Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29, 2008 - I love BBQ

Hey there, hi there and hello there all ... happy almost Independence Day! I'm looking forward to the short work week and the trip back home to try and help the folks over the 4th. (The picture is a salute to the great Cardboard Boat Regatta that will take place during the Freedom Festival festivities now being held over Labor Day).

It was an absolutely fantastic week at Aflac and it went by quite swiftly I must say. We started in on our 2009 business planning this week, which should be an interesting process to go through over the next few months. I also was fortunate to represent our department at a couple very intriguing meetings which included a lengthy formal peer review of a project and an administrative-wide work flow project we're considering. It was pretty interesting to see both IT and the business units' different viewpoints on project allocation and resources, should be fun to watch this one play out. We had a "Lunch and Learn" session with our Sr. Legal VP Joey Loudermilk where he discussed the political ramifications of the election, how Aflac's Political Action Committees (PACs) operate as well as our lobbying efforts. I learned a great deal about the company and how it operates from a political standpoint on certain issues. The best part of the week though had to be all of the interviews I was able to head up for a couple positions in our department. It was myself and another supervisor that ran the show and we had some great candidates ... we're taking a good bit of time because getting the right people on the bus is the biggest part of leadership! (Then we can find out where they sit later, but getting them on is the first step:) O yes, I almost forgot another fun activity at work this week. As my fitness video that I was in has grown in popularity I have been asked to do a variety of interesting things including starring in another video ... a parody of the new movie Get Smart. I was asked to be Maxwell Smart (Steve Carrell) in a video for our associates and let me tell you, it is hilarious. I'm hoping to get my hands on it for your viewing pleasure, but I cannot guarantee any good acting!

Last week's blog was hard to top with the Red Cross check from Aflac and the news that I was invited to be a part of Making it Count, but this past week was wonderful as well. There was all sorts of volunteer time at the Aflac Outdoor Games this weekend. I originally was supposed to work in the kids zone, but they must've heard about my taste testing skills from by General Mills/Betty Crocker Frosting days because I was recruited to work in the BBQ contest tent. Wow, who would've ever thought that there are certified BBQ tasting judges. Some of these folks travel all over the US judging contests and some of the participants go all over the country winning different championships. Since I was not a Kansas City BBQ Certified Judge, all I did the first day was work at the "Grazing Table." Basically, when the judges had taken there share out of the contestant's submission, we would graze on the leftovers ... delish! I've never tasted such good BBQ in my life, but I definitely ate way too much! Sunday was the amateur event where you did not need to be a "Certified" judge, so I was a table captain that got to show off the goods to the judges where they critiqued each entry on appearance, taste and tenderness. I'm still full! I was also able to watch the Aussie lumberjacks chopping wood, the agility dogs and the dock dogs leap into the water ... which was my favorite!

Also, since I spent the time creating the Miss Georgia program, I was given free tickets to the finale. It's not just a beauty contest like I once thought, there were some ridiculously talented girls (none that could parachute out of hot air balloon and quilt at the same time though Jenny:). I've never seen more tap dancing, opera singing and baton twirling in my life but it was pretty crazy ... the fans/parents there were way more intense then a little league soccer tournament, wow! On Friday night Jennelle and I went to a Murder Mystery dinner in town which was my first experience. It was a delicious meal and a funny story set during a picnic where Jennelle ended up being the killer. Some of the folks that were given speaking parts really got into it and it was pretty dern country!

Well I should probably get back to my spring cleaning of clothes and the sort, but I will leave you with a final morsel I learned from Jim Stovall that is very interesting: "In reality, we cannot manage time. It is a constant force in all of our lives. The only thing we can manage is ourselves and how we choose to invest the time we have been given." It's true, we're only given so much time in this world and it's up to us to pursue those things that make us happy and give us the most enjoyment in our life. I've learned that lesson from many people throughout my life, but never been able to put it into words.

So there it is ... be happy in whatever you do, and if you're not ... find something new:) Can't wait to see everyone back home again this week, have a great Independence Day!



Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22, 2008 - Keep on keepin' on

Hey there, hi there and hello there everyone. I trust this last week has been wonderful, but I want to first wish Grandma & Grandpa Seda a happy 51st Anniversary ... holy schnikes. This time last year we were playing on the water slides at Wasserbahn; here's to many more years! Also, I forgot to wish Ryan a happy bday and happy anniversary to Kenny & Diane as well ... hope all was well! Kenny rolls in this week with a birthday as well, what a great couple of weeks!

The ol' Aflac work week flew by pretty quickly last week. We welcomed a new lady to our team, Haleigh Rentz, whom joins us with a great deal of experience and great team attitude. She is going to be a great addition to the team, I can already see her bringing us together even more. There was a lot of whirlwind (everyday activities) this week to get caught up in, but it was necessary. I left on Thursday all jazzed up after I saw everyone on the team piled in a cube figuring out a problem together, it was great ... this is what I got into business for! I was at Aflac for about 15 hours on Wednesday for a training class that went until 10pm, gotta love Root Cause Analysis. It was actually very interesting and should be useful in the job in the near future. We decided to make it a bit fun at work this week though by setting our goals as a team and having "arts & crafts time" to create a team scoreboard. We used construction paper, crayons and even came up with nicknames for everyone but I tell you what it did ... it is helping to make every single one of us accountable for our responsibilities. Whoever said you can't have fun while setting the bar high enough to be successful;) O, and yes we decided to have the theme of American Gladiators as our nicknames ... I am Lazer and the rest of the team is made up of Thunder (John), Tank (Adam), Turbo (Michael) and Helga (Haleigh). We will no longer answer to our birth names, only our Gladiator names ... good way to liven up the bunch.

We had a great SIFErs in Action meeting for those that could make it. I was given the opportunity to provide the "Morsel of Knowledge" which I will share with you later as the week's morsel ... sorry, I'm double dipping morsels. We set a goal for our group of completing 500 hours of community service within the first year of our group and we're well on our way with over 275 logged thus far! I also had another great Young Professionals meeting this week, one of those fancy "have a meeting for another meeting" meetings. The Miss Georgia Program finally came back from print and I helped sell a few over the weekend and they look fantastic if I do say so myself ... there's one thing to check off the bucket list (which I never even knew would make it). The best news of the week though came from the Aflac philanthropy department on Friday. I submitted a proposal to see if Aflac would contribute any corporate funds to the 2008 Flood Relief efforts back home since I could physically not be there to help and they called back on Friday to tell me that they would be making a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross - Grant Wood Area Chapter in Cedar Rapids ... I about fell out of my seat knowing that a company 1,000 miles away would give back, fantacular! I just want to thank everyone back home again for providing me with so many stories of hope throughout this tragedy. It's hard not being able to be there to chip in, but makes me feel great to hear about how everyone is doing what they can to make a difference ... thank you!

Thanks to Dad's reference, I submitted my resume into to become a Making it Count ( public speaker. Just this week, I found out that I was one of 250 out of the > 2,000 applicants selected to be one of their contracted speakers with the opportunity to participate in a training course in Indianapolis, IN. To make a long story short, colleges/high schools request one of many Making it Count programs to be presented at their school (ie: Setting Goals, Making the Most out of College, etc.) free of charge. I will drive there to present a 45-60 minute presentation on a wide array of topics ... and get paid for it, how amazing is that! I have to use my vacation days, but this is something I would love to do in the future, so I guess I'll see how the conference goes beginning of August ... more to come. Had a lot of outside time this weekend by the pool, on the tennis courts and today I was able to play at Grand National golf course in Abalama (that's how they say it in the South). I didn't shoot too bad and I even won a couple of skins ... ok maybe I lost a lot more, but I made a good effort.

This week is going to be a crazy/busy week at work with interviews and planning sessions, but it'll be amazing. I also am going to start moving out of my apartment soon and into a house with a pal of mine, John Mobley in Waverly Hall (close to Columbus). The place is on 18 acres with a pond and lots of land, now if we could just get some snow and a snowmobile it'd be perfect!

