Influencing Thought

My husband, Zack has NPR on the radio while I’m reading this amazing book that’s inspiring more thoughts in me of equal rights activism. I am contemplating how/where I can have an impact in our city.

I am cognizant of the influence hearing this on the radio and hearing me read passages of this book to Zack has on our kids —and I’m reveling a bit in how wonderful that is. Maybe because of the setting and the objectives of our trip. Regardless, I’m grateful.

Above it, I’m thinking of what I hope this trip and this exposure can have on these 5 brilliant and developing minds.

1) I hope we can expose them to diversity that they may not see in Omaha, NE. I hope that exposure helps them see the world a bit differently – and cultivates their compassionate spirits.

2) I also want that exposure to be unbiased. I want them to be clear of what Zack and I are passionate about, yes! Additionally, I want them to see and understand the contrary opinions. Especially in our nation’s capital. I hope they have the audacity to develop their own views … Even when those may be different than the people you love the most.

3) I hope, even in a 6, 10, 12, 12, and 13 year old way, they are inspired to do something about all of that someday.

Road Trip Mishap

After hours of packing, cleaning, and organizing, Zack and I finally lay down to sleep before our journey begins. I opened my laptop and proceeded to download a movie to watch en route. Of Monuments Men. $3.99 from the Apple Store and I have 24 hours. Perfect. Download.

And I fell asleep.

This morning we get on the road and everyone’s settled…Play. “Error” It didn’t finish downloading. BOO

No problem! I’ll rent a Red Box. Quick, cheap, easy. I’m so excited I post an Instagram (above). Get the disc out. Smile. Insert….ummm….ohhhh. Oops. My laptop is the perfect computer-super lightweight. Ya, no disc drive. DOH!

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2014 Summer Road Adventure

We pack a little lighter now that we don’t travel with diapers, light up toys, and 6 outfit changes per day per kid.

Their bodies, however, take up a lot more space. They look adult size. They sometimes even act it.

So, we decided it’s time for our first vacation. This trip is the first one we have made with our whole family that wasn’t to meet more family in another state. This trip is just for us—for memories—-for experiences. Before these adult sized kids feel too cool to hang with us.

We plan to log 900 miles today.

900 miles of memories and stories that I know will stick with them a lifetime.

Some of our friends think we are insane to this. I know we would be insane not to. (But, ask me again in 14 hours).

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Volunteerism as Leadership Development

74729_10151461893365101_1608222741_nBeing an active participant in community development brings me joy. I’m adding value and having an impact on the future of Omaha – that’s feels awesome. Studies show that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t – we all know this, right?

But have you thought about the leadership development it can provide you as well?

Serving on the board for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals for the past 12 months has been the single most impactful decision I have made to develop myself as a leader.

As young professionals, many of us have career aspirations that are bigger than our current role. I want to move up, be noticed, and have an impact for my employer. As a board member I have the opportunity to not just read about and talk about the skills I need to develop to be a better leader, but actually use them, consistently in a practical way.

Skills I have been working on:

  • Negotiation – As a board, we are working together to retain and attract young professionals to Greater Omaha through engagement, opportunity advocacy. Individuals all have distinct ideas on how we can accomplish this. As a board member, you must work to develop your negotiation skills and sell the benefits and value of ideas that you support. Refining this skill takes time and practice, serving on a board  is a vehicle to aid you in this journey.
  • Presenting/Public Speaking – Currently, I am serving at the Chair for the YP Summit (our annual conference). Monthly, I present to the board the progress our committee is making to develop our conference for 2015. This allows me to hone my public speaking & presentation skills which adds value to my professional job every day.
  • Writing – & communication in general. To be an effective board member you must be able to communicate well via written and spoken word. Again, that practical application for development is key!
  • Relationship building – Building alliances and strategic partnerships with other community leaders and fellow board members – talk about value here!
  • Time management – Balancing volunteer work with a full-time job and family/friend obligations takes an extra level of balancing and prioritization. It’s oh, so worth it.

