Strike up the band!

Everything I need to know I learned while in high school band. I had played piano since I was five and sung in the choir, but left the band teacher scratching his head when I finally decided to join the band in 9th grade.

“We don’t have any pianos in the concert or marching band,” he said.

I looked at him a bit dejectedly.

He paused and then said, “We do have these melodic percussion instruments.”

That began a love affair for instrumental ensembles as I played bells, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, and toms in the concert band, marching band, and jazz band. I went on to play with community bands, jazz groups, pit orchestras, and my college orchestra. I am reminded of those special days when it all began as I visit marching band camps this summer and observe talented DCPS music teachers working with our students on the field. What did I learn as I carried a heavy bass drum in the hot sun and turned a street corner while staying in formation with my band mates?

Grit. Determination. Perseverance. Creativity. Collaboration. Discipline. Teamwork.

Before books started being written on these popular topics, there was the band. Were you a part of it? Did you play in the band or perform with the auxiliary? Do you have memories of the brilliant lights on the football field as the band marched in full uniform and inspired the team and cheering community members?

I am excited about the start of a new year and welcoming new students and teachers to the band programs of Duval County Public Schools. I am not an alum of Stanton, but I am proud to support their band boosters and the many other band boosters throughout our district. With your support we will teach our students the value of grit, determination, perseverance, creativity, collaboration, discipline, and teamwork.  Strike up the band!

Blue Devils flip flops

For love of a job

I find myself waking up between 5 and 6 am each morning (sometimes earlier), excited about the day ahead and ready to hit the road on my mountain bike. My day begins with a morning ritual of reading the paper, surfing the Internet for quality stories, and brainstorming creative solutions to the problems that may lie ahead. I have been fortunate to have been blessed with an amazing family and fantastic friends and a fulfilling career, but this job is different.

DCPS badge

I am inspired, energized, driven and emboldened in a way that I haven’t always been in the past. Clarity of vision, mission, and goals comes readily and I am proud to be a part of an amazing team. All too often large school districts get painted as too “bureaucratic,” “lacking innovation,” or “slow to change,” but these descriptions do not apply due to a strong leadership team that “gets it” and puts students first each and every day. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and look forward to the road ahead. For love of a job my life is forever transformed.

Overcoming Inertia Through Exercise

Bike ride

We are now in February and the revelry of New Year’s Eve is long forgotten. Gone for many are the resolutions we made about stopping “this” or doing more of “that.” This morning I found myself staring out into the cold, wet morning and thinking, “Should I ride my bike?” Thankfully I made the right decision and hopped aboard my bicycle to venture out for an invigorating ride.

Are you putting off eating right, sleeping, and exercising regularly because you’re too busy? Sometimes it really is simply a case of overcoming inertia. As Sir Issac Newton said, “an object at rest tends to stay rest.” Likewise an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Those first few sit ups, push ups, walking steps, or weights lifted can take the most effort, but the payoff can be enormous and once you get going it becomes much easier. Invest in your mental health, business, family, and overall well being. If you’re feeling stuck in life then exercise can be part of the antidote. Join me in taking those first few steps. Reader, hold me accountable and keep me going. Forward.

Listen for the Answers


It’s that time of year when we start on our New Year’s resolutions and then proceed to break them. People are busy glancing at their Fitbits and other wearable devices as they race to their next meeting. I invite you to consider sticking with two things, active listening and reflection. We easily get caught up in the day to day management of our businesses, families, community activities, and an assortment of commitments. It’s important to take a deep breath and remember the value of simply listening and making time for reflection.

Are you struggling to understand your customers? Is your nonprofit or for profit organization not sure what direction to head in next? Do you struggle with communication with your spouse, friends, and coworkers? Do you talk too much?