I wish everyone back in CR and Iowa the best of luck in the rebuilding of businesses, homes and of our city. I especially can't wait to help out my good pal Victor and Victor's Place! I leave you today with a poem that relates so well with everything that is going on in my life thus far:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

Love them anyway!

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway!

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway!

The good you do today, will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway!
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway!

The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway!

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for underdogs anyway!

What you spend years building up may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway!

People really need help, but will attack you if you help them.

Help them anyway!

Give the world the best you have and it may kick you in the teeth.

Give the world the best you've got anyway!


Nate (ps, thanks for the smiles, freckles and dimple Jenny:)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 15, 2008 - Happy Father's Day & Thoughts and Prayers to all my Family/Friends

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone. Today is a day that I want to thank my dad, my step-dad, grandfathers, uncles and every other father that has had an impact on my life. You have all been there through the thick and thin to guide me to where I am today and I can never say thank you enough!

Also, before I go on I must say God bless to all of my family and friends back in Cedar Rapids. As I sit here in Georgia, pictures cannot explain what you are going through. I can keep myself busy with a hundred different things, but my thoughts never clear of what you are going through. I can sit here and talk about the tragedy of the $700 million in flood damage, the hundreds of families displaced or even the businesses that will never be the same, but I won't. The one thing that makes me most proud to have lived in Iowa my whole life is the mere fact that you're all resilient. Every single time I would call someone from back home I would here of the tragedy, but it would always come back to how they had helped someone. Some of my mentors I've talked to were working the switchboard and helping the Red Cross and National Guard. Jenny just told me she's going to volunteer with her sister on Tuesday which made me smile:) I could never be more proud of my family though for helping so many people ... from serving meals on wheels to serving breakfast to volunteers and housing friends who have been displaced. I've never been more proud of anyone though as I am of my sister. However hard it was that I did not speak with her for four days, every time I knew she was out there helping others and bringing others with in her cause. It tears me up inside knowing that I cannot physically be there to help save the city, but it warms my heart to know that the city is pulling together to help those in need. People down here are talking about how refreshing it is to hear about the volunteer efforts and how there has been no opportunistic crime. I can't imagine how hard it is to be going through this, but I know that you will all pull through and make Cedar Rapids a better place to live even if it takes weeks, months and years. Hopefully I can help in a couple weeks ... God bless!

It was again a crazy/busy work week. Our team is pulling together and have picked up some momentum. We did a presentation for all of the managers in Policy Services on a project and they were elated at the progress. The team has been attempting to document the current processes since its inception over a year ago and we finally have just decided to bear down and git ir done ... everyone seems pretty excited. Then I had one of the most amazing employee learning experiences when some folks from FranklinCovey came in to talk about the "4 Disciplines of Execution." The consultant talked about results, urgency vs. importance and laid out a tried-and-true plan to help organizations execute. It got me so jazzed up that I'm presenting it to the team tomorrow and will hopefully have it implemented in the next week. To give you the gist of it: it narrows your focus down to some Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), helps to create a tactical/measurable plan, forces you to create a team scoreboard (which will be quite creative and hung in our cubicles for all to see) and brings it all together with 20 minute weekly meetings where everyone is held accountable for small action items. I know that was brief, but I'm quite excited to see how it goes! I also had to create an executive summary in crunch time for our VP ... love working under pressure, especially when I had 3 hours and no idea what the project was;) Towards the end of the week I found one of the best guys on my team is being moved which adds to the adage, the only constant is change. Fortunately, we have Haleigh starting tomorrow and it'll give me another opportunity to interview for the position ... everything happens for a reason right Jenny:)?

I've been quite fortunate to have, what I think, is the best mentor at Aflac for the last few months. Joe Smith and I went to a two hour lunch this week and had an amazing conversation. He has provided me with a great deal of guidance and been a wonderful friend through it all. He has challenged me to read quite a bit more and think outside of the box for different situations I've been in. Also at Aflac this week I was able to defend my Toastmasters Table Topics title. During our last meeting a few weeks ago we brought back the traveling trophy for speeches, table topics and evaluators. I took home the first trophy and defended the title after a pretty good laugher where I incorporated the phrase, "sometimes you're the squirrel and sometimes you're the nut."

