Review of The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford

The Trusted AdvisorOn Tuesday of last week, I was exchanging some emails with a person who has done some awesome things in her career, and I asked her if there were any subjects or books she recommended I study. She wrote back that The Trusted Advisor had recently been recommended to her, and while she hadn’t gotten far into it yet, it might be worth taking a look. The book took only a few seconds to download on Kindle and only a few hours to read, and I think it was worth the time invested.

The three men who collaborated on this book write that the lessons they’re sharing were hard won through years of making mistakes and doing things the wrong way. They’re all very successful in their careers as speakers, advisors, and consultants, but they got that way by attending the school of hard knocks, and their book The Trusted Advisor is full of both great recommendations to help the reader avoid making those mistakes and also stories of how they offended or alienated people and lost business because of it. The combination of good advice with examples of what happens when you say the wrong thing is very effective.

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If a body catch a body

I hung out with a friend at the Mudlounge tonight who I haven’t seen since high school. Later, I considered how wonderful the conversation was and how good it was to talk with her, and then realized that as good a time as it was, that conversation could never happen again. This catching-up, this was the only shot we had at it. Next time we talk, we’ll have done all the catching up, and have to come up with new topics. It won’t be the same.

But I’m happy. I’m so damned happy, because my life is fantastic. God has blessed us greatly, we have a beautiful home, I’m crazy in love with my wife…

Tomorrow, we’re having Emily Manck over for lunch, so I had to go to Wal-Mart after leaving the Mudlounge to get a few things. After coming home and putting them away, I still wasn’t tired, so I went for a walk in the park. It’s pretty, and awesome, and empty because it’s so late at night. The tennis courts are nice, and I’m going to propose to April that we have super-late-night tennis matches very soon (before it gets too cold).

I sat on a wall and talked to God. I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian Mysticism for the last… well, somewhat since I became Christian, but really for the last six months or so. I think I’m drawing closer to some sort of realization about our place in the world, or at least mine. About my body and its place in the world. About the nature of worship and interaction with the Holy Spirit. Dave Gill, we need to have a long conversation sometime about worship (it feels like I’ve said that phrase at least 3-4 times so far in the last two years).


Housewarming Party Photos

Note: I’ve closed the massive photo gallery once hosted at SilverPen of well over 3,000 images we had taken and uploaded. We’ll continue to maintain a smaller set of public photos on Flickr, but will reserve the local photo gallery for our backups and friends/family who want to see more images.

I finally remembered to upload these (since we got Internet access last Wednesday night). Our housewarming party was a huge success; we had a great turnout, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Grilling was fun, and the food turned out well, though I certainly had a few lessons to learn about the process! I think I used about 3 times the amount of charcoal I needed.

We had about 20-21 people show up over the course of the 6+ hour party. All we supplied were hamburgers, buns, some condiments, and some drinks, and we asked people to bring whatever else they wanted. We ended up grilling some bison burgers, tofu burgers, Brian sautéed some mushrooms, and had an assortment of other things to eat and drink. In addition, since my birthday was the following week, April got me an ice cream cake ^.^

To celebrate, I bought some cigars, which we smoked on the front porch. Thanks to the wonder of foresight, I also bought some pipe tobacco; we didn’t have enough cigars for everybody (only 8-10 people had RSVPed, lol), but those who wanted to indulge were able. Brian won the contest for the longest ash, and Wacey got to enjoy the wonder that is Landshark (pipe tobacco available at Just For Him here in Springfield).

We ended the night with a 14-person game of Apples to Apples, which is always great at parties because you can have a virtually unlimited number of people playing. We didn’t start the game until around 11 p.m., and most of the group left after the first game. We only had 6 people for the second game, and finished around 12:30 a.m., at which point we were all pretty wiped out.

Thank you to everyone who came, and if you couldn’t make it, don’t worry, we’ll have another party of epic proportions just as soon as we can! Due to our schedule this semester, I think our next opportunity for a giant party of awesomeness +11 will probably be in December, probably just before the end of the semester. Mark it on your calendars and, until then, feel free to marvel at the photos (link below to the gallery). Thanks for making it a wonderful party and warming our home with your presence.

We’re still friends

As a newly married, self-analyzing, overly-introspective couple, April and I often find ourselves examining our relationship and comparing it both to other couples we know and to the general stereotypes of similar (monogamous) relationships. Our feeling is that our relationship is fairly atypical, and what works for us doesn’t necessarily work for other people. How we comported ourselves prior to marriage probably wouldn’t work for most couples, and our marriage has thus far been remarkably blessed. We still have issues, but I ask that you take what I’m about to write with a grain of salt. I’m presenting this as how I think things should be, but I don’t pretend to speak for all guys or all couples. You know your friends better than I do, so your best bet is to simply ask them.

