Snapshots

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In some places right now as I write this, it is already 2014. Here at our house we are about 15 minutes from welcoming a brand new calendar year and I felt it appropriate to reflect on 2013 and look ahead towards the coming year.

2013 started with the first of three job changes throughout the year. I went from the Alumni offices of ORU to the Advancement office of the Executive Vice President and landed in the land of television as the Business Manager for GEB America. All three jobs were within the ORU sphere and I am thankful for each and every role because through each role I was able to create and/or strengthen working relationships, learn fresh lessons, and watch the Lord show Himself strong in my weakness.  I am thankful to get to work with the GEB team and look forward to a great 2014 together!!

I have walked along hand in hand with my wife as she has been endeavoring (very successfully) to complete her Doctoral studies, and it has been a wonderful journey.  I am so blessed to walk out life with my beautiful, smart, talented, and lovely wife, Rebecca Gunn.  2013 was full of firsts for us with our little daughter. She turned major marks of 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and 15 months all within 2013!

Being a daddy has truly added a layer onto what joys and fun truly look like. There is nothing quite like hearing your daughter say “Dada!” and look at you with the cutest smile! There is also nothing like watching the women I married and love, pour herself into our little angel of a girl and love her even more!!

Well, it’s now 2014 as I was writing this (paused for countdown and cheers!) and so as I look towards this new year there are a few things I felt to share.

1. This is a year of health, strength, and growth for me personally. I have begun small steps within 2013 of getting healthier, losing 21lbs from last Christmas to this Christmas, and I am thankful. I will be continuing those and building upon those steps to make larger strides for not just “weight loss” but getting healthier- stronger, more endurance, and able to do the things I am called to do this year. Also it’s not about just physical strength.  Mental and intellectual growth is something I am challenging myself (and any of you reading) to be more intentional about. I want to read at least 12 books this year.

2. This will be a year of many more firsts for our family as we continue to enjoy life with our daughter and I just pray I am giving ear to the wisdom and leading of the Holy Spirit as I lead my family and work with my lovely wife to raise our beautiful daughter.

3. This is a year of connections. I feel like across the personal and business realms for us, this will be a year of long standing relationships.

4. I saved one certain key for last, and that is that my wife will complete her classes for her Doctoral studies and study and take her comprehensive exams. Upon completion of these, she will reach an elite group of those who have not quit their Doctorate and are “A.B.D” or have All But their Dissertation remaining. I am proud of her already and am looking forward to supporting and encouraging her to this wonderful accomplishment. Then we shift gears and do the same thing through the dissertation!!

Thanks for reading. May you have a wonderful and blessed Happy New Year!

In His service,

Stephen Gunn, MBA.

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Keep swimming

There are moments when I look at the clock, and a certain number has been in the time as I viewed it throughout the day.  For instance, I have lately seen lots of 9’s …(8:39, 9:19..2:09…)  But one of the times that is stamped in my memory is 2:22.  11 years ago yesterday at 2:22pm, on May 22, 2002, my dad was welcomed into his heavenly mansion to worship the King of Kings for eternity.  As my last post reflects, my dad was an amazing father, leader, husband, and friend.  He was one of my biggest advocates in life to learn and keep doing better for the sake of helping other better.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of a time she was driving from Tulsa back to Kansas City and a torrential downpour of a storm camped out on that highway her whole drive home.  A group of our friends had all been together and we knew she was driving back and we told her we would pray for her.  I had a momentarily humorous thought of Dori from Finding Nemo and her “Just keep swimming” phrase.  So I texted my friend just to encourage her to press through the storm, don’t lose sight of the end goal, and know that friends are praying.  But I didn’t say that. My text read simply.. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” Now my understanding is that my friend began to laugh out loud and nearly sang that the whole way through the rainy, tense, and dark drive back to Kansas City.  I am glad to know the moment of clarity and humor that was in my mind translated well to my friend and it helped get her though that time.

