About Us, Personal Growth

Couch Time

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(Fair Warning: This post has more transparent and personal insight on life and marriage than most. If that’s not your thing, scroll along. If it is, enter your email on the website for a free subscription. There may be more transparency coming ; )

Now for the actual text:

There is not, for all practical purposes, a couch in the Ahlmann Family Airstream. By that I don’t mean there isn’t one, for there are in fact two. (Separated by a table at the front end, they frame the dining room, living room and bedroom, as the table sinks to form our bed.) But for practical purposes, or rather one specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist.

I can see I will have to explain.

The purpose to which I refer is the occasional evening when a casual conversation becomes a constructive discussion. Or worse, an unconstructive one. You know, the kind of marital debate that requires private time of reflection because further exchange is going nowhere, and the passing thought appears that spending an evening on the couch, with a little distance, might be a viable and even beneficial option.

But for that specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist. Because the couches that do exist convert to become the master bedroom, i.e. the one and only cushioned surface available for sleeping, with little opportunity for “distance.”

The décor of our Airstream thus encourages what any good marriage counselor recommends: Solve your issues before you go to bed (however long that takes.) And that length of time, interestingly, seems to be unchanged since we first got married 12 years ago. The topics of constructive discussion have evolved (we spend little time now arguing money or sex, the statistical #1 and #2 sources of marital strife), but we do occasionally spar on topics of life plans, raising children (and related coordination), and a recent category that I will call “great ideas that Christian can sell everybody in the world on, except Rachel (because she has already seen through them).”

For those evenings, when opposing views require focused verbal exchange, we are stuck to sort it out. Stuck to agree, at least, on where to cordially park the topic to be solved another day.

Christian

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About Us, Personal Growth

Guns, Deer, and the Joy of Parenting

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“Hey Dad!” said Caleb as I headed out the door. “When you get home from work, we should have a drink and talk about hunting a deer.”

I concealed a laugh, and simply told him “Sure. Sounds good son.” But Rachel, standing behind him, appeared equally amused.

For the “drink,” it turned out, he was happy with milk. But he had a very clear intention with the topic of conversation. “Dad, I need to learn how to kill deer.”

The request, and the “need,” surfaced an amusing truth: For a kid at age 6, Dad is still assumed to be the definitive resource on anything he needs to learn. It matters not that Dad has never shot a deer, or that he has shot exactly one turkey. And even that was the result of one gaggles foolishly predictable travel pattern near the office around Thanksgiving, not Dad’s impeccable turkey calling skills or any enviable outdoorsman-ship in general.

The turkey adventure had stretched into the night, with Rachel and a YouTube instructional video on the front deck to guide our plucking and cleaning process. It’s worth noting that Rachel, unlike most spouses, did not respond negatively to my call about a large bird in the back of my truck, in need of plucking.   Fortunately for the rest of us, her interest in fine food from fine sources outweighs the initial inconvenience of plucking.

And that may become the perfect match. If Caleb learns to hunt, under my guidance (or rather, via Dr. Grant Woods at www.GrowingDeer.tv as interpreted through Dad), and Rachel enjoys cooking the quail, deer and turkeys that march regularly within rock-throwing distance of the Ahlmann Family Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch, this could turn out well. (The buck pictured above is one of the local residents.)

So far we’ve sighted in uncle Michael’s air rifle for target practice. It can, according to reliable sources, also serve to take down my young protégé’s first game, including quail, as soon as he can reach around the stock and look through the scope at the same time. Stay tuned.

Christian

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Photo Credit: Bob Minenna

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Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth

Your Big Idea

Aircraft taking off

 

A few years ago, I spent a day selling wine with a young salesman for a distribution company in the Midwest. I was there to represent Six Sigma Ranch in his territory, so he graciously introduced me to his accounts. After a few stops it was obvious that he was a nice guy, but not passionate about selling wine. So I asked a few questions about his life and interests as we traveled, and quickly learned his passion was flying airplanes. But he had exchanged this big idea for a sales job because it seemed more safe.

By the end of the day, he had changed his mind. He decided to quit his sales job, and start school to become a commercial airline pilot. We skipped the last account (he wouldn’t have followed up on it anyway), and instead went out for coffee to celebrate his new direction in life.

Every honest person I’ve ever asked has a big idea in mind. Some big ideas are buried, but surface with a few prying questions. Some big ideas are on the surface, because their owners are already living the dream. It seems everyone has a business, a book, a mountain or a pilot’s license in mind to conquer. But most of us never pursue our big idea. We don’t because it’s unreasonably large, or we don’t have enough resources, or it just isn’t a responsible thing to do. What if we failed? What would people think? And besides, some ideas simply can’t be done!

And that’s why most of us leave the big idea alone: It can’t be done.

But chances are it can. Think of human flight. It was widely known to be impossible until it happened.

And fortunately for most, the big idea doesn’t mean quitting a job one day, and applying for pilot school the next. Most of us can work on the big idea one little bit at a time, until it starts to make sense, and doesn’t look impossible at all.

