some of the best basketball players in the world, most of them are not the top players in the league and a vast majority won’t see significant time as even a starter.

It got me thinking a lot about this pursuit for top talent. Everybody wants “A” players. Any team in the league would’ve welcomed James onto their team this offseason (yes, even the Spurs). With the collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association in place, any team that signs him gets a great deal. There are only a handful of players like him ever, much less playing at any given time.

For the 26-28 teams a year that can’t snag a once a decade player like James or Durant, they figure out ways to remain competitive. Most teams have a great player or two, a few good ones, and then a long tail of flawed players in one way or another.

You take a look at the San Antonio Spurs and you see that method. Tim Duncan may be the best power forward to play the game but he wasn’t the best power forward this year. You see a lot of players who are great to good to flawed, in one way or another. You look at Miami’s successful title runs and see the same line of players. Some great. Some not-so-great.

Identifying the top players in the NBA is easy. If you have the salary and they have the desire to join your team, you make it happen. Convincing them to come to your team over the 29 other options? I’ll give you that.

But no team wins on top talent alone. The Spurs had nine guys who averaged at least 19 minutes game over the full season last year. There are probably a few names a casual fan wouldn’t recognize in that list too: Belinelli, Splitter, Diaw, and Mills.

These aren’t the top players in the league. They are good role players, with some great strengths and some significant weaknesses. And they were available within the budget they had to work with.

While everyone will talk about the stars in the NBA, especially when it comes to winning a championship, what it really comes down to is who can step up from your supporting cast. Even the best and most fit players need to spend time off the court. Who can give you those 10-15 minutes off the bench every night and keep you in a tight game in Memphis on a Tuesday night in January?

The difference between good teams and great teams is that talent identification didn’t end with just figuring out who can be your “A” talent. They went down the line and looked at who best fit in “B” or even “C” roles on the team. Every team has a budget they need to stay in and you can’t fit more than two or three top paid players on your team. With five guys as starters and at least three regular rotation players, that means every team out there is playing a lot of non-top talent night after night.

You won’t see their highlights on SportsCenter. Their contribution is critical, though. And smart teams have spent time and significant money finding better ways to identify who will be the role players and backup talent needed to win.

When you’re talking about the “War for Talent” and hunting purple squirrels, just remember one thing: successful hiring is more than just finding the best talent, it’s about finding the right talent, for the right price, that fits with the current skill set of the organization. Anybody should be able to identify the best and if you have the budget to afford hiring the best in every position, you are welcome to try.

Smart teams make strategic moves to find the right A, B, and C talent to fill a roster without going over their cap. The best ones can spot B and C talent and knows where they fit in. Let your competitors figure out where they can find a LeBron James of your industry, while you figure out how to fill your team with solid contributors who can make a difference at the right price.

Keep it Relevant: What Candidates Expect in the Hiring Process

Context.

For candidates, it’s everything. If you’re driving the talent strategy for your organization, you should know that candidates want and need context to make the best decisions for themselves and for you.

Sure, maybe the best folks have done deep research, maybe spent some time on Glassdoor, or read up on the latest company news. Most candidates fly in blind to your organization’s career site, though. They get there via a job board or a referral. They may have seen a tweet someone sent them.

And if you leave them in the dark about your recruiting process or make it unclear what they should expect, they won’t give you the benefit of the doubt and they’ll assume you’re one of those companies: the kind that never calls back. That leaves a bad taste in any candidate’s mouth.

The 2013 Candidate Experience Survey Report proves this out as well. Of those who had a great candidate experience, 80 percent had details of the next steps in the application process and 68 percent found it useful. As the candidate experience declined, so too does the proportion of people who were aware of those critical next step details.

That’s not good. So what should candidates expect from your organization?

Read the four things candidates should expect over at The Candidate Experience site.

Crocodile Tears for all the Certified HR Folks Out There

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I never thought much about certifying as an HR pro. I get it. You want to be shown as a knowledgeable professional and get some letters after your name. That’s great. It was never a big deal to me, though. For some though, it was a big deal and I can respect that.

Now, it looks like the clarity of what those letters mean is in serious jeopardy. SHRM is creating their own certification and doing nearly everything in their power to disassociate themselves with HRCI — including uninviting them from the annual conference. Ouch.

The delineation between HRCI and SHRM was something that was unclear to me until a few years ago and it probably was to many HR pros until just recently. I have received no less than a half dozen emails from SHRM and HRCI regarding this and it is perfectly clear now that these organizations aren’t in stride and haven’t been for awhile.

I’ve seen HR pros outraged or shocked by the move all over these great internets. I’ve seen some support it. No matter which side you take, the groundwork for this move has been laid for years and was roundly ignored by nearly everyone.

Starting in 2010, there was a group of people called SHRM Members for Transparency that had concerns they made public after a long period of behind the scenes work. My colleague John Hollon covered this group extensively. This was much to the collective disdain of SHRM itself and the yawns of members. SMFT’s concerns included:

  • Board compensation increases
  • Board compensation unchecked by independent committee
  • Unrestricted first class travel for board members
  • Only 38 percent of board members having at least a PHR certification
  • Only 60 percent of board members are HR pros
  • SHRM CEO is a finance pro, not an HR pro
  • SHRM board uses a search firm to find board members, including those uncertified and not members of SHRM
  • SHRM board retains nearly all power, with extremely limited member recourse

There’s a whole section — now outdated — focused on the board’s lack of connection to HRCI certification. That’s a tad bit of foreshadowing for you.

