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Missouri allows hiring minors under age 16. Why don’t employers know?

You wouldn’t know it from asking most employers, but apparently, Missouri does allow hiring minors under age 16.  Have fun job hunting, though, if you’re under age 16.  My son has found one company in our town that will allow a 15-year-old to submit a job application.  Expanding the search to the nearby metropolitan area, we find two companies that will consider hiring a 15-year-old.

A few weeks ago, I took a wandering, sentimental journey through my high school jobs experiences.  I sorted through how I got those jobs in my small town Missouri teenage life. I work for my dad doing computer work in elementary school. Thereafter, I stepped into the local job market at age 13 and never looked back. I ended up working three different local jobs between the ages of 13 and 17.

Why are businesses in Missouri no longer hiring minors under age 16?

I now have two high schoolers of my own — age 15-year-old and a 17-year-old. Finding a job as a student is nothing like when I was a teenager in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, it seems that jobs are hardly available for high schoolers.  Student jobs outside restaurant and retail are extremely rare. On top of that, here in Missouri, almost all high school jobs are restricted to age 16 and up.

Let’s backtrack to that post about my high school jobs. When I was age 13, I was working at the local library. When I age 14 and 15, I was working at a law firm. Both positions were low skills high school jobs, but they were jobs that required an attention to detail. They taught me to show up consistently and do the work and do it correctly because the details mattered. I was a details kid who loved to read, so both of those jobs were perfect for me.

Why aren't employers hiring minors under age 16 in MIssouri?

The typical response: “We don’t hire under 16 years old.”

I recently reached out to the local library for my 15-year-old son. My son has heard my early job stories, and he is much like I was at his age. He thinks that working at the library would be a great first job outside the home. Why did I reach out to the library instead of him? Because I already knew the likely answer, and the standard answer has become frustrating for both him and me. Honestly, I was hoping my influence would help.

I reached out to the assistant director of the local library. I pitched my son’s skill set and his interest in working there and his availability to do so. What was the response? As expected, “We don’t hire under 16 years old. We would love to talk to him when he turns 16.”  My son and I have heard this line over and over from every employer we contact.

The library job I called about was the same basic job I did at my local library when I was age 13. Why would he need to be 16 years old to do the work that can be accomplished by a 13-year-old? Most people naturally think, “They don’t want to have to deal with high schoolers and immaturity, so they’ve set a higher age bar.” Maybe that’s partially the case, but you can weed out immaturity through a good application and interview process. What I’m finding to be the real issue is something more complicated: state law.

Missouri regulates (but does not prohibit) work for hiring minors under age 16

The Missouri statutes have all kinds of requirements about hiring minors under age 16 to work in the entertainment industry.  All of that makes sense based on what we’ve learned about the entertainment industry and its dealings with minors.

Hiring minors under age 16 requires a work permit from their school if they are working during the normal school year or during normal school hours.  That makes sense and is a good accountability process.  The work permit requirement is only for work hours during the school year.  Work permits are not required for a summer job.  Understandably, if the employment continued into the school year, a work permit will be required at that point.

Missouri statutes require that someone under the age of 16 can only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.  Seems reasonable to me.

Minors under age 16 cannot work certain jobs, like meat cutting or working in refrigerators or door to door sales or dealing with alcohol, plus several other jobs that make sense to a reasonable adult.

Those under the age of 16 can’t work more than 3 hours on a school day, more than 8 hours on a regular work day, more than 6 days a week, and more than 40 hours a week.  Does anyone have any concerns about these kinds of rules?

Yes, hiring minors under age 16 is obviously regulated by this statute.  This kind of regulation makes sense, though, when you think about hiring minors under age 16 and potential pitfalls.  These types of regulations weren’t in place when I was that age.  I can see how this type of regulation deters employers from taking advantage of minors.  I find the policy and the mechanisms of these provisions to be reasonable and valuable and not overly burdensome.

Why avoid hiring minors under age 16 when the law allows it?

What I find most intriguing is that the statute actually allows the hiring of minors under age 16. The statute regulates hiring minors under age 16 but does not prohibit such employment. It sets boundaries as to what students under 16 can do as part of their high school job.  The boundaries set by the statute don’t even apply when you start looking for an office-type summer job. The library job, the law firm job and the newspaper job I had in high school would all be allowed under this statute.  So why aren’t these type of establishments now hiring minors under age 16?

The very existence of the Missouri statute regulating hiring minors under age 16 seems to have a chilling effect on employers. Employers are looking at the general concept and policy behind the statute — “be careful with what you do with employees under the age of 16”.  Employers are the creating a hiring policy that simply says that they will not hire anyone under age 16.  If you asked why they don’t hire under 16, they would cite Missouri law as the reason.  But as we have seen above, Missouri law allows hiring minors under age 16.

This statute seems to have inadvertently created an environment where, for the most part, only those 16 and above can attain a high school job.  But why? Maybe no one is reading the full law?

Is the problem created by how we explain the statute?

We lawyers typically explain the general rule of a statute and then explain the policy behind the law.  Then we then break out the exceptions that impact the rule.  From what I can tell, the general rule of this statute is being interpreted in a negative fashion.  The interpretation of the law that I hear from employers is “Generally you should not hire minors under the age of 16.”  That’s not really what the statute says.  The statute’s bottom line is actually something more positive.  The best way to explain the statute is to say “Hiring minors under age 16 is allowed, but pay attention to their hours and the jobs they perform.”

Have employers not actually read the Missouri statute that allows hiring minors under age 16? Maybe not.  Most employers probably went to a seminar, read something online, or were otherwise advised by a human resources professional (or their liability insurance professional) that you “generally should avoid hiring minors under age 16.” They were told that the safest way to hire “in order to avoid potential liability” was to only hire age 16 and above. And the person in charge of hiring at each place of employment took a brief mental note: “Only hire age 16 and above.”

Ultimately, employers who apply the negative interpretation of this statute end up blocking out those who are otherwise qualified. I have a 15-year-old son who would love to work for a good employer. He wants to show that he is responsible and make his own money and pay his own way.  Unfortunately, few to none will give him that opportunity. It seems most employers are afraid of hiring minors under age 16 for fear of risks and process.

Are we so concerned about avoiding risk that we don’t create opportunities?

One lesson to be taken away from this situation is for state legislators, legal professionals, and insurance professionals. While I am sure that intention of the legislation was to protect teens under 16 from being taken advantage of or injured in the workplace, I am guessing no one intended to almost completely block those under 16 from getting a high school job. The Missouri statute and the way we have explained the statute (and the way we have created a culture that avoids risk, liability, and process) have created a situation where hiring minors under age 16 has simply dried up, and such jobs are almost non-existent.

Another lesson to be learned from this situation is for business owners, employers, human resources staff and business leaders. Do not be so afraid of risk that you do not offer opportunities to those who need them. The local library (and most every other company my son has inquired with) has full ability to hire my motivated 15-year-old. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they are viewing the general rule of this statute in a negative way.  The statute has no real impact on the jobs they could offer.  Why then have they implemented a limiting broad brush hiring policy without looking deeper into the rules?  Is it fear of risk? Is it avoidance of unnecessary process?  Whatever the reason, they are missing out on him and plenty of other teens looking for a high school job.

