Front Porch Friday

Posted on July 22, 2016

Front Porch Friday is a weekly thought-share in the form of an internal Foundry email to our associates written by Nick McKinney.

Happy Front Porch Friday,
Last week I was able to take a little vacation with the family which I desperately needed. Truth be told, I am not good at vacationing. I love my job and it is extremely difficult for me to shut it down. However, this trip was different. Every year we spend a few days with my wife's family in TN for a large family reunion around the Fourth of July. We have been making this trek for the last 19 years and believe it or not, around 50 family members from around the country descend upon a 2,500 SF home in Savannah, TN. Exactly, I thought Savannah was in Georgia and how in the world can 50 people fit in that amount of space. Well, somehow we are able to do it and it ends up being a trip the family looks forward to taking. But all great things come to end! Kara's aunt (the host) waved the white flag last year and asked that we break tradition and find a new location.

So after much research, the search committee (yes, there was a formal committee) found a home in Pigeon Forge that could house all of us - and no adults had to sleep on the floor! As we were getting closer to the trip, one of Kara's cousins asked if we wanted to tag on a couple days of camping in the Smokey Mountains. When this was announced on the family Facebook Group chat, Kara and I both sent each other a private text message that got crossed in the cloud…and they were exact opposites. I said "heck no" and she said "Let's do it!"

After talking with Kara, she convinced me that it would be a great time. She was thinking, this is my chance to get Nick off the grid and I was thinking "gear, gear, and more gear." I mean, I instantly started looking at headlamps, survival knives, tents, flint starters, water purifiers and most importantly - back up battery chargers for my cell phone and laptop. Somehow I imagined that our camping experience would be closer to a Bear Grylls episode of Survival rather than the campsite we pulled up to in the National Park. You see, this was our family's first camping experience and I wanted to make sure that if we encountered an unfortunate situation (bears, snake bites, restroom with no facilities, etc.) that I would be prepared. Yes, I loved MacGyver when I was growing up.

Once I calmed down and learned that I would not have a cell signal and Kara was borrowing most of the camping gear I decided to just go with the flow and practice some of the things that I preach…being present, cherishing the small moments, recharging, reflecting, etc. And to cut to the chase, the camping trip was everything and more. Even though we had to endure a tropical depression - we made it through and I was able to really disconnect and just be present. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you can step back and slow down. I could go on and on about what I loved about camping but my highlights were the sounds of the streams, the pristine landscapes, the hikes and waterfalls and making my pour over coffee in the morning watching the kids play and talk by the fire.

However, there a few take-a-ways that I wanted to share on the Front Porch with you and they have to do with mapping. When is the last time you were going somewhere and had to rely on a physical map to help you navigate? When I started as a broker 16 years ago it was the one of the first things you buy. The other was a calculator. Today, both have been replaced by your phone. Siri or your preferred mapping app has become your personal co-pilot and will help make sure that you get to your destination by both highlighting your route and giving you a play by play on how to get there. Well, having depended on Siri for a while now, I found out that my co-pilot skills need some help.

You see, Kara gets super car sick so she typically drives when the roads get all squirrely so when we needed to travel to a new destination, I was in charge of the map since we didn’t have GPS. Now this is something that I should be able to crush so I grabbed my fancy highlighter, threw the map on the hood of the van, waved down a park ranger and asked them to help me find the best route to get to our destination. The lady was really nice and gave me great directions. I had all the information we needed to have a smooth ride…but we didn’t. Although I had the route, I did not do a good job being the co-pilot and here are the lessons that I learned:

  • Communicate where we are going: Even though I knew where we were going and highlighted the route with my fancy highlighter, I did not show Kara ahead of time so she could get her bearings and have a general sense for where we were headed. Before we start projects, lead teams, coach, etc. I think taking a few minutes to explain where you are leading the team is important. Might be a stretch, but this could be related to casting vision. Most people will not want to get on ship (or a minivan) if they don’t have a clear understanding of where they are going.
  • Communicate what's ahead: When you know there are windy turns in the roads and your wife gets car sick - it would be best to communicate and describe they are coming up and that they will end. When we are leading our teams or projects or have traveled down a proverbial road before you can really help your travel mates (associates) by explaining what is coming up and that it will eventually come to an end and is only part of the journey. This helps create less anxiety and gives a sense of hope that the windy turns will not exist forever and is only part of the path to get to the destination.
  • Be clear as you approach important turns: As some of you know, when you are in the mountains the roads are narrow and there is not a lot of room to turn around or find alternative routes. If you miss a turn it could become tricky. When we were traveling about 45 MPH on the mountain road and were about 50 feet from the important turn, my comment as we are passing it was, "I think that was where we were supposed to turn." When I am using Apple Maps or Waze, I sometimes get annoyed at the 3 to 4 reminders that I am supposed to turn right in 1 mile, 700 ft., then 200 ft., then 50 ft. - but now I appreciate it. This caused quite a bit of tension in the car and if I had only done a better job of communicating the important turns, it would have saved us from kids being motion sick and starting a long hike all mad at each other!

The moral of the story for me is, (1) make sure and share the big picture (2) let everyone know when you are about to encounter some unpleasant turns if you know they are ahead and (3) make sure and clearly communicate key parts along the way. Even though I failed us on that particular trip to Abrams Falls - my wife showed grace and we had a great rest of the day. Next year I will be on top of my game!