Monday, October 20, 2014

Beer and Community

As you may have noticed, my family and I tend to travel a lot these days. My goal is that we never stop doing that as we really love exploring and experiencing new places all over the globe. When you travel frequently to far off places or local hot spots, you often find so much that you thought you would never find. It is the unexpected that continues to keep me going back for more trips. Nothing was more unexpected and amazing than my encounter with my friends Jerard Nighorn and Brian Gajeski.

I met Jerard and Brian while at the 2013 IHRSA show in Las Vegas. Jerard and Brian had a booth on the floor at IHRSA. What's funny is that I didn't meet Jerard or Brian at their booth. It was a small encounter in the lobby area of the event. I was doing my normal thing of chatting with new people and Jerard noticed that I was the person who was talking to everyone. He sensed my energy and just wanted to chat. That chat almost a few years ago was the beginning of a friendship. While we discussed the Vemma products they had at their booth and health/fitness, what really got me going was that Jerard just genuinely wanted to get to know me. We talked about our love for NFL football and it was then that I learned that he and Brian live in Green Bay, Wisconsin...home of the Packers! Going to a Packer game was a bucket list opportunity for me. I didn't know how I was going to be able to go to one of the games, but I figured maybe one day. Literally after knowing Jerard for a day he invited me out to a game in Green Bay! Just like that. Community (little did I know that people in Green Bay are just the most generous people I have met on the planet). Jerard is a season ticket holder and he wanted me to have that experience. I barely knew Jerard, but he treated me like family. I was astounded.

Almost two years later I finally made good on that trip. I am writing you from Green Bay, Wisconsin and I am telling you it was a life changing trip. That generosity, kindness and community that Jerard and Brian showed me at IHRSA was 10 fold in Green Bay. I have never met nicer people who also love to drink beer! As I made my way through the legendary tailgating atmosphere at Green Bay I was astonished by how many people greeted me with a warm smile and kind words. Brian, who has a gym in town called The Bod-e, introduced me to several of the members at the gym. They were just the kindest people around. They had their own tailgate area and it was so amazing to see all of these people who work out together, but who also celebrate and enjoy life together. It was more than just fitness for them. I loved it. We drank lots of booze, laughed really hard, told some funny stories and watched the Packers play in historic Lambeau Field. It was a trip of a lifetime...I'm definitely going back!

As I sit here in the airport ready to go back home to Las Vegas, I am reminded of the good the world
still has in it. People truly do make the world go around. And people can make the world go around in a positive direction or a negative direction. Whatever attitude people bring to their lives is what they will end up growing. Good begets good and bad begets bad. The people of Green Bay certainly show that goodness is alive and well. They helped me fall back in love with the idea of community. This is a community of people who literally will hold your cup of booze when your hands are cold or they will give you the shirt off their back. Seriously, an awesome gentleman let me borrow his Packer's sweater so I would have something green to wear for the game. I was just blown away by how amazing people can be when they operate at the highest level of community. No one was obsessed with their figure or how many calories they were taking in. Nobody was focused on who looked the best. And everyone was positive and uplifting. What mattered the most was being good to other people while having a great time. That's living. Cheers!!

Until next time...

Dr. D

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Make It Count

The longer you live the better you understand the value of living each day. As a person in my mid 30's I believe I have finally reached an epiphany about life that you just can't have when you are in your 20's. Its a rather grim epiphany, but for me it drives home the point about our existence and how we spend our time during it. One day I'm going to die and so are you. There...I said it. Sounds terrible right? But actually, its not...

I think it sounds like the blaring horn that we all need to remember in our lives. Every day is a gigantic blessing. Its a huge opportunity to do something powerful with your life because nothing is every promised to us each day. How did I come to this epiphany? It was really an accumulation of things in my life. It was the end of my networking group, Connect to Fitness, and me thinking how I really wanted to spend my time helping others. It was and still is watching my brother, Wordsmith, rise to fame as an independent hip hop artist. It's seeing my staff members at Club Ridges happy and healthy and working a job that gives them so much love and fulfillment. Its seeing my wife and my daughter take a picture together on a hiking trip. Its seeing my parents still in love after all these years. Its just so many things, so many people, so many situations that have added up to me staring down the barrel of that gun and knowing that one day I will just be a memory on this planet.

Once that epiphany hit me, I've been running full steam ahead towards the life that I've always wanted to live. I've become more considerate of what my family and friends need and desire. I hug my staff more and tell them how much I love them. I thank my parents for being wonderful people. I provide even more praise and encouragement for my brother in his music career. I wake up and I think "who has it better than me?" I've been blessed way too many times. More than I deserve I feel, but you know what? I am going to keep running as hard as I can to visit that random country that fascinates me. I'm going to eat more exotic foods, go to more beer and wine festivals, do more spontaneous off the cuff things. Why?