However, I was asked, and this is my response. My friendships with members of the opposite sex have changed drastically since April and I first started dating almost three years ago, though I didn’t even realize this until after we were engaged. Prior to formalizing our relationship, the vast majority of my friends were female. I spent probably 90% of my social time with females, and felt somewhat alienated from my own sex due a lack of common interests. Every college ministry male-bonding social event revolved around sports in some fashion: watching a basketball game, playing touch football, playing basketball, going hiking, going “floating,” going rock climbing, etc. I like to read, drink coffee, converse, and write, and I’m not terribly athletic, nor do I desire to be. Women made better conversation partners, so it was with women that I spent most of my social time.

However, I met a girl at FnC soon after April and I were engaged and, after a few conversations with her in that context, I realized that I was treating her differently than I would have prior to dating April. I hadn’t suggested we get together and hang out, and I’d remained more emotionally distant than I would have done previously. I was guarding myself somewhat because I was already committed to a person.

This only had to do with a new relationship, though. As I analyzed my behaviour and motivations, I realized that the changes I was making regarding the opposite sex only applied to meeting new people. There is the potential that these changes had less to do with being in a relationship and were motivated more by the fact that I simply had less time to invest in friendships that might not last. With both males and females, I am more jealous of my time now due to my tight schedule.

Old friendships did not change for me, and this has a great deal to do with mine and April’s relationship. We trust each other completely and there are no jealousy issues. I can spend time with my friends without her worrying about my fidelity or loyalty, and vice versa. Some women worry that their guy is looking for something in those friendships, but April knows that she’s my priority.

Michelle asked what the mysterious line is between a married man and a single woman, and I think that depends on the individuals in question. But for me and my old friends, I don’t see a line. Our relationship is exactly the same as it was when I was single.

That’s pretty much the answer to Michelle’s question in a single, tiny paragraph at the end of a long, introductory ramble. Now that the floodgate’s open, though, I want to write more on this topic, but I’ll break it out over a few days so as to not overwhelm my readers. Next I hope to evaluate more why my relationships with older friends remain unchanged, followed by how a married man should behave regarding making new friends of the opposite gender.

Also, just as a sidenote for those of you who managed to read this far, April and I are planning on writing a book on marriage. As that begins development, a new blog will begin and there will be a tab for it along the top, just like there is now for stories and poetry. Since I’m starting to write these things, that might show up in a week or two.

Just another pretty face

Cross-posted from FnC College Ministries

My senior year of high school, particularly the latter half of it, was filled with meetings and obligations, ceremonies and hand-shaking. There’s a lot going on for most seniors, but between Speech & Debate, National Honours Society, running computer technical support at our school, having to both set up for and then attend these events, Baccalaureate, a slew of other things… I was busy, a new Christian to boot, and working hard to retain my priorities. I’d always put people first (and grades nearing last), so it was no surprise that I was late for a senior banquet honouring Speech & Debate students because I was talking on the phone with an old friend. When I did arrive (just a minute or so before the formal beginning), Danny Haase, the preeminent senior on the squad, asked where I’d been. “Talking to a girl,” I replied, and he paused for a moment. “Yes, that about sums up your Speech career,” he said.

It didn’t really hit me until a conversation with Ryan a few months ago that I was, apparently, something of a lady’s man. We were talking about life experience, both in travel and dating, and as I talked about my various relationships, I realized that I’d had quite a few. All these names and faces, all these memories, all the drama coupled with a lot of good times. Few of these relationships were serious, but there were a lot of them, and I was startled by the fact. I had always viewed myself as a lonely nerd, both misunderstood and misunderstanding.

Despite my confused perceptions about myself, some very valuable lessons came out of my high school relational experiences. In a conversation with a good friend of mine several years ago, we were discussing what we found attractive in women. I’d had dozens of relationships and he’d been dating a girl for a year or two who was smart and very attractive, though somewhat clingy. When we both looked around a room, we might notice who the most attractive women were, but we didn’t care a whole lot. We’d note them, but we wouldn’t stare. “She’s just another pretty face,” he’d say. “Just like all the others.”

Of course, the implication (which you might not derive from these words, but I assure you was the case) was that, until you got to know someone, their physical beauty was relatively insignificant. We’d both dated, known, or had some level of relationship with a bevy of beautiful women, and it didn’t impress us anymore. Who cares about physical beauty if you can’t have a good conversation?