Simply listen, really listen to what those around you are saying. Sit down with individuals and don’t make assumptions. Share surveys if you need the input of a larger group. Then take some time to pause, reflect, and “chew on” what you are in hearing. Be able to reflect back what you are hearing and make sure that you understand everything that those around you are sharing. One of the biggest frustrations that loved ones, employees, and clients deal with is the feeling of not being heard. A recent article in a major publication talks about someone trying to communicate and yet having the feeling of a “mute button being on.” If you are intentional about listening (rather than talking) and taking the time to reflect on what you have heard then you will accumulate a wealth of valuable information that can be used to problem solve and set a positive course for your business or relationship.

Taking Time to Find Balance


A few more days remain before the start of 2015 and you have been bombarded with self help advice and tips for the new year. I plan to focus on balance and how I spend my time because creating space for balance will support my health, happiness, family, friends AND the growth of my business. How do I find balance in a chaotic world?

1) Take a time audit. Measure how you are spending all of your time. How many hours are you spending on work? What type of work are you spending your time on? How much time do you set aside for personal growth? Time with family and friends? Exercise? Church activities or religious studies?  Where is time well spent and where are your liabilities? Here is one of many time charts available online.

2) Enjoy the moments. Turn off the devices and take time to enjoy the simple joy of being alive and live in the moment with those around you. I will gaze at the stars more, watch the clouds, play “daddy monster” with my children more often, and enjoy the taste of a ripe strawberry. Life is a gift.

3) Take time for silence, prayer, and meditation. I like to move fast and keep a busy schedule and sometimes struggle with focusing on stillness and quiet. I find that I eventually “hit the wall” and “crash” if I don’t take time for rest, silence, prayer, and mindful meditation. I have attended many retreats and felt the most refreshed and reenergized after those retreats that focused on silence and removed the necessity to speak.

4) Create a simple plan for your time based on the results of your time audit. Where would I like to spend more time? Where am I spending too much time or wasting my time (being inefficient or unproductive)? What would I do if I had all the time in the world? What is holding me back from those activities?

5) Say no. It is the hardest word to say for many of us, but it is one of the important and needed words. Doing too much can lead to a host of negative consequences and ultimately does more harm than good for everyone involved. No, I can’t volunteer for that committee, board, project, or wonderful opportunity, but perhaps next year. It is like the family that buys a bigger house to hold more “stuff.” After a few years the family ends up needing an even bigger house.

6) Delegate. Whether it is for work, home, community activities, or other aspects of our life we need to call upon others to help us get the work done. As Sondheim wrote, “No one is alone, truly. Someone is on your side.” If others are not willing to help (especially if it is a volunteer project) then the best and most difficult answer might be to simply say no. We are human beings with limited resources, but together we can make anything happen.

7) Value your time. All too often we fail to adequately value our time both for work and our personal life. What is your time worth? Does the time spent with family and friends have the same value? My wife places the highest value on time spent together and when I don’t value that time then problems arise and our relationship suffers. Consider the value of your time carefully when you say “yes” or “no” to opportunities.

May you enjoy a very happy and healthy New Year!

Crowdfunding to Build Awareness and Capacity

Crowdfunding blog

Many individuals and organizations are now turning to crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for a wide variety of causes and entrepreneurial ideas. There can be a significant upside for using these platforms and tools with different pros and cons associated with each. Crowdfunding serves to not only raise money, but build awareness of your cause or project with individuals who might not otherwise become aware of your efforts. It is an easy, low cost and low risk method for raising funds that can generate a lot of excitement and buzz. However, it can be a frustrating experience as you might have a great idea, but simply aren’t able to generate interest and funding.

Four of the sites are included below, but there are many more. Please comment and share your recommendations for other sites.

In alpha order:

GoFundMe – This site is frequently used for personal charitable projects that might save the home of a loved one, pay for a funeral, or provide medical care for an ill child.

Indiegogo – I was involved in efforts to raise funds for The Artery through this site and found it to be very user-friendly. The option of keeping some of the funds raised if the goal is not met (with a higher administrative cost) is appealing.

Kickstarter – Al Letson, the popular host of State of the Re:Union used this site very effectively in raising funds for a comic book series.

Rocket Hub – The Jacksonville community is using this site to raise funds for an outdoor sculpture of a giraffe to be permanently housed at the Jacksonville Zoo.