Because one day its going to be over. And guess what? I don't want to regret my life when I'm near the end. I don't want to look back and think...what the hell did I do with my life? That's something that I just can't bear. That's something I just won't allow to happen. And I don't want it to happen to any of you as well. You have the opportunity every day to make something positive happen whether it be big or small. You own that choice. What are you doing with that choice right here, right now? Its up to you, but can keep telling yourself that you have all this time, but the truth just don't know.

Get after your life. Make. It. Count.

Until next time....

Dr. D

Monday, September 1, 2014

Creating a Culture of Love and Responsibility

Culture is the big trend word these days in business. Successful businesses are beginning to understand that the best cultures are not driven by fear, but by love and responsibility. Great culture is fostered by boundaries that are inherently based on loving your employees in a way that promotes upward mobility and improved work/life balance. Companies like Google, Zappos, etc. are working everyday to drive home this effort of a happy culture. As a former collegiate athlete and current fitness professional, I often turn to the world of sports to understand the shifts in current business. Sports is certainly a microcosm for what happens in society. To understand this all you have to do is check out the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks. They are becoming the new standard in how you recruit, train and care about football players. In a sport that is very violent they have managed to make compassion and care cornerstones of their success.

I have worked diligently over the past six years at Club Ridges to incorporate a mantra of love and responsibility with our staff members. I have seen first hand that when you genuinely love your staff they will run through a wall for you. However, you have to also make sure that you set boundaries for that love and that you are upfront with your staff when they need to improve their performance. You see love is not a free for all. Awesome love is both warm and kind, but also tough when needed. My staff knows how much I care about them, but they also know that I am not afraid to enforce the rules and provide discipline if need be. Fortunately, I have found that when you provide that balance you almost never have any issues. It truly is an amazing way to run an organization. 

With that being said, here are some simple tips to create a loving and responsible work environment:

1. Revamp the Expectations 

Part of the problem with poor organizations is that they lack structure and positive/responsible expectations. You can't expect people to know how to be effective if you have not laid the ground rules for that. You have to define what love and responsibility mean in your organization and how you want your staff to embody that on a daily basis. And the most important part of this is that you have to lead in this example everyday. 

2. Dump the Waste

After you have set the new expectations you have to do the hardest part...get rid of toxic people who don't want to or can't meet those expectations. It sounds counter intuitive, but its necessary. YOU CAN'T HAVE LONG TERM SUCCESS WITH TOXIC PEOPLE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION. PERIOD. This means you will certainly be seen as the bad guy initially by those negative people. Oh well. Creating a loving culture means being responsible and responsible people don't allow consistently negative folks to infiltrate a positive culture. 

3. Have Fun!!

One of the most important things you can do to create a loving and responsible culture is to have fun!! Spend time talking and laughing with your staff and schedule happy hours and parties to celebrate team success. I believe getting to know your staff outside of the work environment is crucial to building chemistry and commitment at work. Just make sure you lay down the ground rules before you do this stuff and you will build a fun and responsible environment. Happy employees make money! I've seen it firsthand. It works!

4. Reinforce Excellence

Always reinforce the rules of your environment. In my case, we always reinforce the cleanliness of the gym and the friendly attitude we expect when talking with the consumer and fellow staff members. Additionally, we reinforce the quality of the services we provide so that the consumer has a high satisfaction rate for those services. Even if your staff is doing a great job already it doesn't matter. Keep reinforcing those standards of excellence because it is human nature to ease off the gas pedal. It happens even to awesome people. 

Overall, a culture of love and responsibility is not that hard to create as long as you are willing to lead in love and responsibility. Gone are the days of yelling at people, creating fear as an employer and not relating to your staff. That doesn't create long term success in business. And the awesome gift that you are giving your staff is the crossover effect of this type of approach. You can take these principle and apply them to your personal life. I was told this a long time ago and I truly believe this...a good job does not take you away from your family, it brings them closer. Love the people in your life, but be responsible in that venture as well. 

Until the next time...

Dr. D

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Know Your Role

When I lived in Germany during my middle school years I loved playing baseball. My brother and I were on many teams throughout the years, but our baseball teams in Germany were special. The camaraderie and friendship we experienced on those teams made living in another country much easier for my brother and I. And it also helped that we were on very good teams. In fact one of our teams ended up playing in the Corps Championships, which was for military kids from all over Germany. It was an honor to play in those championships. We were a bunch of middle school kids who just loved to play baseball, but the prevailing theme on our team that made us successful was that everyone on the team, even at that young age, knew their role on the team. The coaches on our team made sure to place each kid in the best position to be successful and have fun. That's what made our team special. Its hard to have kids sometimes understand that concept, but we got it and we leaned on the fact that each of us had different skill sets and strengths that added to our team's success. No kid tried to go outside of that and it was remarkable to see it. 