Are you considering getting involved on a board or volunteering for a committee? DO IT. There are hundreds of non-profit organizations that would welcome your input.

Inspired? Applications are open right now to serve on the YP Board! Act fast as they close on Friday (the 16th). Come join me in developing yourself as a leader while having a measurable impact on the future of Greater Omaha as a destination for talent and growth. 

Big Omaha Reflections

Energy. Passion. Excitement. Ideas. Dreams.

My new employer sent me to Big Omaha, an innovation and entrepreneur conference developed by Silicon Prairie News.  I felt so blessed to be able to share in the buzz and excitement of entrepreneurship that’s captivating our city. My takeaways & perceptions …

Content: The two-day schedule was packed with entrepreneurs sharing their stories of failure & triumph. The most impactful speakers were both humble and honest the few that bombed, did so because their ego’s were bigger than the room would tolerate.

TakeawayEric Ryan, co-founder of Method shared about the careful way him and his team are curating a culture of humility at the Method offices. Additionally, he shared practical ideas on how to foster innovation. His team places their delicate, unbaked ideas on a white board in their hallways. How do you help employees be brave enough to do this? Don’t tear down the ideas with “Yes, but” ….(insert why the idea is stupid here) but instead practice “yes, and” (insert a way to build upon the idea here). Such a simple concept but inspiring – I’m thinking of how I can develop myself both as a leader and a mother with this simple idea.  My children and co-workers can thank Eric for his contribution to my development later.🙂

Generosity: My favorite word. The fact that generosity is the new trend in entrepreneurship makes me absolutely-positively giddy. Sharing ideas cross-company, cross-industry, cross (gasp) competitor to make us all better. WHAT? Yes, these entrepreneurs want to share with their competitors when it means raising the collective tide. This is still blowing my mind and making me SO EXCITED for the future.

Networking: Even the most comfortable and extroverted people can exhibit self doubt when networking at a big event where they don’t know anyone. How can I make more people feel more comfortable?

Passion: What is more energizing that spending 2 days with people so full of passion you can feel their excitement before they even speak?

Group: Even though I am not currently pursuing an entrepreneurial dream, being at Big Omaha made me feel like I am part of something. My influence, my contribution and ideas will help shape the future of start-ups in our city (and beyond).

Details: The Silicon Prairie News team is thoughtful. A simple basket of toiletries in the ladies restroom (hairspray, q-tips, deodorant, etc) made my smile. Thanks, SPN!

My Dream: The ability AND talent of taking an audience on a journey via a talk/lecture/workshop/name your format is incredibly inspiring! I have a dream to one day share my stories on a stage like Big Omaha and watching these entrepreneurs and thought leaders stirred that desire. Now, the question is HOW do I cultivate this dream into reality? Especially when it scares me….

Jeff Slobotski closed the two-day event with a tweet that reads: “Now do something. #BigOmaha”

What is your “something”?

Goodbye Too Soon

Clay Eugene Tucker
October 14, 1950 – March 23, 2013

“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his heart is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brains and his heart is an artist.” -Louis Nizer

“A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” – Maya Angelou

Clay Tucker was a carpenter and a craftsman. He built things; with his hands and his heart he moulded and shaped materials to serve a purpose. Whether he was installing a screen door for a single mother, resurrecting a barn that had narrowly escaped the destruction of a natural disaster, strengthening the bell tower of a local church or performing handyman duties for a widow who had lost her husband far too young; he took pride and great care in serving others. He went about his life and his work quietly and without fanfare. He overworked and undervalued his services. He did not value a quick buck or the newest material possessions. His values were rooted in hard work, perseverance, honesty, integrity and character. He was intelligent, stubborn, generous and funny. He could debate anyone on any topic at any time. He enjoyed a challenge; whether it was a complex angle on a gabled roof, an uneven floor or a poorly supported structure; he worked to solve problems diligently. He would scratch some lines on a piece of paper do a few quick calculations and get to work. My father was a carpenter’s carpenter, often lending advice and sharing his vast knowledge with others.