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Part-time job throwback: what trends can I draw from the jobs I held as a teenager?

My first part-time job: the local library

My first part-time job started as a summer job helping at the local library. I lived in a small town in Missouri, and we had a historical library that was built using Carnegie dollars back in the early 20th century. It was a great small town, old feeling building. I hadn’t spent much time there, but somehow my dad had the idea that they might be willing to hire me for the summer. I honestly don’t quite know how it came about, but he helped me get an interview with the director of the library. Looking back, I was only 13 years old at the time because it seems like it was the summer after my 8th grade year.

Bolivar Carnegie Library part-time job

The local library where I worked when I was 13 year old — Source: Kaethesson

I would ride my bike to the library each day that summer in sometimes sweltering, moist heat, and I would spend my days sorting and shelving books, helping patrons find books, checking in and checking out books, and all the other things you imagine librarians doing. Through that experience, I learned how to deal with adults, both customers and employers, I gained some additional layers of responsibility, I came to understand the value of large print books and audio books, and I discovered that genealogy is a big deal for small town libraries.

My second part-time job: the local downtown law firm

I don’t remember how long I worked at the library, but it seems I may have worked there into the school year. At some point, I upgraded to working for the local downtown, small town law firm. I don’t remember if that shift was my idea or if that was also an idea hatched by my dad. One of the law firm partners was my best friend’s dad, so maybe it came about through the friendship, but there also may have been some dad initiative mixed in there as well. It seems like I started working at the law firm the summer after my freshman year, so i would have been 14 years old. I was young for my age in school, one of the youngest in my class.

At the law firm, I was responsible — along with one of the lawyers’ sons, with whom I alternated work days — for all filing and file tracking and for running all the errands to the court, the recorders office, the title company and other downtown venues with which the law firm did business. I was routinely called into attorneys’ offices and given photocopy projects or simple research projects and errands. Yes, I was a “gopher”, but I was hanging out with real lawyers in a real law firm and getting paid to do it. I had always considered being a lawyer, and from that experience, I learned many things, most of all that law firms are very quiet, sometimes serious, and professional places.

I worked at the law firm for a few years, and I had some great experiences there, including meeting then-governor John Ashcroft and wandering downtown shops with him as he shook hands on a campaign stop. I remember being aghast as he jaywalked from one corner of the downtown square to another, violating all downtown square walking traffic protocols I had learned as a young law firm employee, to get to a group of people and shake hands. I was even made an appearance in the background of a photo of him in the local newspaper the next day.

My third part-time job: the local weekly newspaper

In my junior year in high school, I took journalism class in high school and found traction for my love of photography and writing. That year, I approached the local weekly newspaper to see if they would hire me. Again, I think that whole process was actually initiated by my dad. I don’t remember making the initial contacts to get the job, which leads me to think that he did. I interviewed with the publisher of the newspaper, and he hired me to help at the newspaper to shoot, develop and print photos and to proofread and assist in the layout of the newspaper.

I ended up working at that weekly newspaper — the top weekly newspaper in the state of Missouri at the time — for the rest of high school and into college until my senior year in college. It was a great job that gave me lots of experience and connection and responsibility, and I owe much to the people who helped me along there and coached me and held me responsible and taught me the value of doing a good job, all in the context of the small town newspaper in which they (and eventually I) held much pride.

What trends can I draw from these part-time job experiences

Why do I write all of this? There are trends in these storyline that I notice:

1) My dad acted as a catalyst in contacting employers and connecting me into my part-time jobs

My dad was influential in the process of opening the doors necessary to help me get those jobs. Those employers likely did not have an opening for a high schooler. My dad talked to someone and convinced them to meet with me and consider opening up a position for me. His relational way and his initiative made all the difference in my getting those jobs.

2) The people who hired me for a part-time job were willing to train and coach me

Those employers were willing to hire me (some, at a very young age) and to find a way to use what skills I did have and to train me and coach me in the rest. I learned much through those years, and you can chalk that up to the leadership and staff at those companies who were willing to take a risk on me and deal with my failures and error and help train me into a young adult with better skills for tomorrow.

3) I was willing to hustle to get the part-time job and ultimately do the work to keep the job

I wanted work, I wanted the pay, and I was willing to work and learn and figure it out. I can tell you — I was not always a responsible young man, and I disappointed many times. But I still wanted those jobs, and I was willing to dress nice, figure out how to get there (even before I could drive), show up, and do the work day after day.

The 3 key elements involved in my early part-time job development

The trends I can quickly identify in my teenage part-time jobs are as follows:  The relationships with the employers and the job positions themselves were opened up through initiative and interaction on my behalf; employers were willing to take the time and provide the resource to hire and develop young people; and I was willing to put in the work to show dedication and desire on my part to show up and do the work.

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Taking first steps to sort through your personal dark side

In my last post, I was talking about how we each struggle with our own personal dark side. We each seem to hold onto things about ourselves that we think no one else should ever know.

Sometimes we are dealing with facts and regrets from our past.  Other times, we struggle in our hearts and mind over situations we have lived through that we can’t seem to process. Oftentimes, instead of processing these things consciously, we just hold them and hide them. But whatever your personal dark side looks like, simply trying to hide it deep inside does not work. What’s eating you up inside always seem to find a way to leak out through your personality, moods, treatment of others, inability to move forward in life, or just your emotions or lack of them.

I shared lyrics from the Kelly Clarkson song “Dark Side” and how that song captures the struggle of processing your personal dark side and what to do with it. Throughout it all, the crux of the song is relationship, about revealing your dark side to someone else and the risk of doing so. At its heart is a desire to overcome the fear of rejection to be known and understood.

Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out
Will you return?
And remind me who I really am
Please remind me who I really am

Who have you let glimpse into the depths and dark of your soul? Anyone? It’s hard to do. It’s scary. We fear losing control of our personal dark side, of the darkness, the anxiety, the fear somehow taking over. I’ve felt that fear. We all have if we’re being honest with ourselves. Wrestling with our personal dark sides is a very earthy, real life human moment. We all experience that struggle in different ways. Trying to move past that personal dark side can feel like trying to scale a wall of fear that hinders personal progress.  Realistically, though, the only real way to move forward is to climb that wall of fear created by your personal dark side and get to the other side.

Climbing over wall of your personal dark side

I won’t judge anyone for fighting hard to hold onto their darkness. When you combine the fear of losing control of your deepest and darkest secrets along with the risk of rejection from someone you love, that’s a huge wall to climb over. It is not easy.  At one moment or another, we have all tried to climb over that wall, tried to overcome those fears to talk to someone about what’s going on inside us.

It is also important to acknowledge that sometimes our hesitation isn’t just for self-preservation sake. We might also fear for the other person. What will happen if we pass our pain and hurt and darkness over to that person we love and trust? Will our pain and darkness somehow transfer over to them in the process and hurt them as well? Sometimes our struggle and darkness feels so heavy. We are not sure that another person can handle the burden. The last thing we want to do is drop a weight on this person we love and inadvertently cause them or our relationship to crumble under the weight of our pain.

