Tag Archives: Authentic

The Nesbitts – A tale of cause and effect

Everyone that hears this story says, “That is so mean…you were picking on your Grandma…How cruel to you guys were to that sweet little lady.” But we weren’t making fun of her or teasing her…well ok maybe a little, but she always loved a good story; she always told a great story. This woman was a fun in a skirt – she personified a good joke. By this time, you have to be wondering what the heck this is all about. My family has an “imaginary family”. Yep you read that correctly an imaginary family, just like the invisible friends of your childhood. We have a whole family that is always around; well we think they are there. Sit back little ones and let me tell you a story.

In a land not so far away…actually it was just Nevada…

At Christmas about 1992, we were all together for dinner and gift exchange when my uncle started talking about Nesbitt’s Orange soda. Gram was listening and asked, “Who are the Nesbitt’s?”

“You remember the Nesbitt’s Gram they lived next door on Airport Road. Sure… remember they had that little black dog.” My cousin quickly replied before anyone could answer her simple question.

“Oh yeah, the Nesbitts… they were such nice people.” Gram said. Voila! The Nesbitts were born. We all started to laugh and joke about our new family. The conversation was about orange soda, not a household with a little black dog. It was just a quick smart-aleck response from my cousin that started the whole thing. For the rest of that evening we laughed about these Nesbitt people.

To some this may seem cruel, but you have to understand she taught us to be like this. Her sense of humor, her cute sayings, and those fun grandma attributes were successfully transferred to all of us. This is the lady that would put salt in the sugar bowl on April Fools Day. She would wrap up a rubber chicken for Christmas and pass it around. She was always ready with a little song, a tongue twister, some saying from the old country, or a story. On trips with friends, she would replace the toilet paper in the hotel with crinoline. This stuff presents as toilet paper, but it is a stiff material used in drapery making that doesn’t tear very easily. She was famous for putting dummies on the toilet for unsuspecting newlyweds to find upon returning from their honeymoon. So, this kind of teasing and joking was par for the course when it comes to Gram.

Very soon, these Nesbitts seemed to come up in conversation every now and then, usually as a comical scapegoat. “Those darn Nesbitts were in charge of that and they flaked.” And the blame would fall on them. When one of the cousins got married, a present from the Nesbitts appeared at the reception. The family of the groom was trying to figure out the story and find out who these people were, but to no avail. And when the newest member to our family tried to explain it to his family what the scoop was they only answered with, “…they have a what? …An imaginary family? Scott do you know what you are marrying into here? These people are crazy.” Well we really aren’t we just know how to have a good time and enjoy the fun the Nesbitts have created for us.

As a joke, I sent out Christmas cards (that I had purchased) to everyone in the family from the Nesbitts. This first mailing was to eight homes. My sister-in-law called my mom to ask, “Do we really know someone named Nesbitt?” Everyone had a great laugh at Christmas. The list grew by two or three over the next few years. These store bought Christmas cards got boring so one year I wrote a Nesbitt Family Christmas letter that told everything about the Nesbitts over the previous year. This was based on some exaggerated events that happened in our family and some things that were just made up to add to the levity. Everyone loved the letter. That year also debuted the Nesbitts return address stamp. The mailing list has increased to about 80 people.

One year we found a bunch of old family pictures in Grandma’s stuff, but we could only identify about half of the people. So we started joking that those mystery people were obviously…who else but …the Nesbitts. We pasted these into an album and created stories about each one to keep the “posterity” of the Nesbitt family intact. Those Nesbitts are such nice people.

A friend of the family was driving through Kansas where some of our relatives live (real ones this time). So, we asked her to deliver the photo album to them as a joke. A friend, Jolene, took the album and walked into Bill’s office. As he looked up she asked, “Are you Bill?” His affirmative answer prompted the response, “Well I am Sara Lee Nesbitt and I this is for you.” She dropped the album on his desk and turned to walk out.

“Wait! What? Where? Who? Who gave you this book?” Bill said as he sat there with a surprised look on his face. Jolene told him she was asked to deliver it and that he would know what it was all about. Bill called us shortly after that to tell us the story and laugh about the Nesbitts.

The crazy part (as if something this crazy can get any nuttier) is that now the Nesbitts are getting return mail from other families at Christmas. And they have received a few postcards from as far away as Spain and London from friends (real ones) who have gone on vacation. Thankfully, the IRS has not tried to levy any taxes yet, but who knows what could happen.

