Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why three plans?

Why three plans?

Almost everyone knows that before investing in a new business idea it’s not only a good idea to make a plan, in most cases it’s required. But many don’t realize how important it is to have not one but three plans. Instead of “Good, Better and Best” think “Good, Bad and Fantastic."

Good Plan. This is where most planners stop. It lays down the way you believe things can go. It represents the reason you’re considering the idea. You need the Good Plan to decide if your going to risk your money or maybe persuade others to risk theirs.  Then as you move ahead, your plan and its accompanying goals become a guiding star to measure progress and maintain focus.

Bad Plan. All of life involves risk. How about a Bad Plan for things going wrong — a worst case plan? “Why," you ask, "would I plan for failure?” Because you need a Bad Plan to answer the vital question, “Can I stand the loss?” If not, walk away. How much loss is too much is a decision only you can make — but make it an informed one.

Fantastic Plan. Is it possible to have too much success? No. But if the best you can hope for isn’t wonderful, it’s foolish take the risk — and any venture involves risk.

So when that brilliant idea comes to you, think Good, Bad and Fantastic.

And good luck.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Same brother . . . new chapter.

Dear Larry,

All I sought in San Diego was warm weather and sunshine. The week with you and Gretchen brought all that but I hadn't expected the sun to open my eyes to a brilliant discovery. It happened somewhere between Mainly Mozart and Rotary International. 

For more than seven decades, you’ve always been “the smart one.” On more than one occasion I’ve suggested that, while most of us kept our smarts in our heads, you were sitting on yours. But the fact is you have an incredible mind. Which makes your present ills especially sad for me to see. Things that have all your life been second nature are now slipping away. And there’s no realistic expectation of recapturing them.

In spite of these losses I’ve witnessed sweet changes. It may not seem that way to you. Understandably so . . . you have your hands full wrestling with things that most of us take for granted. 
Struggling with simple things as you do must be terribly humbling. But you accept that forced humility with grace. And as you do so, I feel our sibling rivalry melting away and a new closeness taking its place. I hope others also get to know this side of you better.

Perhaps because things that once came easy are now challenging, you’ve become very persistent. Time and again you have something on your mind and spend what must feel like an eternity groping for words. But you persevere and your thoughts come to life – all the more colorful for the expletives NOT deleted.

Expletives aside, you remain sunny. I doubt that I could be at peace if I had to walk in your moccasins. Sure there’s an occasional dammit as you wrestle with a light switch or can’t seem to make a key work. But even then the words seem directed inward and you immediately bounce back to your usual punny self.

A special blessing amid all this loss is Gretchen. Most people would require help simply managing daily routines. Yet she does all that and still finds time to orchestrate a myriad adventures – local and all over the world. And really, after thirty years you're still acting sweet and silly with each other? I'd swear you were newlyweds.

Larry, though years and miles have separated us, I discovered that I want to change that. I want to continue to connect with you as a brother. I know every day brings you challenges. I hope each day also brings you delights. And I hope to share many, many of them with you.

With love,

Friday, February 20, 2015

Am I lucky?


End of story?


Last year the Intruder motorhome I bought kind of fell apart and earned the name In-Turd-er. Bad luck. Right? Not really. Over the next eight months, it was transformed into GrandpaLyle’s Ark. And I love the Ark.

While the In-Turd-er was sidelined, I was fortunate enough to join a Solid Rock Carpenters trip to Guatemala where we built two homes for two families in three days. It was amazing. These were not huts – they had concrete floors, tin roofs, three rooms and electricity.

The real story for me, however, was not in building houses. It was in discovering just how little I knew about myself. Home-building trips are always arduous, involving crowded flights, interminable school bus rides and living accommodations that make primitive camping look like a spa trip.

Day one on the job was simple: level the rocky ground and pour a concrete slab. I’ve done concrete work before – decades ago – and it was hard then. It’s for young, strong, macho dudes. This trip I did my best to keep up with the girls shoveling sand. Right up to the point where one said, “Lyle, you’d better take a break. Your face is beet red.” So I did. For the rest of the day.

After dinner, the team broke up into small groups. Adventurous ones walked into town, some played games, others just sat around talking, a few retired for the night. Instead of acting my age and heading for bed I wandered around hoping to find some “action." 

The best part of my day was yet to come. Kylie, Adrianna, Alex and Matt, all  kids (remember, that’s anyone under 30!), allowed me to join their conversation. It was lively. It was exciting. I was part of the scene – hanging out with "the popular kids.” I felt so young and cool. 

Right up to the moment Kylie asked if she could adopt me as her Grandpa. 

Although I have six grandchildren at home, until then I don't think I really knew what grandpa-ing was. For the remainder of the trip, my newly adopted grandkids included me in everything they did. They patiently nurtured grandpa when aging bones called for a slow-down. Then they just as patiently listened to stories that sent my kids into "yada, yada, yada" mode. They were taking care of me.

The whole scene felt surreal. I didn’t feel old. But I was clearly not one of the kids. Not even one of the parents. I was a grandpa. And it was wonderful. Never again did I have to worry about jousting with the guys to be at the top of the heap. Nor be a superhero to win a girl’s affections. I was cool just for who I was. 

Is that lucky or what?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The busiest airport in the world.

While tooling down the road in GrandpaLyle’s Ark, I thought of Bill Reyer, a dear friend who lives in New York, and how much I thought he would enjoy being on the road like I was.

