Tuna Steak.

Beef or fish? That’s the response this picture evoked…

IMG_6272

To be fair, I enjoy my beef steaks cooked to a medium rare temperature, so the color of the middle of this steak cannot help determine the type of meat from which it is made. Curiously, a “steak” is typically assumed to be made of beef. That is until, of course, it isn’t. For example, at a fancy steak and seafood restaurant:

Waiter: Do you know what you’d like to order?

Me: Yes, may I please have the steak.

Waiter: Well, which type?

Me: Uh, mmm, well…A beef steak?

NO. That’s not what happens! We assume a steak is beef. And, I have no idea why. But, I digress!

I’ve started cooking again, and this is to be a food-y post, so let me get back on track!

Pictured above is an ahi tuna steak, grilled to medium rare and seasoned with black pepper and fresh lemon with a dash of sea salt on the top. The mixed greens below were lightly tossed in EVOO and fresh lemon zest. Light, fresh, tangy, full of protein and delicious!

This is a quick hearty meal perfect for spring or summer, and thanks to a deal at the grocery store, the entire meal cost less than $7.00. That’s hard to beat!

Cheers!

Overbooked?

Businesses exist to make money. Yes, they may also strive to positively impact their communities, or produce the next big tech device or improve a supply chain, yet at the very top levels increasing profit is the motivating factor. This drive to earn as much money as possible is the sole reason that airlines overbook their flights.

It’s not their fault, though. I mean, that’s what they’re in business to do, right? Make. More.  Money. Why else do they charge between $95-$175 each way for a carrier that sits underneath the seat in front of you, counts as a carry-on bag and happens to have a cat or small dog inside? Some contributing factors to the need to sell more seats than each plane can hold is due to those people who book a flight and then they don’t show up. This is a fact and it happens all the time. Business meetings change, traffic accidents delay arrivals, and people get drunk at airport bars and lose track of time. All of these situations lead airlines to sell more seats than they can fill. Airlines also overbook by accident when a last minute aircraft change results in a smaller aircraft than originally planned. Here’s the kicker…, airlines are not the only sector of the travel and tourism industry that practices this revenue management strategy!

Hotels do the exact same thing. Guests are frequently accommodated at a competing hotel due to overbooking. The strategy is based on the fact that people do not always show up, and the most profitable hotels know which week nights are most prone to no shows. The reason for the overbooking can be far- fetched and creative, but at the end of the day the hotel overbooked because the Sales and Revenue Management teams want to make the most money out of their static room count as possible. And, to be completely fair, they can overbook on the rare occasion that a room or two cannot be resold due to maintenance or damage from a previous guest…. Though, that is rare.

If a hotel room and an airline ticket are refunded due to overbooking, then money seemingly is lost. However, overbooking does something else to the profit of a hotel/airline. Overbooking nearly guarantees that the occupancy of the plane or the hotel is as high as possible and this in turn increased the revenue per available room/seat. Higher RevPAR is a key financial metric for management companies and investors, and a key indicator of market strength. Again, it’s all about the money.

As we all know, this week United Airlines got caught in an overbooking situation. What no one else is saying, however, is that the overbooking itself is not what caused the uproar and resulted in the physical assault of an individual. Regardless, United Airlines lost hundreds of millions of dollars and the downfall has just begun.

Did anyone else notice, though, that it was NOT a United Airlines Employee that assaulted and then physically removed the passenger??! That’s right! It was NOT a United Airlines employee. Therefore, I challenge that United Airlines not be held solely responsible for the horrific situation that occurred.. United oversold the flight, and for whatever reason no one on that plane thought that $800.00 plus a reimbursement for their ticket (so, easily upwards of $1,000.00) was worth sticking around Chicago for an extra day or so.  The passenger refused to give up his paid for seat, and so far, we don’t know why. But, who cares why.

Let’s all remember that Airlines are sensitive these days, and anyone that flies knows that as a passenger obeying the commands of the flight crew is required. Not optional. Not maybe. Not, “we’d appreciate it if you might listen to us and consider what we think is best for you.” Passengers are required by law to obey the instructions of the flight crew. This passenger did not, apparently, do that. But, again, the passenger was not assaulted by a flight crew member.

The United flight crew called security. The Chicago Security Authority boarded the plane, at the request of the United Crew, and what happened next was nothing short of awful. The security officer made a decision to forget about humanity. He looked at the living, breathing human in that airplane seat and chose to physically assault, harass, injure and humiliate that human. That is what the uproar should be about on social media and in the news and in the gossip at the hair salon.