It was also a pretty solid week on the volunteer side of things. I started off the week with the Young Professional chair/vice-chair meeting. My first duty was the change the fundraising committee to the FUNdraising committee on all official documentation ... yes I know, I'm weird. The first meeting was a good one, now it's time to get things going though, so hopefully we can catch some traction on this initiative. Friday I had another Literacy Alliance board meeting. It was a pretty solid meeting where there was a good bit of heated discussion at times on where the organization should go. I found that some folks had all the ideas in the world, but when it came time to volunteer for sub-committees to attack them they just stood back. I spoke up quite a bit and called out the members to volunteer more of their time if they're going to be on the board, in a more tactful way of course:) I was nominated to head up the Program Committee and prepare a report for the board and be on the Financial Fundraising Committee ... fortunately I was able to take on one, not both ... we'll see how long that lasts. Saturday I rounded up about 12 Aflac folks to help out with Habitat for Humanity (pictured above). Since I can't sandbag, I figured I'd try to help out somewhere. It was a fun time ... SIFErs got to meet some of the new interns and I even got to frame up some doors, good stuff! Today I escorted our Literacy Alliance award winner onto the field of the Columbus Lions arena football game for the coin toss. Shaniqua won a Sylvan learning package and the chance to flip the coin before the game where I represented the Literacy Alliance ... also good times!

We had a rousing SIFE event last night at the Duarte's with a sweaty game of Guesstures ... ok, so maybe I was the only one profusely sweating. It was a great BBQ event though and fun just to hang out with all the people. They were shocked at how much fun they could have without alcohol ... weird how that works:)

Well I guess that brings me to the now and the morsel for the week. I know that Cedar Rapids will recover, no matter how much time it takes and I know this because of what Bernard Williams once said: "Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit." Even though I'm 1,000 miles away, I can feel the spirit and hope that is put forth by the people in the Corridor. Your resilience inspires not just those in your area, but people from all over the world and it is that resilience that will help to rebuild the city to greater heights than it once was! Best of luck and our thoughts/prayers are continually with you.

Thanks again to all the fathers in my life ... for everything!

Alwayz, Nate (ps, I hope this extra picture of Doc makes you smile:)

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 9, 2008 - Congratulations Flugum Family!

Hey there, hi there and hello there all. Many shout-outs are to be had this week including Auntie Anne & Jim's Anniversary and cousin Allison's 18th birthday ... wow, you're getting old! Also, just wanted to say hi to Greg, Carolyn and the kids as I know they were planning on making it down until Mother Nature decided to wash out their driveway; I hope all is getting better back in Iowa as the rain bears down:)

It was a wonderfully short work week for the ol' duck as I was there only Monday and Tuesday last week. I worked on a few projects over the two days of course and then got involved in an administration wide initiative. Basically, we're looking at having all of the different systems "talk" to each different department which would greatly enhance the customer experience! I also had my final one-on-one with one of the team members and I would have to say that the first go round was a success:)