We have all stood at the foot of that wall and stared up at it, wondering if it’s worth the risk and the energy that will be required to scale it and get over it. We wonder if there’s something better on the other side of the wall that’s actually worth the effort.

A few tips from what I have seen and experienced in my own life:

Just tell one person about your personal dark side

Don’t let the fears overwhelm you. You don’t have to go tell the world or bare your soul on on Facebook. Just tell your person, the one you know you can trust. Share your personal dark side quietly and one-on-one in person with someone you know who will love you regardless and who will not hold it against you. It may be a friend, a counselor or pastor, or a lover or spouse. Find your person and let them in.

Take your time and go slow

Share it in pieces, in small, manageable bites, to make sure it’s really safe and to find your stride with them and to give the time to process it with you. It will take time, but doesn’t real relationship always take time? There’s no rush. You have been processing your personal dark side for a long time. You can afford to take some time to work it out slowly. It may take your other person some time to process as well, so there is no need to hurry.

Consider meditation to help separate out and better identify your personal dark side

Over the last six months, I have become a big fan of meditation thanks to the Headspace app.  I have found that meditation has taught me how to separate my thoughts and fears from my identity. Your dark side, when it comes down to it, is not your identity.  Your dark side is merely thoughts, feelings and experiences that you cling to and identify with.  Try meditation with a goal of learning how to separate your personal dark side from your actual individual identity.  It might help you find a place from which you can move forward.  There are many ways to get into meditation, but the simplest I have found are the sites and apps like Headspace and Calm.

Don’t be afraid of the professionals

I have learned a deep respect for the professionals who work with human minds and relationships. The human psyche is complex on so many levels and can have so many layers, stacked and integrated one upon the other. Professional counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists have been trained and have tools and insights that might be more helpful than just talking to a friend. Also, professionals have confidentiality obligations. Knowing that your matters will be kept confidential can help you work through your stuff without fear of anyone else knowing until you want them to know.  If you don’t quite know where to start in finding a professional therapist, you might check out this Art of Charm podcast mini-episode titled How To Find A Therapist.

Climbing over that wall of fear will make all the difference

From my personal experience and from walking alongside friends through this process, expending the time, energy and effort to climb over that wall of fear created by your personal dark side is worth everything you will put into it. It will be hard. It will require significant mental and emotional expense on your part. Take your time and don’t rush it, but do the work it takes to climb that wall.

Everyone’s story and situation and experience is different, but it will be worth it. Honestly, you may not feel it immediately.  But over time, you fill find a place a solace, a level of peace, freedom and an energy of empowerment that will help you move forward. You will be able to see yourself differently and manage what is inside in a whole different way. It will no longer own you. You will own it. And in a way you didn’t expect, you will share that ownership with the person with whom you shared the experience. Once you are over the wall, you together then will be able to figure out what’s next.

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Everybody’s got a dark side

“You just wouldn’t understand. I have this dark side of stuff that I can’t really talk about or let out.”

Ever said this? Ever heard it from someone else? I’ve lost count of how many times over the years I have talked like this or listened to someone else try to avoid talking about what’s going on inside them.

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone …

A friend dropped the Kelly Clarkson song “Dark Side” on me the other night. He quoted the lyrics in a text to try to help explain what was going on in our conversation, and I was surprised at how poignant the lyrics were in the moment. Even more, though, those lyrics fit so many moments in my life and the lives of every single person I know.

Oh oh oh, there’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?

In my younger years, it seemed every teenager felt a dark side within them that they wrestled with. I sure did. All of us in high school and college seemed to have this fear of letting our dark side out too much and letting too many people into it.

No one ever told me this dark side feeling would extend into adulthood. Heck, they didn’t tell me a lot about adulthood! (Anybody else feel like the adults kind of hid the true story of what it’s like to be an adult?) Our dark sides are much bigger than anything Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker had to deal with.

Our dark sides can extend from childhood to our teen years and linger on into adulthood and into our marriages and permeate everything we do. When we are younger, childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma and teenage struggles over identity, relationships, sexuality, drugs, alcohol and family seem to run the dark conversation.

Dark sides in adulthood get even more complicated

But adults struggle with dark sides, too. As I live through my forties right now, I can recognize that people around me, no matter what age, are still struggling with elements of their dark side. In adults, I wonder: do our dark side stems from our younger years and morph and mutate over our entire lives, or do some people develop a dark side in their adult years based on grownup issues?  Do we ever move beyond our dark side or is there always some form of dark side in us for our entire life?

dark side mark twain quoteAs we get older, we deal with challenges with alcohol and drugs, marital struggles, grief and loss, personal trauma, mental illness, anxiety, fears and so much more. The list goes on and on. Just because you gain more years in your life doesn’t mean you figure out how to manage your dark side any better. But the adult version gets even more complicated. We try to mask and suppress our dark sides through adding on additional vices like alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, anxiety and other addictions.  Identifying and weeding out the source of the pain gets even more complicated because the vices can create layers of dark side to sort through.

No matter who you are or your place in life, you are wrestling internally with something that you hope other people don’t discover about you. Tabloids are full of the struggles and flaws of public personalities and celebrities, but isn’t this something we all deal with in our own quiet moments?

What is the first step of dealing with your dark side?

What’s your thing you are holding onto? How do you handle your dark side? How do you process it? Do you hide it? Do you let it control you? Have you shared it with someone close to you? Or do you try to manage it alone with varying degrees of success and failure? Does it create bigger problems for you because you suppress it out of fear it will get out? Are you able to process it in a way that doesn’t affect other areas of your life?

Like a diamond
From black dust
It’s hard to know
What can become
If you give up
So don’t give up on me
Please remind me who I really am

I don’t have all the answers. And dealing with your dark side requires an individual response. (If you don’t know where to start or who to talk to, I encourage you to look into professional counseling.)  But you are not alone.  We are all in the same struggle, each finding our way. Remember one important thing — you are not the struggle. Your dark side is not your actual identity, and you are much more and bigger than the struggle.  But take the first step and start by letting someone you trust into your struggle.

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Sam’s Club: Unleashing my self-checkout beast

I’ve been realizing that I’m a sucker for memberships, such as Sam’s Club, AAA, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and more. They convince me that their low monthly membership fees are easily affordable if I just skip a cup of coffee or two and that their benefits will definitely outweigh any costs. But are they really worth it? Or are they just taking my money and running.

Last week I talked about AAA, and while I got annoyed at the second half of my recent AAA experience, overall I determined that their membership pays for itself over time. Their annoying regulations about what they can pick up where really made me question whether this was the best option over time when there are other roadside assistance services out there. The AAA name, the travel discounts, and the simplicity of their basic process (so long as you understand the ancillary rules and fine print) keeps me with them.

Sam and I, we go way back

Another long-term membership I have held is with Sam’s Club. My parents had a Sam’s Club membership when I was younger, and I took full advantage of their bulk purchasing powers during my college and graduate school years. Mom and Dad would load me up on bulk foods for my refrigerator and pantry for months. I was never really a ramen guy in college, but those little snack packets of peanut butter and crackers and frozen pasta salad and Hot Pockets in bulk kept me alive through law school.

I celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary this year, and one of my first acts as a married man was joining Sam’s Club in Kansas City. When we were young and married, we laughed because we called Sam’s the “$100 club” because as a young couple, watching our pennies, we could not seem to get out of Sam’s for less than $100. Sam’s somehow activated the impulse purchase mindset in us. We would purchase things that were beneficial but not necessary simply because Sam’s offered them. Over the years, we have learned to fight this urge, but the novelty of the selection at Sam’s Club is still pretty amazing sometimes.

Sam’s Club selection has consistently worked out for me

Over the years, I have bought anything and everything at Sam’s Club. Besides the variety of bulk foods of all kinds, we have bought a few beds, a steam cleaner, fertilizer for our yard, chlorine for our pool, office chairs, bedroom furniture, a printer, a flat-screen TV, a bread machine (back when those were all the rage), a blender, an incredible rack-based free weights set that has lasted me forever, and all kinds of other handy and helpful items. Their selection has rarely failed us. Oh! And their fuel prices are the best around!

Sam's Club checkout

The bustling checkout area at my local Sam’s Club

At Sam’s, we also buy clothes and vitamins and discount books and commercial-grade skillets and larger-than-natural rotisserie chickens. The options are never-ending. Add to all of this that Sam’s Club has an automotive department — yes, we’ve bought a few sets of tires from Sam’s — as well as an optical department and pharmacy and travel discounts and more, and it gets a little boggling how they do it all.

Self-checkout and the Sam’s app

But recently, I’ve become a bigger Sam’s Club fan thanks to their embracing technology. They started rolling out self-checkout a year or so ago, and it’s very convenient. It skips the slow “weigh your items as you go” process that I have hated at Wal-Mart’s self-checkout. Instead, the Sam’s Club self-checkout has simply been a handheld scanner checkout process followed by payment. It’s been quick and convenient. Even better, the staff members there at the self-checkout sign off on your receipt to get you out the exit door quicker.

Over time, I have found the Sam’s Club app for my iPhone a great help.  I can search my local Sam’s Club inventory and I can dig around or find items that I didn’t even know that Sam’s has available.  Over time, the Sam’s Club app (and the Wal-Mart app, for that matter) have been regularly-used apps on my phone.

I recently saw Facebook ad that encouraged me to download the new Sam’s Scan and Go app. It promised that I could scan items in the app, pay for items in the app, and leave the store without going through a checkout line. I downloaded the app and promptly forgot about it.

The moment the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app changed everything

A few weeks later, I was at Sam’s and the checkout lines were backed up. Every once in a while, it seems our Sam’s has credit/debit processing delays. (I have learned that apparently all merchant card processing runs through servers in Bentonville, not at the local store level, so if there’s a slowdown at Sam’s headquarters in Arkansas, it affects everyone.) Checkout was taking forever.

Sam's Scan and Go app

The Sam’s Scan and Go app is promoted on the front doors of my local Sam’s Club

As I started to get impatient, a friendly Sam’s employee stopped by with a handheld scanner device. She told me that she could scan all of my items in my cart, store them under my membership number, and then when I got to the checkout register, it would already be input into the system as soon as they swiped my membership card. How convenient and helpful! She scanned all my items and moved on.

In that moment, I remembered the Sam’s Scan and Go app I had downloaded to my phone. Since I was still several customers away from the actual checkout register, I decided to try out this technology. I opened the app and set up my membership ID. Then I scanned all the items in my cart with my phone’s camera. I input my credit/debit card information into the app, and paid. Done! The app displayed a scanner code to show the receipt-checking lady at the door. I literally stepped out of the backed-up shopping line and walked to the door. I felt like a total rebel who just hacked the system. At the exit door, the staff member there used a device to scan the code displayed on my phone screen, and I was out the door, leaving the lines behind.

I have used the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app many times since, and the experience has been trouble-free.  I shop, I scan each item as I put it in my shopping cart, and then I just walk toward the exit door and pay on the way there with the app’s checkout process.

Sam’s Club has the technology, but is there a downside?

That, my friends, is a membership benefit. Before that day, I thought the Sam’s self-checkout process was great. But, seriously? I can just scan my items myself, pay on the spot, and walk out without waiting to even check out? Finally someone gets it. And, yes, I will pay a membership fee to a company who makes my life that simple and hassle-free.

I will acknowledge the challenges and potential problems of this system. First, I have to store my debit/credit card in their app. I never like doing that due to security concerns. I personally prefer to enter numbers on each transaction, although I guess that’s really no more secure. But from a basic consumer comfort level, after the Target RED card hack, I’ve been very leery of storing my credit/debit information with a retailer.

Second, ultimately the advent of self-checkout lowers Sam’s labor costs, which in plain English means, they hire fewer employees to do the same work. That results in fewer available jobs for people who need them and are willing to work. I have heard from Sam’s employees over time that some customers are totally against the idea of self-checkout because it reduces the total number of people hired by Sam’s. (One Sam’s employee who works the self-checkout lane says she takes her life in her own hands every time she works that spot because people come up and accost her over how she’ s putting Americans out of jobs). I understand that concern, and I’m not sure how to solve that particular problem, but I’m not sure labor arguments will win out of technology conveniences in the long run.

Third — and I acknowledge upfront that this sounds petty — you still have to wait in the exit line at Sam’s even when you use the Scan and Go app. They have this wonderfully convenient app to skip the register lines, but then you still have to wait in this very manually-processed line to exit the building. Staff members are counting the number of goods in your cart to confirm it matches your receipts as you exit the building, and Sam’s has not yet figured out a way to get over that process and keep things moving. It’s odd, though, to use this wonderfully convenient app process and then go stand in a line to exit.

What we can learn from this Sam’s Club experience?

What from a business perspective can we learn from all this? Customers love convenience. Convenience does not always come in the form of advanced electronic technologies. I understand that the older generation is probably not using this app, and they would probably prefer other conveniences. But the general rule is that customers love convenience. We all like it when things move along a little faster, when finding what you want is simpler, when making your purchase is one step easier, when making your way through a store is unobstructed and a quick in and out. If we can streamline processes and keep things simple for the customer, the customer will be happy and will want to use our store/site/product more.

All in all, I am very satisfied with my Sam’s Club membership. Their bulk pricing, their breadth of products and services, their discounted goods, the ability to get in and out pretty easily, and now the convenience of not only being able to self checkout but to actually app checkout — I’m sold. And the membership price is not too high and is easy to pay year over year for the benefits I get in return.

What about Costco?

By the way, some of you may be wondering why I’m not comparing Sam’s Club to Costco. The reason is that I have no Costco experience because we don’t have one in our area. I know that the Sam’s vs. Costco question is something people have, but I can’t help in that area. I can only speak to Sam’s Club, and my experience with Sam’s Club has been very positive over the years. It counts as a win in my book and is a membership that I will keep.

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AAA: I pay you membership dues. Now please send out your minions.