It wasn't long after that that we talked and I shared these thoughts with him. We rambled on and as our conversations always do, since we’re both pilots the subject inevitably drifted to stories about flying, some factual, some fanciful, most somewhere in between. One of Bill’s favorites is recorded in Flight of Fancy (Hyperion Books, $12.95), the memoir of two New Jersey teens that bought a Piper Cub and flew it from New Jersey to California nearly fifty years ago.

Like those boys, Bill owns a Piper Cub. (For the enthusiasts among you, it’s actually a perfectly restored Super Cub.) And like old guys do, we fantasized what a wonderful trip that would be. The devil in me couldn’t resist taunting him, “You have a Cub, Bill. Instead of being the youngest to make that trip, why not be the oldest?"

Then the brainstorm. For one week every year Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI, becomes the busiest airport in the world. EAA AirVenture, known to everyone simply as Oshkosh, is the SuperBowl of general aviation – everything flying other than airlines and military would be there. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts visit the show every year. A few actually fly in for the festivities and park their planes on the airport grounds. 

GrandpaLyle to Bill: Why not fly your Cub to Oshkosh. That’s almost a cool as flying coast to coast – maybe cooler.

Bill: Harumph. Harumph. What about weather? Where will we stay? Will we have enough fuel? Etc., etc., etc. 

G: Oh, c’mon. The hard part is flying into and out of Oshkosh. And I’ll be right there with you for that part. (I’ve flown into the show before.)

B: Well, maybe if you came to New York and rode with me?

G: (Momentary pause.) You’re on! 

B: What?!

G: I’ll fly to New York and together we’ll fly your Cub to Oshkosh. What could be cooler than that? After the show you drop me off in Chicago then fly home solo. No more talk, it’s a done deal.

B: (Unintelligible grumbling, but I knew I had him.)

Wait a minute. Who had who? What have I done? Although Bill flies regularly, I haven’t been at the controls for years. Everyone says it’s like riding a bicycle – it comes right back to you. 

But it’s not a bicycle. And I haven’t ridden a bicycle in more than fifty years. 

And bicycles don’t have to meet a piece of pavement the size of a postage stamp at 60 miles per hour. Harumph yourself, GrandpaLyle.

More to come . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What’s so hard to take?

On Sunday, January 4, 2015, I launched a three month adventure through the Southwest. While unfortunates in the rest of the country were suffering wintry weather, I would enjoy cactus and sunshine.

CHA Hall of Fame
John and Edna Clapper
Although most of the trip would be at my usual stressful pace of fifty to a hundred miles a day, the first week had to be a no-nonsense run to Anaheim. My parents, John and Edna Clapper, were to be inducted into the Craft and Hobby Association Hall of Fame. In 1951 they started Pack-O-Fun, the first of a family of magazines that still serve crafters worldwide.

For thirty years, Marie and I attended the CHA show every year. And every year we dreamed that we would one day be the old timers strolling through the aisles nodding graciously to newcomers scrambling to get every last order. Missing this trip was not an option. Bentonville to Anaheim would take three days. I allowed a week. 

Traveling in GrandpaLyle’s Ark seems to be an unceasing adventure. Within hours the newly repaired oil leak newly leaked again. A gallon of oil that belonged in the engine now painted the bottom and sides of the Ark. And it was no Van Gogh! Stopping every two hours to add 3-5 quarts of oil, I limped to Mesa, Arizona. At least the weather was warm. 

Yelp and a few phone calls found me in the parking lot of Olson Car Care run by Craig Olson and his sons, Nick and Skyler. As kindly and gently as possible Nick advised me that oil was the least of my problems. Coolant had leaked and the overheated engine had fried gaskets, other meltable parts and maybe the radiator. (At least I didn’t need turn signal fluid!) The parts would be costly, the labor worse and the work would take about a week. But the engine would be like new.

The bright side – I could stay in the Ark while they worked on it. Hey, how bad is this. No hotel rooms or campground fees. I’ll live in my own home. And while the kids are dealing with Chicago highs of minus three, I'll be in Mesa, Arizona, suffering seventy degree temperatures and daily walks to the Cubs spring training camp.

Glad I allowed all that extra time to get to Anaheim. The CHA Event was everything I had hoped. We strolled through the aisles and folks recognized us. We weren’t quite as important as I had dreamed but it was wonderful seeing old friends. And accepting the honor bestowed on my parents was more than I could have hoped.

Olson Car Care team: Craig, Miguel, Nick, Larry and Skyler
Back to Mesa and the grounded Ark. While I was gone, Larry disassembled the engine to send parts out for repair. He also fell off a step and seriously injured his leg. Miguel, an unassuming but very meticulous technician, was to pick up where Larry had left off and reassemble the massive array of parts with no instruction manual . . . and no idea of what Larry's plan was. At one point Miguel lamented, “This is like a puzzle with no picture.” 

One week became three. Larry heroically returned to work and provided clues to the puzzle when needed. Miguel completed the reassembly perfectly. The engine purrs as if it were brand new. And I have a host of new friends at Olson Car Care. 

Marie commented on how well I was taking all this. What was to take? Warm weather? A fabulous time at the CHA Show? Two weeks enjoying Phoenix and its beautiful winter weather? And all the while I was at home . . .  in GrandpaLyle’s Ark.

Life is good. And now I’m On the Road Again . . . AGAIN.