In the moment, when it mattered most, an individual’s humanity was entirely forgotten. This is the real, heartbreaking, and infuriating truth behind these events. United and the Chicago Security Authority made huge mistakes and they will pay dearly, though likely not enough, for their choices.

Money started the process and created the situation. Ironically, had 1 of those passengers cared about money more than the plans they had for the following 24-36 hours, the situation wouldn’t have happened at all. Money makes people do crazy things. That is never an excuse for humanity to be forgotten.

At the end of the day, airlines will continue to overbook flights, and so will hotels. Guests and passengers will continue to be compensated for the inconvenience. The only way to ensure this type of incident never occurs again is for each human on this planet to remember that we are all only human. And, as Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of nearly each show, “Be kind to one another.” Wouldn’t it be a whole new world if we were all kind to one another…

Quote worthy! Ep. #1

As I dive further into my new reading hobby, I’ve found myself highlighting and noting key phrases and ideas that jump out at me.  So, welcome to my new blog series, Quote Worthy!

 

On Business:

“For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits… When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a business man.” – Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

On living a fully present, in-the-moment life:

“How we live matters, and what you choose to own will shape your life, whether you choose to admit it or not.” – S. Niequist, Present Over Perfect

On Leadership:

“If people don’t trust you then you are not going to get very far and you will never quite know why because they may never tell you.” – Donald Miller, Building A Story brand

On Goal setting:

“Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast and easy doesn’t mean that it has less value than a difficult goal. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be willing to be flexible and demonstrate perserverance. Not every goal will look and feel the same. Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

 

Time.

Time management gurus- actual one’s and the self – proclaimed types – state the best way to manage your time is to first account for all of it. They claim that one cannot possibly better manage their time if they don’t know what they currently do with their time. What did you do today? How much time do you spend on that? What percentage of your time is devoted to sleep? They are likely not wrong in their theories. My question is this: How much of your day is then spent writing down what’s been done? Or searching for a pen? Or having to wait to charge a phone so the Notes App is available to track those last few hours?

I know two things: Reflection is powerful. And, time continually moves forward.

We have an uncertain number of days in this life and each one is available in tidy 24 hour segments. 18 days ago I unplugged my TV, and put it in a closet. I had awoken that Sunday morning having finished a marathon series on Netflix and couldn’t shake the thought that “this is not the life I want to be living.” Habits are hard to break, but this wasn’t a habit as much as an addiction. TV was my one escape. The only time my frantic, analytical, high-expectation-based brain could completely take a break. Not anymore. TV had become a jail to me.  I couldn’t function without the noise in the house, characters to fall in love with, and brain silence. And then, all of the sudden there was a stronger pull on my time and my brain and my heart: I did not want to live jailed to the sofa cushions entrenched in a false reality. That alone was enough to break the habit.

The fear in all this was, what in the world am I going to do all day? Again, perfectly consistent segments of 24 hours are going to just keep coming at me. I couldn’t possibly have a time management problem; all my time was free! Friends would ask, “Are you available around 7?” My answer was to laugh and say, “I’m free all day! Do we have to wait until 7?”

Chaotically, shockingly and heartbreakingly during the first 48 hours of my new TV-less life, our family suffered a tragedy, and I took an unexpected trip back home. This filled my brain and my heart and definitely my time. It also woke me up, recharged me and breathed energy back into me. The trip included the full spectrum of physical and mental emotions, and I came back to Nashville feeling truly alive for the first time in years. That first night back in my own bed, with my Little Pup in our cute house, I slept for 18 hours. Yes! I really slept that much my first night home! The next morning, I woke up and said, “what am I going to do all day?!” Luckily, Nike was also awake and with a lick on my face I knew that we would be starting the day with a walk outside. How wonderful to have a companion that answers the very question you’re asking with a realistic solution!

The days have since been full of activity. Just last night it was 8:30pm by the time I got around to making dinner. Phone conversations with family, reading and finishing a book, an afternoon at the lake and a quick run had completely filled up my day. I haven’t managed a single day!

I do not write down or track in anyway what I do or do not do in a 24 hour period. Instead, I listen to what my mind and body ask for and lead me to. That might be a new yoga workout, a resume rewrite, and that very well could be another nap. If at the end of the day there is a sense of a day well lived in your soul, then a bullet note list of the 17 minutes spent wandering back and forth from the kitchen to the backyard deck seems insignificant.