When I say “roadside assistance,” what company comes to mind? AAA Auto Club! They have branded themselves as the group that will help you out of a broken-down car bind and help save the day you run out of gas or have a flat tire or have any kind of car trouble. Whenever I’m looking and planning toward a road trip, I make sure my AAA membership is up to date.  In the same way, it seems that everyone around me also asks if my AAA membership is up to date.

I recently had a co-worker tell me that someone else in the building called him a “bad dad” because he didn’t have a AAA membership for his family. He has kids in college, and the name caller felt my co-worker was doing his traveling children a disservice in not making sure the AAA minions were standing ready to charge out and save his children from roadside problems. That obligatory feeling is good business and great branding for AAA.

I have been sorting through all of the memberships I pay for on a regular basis and evaluating whether they are actually worth my money.  My AAA membership is an old standby worth evaluating because that obligatory element really makes me start to wonder if I pay them solely for the name and emotional experience or for their actual value of service.

Is AAA Auto Club a membership worth my money?

Over the years, I have waffled over whether AAA is actually a necessary part of my life. I have not been a consistent customer. Yes, I admit it: I am AAA fickle. I have toyed with my auto insurance’s roadside assistance rider on my insurance policy. I paid my auto insurance company a small fee for “roadside assistance” but it really boiled down to just a reimbursement plan. There were no insurance company minions at the ready charging to my rescue. (Only AAA has the minions.)  I had to do all the work of finding a tow truck myself and then submit receipts for reimbursement. The AAA approach is much more service oriented.

When I started traveling more for work a few years ago, I jumped back into a AAA membership. Every time I book a hotel for work, I can get a discounted rate if I have a AAA membership number.  Those discounts made AAA worth the fee the annual fee. And, yes, by paying that simple fee, I suddenly had AAA minions at my fingertips when needed. A double benefit!

I have also discovered over time that I can get shopping discounts with AAA if I pay attention at malls or surf the AAA website or app. What used to just be an auto club now offers many other services that I probably don’t even know about. They now offer insurance and more, and they would love to replace that auto insurance company who offered me a non-AAA roadside assistance option. Overall, it seems worth the annual charge to my debit card to keep AAA around. Heck, I even became a premium member a few years back, paying a little more each year for some added benefit.

Where the rubber (or the transmission) hits the road

First AAA tow with my roadside assistance auto club membershpWe recently took a several hours trip away from home, and on the way there, the transmission on our family car started having troubles. The further we got from home, the more concerned we got as the transmission started having obvious problems shifting and accelerating. Then, very quickly, the issue because a real problem as we started losing gears and could not fully operate the car.  We found a small town convenience store to pull into and started making calls.

What was most ironic in this roadside moment was that I forgot I had the AAA minions at the ready and that the primary purpose of having a AAA membership is emergency roadside assistance. I pay for AAA membership year over year, and I use its discount benefits when traveling to get better rates at hotels, but in the moment I needed emergency roadside assistance, we called my wife’ dad first for help. Thankfully, during that phone call, before he headed our way with a trailer, he asked, “Do you have AAA?”

Oh, yeah. I guess I do pay for that every year for this exact purpose.

The first call to AAA

I called AAA. A very nice lady helped me through the process and dispatched a tow truck to my location. She even set me up for text updates of the tow truck’s status, which was very helpful. She informed me that since I’m a premium AAA member, I am entitled to one 200-mile tow each year in addition to 3 other 100-mile tows. Wonderful! Hooray for paying for upgrades!

I told the very nice lady that since home was within 200 miles, I would prefer to tow it home so I could then figure out which shop I could use to do the repairs. She set up that information in the system, and we were good to go. I was ecstatic because, honestly, I came away from that call feeling more confident and secure in my roadside situation than when I started. Isn’t that the point of paying for a AAA membership anyway?

In a short time, the tow truck arrived and loaded up my poor Suburban and hauled it away. Several hours later when my family and I arrived home with the help of extended family, my car was safely parked in my driveway, ready to go to a shop the next day. Great success! Thank you, AAA! I’m so glad I pay for this membership!

Then came the next day …

The second AAA call

Once I determined the proper transmission shop to do the repair, my wife convinced me that I shouldn’t try to drive the transmission-torn Suburban across town. She asked:  since we still have 3 available 100-miles tows this year, why not call AAA to take the Suburban to the shop?  That sounded like a very good idea compared to being stuck on the side of the road again two days in a row.

I called AAA again to set up the tow from my house to the transmission shop. Another helpful lady was on the other end of the line, but she wasn’t as helpful as the first. She gave me bad technical details of my plan.  Although my membership allowed for 3 other 100-mile tows this year, I could not tow from my house to a shop. What?!?!?

This second lady said that I should have been informed of this by the earlier very nice lady.  I was not, and I was now not very happy.  Apparently, AAA will allow you to tow from roadside to an auto shop, and then if that shop can’t do the work, you can use another tow to get it to another shop.  But once your car lands at your house, you have to break down again before they will allow you to use up another tow. What?!?!?

I asked the now not-so-helpful lady on the other end of the phone if she understood the real-life repercussions of that policy.  I explained that their policy would require me to make an attempt to drive a broken car to a shop, break down, and call them on the side of the road for a tow.  Instead, wouldn’t they rather I skip the breaking down step, call them upfront and have them tow from my driveway without my breaking down in the first place?  She said she understood the issue, but that AAA wouldn’t let me use a tow from my driveway.  She confirmed that I would need to break down again before they could tow the car.

Suddenly my membership benefits weren’t so glowing ….

Second AAA tow with my roadside assistance auto club membership

The third AAA call

I drove home over my lunch hour to start the long, slow, gearless journey across town.  I anticipated that I should probably drive with my hazard flashers on due to the missing gears.  Having no idea what to expect, I actually brought along a granola bar and a bottle of water due to the late summer heat.

Departing from my house, on the first set of hills, my transmission couldn’t keep up almost immediately. Once the car hit a certain speed going down the hill, the transmission lost all traction and couldn’t engage again until I coasted up the next hill far enough that it slowed down to catch a gear. It was disheartening. After the second hill like that, I pulled over. There was no way I could make it all the way across town missing at least two gears.

As directed, I called AAA from the side of the road, less than half a mile from my house.

The AAA app experience

This third time, I used the AAA app instead of calling.  I wasn’t in the mood to talk to another helpful lady. The app on my iPhone was a little glitchy, but it finally worked to send out the bat signal that I needed help. The GPS feature on my phone pinpointed my location, and I received notification on my phone that help was coming.  Forty-five minutes later, the tow truck arrived. All was good in the world again … Except that the entire third call to AAA was unnecessary.

I understand that AAA, at its heart, is an insurance company. But as a “member” who’s paying extra for their “premium” membership, I’m not paying to be cited insurance-like policies. I’m paying to have access to tow trucks that get my car out of a bind, no matter where the car is parked.  Skipping over the part where the first helpful lady never actually disclosed that I might run into problems if I towed to my house, I struggle to discern why someone I pay a membership fee (and never really use, year over year) actually told me to go out and break down on the side of the road before they’ll help me with a service that I pay for.

Did my AAA benefits pay off? Yes. Was it a positive membership experience? In one way, yes, but the totality of the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

What can we learn from this AAA experience?