The rest of the week was dedicated to my best pal Ryan Flugum as I prepared to hand him off to Jenna in marriage;) I arrived late Tuesday evening into Shueyville after a wonderful car ride with pops. Steph and I went to Victor's Place for breakfast Wednesday morning and had a great chat before I bought Jenny a gnome and a plant ... what a combo! I visited her and the co-workers at the Marengo Hospital for a couple of hours. I got a thumbs up from the co-workers and the patients. I walked in and handed her the gnome as if I got her that instead of flowers, but then I sprung the volcanic plant on her before I left and she thoroughly enjoyed it ... I think. Wednesday afternoon I hung out with Gump, played with Alfie and went to the terrible Indiana Jones movie. That night we had a triple date at the Irish Democrat with Gump/Jenna, Horman/Jessi and myself/Jenny. It was a great night of cheese wontons and pool! Thursday Jenny delivered one of the most amazing bachelor party boob cakes for Ryan; honey, it was a hit ... and quite delish. About 10 of us joined Ryan at Brown Deere golf course for his bachelor party. After almost hitting his golf coach on the first tee, I settled in and hit my first legitimate birdie and numerous par holes. I shot under 100 and did quite well if I do say so myself. Some pizza at Pagliai's followed before heading over to Schimidt's place for some pre-partying and gift opening ... let's just say, they were amazing! After Flugum put his bell on we all went down to College Street Billiards for some pool and ended the night on the dance floor at the Field House. You know it was a good night because both Horman and Flugum were getting their groove on by the end of the evening. Flugum ended the evening with some of the most amazing conversations, including the following: "Man guys (long pause) I am as thirsty as a coyote." This was followed by a five minute discussion on how coyotes die from thirst ... it was fantacular!

After lunch with Jenny and Tracy, which was scrumptious ... thanks, it was off to the mount to visit old pals. I got to chat with Roy, Dean Castle, Beth Tjelle and a bunch of folks from the admission office. I joined my good pal Sarah Jencks for some wonderful ice cream as well ... good luck with the professional interviewing job;) Friday was of course rehearsal practice/dinner mixed with good times. After Touch of Class we all had some grub at Big D's place in Swisher where my good pal Ryan gave me an amazing pen! After that shin-dig, Jenny joined me at Funkmaster's send-off party before he leaves for Melbourne, FL ... good luck buddy! We saw some classic people including MM, Andy V., McCusker, Wolfy, Joey and many others as I whooped up in some ping-pong. BTW, Jenny passed the test with all I do believe!

Friday I also got to play with the new addition, Doc, our yellow lab (pictures to come in weeks ahead). He is an amazing pup and full of energy as he likes to nibble on my ear.

Saturday I headed down to the Farmer's Market for a Primo Burrito and a visit with Anne King and some other SIFErs ... including Jaynr:) Then it was off to the wedding and one of the greatest weekends in a long time! One minute after some amazing pictures in our sharp get-up it started to pour down rain, 20 minutes before the ceremony. I tell you what, positive thought brought the rain to an end 10 minutes before and it ended up being a perfect outdoor wedding where I signed my best pal's life away to Mrs. Flugum ... I didn't even drop the rings! Plus, I think the flower girl had the hots for me as we came up with our own handshake.

The reception was one of the best I've ever been to, and it all started with a delectable meal. I was fortunate to be able to give a little poetic diddy for Flugum which was tough for me. Then the real fun started as we all cut a rug on the dance floor. The parents got their groove going early and often as I showed Jenny up with my dance moves; yes, I win;) It was great to see all of the old faces and hear how everyone is doing. There were plenty of moves to be seen, but it was hard to say good bye at the end of the night ... I do miss all the great family and friends that joined the festivities a good bit.

Sunday was of course time for brunch at dad's where everyone made the trip down that could. It is always great seeing you all and I appreciate it a great deal!

I had another amazing flight experience that ended up working out quite well. Thanks Jenny for putting up with me throughout the week, I think you passed all of the friend, family and even the Grandpa test:)

Mr. & Mrs. Flugum: I know you are both having a great time in Hawaii right now, but I want to thank you for being the best of friends. I know that you will continue to live, laugh and love for years to come ... I will never forget the good times and look forward to the memories that lie ahead.

For now folks, that's all I've got ... phew, that was a busy week if I do say so myself.

In the words of my good pal Elvis, "Thank you ... thankyouverymuch." You can never say it enough and it doesn't take but a couple of seconds to make some one's day!



