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Aug 13, 2010

End of Summer…

by fivesimplethings

Where did it go?  I remember sitting at my desk what seems like yesterday celebrating the start of summer.  Poof. Thanks very much. It’s over.

I feel like we should all do the famous “What I did on summer vacation” essay.  Rather than thinking about the places we visited or the theme park rides we avoided, my sense is that it’s good to ask a basic question, “Did I use this wonderful existence of some free time in my children’s lives in a meaningful way?” Did I take an extra afternoon off of work to be able to throw a football with my son?  Did I take my daughters on extra dates because they didn’t have to be in class?

Every one I meet that has children older than I do uses the cliché that “You blink, and your children are grown”.  This summer, I blinked.  Now, summer is over.

For those of you who have children going back to school, can you do something this weekend to cement summer in their minds?  Relive the best parts of the last few months.  Talk about the time you spent together and how much it meant to you.

For those of you who still have a few weeks left, take advantage of this time.  Before you blink, it will be over.

What was your favorite memory of summer?

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Aug 5, 2010

Get Out The Vote

by fivesimplethings

Today is primary election day in our home state of Tennessee.  This morning, as I was getting dressed, I asked my kids who they were voting for, and I was amazed at how quickly they trumpeted their candidate of choice.  Wow! Media is effective, or my wife and I have been very persuasive at the dinner table.

Giving your kids a chance to participate in the election process gives a great opportunity to learn how to debate in a civil way and to learn how to form opinions on issues that matter.  I’m also convinced that I‘ve got a least two budding candidates.

As  we’re gearing up for the larger elections in November, I’d encourage you to think about how you can use the next three months to give your kids a sense of the political process.  Let them volunteer for a few candidates. Let them read through the mountains of direct mail that you get.  Have them knock on a few doors.

Who knows… you may be raising up a future leader of the free world.  (However, they’ll have to beat out my child first!!)

What are some ways that you’ve engaged your family in the political process? I’d love to know.

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jul 29, 2010

Parenting Entrepreneurs?

by fivesimplethings

Source: Dero Sanford for The Wall Street Journal

There was an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Sue Shellenberger.  I love her columns on work and family because she always gives very practical advice for those of us trying to figure out how to keep it all together.

The article goes into different issues that arise when parents give their children money for start up businesses.  Obviously, it raises some of the pitfalls that relationships encounter when things don’t go as planned.

Here’s a thought… What do we do from an early age to start our kids thinking about the principles that make a business successful? How do we instill ideas about customer service, quality, and reliability into their little lives?

I know there’s a lot out there about teaching kids how to save money or helping think about budgeting an allowance.  However, I’m curious about what we can do to give them a customer-centric way of thinking.  That’s what distinguishes a business, after all.

How do we teach our children to be service minded?

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jul 27, 2010

by fivesimplethings

There is a two-and-a-half mile track about five minutes from our house that I tend to gravitate towards for exercise.  It sits on the same property as the little league fields and a putting range used by the local University.  I’ve been going there for at least ten years… same routine every time.

I run in the same direction.  I move at the same pace.  Can you tell I like routines?

This week, as I was lacing up my tennis shoes, my son walked into the room and announced he was ready to go with me to exercise.  We talked about whether he was ready or not.  Finally,  we agreed.  He could come along.

As we set out, he did a good job keeping pace.  However, about half way through, he started to slow down.  He didn’t do it from exhaustion. Rather, he started pointing out things along the way.

Had I seen the two, red fire hydrants near the field house?  Had I ever gone over to the water fountain on the left? Did you notice the batting practice area next to the baseball bleachers?

For ten years, I had been so focused on the trail that I missed the things around it.

That’s what life feels like.  Sometimes, I’m so preoccupied with what I’m doing that I lose sight of all of the interesting things along the way.  Every once in awhile, it’s good to bring someone alongside to call out the things you are missing.

No time to stop and smell the roses? How about simply taking an extra few seconds to realize all of the things on the track of life that make it an adventure?

Who can help you see the things that you are blind to in the fast-paced lanes of life?

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jul 16, 2010

Flower Girls

by fivesimplethings

My daughters moved from fairy tale princesses to the real deal last week when they were the flower girls in my cousin’s wedding.  They were beautiful, whimsical,  graceful… Mom and dad were anxious, sweating, and fearful.

Here we were again finding some of our own self identity in the performance (or lack thereof) of our children.   Couple of pieces of advice:

  1. 2 years old is too young to be a flower girl.  4 years old is perfect.
  2. Line the center aisle with Skittles or M&Ms for maximum speed and performance down the stretch
  3. Work all contingency plans. For example, if one of the girls stops and runs out of the church, the other should keep moving forward.  Don’t look back.

Can you get a sense for how our day went?

Bottom line… it was tense, crazy and in the end, glorious.  My biggest lesson was that the wedding had very little to do with me or my girls.  It was all about the beaming couple about to start a new life together.  Our girls were just window dressing on a new vista of opportunity for the new couple.  By the way, they were really fantastic window dressing.

-John Tolsma

Jul 8, 2010

Riding Through Obstacles

by fivesimplethings

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I spent a lot of time riding bikes with my six year old son.  I usually let him lead so that I can watch him from behind.  The streets aren’t very busy.  However, he’s still learning how to deal with passing cars and more vigilant bikers.  My blood pressure bobbed and weaved each ride, but we made it home safely each time.

One of the biggest observations that I made was how the video game culture that our child has experienced has influenced little things in his life.  For example, in Super Mario Brothers you take on the obstacles or things that come in your path.  Where I try to avoid anything that distracts me from a smooth, straight ride, my son says, “Bring it on!” to potholes, divots, or other objects in the road.  Swerving and weaving are just common place.  It’s how you advance to the next level.