I don’t write all this to gripe about AAA — really. Overall, my AAA experience has been positive with that one big exception.  The whole point of this article and series is to look at what we expect when we pay for a membership.  We’re paying for memberships and monthly commitments left and right, but as members, are we getting the benefit of our membership fees?

As a business person, if I’m going to provide a service, my customers need to feel that the service benefits them. And if I’m going to provide a service under an ongoing fee membership model, I need to consistently provide the service for which they’re paying when they need it.  My minions must be ready to charge out and help no matter what without citing technicalities because I’m debiting their bank account every month.

Ongoing memberships innately create a sense of entitlement in the mind of the customer.  Those membership fees are departing their bank account monthly (or annually). When the customer shows up to get the benefits for a service they pay for monthly, they want white glove, membership-privileged service.

Bottom line:  Keep the promise

In this particular situation, he first AAA call felt white glove. The second AAA call did not. That second AAA call felt like they were taking my membership fees but holding back in the moment when I called them to utilize their services.

Sure, AAA gives me travel discounts, and that feels good.  And AAA gives me all kinds of travel discounts and will sell me insurance.  But when I pay AAA, I’m really paying for the minions who rush to my aid.  That’s the promise of the AAA Auto Club brand.

Minions are no good when they cite a provision in their contract that keeps them from helping.  When the AAA minions are not sent to my aid due to a contractual provision, I don’t feel like AAA has kept their promise.  The end result is I feel let down, not like a special “premium” member.

What can we learn about providing services to people who are paying us money? We all want to feel pampered. We all want to feel special. And we don’t want anyone making money off us to cite unnecessary rules at us in our time of need.

Stay tuned.  I’ve got more membership experiences to come.

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My mindless maze of memberships

I have recently become cognizant of how many memberships I have. Suddenly, without paying much attention, I’m paying monthly memberships for all manner of systems, products and services of all types.

The economy has shifted to a focus on memberships over one-time purchases

Quietly and slowly, the American economy has shifted.  We pay monthly or annually (if you want a discount) for the opportunity to have access to the products and services we enjoy.  I, for one, have apparently bought into this shift wholeheartedly.  While I noticed it as I was gradually buying in, I’m now in way over my head and had not realized until recently how deep into memberships I really am.

clubs memberships herd crowd

When I was younger, I would buy a software package at the store, install it on my computer, and use it until I needed something new. Now, these same software purveyors sell me a membership.  The monthly membership fee I pay gives me access to the software as well as all necessary upgrades so long as I’m paying them.  If I stop paying them, I lose access to their software.

Two software companies that come to mind quickly are Adobe and Intuit, both of which have switched their core software packages to monthly pay online services.  But even the traditional boxed-software behemoths like Microsoft have jumped on board.  Newer companies launch under fee-based monthly setup from the start and never even use the box-in-a-store model.  I use several web applications and software systems that have never been packaged in a box but have instead been served up on a monthly fee basis from day one.

Everyone wants access to my credit card for a monthly membership charge

Retailers and service providers are offering me wonderful conveniences and benefits for monthly fee.  If I just give them my credit card information, they will open up a world of wonder for me.  I have memberships to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Spotify, Sam’s Club, Quickbooks, Consumer Reports and many, many more. The reality is that these services are all just ongoing fee-based services.  By creating a membership feeling, they are going the extra emotionally connecting step to try to make me feel special, a part of their “exclusive” customer family.

hbo-go-netflix-hulu-amazon memberships

I can remember when I thought people were crazy to pay Netflix monthly fees for DVD access.  Somehow Netflix eventually won me over when they began offering streaming media access. Now I’ve apparently drunk the Kool-Aid and bought into many more services.  When I think back, I realize the biggest shift came when I turned off my DISH Network, cut the cable and started using streaming services for my family’s television viewing.  The list of memberships and monthly services grew exponentially in that moment.

Recently I’ve been listening to Stu McLaren, who consults and trains in the arena of creating membership-based websites. Stu does a good job of explaining the shifts in the US economy away from single event purchases and more toward membership based revenue.  It’s incredible how my brain steps backs and notices how everyone out there is trying to sell me a membership to their service, product or software application.

Are the memberships and monthly fee services I use actually worth my money?

It boggles my mind when I stop and think through the number of memberships I hold right now that keep everything flowing in my personal, entertainment and business life.  Any service or product I want can be available at my fingertips if I’m just willing to commit to a monthly relationship between the provider and my bank account.

As I’ve started realizing how much money I spend towards memberships, it’s made me wonder how much practical benefit I actually get out of these memberships. They’re everywhere! I’m surrounded by them, and they’re swarming me and I realize that I’m giving into their sales pitch, but do I ever actually take a solid look at the benefits they offer?

I’d noticed this shift to monthly memberships overall, but I hadn’t stopped to really look at their impact on my own life. Which memberships are actually worth my money? In an uncertain economy that keeps me double-checking my family’s budget and bottom line, it’s worth taking a moment to decide which memberships are worth my time.

Can I learn from the memberships I enjoy to build a better business?

It’s worth slowing down and analyzing which memberships are working and which are not. As a consumer, I have all these memberships stacking up.   From a business owner’s and entrepreneur’s perspective, I can learn from this. If I switch on my analyst mind, I can sort through the incentives and emotions to see which memberships keep my consumer mind coming back and why. I can learn from these companies and build my own business models around them.

In coming posts, I’m going to start analyzing my membership experiences in detail and figure out what’s working, what’s not and share what I’m processing

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Writing as me and no one else

It doesn’t matter how much I want to write.  The writing and getting to the writing is the hard part.

In high school and college, I wrote constantly.  I journaled, I wrote poetry, I wrote fiction, and it just flowed.  I would sit down and write, and the crafted words would just come out.  What came out of me was actually pretty good writing that made people stop, read, look at me and want to talk about what they had just read.

I majored in English in college and I wrote plenty in that program, but, looking back, I have wished I had been able to find a writing degree  instead of just an English program that was much more focused on reading for the purpose of teaching than writing for the purpose of writing.

My dad is a published author many times over in the non-fiction realm.  When I was a child, he would disappear to his “study”, which was the dining room table that he’d taken over with books and an electric typewriter in that formal dining room we never used.  My evenings after dark were spent to the gentle hum of that typewriter off in the distance and his pecking away at the keys.  He would take breaks, eat a snack over the kitchen sink in our small galley kitchen, and then he would get back to his quick-paced hunting and pecking.

My dad has never formally learned to type in the ways I was taught to type in high school.  He still hunts and pecks on a keyboard faster than anyone I know.  It’s incredible to watch.  He would sit in the study, night after night, hunting and pecking away, building a book manuscript on pieces of typing paper.  I once met his editor, and she was a serious lady who knew how to slice and dice his manuscripts to make them brilliant.

He also had a newsletter that he would manually mail out back in the day.  My first job was typing in his newsletter subscriber  addresses into our Apple computer database software.  He was also always working on articles for periodicals, and the massive Writer’s Market volume was a constant around our house.

I grew up wanting to write like he wrote.  I wanted to publish books and articles and be known for my knowledge and for my nuances.  It was a very early goal (besides running for President).