Our Grandma, a lady who loved fun, inspired this nutty Nesbitt family. She didn’t know about her creation at the time, but I am sure she is there now with us every time we speak of the Nesbitts. In many ways, this has kept her memories alive and very active in our family life. That little bit of teasing has become a fond and funny was of memorializing a very funny lady.

We learned many things from my grandma – caring for each other, how to love and be loved, and how to “make fun out of your work” or most things. Along our journey, each of us will create an identity for ourselves throughout life. That little dash between the date of birth and the date of death packs quite a wallop, there’s a whole lot of stuff wrapped up in that tiny mark. Our identity, and the stories of our ability, can last long after we are gone. Think about those people in your life that have passed on, they still have an energy that survives on in perpetuity.

The person may be gone, but what they created and how they are remembered will last for much longer. The same, obviously, is true for all of us. We have the ability to use our powers for good and create a legacy. In addition to honing our own brand, others may attach their perspective to our actions, ability, and leadership. The trick is to maintain the projection of our brand, our message, and our image.

This is the time of year to remember traditions and prepare resolutions for the future. Think for a moment about your inner Nesbitt, the combination of what you think you are, what others think you are, and how the stories come together. This inner Nesbitt relates to who we want to be (cause) and who we are (effect).

What are your abilities? What are your strengths? From whence did they come? This raw ability, or the multiplicity of abilities, is up to each of us to mold and form. 2015 will be here soon…lean in, lead on, and develop your abilities.


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What I did on my summer vacation

The cycle continues this week with the autumnal equinox marking the end of the summer season. My summer plans started out fairly consistent with previous summers – teaching summer school, hitting selected Chicago street festivals, a trip or 2, and hanging out with friends. I headed west to Reno for some family time and a couple of weddings. What I did on my summer vacation turn out much different than anticipated, it lasted 54 days in total.

Wedding plans were right on schedule. Those ‘save the date’ cards actually work. I even went to a bonus wedding for a high school friend. I celebrated a few birthdays out west as well, mine included. There was a great reunion with some friends that included a going away party for their daughter as she moved to Portland, OR. And, the unexpected…I attended two funerals while I was home. The first was for my aunt’s sister. Finally, the biggest event of my whole summer was the funeral for my mom.

Yeah, how is that for a speed bump? This was moving along so smoothly too. When last we met I told a couple of stories about being with my mom over the summer. However, the fog from her Alzheimer’s disease turned from her state of confusion and a stunted life trajectory to mine. But, I don’t want to go there, at the moment. I want to wander through a few things I realized about my mom, my family, and me over the summer. It has been a month since we were surrounding her with love and support as she made her final transition. I have to believe she is in a better “frame of mind” now than she had been in for the last few years of her life, and definitely her last month.

Let’s start with gratitude. Speed bump number two, or yet another 90-degree turn on this little journey I am leading you through. It gives me extreme peace to know that she is not struggling anymore. Her final words to me were “Good night, Rich.” This didn’t occur on the night she died, but it was this summer. Nevertheless, she told me good night AND she said my name. Metaphorically I look at this interaction as her goodbye and a verbal hug acknowledging our relationship. The more heartbreaking of our visits was just after that good night during some alone time between us. I was talking; she was nonverbal for the last month. THEN… she looked at me with a smile in her eyes, she was smiling, her energy was just like so many of the great times we had throughout my life – we were together and we were smiling. That 3-seconds was fleeting. She started to cry. It wasn’t just tears, it was a sad upset crying. It was an “I think I am leaving,” crying. Thankfully that turned quickly to blank again and then I was the one crying. When I think of her death, those 6-seconds help to remind me she is not hurting. Back to gratitude – I spent most of the summer with her and working on her behalf. I got to be there to do my part to help my dad and brothers as the family administrator guy. I got to spend time with mom. I had 3 amazing (all things are relative) moments with my mom. I miss her so damn much. I am not sure how or when this “fog” I am in will lift…but they tell me it gets easier.