Clay Tucker valued function over form but had an eye for beauty. As I sat at his kitchen table yesterday morning I was admiring the trim around the bay windows in the front of his house. I had helped him many years ago, cut, plane, route, sand, stain and varnish the trim in his house. Every piece of oak that is so prominently displayed around his home was produced from raw wood by his and my hands. I remember the care with which he fashioned each piece of chair rail, window trim and mantel piece. I stared at this stunning display of craftsmanship and noticed how two adjoining pieces of trim had been cut from the same piece of oak. They are fixed to the wall at an angle to each other but the wood grain is perfectly aligned. From one piece to the next the lines of grain continued as if they had never been cut apart at all. I marvelled at the attention to detail and the vision he had to maintain such perfect symmetry. Also as I admired this incredible feature I noticed a shiny dot under the window sill. Upon further inspection I found that the nail holes had yet to be filled. This was my father; taking the time to install two pieces of trim so perfectly and yet more than a decade later the nail holes were waiting to be filled. You see, the trim could never be cut again, he had one chance to make it right, and it is absolutely perfect. However, the nail holes could wait; there is always time for filling nail holes. He would meticulously fit crown moulding around cabinets – perfectly matching the uneven contour of the ceiling and shaping the corners just right – in a customer’s kitchen, but there was always tomorrow for cleaning out the truck. He taught me to focus on what is important and do it well.

He lived this philosophy in all facets of his life. Eight years ago I met a girl from Kentucky. She was smart and beautiful and almost as stubborn as my dad. When she was graduating from college she found a job in Lincoln and wanted to move to Nebraska. I was in school and both of us had been divorced and money was certainly tight. My father offered to drive 900 miles each way pulling a trailer to tirelessly help load her up and bring her to Staplehurst. He worked for a week to remodel his rental home and generously offered it to her. She had a spark that reflected in me that my father recognized. He knew she was important and he knew that our relationship needed a good carpenter so he built it. He had one chance to make it right and he was perfect. A few years later we were back in Kentucky, married and he had helped us welcome a new child. He would make the trip to Kentucky at least once a year; many times sacrificing his normal vacation plans to spend a week with us. Again, I had a construction project that needed some help. Our one bathtub home was not suited to our seven person family and we desperately needed a shower in the master bath. Sarah and I had just started our careers and had the money to buy the material but couldn’t afford the labor. With five kids and full time jobs it was hard to find the time to do the work ourselves. So my dad built it. He again made the long journey and worked with me for a few days from sun up to sun down to get the job done. It was important and it was right. When he was done he spent a few days playing with grandkids; finding turtles, going to baseball games and blowing bubbles. Finally at the end of the week he packed up and returned to Nebraska, leaving nail holes for me to fill.

In this same way my father built friendships. He always told me he was lucky to work for his friends. Many of his customers didn’t start that way. He would be referred by another satisfied client and they would call him with a job to be done. They trusted him to do the work on a home that they worked so hard to own. It was their prized possession; a shelter for their families and a respite from the toils of everyday life. They would call my father to replace the roofs that kept them dry or install windows to keep out the cold. He would remodel the kitchen where they fed their children or add the extra square footage their growing family needed. His work would become their canvas for birthday parties, graduations and anniversaries. People would dance on the floor he installed, cry in the den he refinished and call their children in for supper from the deck he had constructed. I’ve even known of some wedding photos taken with his siding work as a backdrop. My father knew it was important, so he built it and it was right. So many of these first time customers would call him back to do the next job and the next. Each time, adding more space for them to fill with memories. No, many of his customers did not start out as friends but they always were by the time he was done. He enjoyed working for his friends, so when he started a job he also began working on a friendship and in the end; he built it.