Prior to my dad passing, and since then, I have lost far too many friends and relatives.  Some of those key losses were my best friend since 6th grade dying in a car accident my senior year of high school, my grand father and grand mother (my dad’s parents) passed away a handful of years apart,  my grandmother (mom’s mom) fighting the battle against cancer, my wife’s grandmother fighting the battle against cancer, and my friends dying in a plane crash.  These were all between when I was 18 and 32.  I have allowed myself to deal with the loss, to truly mourn the loss of a loved one, with the realization that life for them is far better now but we are left to deal with the loss here in our humanness.

I thought about this yesterday and today and how have I “made it through” those hard times.  Here are some truths I operate under:

  1. God is a good god. (Psalm 107:1)
  2. The devil is the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10a)
  3. Jesus came that I might have everlasting life. (John 10:10b)
  4. I will see those loved ones again who also believe in #1-3.
  5. God places people around to support and encourage. (Prov. 11:14)
  6. It’s okay to cry…even as a guy…and it’s okay for everyone to miss people.
  7. Joy..true joy, not happiness, but joy does come in the morning. (Psalm 30:11, Psalm 126:5, Psalm 92:4)

I could make other items on a list, but the point was to have key takeaways so as a reader it can help you. It helps me just to write it again, to see once again what I know.  It is different though to know something and to Know something.  Head knowledge and heart knowledge are two different things. So, how did I make it through?  I just kept swimming.  When the waves of memories came all around me and at the moment it did not seem like sunlight was coming…I just kept swimming.  And when i did not have any strength to swim any more…I fell in His arms and trusted that He always cares for me and upholds me.  And then, once I regained strength through Him, I got back up and kept swimming.

In light of the recent loss of so many lives in the Moore and Shawnee Oklahoma communities, my heart goes out to them for the sudden loss of lives and of safety.  I can’t say I have been through that kind of loss. A pet peeve of mine is when people say the cliche “Oh I know how that must be…” Really? NO YOU CAN’T! The only person who knows how they have experienced something..is them!  So, let me just say in the midst of the loss, as people surround you and maybe someone you know lives there. (My sister in law was less than 2 miles from where the EF5 hit in Moore)  Remember in all things, refer to the list above, and ..Just keep swimming!  And if you can’t swim..let the only one who can truly provide peace and strength hold you and carry you through the waters until you can get back out and keep swimming.

Through Father’s Eyes

It was a brisk morning in the valley. Fog rolled over the winding river. The river cut through the quiet Missouri valley air as the sun crept down the mountain side. Nestled right in between two rolling mountains was a camp site with a couple dozen tents beginning to breathe with the movement of the awakening residents preparing for a day yet to unfold.

Along the fog kissed river were a handful of eager anglers hoping to snag the first catch for their sleepily stirring families peaking out of the tents. In one tent was a father and son waking after a dusk arrival following the thrilling drive in from Oklahoma the prior night. In the campsite adjacent to them was a family from a little further down the highway in Oklahoma as well.

Today was trout fishing day! Of course, most campers who chose to come to this area certainly had the expectations of trying to catch some trout as they endeavored into the icy waters. However it was a first time for the young man of the Father / Son duo.

Having historically fished from boats and along river and lake banks, no waders were packed. By all reasonable contexts, how cold could that water really be right? After all, it was Summer in Missouri. After getting up and into some truly rookie-level river fishing attire, they began the highly anticipated trot across the field to the river, fish poles in one hand, and tackle boxes in the other. Upon arriving at the river bank, a sharp temperature change was tangible and only added to the excitement. As they slipped off their flip flops and slipped on their “river shoes” something told them that this water might be a little cooler than they thought. Nope, it was WAY colder than they thought! Upon slipping their feet into the rippling water, the painful cold hit their ankles. The adrenaline from the excitement was enough to subside the nerve signals saying “THIS IS COLD.” So, they ventured in to where the water was up to their knees and found two good spots to cast out and try for some trout. After about 5 minutes of casting the young man spotted an island of sorts within the rock-bottom river bed that kept the water to calve level but it was a little further out in the middle, so they crept through the cold White River water and found a nice perch to fish from. In between the hunt for the right fish, they would walk back to shore after about 20 minutes of the cold water fishing. After about an hour of no fish, they decided to call it a day. When they arrived back to camp, their feet began to have feeling in them again as the numbness from the cold water subsided. As they got a fire built up for some warmth, the fellow Oklahoma based neighbors had apparently had a much better success at the fishing and were cooking up some lightly battered, and slight trout. They had so much they shared with the two as they shared stories. Both of the young men from either family played baseball and were going to college not too far from each other. It made for a great start to the day. The rest of the camping trip was uphill from there! Hiking, tossing the ball, canoe trip, and enjoying the wonderful outdoors. This was really a week to remember!