There are many great stories I could share. These help us remember what the treasure my Mom is…I guess I should say was now, but I think I’ll keep the present tense for now. In my world she is a treasure. One I will treasure in real time forever. Over the summer I had many conversations with people about her. I started to keep a list of what was said. In a quick, quasi qualitative research approach I noticed themes – kindest, sweetest, nicest, a lovely lady, a special bond between us, warm, talented, classical grandma, loving, laughing, patient, special lady, the word favorite is often attributed to her… Someone told me that she was a gentle giant, the person that never really jumped to the lead role (although she could do it, and she did lead) she was always the one you could count on to be there and provide support. Her Karma bank was always overflowing with simplicity, love and a smile. There are a couple of books, Quiet and Quiet Influence, about the leadership qualities of the introvert. My mom was in her own class. She was an extroverted Introvert or the introverted Extrovert; loved to be with people and part of the action. She was on the quiet side. In Emergenetics© terms (I never tested her, damn!) she had to be a second third Expressive and a first third Assertive. I am sure she was a third third flexible, holy decisions batman. Her leadership style was that of an influencer with a quiet determination.

In my earlier research on leadership one of the themes we found was – Legacy/Lasting Difference. The interviewed leaders said this legacy piece was something that one didn’t set out to do, but it was nice when you are remembered for something. When I stood at the funeral to give the eulogy I looked at the church. It was packed, people were standing in the back, and they were in the entryway. Through tears I said my mom was such an understated woman that she would be surprised that so many turned out to honor and celebrate her life and legacy. It was overwhelming and comforting. A recent daily encouragement from my Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist practice said this: “Ultimately, people only die as they have lived.” To die happily is therefore extremely difficult. And since death is the final settlement of accounts for one’s life, it is when our true self comes to the fore…” (Daisaku Ikeda). A packed house honoring her true self seemed appropriate. She was the gentle, quiet leader that was there to provide giant support for others. A legacy of love, support, and care among those she touched in her 70 short (too short) years.

Ability: “Talents, skills, Power or capacity to do.” We all have the ability to lead from the front, the middle, or behind. We all have the ability to leave a legacy and to make a difference for someone/everyone. I knew my mom was an amazing woman that made great (quiet) contributions for the good. What I did on my summer vacation was be there for her, with her, and to see life and purpose through her. Even in her final days and hours she taught me the power of connections and community. Hmmmmm…when the student is ready the teacher arrives. Thanks mom!


Filed under Leadership

Why raw ability?

When I decided to start blogging I had to think of a name that would allow me a little flexibility to think, write, publish, and put myself out into the universe. I also wanted a space that was true to how I thought about my ability and what I think WE all bring to the table.  Yes that proverbial table that doesn’t really exist, but at the same time is a metaphor for so many aspects of our lives – the board table, the conference table, sharing ideas over a meal-table, in a meeting, the classroom table, our kitchen table…in short the metaphorical table of sharing ideas The meta table.

My raw ability

I have some thoughts and things to share.  I think about theory and practice.  I think about the interplay between perfect practice and the theoretical.  One of my strengths is connecting the seemingly unconnected in ways that I think they make sense.  Often times they do make sense, sometimes in the immediate as they leave my mouth or fingers, and sometimes after a bit, more thinking.  One overall name for my blog posts was – I was just sittin here frettin’.  Which maybe a cool post at some point, but it is a little constricting for a whole theme.  It seems rather angstie (is that a word? probably not) as well.  Angst isn’t raw.  Angst is drama. Drama is probably what interrupts action, power, talent, or strengths.

I think.  I am analytical.  I am conceptual.  I am social.  I collect.  I connect.  So, my raw ability connects to my strengths – Strategic, Learner, Input, Context, Intellection, and Ideation.  I like to see where they came from and how they evolve.  The order, pattern, or connections within the chaos of life, sometimes it takes some time to notice.

Others raw abilities

We all have strengths, leadership, thoughts, ideas, and contributions to share at this table.  At times how the group (however that group is constituted) thinks and works together may seem to be at odds with each other.  I think, in general, when people come together they are really trying to propose ideas and suggestions that contribute to making the group better.  That is transformational leadership.  The challenge of working as a team or as a unit for a common purpose for the sake of collaboration can sometimes seem messy.  Periodically different thinking seems to be at odds and may contribute to the storming part of group dynamics.  However, it doesn’t dismiss the ability of any, or all, of the people working together.

So this means

Ability connects directly to our personal power and the capacity to do what we intend.   Raw ability is the culmination of the gifts we all have and bring to the table.  Raw ability is about the mix of talents in an organization, leader group, business setting, or team.  The feedback we get from others in these groups contributes to a better understanding of our own raw talents.  This will be refined and presented later in life, at the next table; it is the cumulative effect of which we are… a personal evolution, maybe a personal revolution (depending on the feedback of course).

What are your raw abilities?  What do you bring to the table?

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