He shared his love of travel and his love of the outdoors with us. We took trips every summer; money was tight but we always found time to spend a week at the Black Hills, fishing at Calamus or canoeing on the Niobrara. We would take weekend trips to Desoto Bend, Branched Oak or Johnson Lake. Camping and enjoying the outdoors and building memories that last a lifetime. There was even a summer where he wanted to tour Nebraska. We started out in Seward and travelled west; visiting Pioneer Village, Scottsbluff, Chimney Rock, Fort Robinson, Ash Falls and even Carhenge. This trip was conducted in a car that would overheat if driven too long. We toured the state with gallon jugs of water and stopped in every town we passed to explore while the engine cooled. It was important to him to instil a lifelong appreciation of our home state and he did. He wanted us to have a firm grasp on where we came from; the native fish, the common agricultural crops and the beauty of the land. Later after his children had grown he continued to travel. Taking mid-winter trips to Mexico and to Texas; even travelling to Tennessee to mix business with pleasure. He and Julie travelled alone; driving across Mexico to reach Puerto Vallerta. He was cautious but not fearful. He always said going to Puerto Vallerta by plane and saying you had seen Mexico was like flying to Los Angeles and saying you had seen the United States. He wanted the authentic version, it was important, so he did it right.

In the last few days I have heard the stories of my father’s generosity and I have told my own. I have overheard as people discussed his strengths and celebrated his life. It has been difficult to come to terms with the fact that he is truly gone. I witnessed first-hand his short and difficult battle with cancer. I attended the doctors’ appointments and knew what to expect and was grateful when he was finally able to rest peacefully. However, I have not been able to shake the overwhelming feeling that he is still present. I have struggled with why I would feel this way. I have come to realize that he is still with us in the things that he built. I look around this room and I see the kitchens that he remodelled, the rooms that he constructed, the cabinets that he crafted and the countertops he installed. Even more, I see the friends that he made, the lives that he touched, the acts of service he performed, the people he leaned on and those that leaned on him. I look at Julie, my brother and sisters, his friends and my family and admire his craftsmanship. My father built these things, because it was important and it was right and he did it perfectly.

-Zack

Building Relationships – New City

This blog was also published as a YP Board Corner here: http://omahayp.org/news/building-relationships/

 

I moved to Omaha in 2010 knowing absolutely no one except the boss that interviewed me at the agency. And  I’d only spent about 45 minutes with her. As I was saying good-bye to my life & friends in Kentucky I vowed to rebuild my personal network. Quickly. These women meant the world to me. My biggest trepidation about moving was missing that feeling of belonging because to a group of women who loved me.

Having people around me to support me and to lift up in return helps to give life meaning. Purpose. Variety & spice!

I am a natural social butterfly, never afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. But, building a strong network isn’t as easy as striking up a conversation. I realized its not so simple to extend that initial conversation into an actual relationship.

Human beings are intimidating. It’s risky to put yourself out there. What if you run out of things to say? What if you embarrass yourself? What if they have no room for you?

People are judgemental. Adult cliques and groups do exist, especially in tight knit communities.

Our town, Omaha, isn’t what we’d call a transient community. Not a lot of people move here and stay – they are born & raised Nebraskans.

This gives these people a shared history advantage. They went to college together – or if they didn’t they are familiar with that school and have friends who went there. This familiarity provides a launch pad for a relationship. One that I don’t have with anyone here.

I went to high school in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. A town most Omahan’s have never heard of. They can’t relate.

College? A small school in the hills of Kentucky, Morehead State. No common ground here.

So, how do you rise above the unknown that is you when you didn’t share a geography? What is the quickest way to build that shared history? Is it really important in building relationships?

My first step was to get active on Twitter. You can find me @tuckersarah. Social Media is a low-risk way to find others who have common interests or beliefs. I can slowly get to know someone and not be concerned about rejection.

Attend networking events, regularly. You likely won’t meet your new best friend the first time you put yourself out there. Make your face familiar to people, smile. Ask tons of questions.

Get gutsy and extend the first invitation. Once you have begun a familiarity, meet up your new acquaintance for coffee or lunch. A one-on-one setting allows you to actually get to know one another. Once you have that first meet-up you are well on your way to building new friendships and lasting relationships.