That mountain you want to climb? Start by walking a mile each morning. The book you want to write? Write a page. Then two. The farm?  Begin by growing tomatoes in your backyard, and then chickens. And if you want to fly airplanes, celebrate with a cup of coffee and go get it done.

Christian

PS. Since I’m a person of faith, I believe big ideas come from God. He built each of us for a unique mission, and he planted a passion for that mission in our hearts so deep that it won’t go away. Most likely, that mission is too big to make sense. But, again because I’m a person of faith, I believe God gives us missions that are too big for our capacity on purpose, so he might empower us to do them, and prove that he is God. In fact, if the idea in your heart seems reasonable, it’s likely too small to be from God.

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Entrepreneurship

For the Love of Business

silver-birch-bark_mediumI was nine years old in the fall of 1992. It was a cool afternoon in northern Denmark, as the sun began to set behind the trees. I was working with my father in the front yard, cutting and splitting firewood for the winter.

At the end of the day, we had a substantial birch log left on the lawn.   At three feet long, it was too large to split. So my father issued a challenge; if I could saw the log in half by the following weekend, he would issue a crisp 100-kroner bill, equal to about $15.

I was on the job immediately after school on Monday. With that much money on the line (my allowance at the time was a weekly $3), the work simply had to be accomplished. But I was the smallest kid in my 4th-grade class, and it became obvious that the log would be a challenge.

My father heard my daily reports, my sinking into despair, as the weekend closed in and the log appeared triumphant. “If only I could have a bigger kid help at the other end of the bow saw,” I said one evening. My father smiled. “I told you I would pay 100 kroner when the log was cut. I didn’t make any rules about how you go about it.”

That day I learned the difference between schoolwork and the real world, a difference that cannot be overstated. In school, you have to do your own work to get the points. You have to follow the rules to complete the assignment. But the world is different. The world cares about results, not about made-up rules. The world lets you find your own assignments, as many as you want, and write your own rules. The world has customers instead of teachers, and happy customers don’t care how you got it done.

With that in mind (a lesson that I’m sure my father was pleased to stage) I hired a friend.   I paid him $3 for his efforts, and made full disclosure that I would myself pocket 4 times that amount. That fact didn’t bother him at all; he would make a week’s worth of allowance in an hour’s work (he was much larger and more effective at sawing than me), and he was quick to accept the invitation before I offered it to someone else. An entrepreneurial seed was born.

Christian

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Uncategorized

Creating Life Baaaah-lance

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Steven Covey wants us to balance P vs. PC.  What on earth does that mean?  He speaks of Production vs. Production Capability in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Focusing only on Production Capability is like the life-long student who keeps getting more degrees but never applies them, or the well-fertilized garden with nothing planted. 

An example of focusing only on Production (that I am very experienced with) is overgrazing your pastures in order to raise sheep. 

When the sheep first arrived at Six Sigma Ranch, we had no experience with sheep.  What do you do with no experience?  Learn from Youtube . . . .  oh, and read books and seek the advice of experts.  Still we were not prepared for the experience of watching pasture.  We moved them from pasture to pasture as they ate the grass . . . . . all the way to the ground.  The next year, what were once healthy pastures had become full of unpalatable weeds, star thistle and foxtails.  We broke the balance of Production vs. Production Capability.

 The same is true of myself.  If I cram my schedule to the brim, I squeeze out ‘Production’ from myself but hurt my Production Capability.  It is not long before I realize that I am doing lots of stuff, but nothing really important.  By giving myself enough time to hang out with my family, read good books, exercise and pray, I maintain my own personal balance of Production vs. Production Capability.

Rachel 

 

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Uncategorized

Good to Great

Have you read Good to Great by Jim Collins? It would have been so awesome if I had read this book in High School, though, I may not have understood it. Jim says that all highly successful companies have figured out three things: 1. What they are passionate about, 2. Where they are talented, and 3. What they can make money doing. I had not figured this out for myself when Christian and I moved to Denmark. 

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My first job out of college was in the accounting department of a humanitarian organization in Denmark. This was challenging for a number of reasons.

  1. I don’t speak Danish
  2. I passionately dislike accounting (and I’m not good at it)
  3. I was paid very poorly

I loved the organization’s mission, and that is why I stayed.   What I was missing is Jim Collins’ three circles. Of the three circles, talent, passion and economics, all I had was passion.

Finding a passion that can support your economy and that you are actually good at is not always straight-forward. I love chocolate, movies, sewing, eating, running, graphs, saving the world and, on the top of all of that, Jesus. Where do I start! I decided to start with my passion. I started with poverty. I’m deeply moved to participate with man-kind in improving the situation of those in need. That’s my passion. That organization in Denmark was working on relieving poverty in Africa. I could do something I hate and didn’t understand because it supported my passion.

Knowing what I’m passionate about was the over-arching piece of my three circles. I can now figure out how to apply my talents to my passions.  I do have talent with grazing animals and organizing projects. And farming is the place to supply the economy. Can we change the world with farming? Oh yes we can!

And when you do something you are passionate about, talented at, and that provides an income, well, it’s a beautiful thing!

Rachel

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