Instead of focusing on managing time, why not use it? Fill it up and be intentional about each 24 hour segment rather than the next 2 hours. As I sit here, I wonder if time is even tangible enough to be managed… Manage yourself and time marches on. Control and/or track your activities, and time continues to march onward.

The truth is we make time for who and what matters to us. Excuses conveniently cover up the dirty fact that we just don’t care and that that isn’t important to us. Don’t manage your time today. Follow your heart and soul and focus on being in the moment, because the next moment is already scheduled and it’s coming regardless of what action you do or don’t take. Also remember this: “Sometimes being a human is just hard. Be kind to yourself.” – Pastor Mary, Chaplain at Calvin College.

Make a change.

Gandhi said we must “be the change that we wish to see in the world.” He also said “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Others say that happiness cannot be bought, or that happiness is a choice and that happiness is up to each individual. 

My family reads books. All generations, boys and girls, college graduates and PhD’s alike. We read novels, mysteries, biographies and everything else, and we read a lot. Aunts and Uncles living rooms are filled with bookcases caving under the weight of hundreds of thousands of pages of typed text. My family could operate its’ own library system with books flowing from one household to the next and back again. I love my family. There is just one really big difference between me and them.

 I watch TV. Lots and lots of TV. Cooking shows, documentaries, foreign films, reality TV, pretty much anything without a laugh track is fair game for me and my TV. Here’s a little secret…

I hate how much TV I watch. It’s true. Yet, it’s always on! Between Netflix, Amazon Prime and old fashioned cable TV, I can always find something to watch. In fact, TV is the only way for me to fully turn off my brain… My analytical brain gets distracted listening to music or reading a book. TV engulfs my brain and I can get entirely consumed in the most ridiculous of shows for hours. I can forget the stress of a career, or the difficulty of moving on to the next step. I cannot call it a relaxed existence, but I am fully lost in the TV. I quite literally do not know what else to do for an entire day, so I just hit the power button and off I go.  I watch TV. Lots and lots of it. And it doesn’t make me happy.

I am tired of watching TV.

My family reads books, and I’ve noticed that those readers are smarter than me. Their conversations are more intelligent, highly engaging and tend to cover a wider variety of topics than I can knowingly participate in or contribute to. I fall away from this world with its’ stress and depressive loneliness, and I get lost in the fantasy world that’s been produced to entice me, to bribe me and to trick me into believing in the falseness of the show. All while hiding from actual real life.  I’d like to participate in the fuller conversations that books seem to offer than stay lost in a fake characters life.

I woke up this morning and noticed that my entire house is set up around the damn television! I hadn’t noticed it before. The TV is the first thing I see when I walk into the living room. The couches face the TV. The kitchen sink has a straight view of the TV. The surround sound system makes the TV audible from every room. My entire home is set up to focus on the TV.  Well no bleeping wonder I can’t turn it off! 

There is only one way to fix this, and it hit me like a ton of bricks today. I had only one option: REMOVE THE TV. That’s right. I had to put it away. I disconnected all of the wires and moved all the speakers, boxes, modems and remotes. I put the tv in the closet.  Literally, it’s on the floor in the guest room closet hiding underneath a blanket. It ‘s gone, and it left behind a void that needed to be filled. So, I rearranged all the furniture and refocused my home. There is now floor space enough to do yoga, play fetch with the dog and see the beautiful flooring. There is also a much cozier, comfortable and inviting space on the other side of the room. The sofa isn’t littered with remote controls. The fireplace and lamps and sofa pillows are just begging to be used. The space feels inspired all on its’ own, and there is no need to turn on the TV to make the space feel alive. The TV is gone and there is no longer room for it in this space. Oddly, it’s hard to believe it was ever here…

Tomorrow, I am going to need to visit the book store…

Gandhi was right. We have to be the agents of change in our world. Self control and self worth are dynamically challenging ideas to overcome successfully. I couldn’t walk into my living room without reaching for the remote control. And, really, what was I going to do? Hide the remote from myself? Please.

It’s time to change. It’s time to read. It’s time to write. It’s time to be the reason the space feels alive and inspired. It’s time to join the family pastime.  As Gandhi said, happiness requires harmony between our thoughts, words and actions. I was not happy watching TV, so I had to make the decision to align thoughts, words and actions. This may not be the secret to immediate happiness, and that’s OK. It will be the first step in a new direction, and that is enough for today. For me, today, at this stage in life, it was the TV.  Henry David Thoreau said, “that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” The life I’ve always imagined is hard to define on some levels. But I know without a doubt it doesn’t take place in front of a TV. What is it for you? Think about it and make the decisions necessary to move the distraction out of the way.