When these stories were gaining steam, I remember asking some of the HR pros in my area about it. Most of them didn’t know and didn’t care when I explained it. Those who has heard about it felt like it was overblown, took SHRM’s assurances as good, and went on with their life. While clearly there were some things that weren’t quite right at SHRM, it didn’t impact them. SHRM wanted to take some money from their massive reserves to pay a little extra to board members? Meh. Once SHRM decided to keep dues the same, any potential widespread discontent was quickly snuffed.

Now, nearly four years later, these same folks suddenly care about it because their credential is at risk?

Sorry PHRs, SPHRs, and GPHRs. I don’t see this one getting walked back very easily. You may get easily credentialed with SHRM or you may choose to stick with HRCI but those letters are going to become a lot more confusing for the people who care about having knowledgeable and competent HR people running their shops.

There are some people I do feel sorry for — like educators who’ve spent years working with SHRM and HRCI on training, or those stuck in limbo of gaining certification in the interim. For those who have been associated with both SHRM and HRCI for decades, and who couldn’t be concerned with a few non-certified board members or a couple grand in compensation a few years ago? You’re a smart, strategic HR pro. You can anticipate changes before they happen. What did you expect and how are you surprised?

My Life Won’t Be The Same

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Dear Elida,

You joined us just a week ago. While the timing was a little off, we were happy to see your screaming face at 6:26 AM on an otherwise nondescript Tuesday morning. Your mom got more sleep than I did the night before you came, though it probably wasn’t the most relaxing. I sat up in the world’s least comfortable bed contemplating everything I thought I had a few weeks to figure out.

Of course, everyone tells you that your life is going to change once your first child arrives. A week in, I can tell you that in a very real sense, it has. It was everything promised to us. Sleepless nights? Check. Google every possible malady when you get a random hiccup fit or act strange? Double check. Eating meals in shifts, during naps, or multitasking? Yeah. You are ruthlessly stubborn and sincerely sweet, all at the same time. You definitely get that from your mother.

What people don’t tell you is the other ways your life changes thanks to a little peanut who tips the scales at less than six pounds.

Your mother and I enjoyed our life before you came into the world. For most of that time, we never felt incomplete or lacking anything of consequence. We spent eight years doing what we loved: seeing places, taking new adventures, and moving. Lots and lots of moving.

When your cousin was born though, we knew we wanted to have a baby. For three years, we didn’t know if it would happen. If you looked at your parent’s browser histories during that time, you would see too many searches about fertility and adoption to count. We talked to friends and family members who had done both. We had started investigating options once things didn’t come as quickly as we had hoped.

As our friends started having kids, we were delighted for them while still wondering when our time would come. There were tears and doubts along the way, too many to count.

We soon found out that our troubles didn’t have as much to do with fertility as it had with your mother’s absent thyroid gland. Adjusting the medication she took to supplement for a thyroid lost to cancer meant we started to see some results. Quickly.

About a year ago, she got pregnant. We were overjoyed. She came back from the store one day with the tiniest socks to tell me. We knew it was possible but we never knew it would be this quick.

When I was in Florida on a business trip, I got a call from your mother and I knew immediately what it was. We lost the baby. I was physically ill, in a beautiful, oceanfront room 3,000 miles away. I flew home as quick as I could, but there was nothing either one of us could do. In that moment, it felt like there was a weight on us, holding us down. I contemplated getting rid of those socks when I saw them in a dresser a few weeks later but decided to keep them.

On a business trip a few months later, I got a call from her saying she was pregnant again. And that she got a promotion, and that we were going to be moving again. Life was going to be busy but we were cautiously optimistic that this would work out.

Lucky for us, it did.

Putting together baby furniture or putting your car seat in the car for the first of a few hundred times never really registered with my brain that something was different. I knew that my life was going to change thanks to you, but other than the superficial ways that everyone talks about, I had no idea what that really meant.

When you arrived, what people couldn’t put into words made sense.

Seeing the look on your mother’s face when she held you for the first time — and I will tell you that newborns are not, in any way, objectively attractive, despite what TV shows seem to suggest — flooded my memories with the thousands of other times she has shown me strength, warmth, grace, kindness, understanding, and unconditional love. It reminded me not just why I initially loved her but why my love for her continues to grow every day. It makes me hope that you have more of her in you than you have of me because even when I haven’t been able to love myself, I’ve always been able to love her.

Holding you for the first time felt like the end of one big road trip and the beginning of the next. It reminded me that the way we get to the biggest milestones in our lives matter. Success and hardships alike sharpened our senses for your arrival. You arrived at the perfect imperfect time, another reminder about the difficulties of executing even the best laid plans.

Having you in my arms that day was one of the best days of my life because of the big and little things along the way that made it possible. And because it happened this way — this unique way — it will change our way forward too. There was nothing to be flippant about. It wasn’t easy getting you here and it won’t always be easy going forward.

I tried putting those tiny socks on but they were still a bit too big. We’ll get to keep them a little while longer, to remind us of the journey we took to get you and a reminder that life will never be the same. Because it never has been.

Love,

Dad