Around sixth grade, I wrote an article outlining tips to get autographs on baseball memorabilia.  I submitted that article to a national baseball cards periodical, and they bought it!  They sent me a check for $20 and published my article with a byline, and I was so proud.  My dad was proud, too.  It was an incredible start to my career as a published author.

Through college, I worked at the local newspaper doing a combination of technical and creative work, including photography, layout, proofreading and editing.  I was never satisfied with how much writing opportunity I had at the newspaper.  I would wait intently for the week the sports editor would go on vacation so I could fill his spot and write actual articles for the newspaper.  I loved having a byline with my name on it alongside words that I had crafted specifically for those readers.

I think it all changed when I went to law school.  Law school changed both my thought processes but also my life processes.  The intensity of work gave me less time to pursue creative outlets, including writing for my own sake.

Law school pushed forward the more technical, more non-fiction part of my brain.  In doing so, it shifted how my mind settled in quiet moments, and honestly, I lost some of my whimsical creativity.  Everything running through my brain shifted into a technical processing of facts and details into theories and meanings.  It wasn’t bad.  It was just different.

It’s now almost 20 years later.  Life has become a version of busy that I never anticipated —  insanely busy sometimes.  I have a wife, a gaggle of kids, a career, commitments, and a life that doesn’t stop moving at many levels.  It’s hard to fit additional things into my life that I don’t really love and that I’m not really passionate about.  Just managing the daily details of our life is enough to keep anyone busy full time, but I’m still drawn to write.

I enjoy writing, and I write as lawyer, but it’s mostly drafting documents.  I feel I have really good at technical document drafting.  But I want more.

 Over the years, I have written some informational, promotional and periodical articles when asked to do so for work or for church.  At one point, I even wrote a recurring newsletter for our church’s small groups ministry.  I have run a few blogs and found a creative outlet there, but even then, I was mostly focusing on politics and religion (or coffee).  I’ve become more of an “expert” than a “creative,” although I’m still a very creative expert.  Over time, I’ve lost sight of that dream of being a “writer,” but it’s still lingering.

And now I find myself here — a dad, a husband, a professional, a middle-aged man — and I want to write.  I’m feeling a constant urge to write *something*, *anything*.  About a year ago, a friend challenged me to start journaling, and I did.  Then I set up a new blog space (this one), and wrote a little bit.

Interestingly, last December, my writing process fell apart.  I was talking to a trusted friend who enjoys tracking me, and he had read the few blog posts I had written.  In that conversation, he encouraged me to actually write *me* — not just ivory tower, preachy thoughts.  He has read other random, passionate posts of mine over time, primarily on social media, and he told me that my writing on my blog was nothing like what he knew of the real me.  He challenged me to write with meaning and honesty and out of the real me.

I took his encouragement to heart, and then I got stuck.  He was right.  I wasn’t writing me.  I was just writing to write something and be someone who wrote.

I has taken me most of a year to settle into a place of figuring out how to sit down and do my best to just write out of the person I am instead of writing out of a person I envision people want me to be out in fake Internet land.

For the last several weeks, I’ve daily said I was going to write.  And I haven’t.  And I understand that writing is a discipline that I just must do.  But there has been more to my struggle to write.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to disappoint myself.

I have not been writing because I don’t want disapproval of my closest people.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to realize that no one cares what I write.

I have not been writing because I don’t want to write something that triggers negative reactions, whether from myself, my closest people, or any third party out of there, whether they know me or not.

I have not been writing simply out of fear — pretty much fear of rejection.

Here I am writing anyway.  And, I’ll tell you, my heart is racing.  I’m not writing out of the deep engaged passion of a writer who can’t stop (although there is some of that mixed in).  I’m writing to get over the hurdle of anxiety of not writing well enough to be proud of what I’m doing.  Honestly, I know I will do well, but only if I write out of me.

If I write as a persona of a person that I think people want me to be, this won’t work.  And if I write gripped with fear of disappointing or offending other people, this won’t work.  I just have to write and reach deep inside, dig through the surface, and get past the facade I hold up that I think is the writer people want.

Instead, I need to write as just me.  Let’s do this.

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Change starts with 3 simple action words: Be, Give, Do

Ready to make change?  All generous action starts here:  Be. Give. Do.

Be: where action begins

All change starts by “being.”  It may seem funny to think of “being” as an action.  In elementary school, I learned that there are “being” verbs and “action” verbs, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that just “being” something and recognizing and acknowledging what’s going on inside you can be an action in and of itself.  The realization of “being” serves as the catalyst for all positive forward action.

When you feel something and it wells up inside you, that “being” emotion is generally the catalyst for something else much more active.   You have to “be” something good before you “do” something good.  What you “be” matters and affects your next steps.  Your actual outward actions are fully dependent on what you “be” first before you act.  Any positive forward action you take in your life and in the lives of others starts with  “be” as the catalyst for the action.

Spark of action
Simple examples of this starting place can be as follows:
Be generous.
Be grateful.
Be thankful.
Be humble.
Be gracious.
Be open-minded.
Be heroic.
Be courageous.
Be different.
Be creative.
Be encouraging.
Be a friend.
Be the one who stands up for what you believe in.
Be the one who makes a difference.

All of these “be” examples are internal ideas that can drive you to positive forward action.  When you feel those thoughts and ideas and emotions welling up inside you, you first realize that you’re feeling them, but you must then make a choice to let your external actions match your internal drive to “be” something.  A year or so ago, I read a challenging book about how to take that spark of “be” and move things forward titled Spark: Transform Your World, One Small Risk At A Time by Jason Jaggard.

You feel the “be” inside you and you think through it, sometimes in a split second.  Then at some point, you either do something about it, or you shove it down inside and try to act like it is not real and should not matter.  If you choose against shoving it down and instead choose to take that risk and take action, you’re moving forward.

Give: the active response to a “be”

The easiest next step once you acknowledge a “be” is to “give” something.   Don’t overcomplicate giving.  Giving is easy.  It’s actually one of the smallest, simplest, most elemental steps to take when you feel a “be” pop into your mind and thought process.  To “give” is simply to release your own selfish, internalized energy and let it turn outward into a release of external, action-based energy.

Be. Give. Do. Take Action!
A few general categories of giving could be:
Giving your time.
Giving your energy.
Giving your expertise.
Giving your advice.
Giving your reputation by serving as a reference for someone else.
Giving your money, whether just spare change or something significant.
Giving your skills and abilities.
Giving encouragement when you know it’s needed.
Giving positive words when you know that negative words are easier.
Giving up your spouse for the weekend so they can help someone with a problem.
Giving your stuff, whether it’s stuff you care about or stuff you never use.
Giving your mental power to a problem.

So many people try to mentally skip over the idea of “giving” because they think it requires an outlay of cash.  But to “give” is just the idea of expending any manner of resource — even the smallest amount of thought and care — on something or someone else.  Move past the idea that to “give” requires money (or whatever other resource you are convinced you don’t have).  Giving just involves you.

Your brain will try to trick you when you hear the word “give” and will throw up a roadblock that tells you that you’re not available because you don’t have time or energy or money or whatever that resource is.  In that moment, acknowledge your selfish, internalized energy trying to hold on to whatever it can grasp.