 

Blown Away

The grey skies that cloud and consume my memories of living in Michigan were brightened during a recent midwinter trip. The blues, purples and yellows that painted the sun setting sky at the end of this March day provided, as they so often do, a peaceful reminder that tomorrow is not promised, and this life is temporary. Photographs of our loved ones and pictures of God’s incredible world allow us to remember a specific moment in the midst of this thing we call life. The magic of a camera!

Pictures never tell the entire story. For example, this picture cannot tell you that it was barely 26 degrees, or that the winds were blowing at more than 35mph. The camera lens only shows what it can see, and all other human senses are ignored. Snapshots allow the viewer to transpose individual feelings, memories and dreams into the vista…

 IMG_8315 Lake Michigan – March 2017 – Copyright fotosbyFirenze

For me, fewer things provide as much peace, hope and serenity as watching a day fade away with the painting of the sky. Despite nearly being blown backwards over the sand dune, this snap shot was a fitting end to a beautiful day.

I once heard that a “year is made up of 12 chapters”. Well, life also has chapters – childhood, college, decade to decade, careers, etc.- and during this current chapter of life, I hope to see and capture many, many more sunsets and to simultaneously combine new snapshots and memories with those of the past.

Walking Away…

In the fall of 2009, I took my first job at one of Steamboat’s many condominium properties in the role of Front Desk Agent. Fast forward 7 years, and I am the Assitant General Manager of a brand new, internationally branded  hotel in beautiful Brentwood, TN. These seven years have been full of moving across the country – from CO to TX to NY to TN to FL and back.  I have been “on-call” 24hrs/day 7 days/week since the fall of 2010 and I’m tired. 90% of my energy has gone to helping strangers and the other 90% has gone to a team that is often underpaid and always over worked. I’ve never been the best at math, and even I can tell you that those two combine to well over 100%. Unfortunately, the numbers in that equation represent ME. My personality and hobbies and interests and rough edges and the energy it takes to wake up with a smile. They represent me. And, all of me has been consumed taking care of everyone except me.

A standard 40hr/week job with two weeks of vacation leads the worker to a year of 1080 hours worked. My average is north of 65/hours per week and that leads to entierly too many hours worked and not nearly enough time spent living. If I had known at 22 years old that focused-service hotel operations managers worked such long hours, and that the industry owns one of the highest burnout rates in the world; I never would have started down this path. That is not the same as having regret, and I have few regrets.

Have you ever stood still and realized that everyone else’s life is moving forward and you seem to be knee deep in quicksand? Welcome to my world. Everyone is moving forward, making changes, and I am knee deep in quicksand. True or false, thats the feeling I woke up wtih everyday for the last 3 months.

So, I am walking away.

As of Thursday, I have officially and voluntarily resigned my position. That’s right. I quit. I’m done. Finitto. Termindada. Done.

In order to tell the rest of the story, we need to go back wards to July and August. My first solo trip outside of the country included a visit to an English Language school where I met with and interviewed for a course to become certified to teach English to speakers of other languages. The school is located in Heredia, Costa Rica which lies just outside of San Jose and in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. The TESOL certification is internationally accreddited and requires the successful completion of a 4-week intensive course with practicum teaching.

Thanks to the friends and family that noticed my “smile is missing” and to the terrible traffic which creates an hour long commute, one way; to those that said “you can do anything you set your mind to”;  and to generations of teachers and travellers…. I am walking away from my job and from Nashville, and taking a chance on a passion that’s been hidden away for years. In the middle of a horribly frustrating week at work, my phone rang. It was a blocked number and I decided not to answer it. The voicemail I received after that call was from the school director in Costa Rica… “Hey it’s Luke from Costa Rica. Haven’t heard from you in a while and wanted to see if you had made a decision on taking the course. As I told you, you’d be great at it and we still have spots left for November. Shoot me an email when you can. Pura Vida!”

Dad always says…. Sometimes God opens a window for you and when he does, it is up to you to listen.I heard it and saw it and felt it. I’ve considered moving abroad for years and everytime Yahoo! news has an article about the person that gave up everything to go live on a beach, well, I think that maybe I should be next.

Just like her name suggests, Nike and I are are going to Just Do It! We leave November 12th for 5 weeks in Costa Rica. Stay tuned for more news soon!