This morning when I signed onto Facebook, I saw some new photos of a Christian girl I know who is also a model. I’ve known some very awesome models before, but I have trouble respecting this girl after seeing the type of life she leads: jetting around the world, wearing very little clothing, dozens of guys hanging off her and, essentially, throwing herself at the highest bidder. In the same way that I have trouble understanding how a Christian can be a politician, I have trouble understanding Christian models. Even so, I know it’s possible… but when you embrace the lifestyle so completely (for a politician, by lying, cheating, and double-dealing; for a model, by wantonly throwing money around, giving in completely to vanity, and essentially selling your body to be idolized), I lose all respect for that person.

It makes me sad, but she’s become just another pretty face.

MySpace is CrrrrrrrR-azy

I decided tonight to see how many of the people I graduated with (Hillcrest High, class of 2003) have MySpace pages. Specifically, I was looking for my old friend [Matt] Wilson from whom I haven’t heard in years. I tried to catch him on instant messenger once and I mailed him a wedding invitation, but since he attended a Christmas party I held in 2004, I haven’t seen/heard from him.

What surprised me is that there are not only eleven pages of people I graduated with, but that I have no idea who most of them are.

I neither recognize nor really know who 90% of those people were. Is it that my old friends are of a different, non-MySpacey demographic? Conversely, perhaps my memory is just that bad and/or I’m a jerk who doesn’t remember people.

I’ve never done anything with MySpace beyond making a profile and typing a brief paragraph about me (ending with a link to this site), nor do I intend to now. MySpace is one of the worst designed websites I’ve ever seen, and I can’t stand working with it. But the ability to connect with old friends (particularly if it can get me back in touch with Wilson) is really valuable.

In other news, I’ve spent some time this week writing emails to people and keeping up with my correspondence. I’m going to start developing an online presence more like I had a few years ago, if for no other reason than to read more (and more diverse) work than I have been recently. I’ve already been subscribing to some poetry LiveJournals, which has been really good, and I look forward to connecting with a network of writers in the near (3-6 months) future. I need to get back out there and both talking to writers and writing.

I don’t think I can do it

I’ve been DMing (being the dungeon master for a game of Dungeons & Dragons) for around 7 years solid now, and I’ve been playing D&D for closer to 10 years. With Cody having moved to Florida, that puts our gaming group at 2 players and 1 DM, which just isn’t feasible for a good game, so I pretty much called it and decided not to run a game anymore. But I don’t know that I can do it. As I start to get back to work on my own creative projects, I think about how great they would be as a campaign setting. How I could get back to D&D the way it was when we  first started, before I bought the fancy campaign settings and we got the expansion books, back before everything got so complicated. Back to having one set of dice, some graph paper, a notebook, and our imaginations. No fancy pre-printed maps or campaign settings, no certificates and fake licenses, just straight-up, old school D&D.

It’d be a few months before I can be ready to start a new game with a new world, but I’m thinking about it. Maybe try and find some new/additional people to join in, run it either at Metagames or our apartment (which is feeling increasingly cramped), and just get back to basics. I just wish I knew people to invite (that I really liked). I don’t want to put an ad out and get some random person who’s a jerk, but the few people I know who game either already have a group or I don’t actually want to game with them. That or they’re too busy as it is.

We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited about the thoughts I’m developing regarding the world I’m building. It’s classic, but different, with some intriguing twists. I really need to get some more work done on it tonight or tomorrow night if things aren’t too busy, but I also need to start reading the next book for my mythology class, and my second block class starts next week. And there’s still work all day and FnC 3-4 nights a week. In the little off-time I have, it’s hard to force myself to sit down and do more work, however enjoyable it may be… I really look forward to this summer and dropping some of my current workload so I can work on other stuff that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

Partied out

Cody left this morning for Fullsail, but we’ve spent the last several nights celebrating his friendship. It’s weird… he’s probably going to be back over Spring Break, so it’s not like we’re never going to see him again, but it was still a powerful, momentous thing. It’s the ending of an era. Of my group of five guy friends–Shawn, Cody, Wilson, Mike, and myself–there are only two of us left. Two who played D&D in junior high, two that still hang out and talk. Cody’s still part of the group, but he’ll probably never live in Springfield again. After graduating, he’ll get a job at some big computer animation company and live in New York or Chicago or California or Florida.

I’m so proud of him, and so happy for him, but it’s weird to think of Cody not being around any more. We’ve known each other for.. .what, 11 years now? We’ve been playing D&D for about 9. We’ve hung out at least once a week (except for a few cancellations) for the last five years. No more.