So, here’s my thought.  I do everything possible to avoid the distractions and problems that can derail me.  Sometimes I might be better off to deal with the issues head on in order to learn, to plan and to correct my course.  Bottom line… I don’t know who to thank for this insight.  My son?  Or Luigi?

What’s your method for dealing with obstacles.  Do you avoid them or confront them?

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jun 29, 2010

Anniversary Reflections

by fivesimplethings

Image: Kane Gledhill

It’s my anniversary today… 14 years.

5 different houses. 4 fights (well…). 3 kiddos. 2 people in love. 1 great ride.  That’s the best way to sum it up.

At the end of the day, a marriage surpasses any business partnership, friendship… any relationship because of the ability to be anchored in the security of vows.

I won’t leave.

She won’t leave.

Till death do us part.

What a simple gift.  One of my prayers is that I always live up to my end of the bargain.

I’m incredibly blessed by my marriage.  We’ve decided that in the complexity of raising kids, growing businesses, managing money, and taking big steps, we’re better off focusing on the constant, basic fact that we know that we love each other.  We know we’ll make it through.

Don’t get me wrong. We have to remind each other of this commitment a lot.  We have to say it to each other.  But it’s nice to know that in the act of living life out, we strengthen our simple bonds.  I’m especially reminded of it today.

What are the simple secrets to a solid marriage?

Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jun 24, 2010

The Orphaned Briefcase Arrives

by fivesimplethings

Monday arrived.  No bag.

I sat down and figured out all of the things I could simply get done with a pen and some paper.  I needed to write some notes to some clients.   I wanted some “brain time” to think about my company’s strategy for the next few months.  It’s amazing what I was able to do without the distraction of the constant pinging of instant messenger.  It was freeing to see what I could do without the distraction of the inbox.

I reached out to people more effectively.

I focused more intently in my planning.

The next thing I knew, it was late afternoon.

The doorbell rang.  The FedEx man stood at the door smiling through the sweat that was consuming him in the early summer heat.  He handed me the box coupled with an apology.  “Sorry about the weather on Saturday. We just couldn’t get the plane to land.”  “No worries,” I said. “I  really didn’t need the package that much anyway.”

What could you get done if you were able to leave your routine?  How is it holding you back? Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jun 17, 2010

The Orphaned Briefcase, Part Two

by fivesimplethings

All the arrangements were made.  The briefcase was en route, and I was breathlessly awaiting its arrival on Saturday morning.

However, I knew something might be amiss when I woke to a thick blanket of fog covering the house where we were staying.  Surely, it would lift by the time the FedEx would arrive.  Even if the fog was heavy, I knew that they’d get it to me.  After all, they were carrying my briefcase.

I started standing at the door like a puppy dog around 11a.  I had access to my mother-in-law’s computer.  However, I know that tracking information can be shady.  Even though it hadn’t been updated, I was sure that my briefcase was nestled into a warm delivery truck on the way to our house.

Noon came.  I made a sandwich.

1p came.  I ate an apple.

2p. The fog still hasn’t lifted.



5p.  “Hello, Mr. Tolsma. That plane just couldn’t get in this morning because of bad weather.  Look for the package on Monday.”

6p. Dejected and despondent, I got dressed for dinner.

As I gazed into my empty plate, I hadn’t realized all of the mental energy that I was putting into this briefcase.  Did I ever spend so much time worrying about my children?  Did I ever focus so intently on my wife or my coworkers?  If I worried about my employees as much as I worried about my computer cord that day, I’d be a much better leader.

Okay, It’s settling in.  The briefcase isn’t coming.  Will it arrive Monday? What are the things that you worry too much about? Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma

Jun 10, 2010

The Orphaned Briefcase

by fivesimplethings

Last week, we packed things up for the start of summer vacation.  8 Suitcases.  Check. Travel Documents.  Check.  3 kids… Wait, I only see two…  There she is.  Check.   Let’s go.

As we settled above 10,000 feet, though, I started to have this very uneasy feeling.  Where was my briefcase?

You have to understand something.  This is not any briefcase.  This is my lifeline, my connection point, my collection of everything that I need to function.  Just as the president travels with the “football” which contains all of the nuclear codes, my briefcase has the power to bring destruction or order to my world.  Yet now, it was missing.  For all I knew, it could be in the hands of some sinister corporate spy or worse yet being blown up at that very moment by the TSA.

After a while, a sense of calm started to come over me, however.  I knew I hadn’t seen it in the airport.  So, it must have been either in the car or at the house.  The only problem was that it wasn’t with me.

I went through a mental inventory of the things in that bag.  Computer.  Power cord.  Well, at least I had my blackberry. There was only one issue with that, however.  My charger for it was… you guessed it… in the briefcase.

Panic that had turned to calm had turned a cold sweat. Would I be able to function without the precious treasure that has spent more days with me than even my wife.  Forget Five Simple Things.  I needed one simple briefcase.

As we landed, my wife and I and got on the phone and sent someone to my car.  He called in with a report.  Preening over the back seat was that beautiful, canvas covered, all important briefcase.  What was lost was found!  We made arrangements for the briefcase to be shipped up to me for next day delivery.

If only things worked out that way… Stay tuned for more of the saga of the orphaned briefcase.

Here’s a question, though.  What’s in your briefcase?  What is the thing that you carry with you that you couldn’t live without? Let me know in the comments section or on twitter with the hashtag #fivesimplethings.

-John Tolsma