Once you’ve gathered your forces against your selfish, internalized self, unleash a “be” into the mental mix and see what happens.  Let a “be” act as the catalyst to help initiate a “give” of any kind.  Don’t forget that a “give” is the simplest, lowest-energy building block and next step toward creating positive forward action, and all you really need is a good “be” to discover a functional, actionable “give”.

Do: the culmination of giving

The last piece of this generosity trifecta is to “do”.  You might think that “giving” and “doing” are really the same thing, but they’re just cousins and have similarities but are wildly different.  A “do” is bigger and better and more organized than “give”.  To ‘give” is to implement the basic building block of action.  To “do” is to gather your “gives” into a big pile and to start building something with them like my kids do with LEGOs.

Do is the collective of giving efforts

To “give” is to move to action out of the motivation and inspiration of a “be”.  But to “do” is to move things in the real world in a way that actually makes a real difference.  To “do” something is to take your “be”, allow it to start consistently churning out some “gives” and then organizing those “gives” into something collective and useful.   To “do” is to make a change in the world through a collective of organized “gives”, whether it’s all given just by you or is multiplied through the “give” efforts of other people as well.

You can think of this in a molecular fashion.  “Be” is the electron sparking action.  “Give” is the atom, serving as the building block of identifiable action.  “Do” is those atoms coming together to form actual substance that produces movement.

Simplify the concepts as follows:

Be is the spark, the catalyst of action.
Give is the incremental action building block.
Do is the momentum caused of incremental actions.

I lay out this framework to help you understand where I am going as I talk about what you can do in the world through what you’ve been given.  I’ll be offering up ideas of what you could “be”, and I’ll be suggesting ways you might “give”, and I’ll be encouraging you to figure out what you want to “do” to make a difference and leave the world better than you found it.  Let me work through these ideas over time and challenge you in them and make them real enough for you to apply them in your own life.

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Looking at new chapters as a change for the better

I read quite a bit and always have.  Each work of fiction has a flow and a story, and it just keeps moving, whether you’re willing to participate in that continuing story or not.  That movement of represents change, and it it usually reflected by the change of chapters as the book continues through its story.

Sometimes you find a section or moment in a book that you really like, and you can stop and settle into a moment and enjoy it for a while.  You can read a passage over several times and enjoy what’s happening with the characters in that particular moment,  but the story keeps moving regardless.  As a reader, you could stop right there and never read another word, but you would miss the rest of the story as it continues to naturally unfold.  You must be willing to accept change for the story to continue.

Chapters represent change as your story unfolds

Changes in life are like the turnings of chapters in a book

Life is similar but much more complicated.  You sometimes land in a moment you really enjoy, but if you stay too long in that moment, you lose the rest of the story and the flow of what will come out of that moment and what it ultimately means.  You can live in that moment for a while, but life changes and flows, just like the unfolding story in a book, and we must change with it.  The chapters of life keep turning whether you like it or not.

The reality is that you are a character in your own story and in the stories of others.  You must move along with the flow of the story.  You have influence and control over many of your circumstances, but there are other circumstances that you can simply watch happen as if you are reading the stories of characters in a book.   Whether it’s a career change or a move to a new location or a death of someone close to you or even simply a child going to school or college, the chapters of life keep turning, and as the pages turn, you must adjust to those new chapters and the moving story.  In the end, the chapter will always turn, and that’s not bad.  It just is.

How well do you handle the change of chapters?

How well do you handle these types of adjustments?  When a chapter of life turns to the next, does it overwhelm you?  Do you breathe a deep sign, mourn the loss of the last chapter, but then pick yourself up and move into what’s coming next?  Or do you get stuck, hanging onto the old, hoping it will return, struggling to figure out how to face tomorrow?  Do you try to re-read and re-live the simpler moments of your life, hoping they will come back, trying to turn back chapters?  Or do you move with the flow of your story, knowing that the story must continue?

If you watch over time, you will realize that the change of chapters looks differently depending on your place in life.  Depending on where you stand at any given moment, you will have a different perspective on what is happening.  Often when you’re younger, you may get a little more emotional or freaked out as your life shifts, but if you’re older and you have been through some of these transitions already, you might be able to gather yourself in a moment of maturity and realize that this is how it happens and know that it will all be fine if you just weather the storm of emotion that comes along with the change.
The chapters of every book represent change, just like in life

The changing of a chapter in life signifies growth

More and more, I find that it’s important to be grateful for the next chapter as it comes.  It’s part of being human, and if the world around us and our context doesn’t change, we don’t grow.  Growing is a key part to being human, but growing is not always easy.  Growth comes with an ebb and flow in a very natural way, like a moving story.

Don’t be afraid of the changing of chapters — be grateful and thankful that you can still grow.   You will resist change — it’s only natural — and you will eventually lose that fight.  The chapters will change.  Take a deep breath, know that you can handle anything that comes your way, and grow with the change.  Shift, adjust, learn, and step into what’s coming next.  Being human is a constant cycle of seeking out and enjoying the moments of warmth and connection and then jumping into the rush of change and struggle with courage and anticipation as it comes your way.

You can prepare for the changing of chapters in life

Prepare for the change of chapters.  In relationships, I find myself mentally and emotionally preparing for whatever moment I know will someday arrive when I will have to say goodbye to my spouse, my child, my parent, my friend, even my dog.  It’s a strange mental exercise that I think is an emotional defense mechanism to help avoid being completely overwhelmed when the moment arrives.  It’s not an exact science, and I know it won’t fully insulate me from the actual emotion that comes when things shift in a relationship, but by projecting (and in a way, practicing) that emotional and mental process in advance,  I attempt to prepare ,uself to some degree for that moment and maybe work through it in a less intense and more healthy manner.

Also, in your career prepare for changes.   I encourage you to look ahead, be intentional and think about who you are and want to be, what you’re doing with your time and your skills, how to improve and grow, and who can help you along that path.  For more on this idea, check out Jon Acuff’s book Do Over.  Just like with a personal savings account you fill up over time at your bank, Acuff explains how to establish a Career Savings Account to help you prepare for the future and the change that is inevitable as the chapters of your career turn. I encourage you to check out his book and start building your own Career Savings Account.

Be both introspective and grateful as a chapter changes

Accepting change takes perspective.  When you’re in the midst of change, you can develop perspective as the story unfolds, helping you learn more about what’s to come and  about why things happened in the past.  Your perspective must expand to include memories and lessons learned in the past while glimpsing the future all in one moment.  But when your perspective expands to include both the old chapter and the new and you begin to have more insights into the broader story, be thankful for the new.

Reflect, enjoy and share the chapters in your life

Be grateful for your story and that you get to take part in the stories of others, and be willing help someone else adjust into a new chapter that is coming their way.  Be generous in your sharing of your stories with others and in helping them understand that the turning of chapters is natural and healthy.  And, if possible, take a deep breath, reflect and enjoy the changing of chapters with someone you love, knowing that the moment of connection and warmth ith them will be that part of the cycle you can look back on right before you jump headfirst into what’s next.

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