April and I have had some sort of social event the last four nights now, I think… I don’t really remember what was going on Saturday night,* maybe nothing, but we definitely had things going on the other three nights. We’re pretty tired, and I’ve still got small group tonight and I’m speaking at FnC (which has a new website) tomorrow night. Wednesday night, I’m putting a bunch of stuff in the car so I can take it to The Kitchen on Thursday for donation. My next big event will be Saturday, when I drive to KC to spend some time with my new brother(s)-in-law and play board games. Should be a lot of fun.

Still, I’m looking forward to resting again… maybe over Spring Break.

*PS (6:03 p.m. 2008-01-28): April has just informed me that we were hosting a going-away/LAN party in Cody’s honour on Saturday night. Somehow, it had slipped my mind… I blame the exhaustion.

What can I write?

Part One

You know how occasionally it is appropriate to say, “Wow, everyone I know is getting married!” You might have heard this phrase before when someone knows 3-5 people who have recently gotten engaged. I’ve been through that a couple of times, and almost a year ago I was one of those 3-5, which was kind of cool. I guess now that’s run it’s course.

Man, everyone I know is getting divorced.

What happened to us? To the people I knew in high school? My first response was, “What were they thinking?” Not just with the divorce, as sad as that is, but I knew when they got married that they weren’t right for each other. Were they just in love with the idea of being in love? With the idea of being married? Did they not realize how hard it would be, or what sacrifice it would demand of them? Thank God the couples I know currently getting divorced haven’t had children yet, but it’s still heartbreaking. And for one of the couples, it’s completely out of left field for me. I thought they were fantastic, one of those perfect couples. They seemed so good together…

Part Two

The last two weeks have beget a great deal of melancholy and emoness. I don’t know if it was a holdover from the holidays or what, but I’ve thought a lot about people who are no longer in my life. Relationships that ended, friends who either drifted away or tore themselves forcibly from my life, loved ones who have died, people I was once close to who seem to have just fallen off the face of the earth…

Last week, I wrote a letter to a girl I knew several years ago named Neci. When Mike ditched us on the bills and moved out without forewarning, I started looking for a new roommate to fill the third room of our townhouse. Neci was one of the few who responded to our flyers and we were quickly becoming friends. She was seriously considering moving in, but then something happened with her family and she felt the need to return to Arkansas immediately, dropping out of college and leaving everything here behind. The only good, inexpensive means of communication available to us was by paper letter, so we wrote briefly.

That is to say, I wrote her, she wrote back, and over the next six months or so I wrote two more letters. After not hearing from her in that six months, I finally called and, after three attempts, got a hold of her. Turned out she had gotten the letters, she just hadn’t gotten around to writing back.

That was just over two years ago. So much has changed, and I found myself randomly thinking about her last week and wondering how she was, so I wrote. My letter was returned to sender, unable to forward.

Part Three

I still haven’t been able to get in touch with Melvin, the father of the family who originally got me going to church. They meant so much to me towards the end of high school, and I’ve worked so hard to keep in touch with them throughout college. Every time I talk to Melvin, he tells me of how they’ve been thinking about me, or they were talking about me just the other day. Their daughter, Jennifer, and I have been estranged since we graduated for reasons I never quite understood. Now when I call Melvin, I get a disconnected signal at their home and voice mail on their cell. None of my messages have been returned, so I haven’t been able to invite them to my wedding.

I’m hoping it’s a simple matter of them having moved, gotten a new home phone number, maybe gotten a new cell, and having forgotten to call me like they always do. (In the last 5 years, I think Melvin has called me once.) My imagination can’t help but picture worse fates, but it’s usually the simple answer, right? I hope they’re OK.

Part Four

Jesus, I’m glad this posts to LiveJournal. Grab a sticker and label me Eyore.

On the positive front, my bachelor party was awesome. Shawn and Cody pitched in to get me Guitar Hero II, and I borrowed a projector for the night. We hooked mine and Ryan’s Xbox 360s together and the five of us (Cody, Shawn, Ryan, Brian, and myself) played through Halo 3 on Legendary in about 6 hours. There was also some GHII, of course, and some Smash Bros. on Cody’s Gamecube. It was, all-in-all, a very good night. It was also really easy to set up for, so I’m thinking we should make such evenings a semesterly occurrence.

All is not doom and gloom in the world of Matthew. The wedding plans are all but completed, and I’m excited to see them come to fruition. There will be cake. No lie. And I’m looking forward to the holidays, particularly being off work. Life is good with April, classes are over, and I’m happy. In general, things are good.

I want to leave it at that (on a positive note) and come up with something to write on the FnC blog. Check it later for an article on the concept of Us vs. Them.