 

And I have remembered it, as that was about 15 years ago with my dad and I as we had a week I will never forget. Yesterday my dad would have been 64. He is counting time with a new perspective now as he worships around the throne of heaven, as he has been doing for nearly 11 years. My dad was my hero in so many ways and he gave me attention with action and with word. He showed me love with action and with word. He showed me correction with word and action, like how to throw a baseball the right way so it hits your target right in the glove. So, here’s to my dad, the father, friend, leader, and mentor who I thank God for as I raise my beautiful baby girl. She is over 6 months old now and yes I wish my dad could hold her in his arms and she could pull on grandpa’s beard. That said, I also am thankful, grateful, and even humbled that I had such an amazing father to learn from. Happy Birthday dad.

Sunset

Perspective

Perspective

Perspective

One of Steve Jobs top quotes. It reminds me of a good discussion we had in one of our MBA classes about CD’s. Jobs and Apple had the right perspective on being in the right industry. He revolutionized the way we as a society saw music transfer versus just CD’s. If we always purchased the CD’s and “ripped” them into MP3’s that would limit the transfer options. Instead, Apple launched the ITunes Music store and allow people to not just purchase a CD, but purchase by single songs if they so choose.

In current times, while new MP3, audio book stores have emerged, the pricing strategy of Apple still permeates even the song/ album options. Apple released a 3 tier structure in which they have songs at $.69/ $.99/ and $1.29 per song. This is a premium price strategy as the most in demand, popular, and best songs are at the top price point. It maximizes the profit for the most purchased songs and even albums.

So, I ask myself, and those readers out there, do you just want to sell sugared water, or do you want to take the steps and actions necessary to change the world?

Father

As is the case with most people these days, change is a normal, if not daily thing.  I have had the joy of welcoming my first child, a beautiful baby girl into our lives 8 weeks ago.  Having my daughter look into her daddy’s eyes and just stare has shaken me and melted me all at the same time.  I have seen many friends posting in social media a daily thought to be thankful for and I have enjoyed those thoughts.  I am thankful for the joy of being a husband and father and what I think amazes me is how fast these weeks have already gone by.
I hear people say how fast time will go by, and I think although I believe them, I feel like surely it will be different for me.  So, as I acquiesce to the reality that time does indeed go at the same rate, whether we want it to be slower or faster, I have a challenge for myself and anyone who takes the time to read this.  Take time to call up your father, for those who can, or if you are like me, take time to be thankful for the moments and memories you were able to make while with your father.  If you are near your father geographically, take some time and talk with him in person, and stare into his eyes instead of your electronic device.  Pick up the phone and ask him to speak something into your life that only a father can say.

After just returning from a family trip with my wife’s family, I have to say I wish everyone got the chance to spend yearly visits with multi-generations and just talk.  The younger generation is so inclined to plug into some source of controllable input such as an iPhone, iPad, or other smartphone rather than taking time to engage in meaningful conversation with the generations that have lived longer and prior to their earthly existence.  We had in our midst over the holidays the Great-Grandparents all the way to my daughter.   We got to see sights as a family that many people dream of getting to go to just one or two of them..let alone all of them in less than 1 week.

Life is indeed a gift, so let’s take time during this season following Thanksgiving and leading to Christmas to continue in a thankful frame of mind.  Always try to keep the “Thankful Filter” on as you walk through your day.  This can mean the difference in how you deal with a loved one, family member, employee, employer, or friend.  Be the thermostat rather than the thermometer.  Set the atmosphere rather than reflecting it.  Try it leading up to Christmas and let us see the perspective with which we enter 2013.