As an adult, I recognize that the concept of knowing your role is critical to the success of anything in life. This is especially important as a business professional. As the General Manager of a high end private residential fitness facility here in Las Vegas, our team's success has been based on the concept of knowing your role and loving people in their role. Everyone who works at Club Ridges understands their strengths as an employee at our club. We have placed people in roles where they can be successful and that in turn has created tremendous value and support from the consumers of the facility. 

Many businesses fail not because of monetary issues, but because of personnel issues. I often find that failing businesses employ people who are negative and who don't have a good understanding of themselves and why they are in that line of work. But probably the biggest problem is having a leader of a business who has poor hiring practices and they themselves are not fit to be a leader of people. Think about it...if you are the leader of a business and you don't know your own role then how can you lead others? I often find that leaders of great businesses have this amazingly measured presence and decision making ability. They are sure of their direction, their intensity and they take the time to get to know their staff on a professional and personal level. 

And you know what? Its OK to not be the leader. Not everyone's cut out to be the CEO, GM, President or any other top position of a company. Maybe you are better at being an employee than being an entrepreneur. Maybe you are better at being a wing man in your job.  There's nothing wrong with that. But on the other side maybe you do have the stuff to be the leader of the company. Regardless, you just need to know what role you play and then you need to play that role to the best of your effort level and ability. Once you do that I promise you will experience a wonderful level of sustained success in your life. 

Until next time...

Dr. D

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Life

One of the more beautiful things you will ever witness in life is watching someone be baptized. It is such an emotionally uplifting experience. To this day I can't watch a baptism without crying. It is a powerful moment that means so much. During the message this past weekend from our pastor at Central Christian, Judd Wilhite, he discussed the meaning of baptism and how it symbolizes walking in a new life with Christ. While his call today was for anyone who has not been baptized to come down and be a part of today's "Splash Bash," he also urged those who had been baptized to remember your baptism. The tears were flowing as I thought about that day and the events that led me to that point. You see in life the struggle often leads to the victory and my baptism was very much symbolic of a struggling time in my life that led me to become the person I am today. 

Back in 2002 I wasn't the person most of you know today. I was in a weird place in my life. I was one year removed from a rigorous four years of academic studies and collegiate athletics. My previous four years of life was filled with studying, practice for track and field and competing in track meets. I guess you could say that I had a less than normal college experience as very, very few people who go to college are scholarship athletes and live their lives much like it is a 9-5 job. Once I graduated with my college degree I began to have more time on my hands, which led me to exploring so many different aspects of life as a young adult. While I had some fun, I also felt that I was moving further and further away from the person that my parents wanted me to be, but more than that, the person I knew I should be. I slipped further and further into feelings of despair and hopelessness because I just knew I was making decisions that were not in line with my upbringing and internal make up. 

One day I was sitting on the ground in my room and I began to pray, which is something I had not done in a very long time. I grew up going to church and my parents baptized me as a little kid. That baptism as a child was my parent's intention to put me on the right course towards loving God and living a positive and spiritually fulfilling life. Well, back in 2002 I was failing the intention my parents had for me in a big way. And that just crushed me. Luckily, the Lord placed some angels in my life who steered me in a very kind and loving way back to the person I knew I needed to be. 

I walked into Aletheia Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia and my buddy Aaron gave me a huge hug the first time he saw me come in. My life vaulted forward in that moment.

My good buddy Nick gave me a bible and wrote some of the most beautiful words I have ever read in the front sleeve. I felt fellowship.

I went to the George Washington National Forest and sat in a boat on the river while reading the bible. I felt peace. 

I watched Pastor Dave from Aletheia pour his heart out about the power of Baptism one day in church as the tears streamed down his eyes. I felt commitment. 

After church that day I came up to Aaron and I told him I wanted to get baptized and he again gave me a huge hug. That evening I fulfilled my parents intention of following a spiritually fulfilling life. As Pastor D slowly lowered me into the water and pulled me back up I let go of the old me and began the long trek towards the person you guys see today. I felt love.

That was March 2nd, 2003. It was the biggest turning point of my adult life. 

You see my struggles in 2012 brought about an explosion of wonderful change in my life. It was through that beautiful struggle that I came back to the center of my compass. And because of that I have experienced such far reaching joy and progress in my life. Have I had any rough times during the past 11 years? Of course! That's just part of being human, but I was able to handle the tough times with much more grace because I was a different person. I had a direction and I had a major intensity to that direction that I continue to ignite to this day. 

Friends...while this blog is about how the power of faith can change your life, it is also just a blog about becoming a better person. While baptism and getting re-committed to my faith is my story, your story might be different. Regardless of how different our stories may be, the common thread is that it is important to trade in the old things that breed negativity and loss in your life for the positive things and people who bolster and increase the value of your life.

That's a life that is filled with fellowship wither other like minded positive people.
That's a life that is filled with peace in your decisions and your surroundings.
That's a life that is filled with commitment to opportunities to serve others and yourself.
That's a life that is filled with love so big that it radiates off of your very being.

And that is a wonderful life.

Until next time...

Dr. D