Sunday, June 1, 2008

June 1, 2008 - One Week for Gump:)

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone from sunny Columbus, GA where the temperature is in the mid 80's, the Rollerblades are in full swing and the pool is glorious! This is the week we've been waiting for, the Flugum wedding ... very exciting! I can't wait Gump, this will be amazing and in less than a week you'll be married ... holy schnikes;)

Ever have a 4 day work week where it seems like 5-6 days of work got done ... yup, it was one of those jam packed, fun filled and eventful weeks at work. I started off the week interviewing for one of the vacant positions on my team and let me tell you, after my first interview I can understand why every HR person I talk to says that they could write a book ... wow. Let's just say that the first candidate was ... intense:) I like to think of myself as an overly enthusiastic fellar, but I was put to shame! Luckily we had another candidate that is very solid, hopefully we will get the offer out in the next couple of days ... what an experience. It's been pretty crazy busy in the new gig with all of the 2009 project planning, cost benefit analysis and visibility projections (words I've never really put together, but it makes it sound kind of important I guess:). I find it quite interesting how circumstances, requirements and a hundred other things can change so quickly in a company this size, but they do. It's been hard, but I had to hand off all of my previous departmental projects and focus on my new gig over the last week and a half. I also had the opportunity to sit in on a few more SIFE Analyst interviews for the upcoming "class" of SIFE new hires. We've decided that shaving their hair into a mullet would be a good hazing, bring some spice to Corporate America! I did have a couple "aha" moments this week as I finally was able to take on the mentorship role of my new job. I set up goal sessions with each of the guys on my team for an hour and it brought about a great opportunity to learn about them on a personal level. I was nervous that they wouldn't want to share their goals with someone younger than them, but I was truly happy when they opened up and we talked through their personal, professional, spiritual, financial and other life goals. This also gave me an opportunity to provide some feedback after my month with them. I thought it would be more difficult than it was, but they were very receptive to the constructive feedback and they understood where I was coming from. They are very appreciative to have some direction on the team and I think they are starting to believe more in their abilities to succeed.

The ol' spring soccer season ended this week with a pair of wonderful losses. Our 18+ team was up a goal with 7 minutes left when a shaky no call gave the other team a tie. After the first OT they were up one and that's when I decided to take over ... ok, not so much, but I did get ridiculously lucky when I crashed the goal and humped in a shot from about 8 inches out to send the game to PKs. I ended up hitting mine, but our team ended up on the short end of the stick. O yes, and apparently there is a shortage of coaches because the travel league asked if I would be the head coach of the u12 boys traveling Academy team. I'm telling you all that I'm saying "no" now so you can hold me to it, because then I would have to skip out on En Fuego and I could never give up those little rascals;)

I also got a call from the Columbus Young Professionals Program Director as she was looking to fill all of the committee chair positions. Apparently Fundraising Chair isn't as appealing as the other positions I volunteered for, but they had no one else volunteer for it ... so yeah, I said I would take it on. Hey, I just got done with the Miss GA Program so why not fill my time with another activity, should be a great time! A few of us got together on Saturday for a couple of hours to spread the word around town about the Aflac Teen Read program at the library. Just an FYI, if you're looking for teenagers on a Saturday ... they're nowhere to be found around the noon o'clock hour; we had a great time though!

Only a couple more days until I'm back in Shueyville to get ready for the Flugum wedding. To think, it was just 5 years ago that Jenna and Ryan were voted most likely to elope at PHS and now look at them, about to become Team Gump! Pictured above is a wonderful memory of Ryan and I burning our Accounting notes ... fantacular! Can't wait to see you two, the fam, the lady and all the rest of the friends. I will tell you Ryan, I love you so much that I'm skipping out on horseback riding, skeet shooting and good times with the Aflac President on his farmland and the other SIFErs just for you:)

Wanted to toss in one last hello to the grandparents, I hope you are all doing well and a special prayer out to one of the guys on my team John and his family as they cope with their loss. We're thinking of you Duke! Blake and Jess ... best of luck with the new pup Sheri!

Next week will again be a delayed blog as I plan to party hard at the bachelor party, the wedding and every other day that goes along with it.

To all my pals stepping into the real world or that are already there, here is the morsel of the week from my good pal Jack Welch: "More often than not, business is smell, feel, and touch as much as or more than numbers. If we wait for the perfect answer, the world will pass us by." Sometimes you just have to go straight from the gut!