Daddy and daughter at 4 weeks

Create life

Embryo. Fetus. Baby. Joy of life.
Idea.   Dream.  Life.

As a soon to be father (technically I already am) with the soon coming arrival of a little bundle of joy, I can’t help but think about the amazing reality that a life is formed and completely woven together through the most intricate and astonishing process within a woman. I remember the first sonogram picture and even with just a blip on the screen, seeing that tiny heart beat, there was life!

After many visits since that first one, I marvel each time at the ability of my beautiful wife’s body to support and nurture our little baby along the way. How someone can go through being a father or mother and not know that the Creator God in Heaven is the same one who gives life and is the author of life….well that’s just beyond me. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Our little baby is being fearfully and wonderfully made right now at this very moment. Soon I will get to hold that same baby in my arms and marvel even more at the miracle of life.  In the midst of the planning and waiting I have thought several times about the amazing role model my father was to me as I grew up.  And then I think even further about the heart of The Father and how He continues to lead me and guide me in my steps.  

 

My current place of employment, my alma mater – ORU, has the tag-line “Make No Little Plans Here.” which was something our founder, Oral Roberts said and even had on his desk in a little plaque.  I have huge plans for our little baby and huge dreams for the lives that will be changed because of this little gift that I am waiting to get to meet.  

 

So my challenge to you, the reader, is what little plans have you made?  How can you grow those plans to bigger plans?  What have you settled for and have you gotten the right perspective?  Having a baby on the way can provide great perspective for love and responsibility.  Are you preparing for a “baby” of some sort within your organization?  Is there some plan and dream that needs some attention and nourishment?  

 

The difference within an organization compared to human life is that we as the humans are the one’s who give life to the organization and to the idea.  Your words to your co-worker can create life or destroy.  The way you talk to a direct report can develop their perception of life, leadership, and their dreams.  Cautious response to loaded questions can be the difference in someone’s personal and organizational development.  

Create life and be thankful when we have the opportunity to steward and develop a life, idea, or dream that has been entrusted into our care.

 

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The importance of customer experience

I came across a great article which is an interview with new JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson.  One of the quotes from the interview was in response to a question about the fundamental change that Ron Johnson took regarding the experience customers had shopping at Penney’s and in direct reflection of the discount, sales, and coupons customers have grown so accustomed to with JCP.  Here’s CEO Ron Johnson’s response: “We’re changing our pricing strategy, because we want every day to be a great day to shop, and if you’re designing a new interface designed by its nature, whether it’s a product or an experience, what’s the most important thing it has to have?  It has to have integrity.  If you’re going to build a relationship, you’ve got to have integrity to that.  So it’s hard to have integrity when you artificially mark up products just to mark them down.”
The full article/ interview can be seen at : http://wp.me/pzwtX-o16 

Then I also came across a great article looking at the Marketing towards the Generation Y.  It can be viewed at http://bit.ly/OFbPaT

I find it interesting that Ron Johnson is the same leader who revolutionized the experience within the Apple stores across the globe and now is looking at the retail clothing in a new way.  Through his leadership Apple created the “We’ll set it up” program and drastically cut the set up time of the average Apple customer from 8 days to a matter of minutes within the store.  Now he has taken a look at the concept of the experience for customers in JCP.  For instance, JCP will be rolling out the Jeans store within the JCP stores across the nation.  Recognizing the growing need for experience is right in line with the Generation Y article and a strong trend growing within this group of customers.  Here is an excerpt from the Generation Y article:

Everything starts with an Experience
Generation Y is guided by emotions and are more emotional than previous generations. Especially the search for happiness is very important in their lives. (Van den Bergh, Behrer, 2011) Leisure activities such as entertainment, food and drink, and travel must have a strong emotional part so that they can escape the daily reality and relax. The tendency to ‘gamification’, fits perfectly in their lifes. Brands need to challenge their young audiences and present their products as performances or a moment of luxury to escape reality after a hard day’s work.

For those out there making the decisions related to reaching the Gen Y, keep in mind the concepts and thoughts from these two articles and make a difference.

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