Productivity When it Matters Most


Angel Park

This weekend my family and I visited Angel Park in Perry Hall Maryland. Much like it’s predecessor, the beautiful “Annie’s Playground” in Fallston Maryland (built to honor kindergartner Annie McGann Cumpson who was killed by a drunk driver), the community of Perry Hall came together and constructed a smaller but very modern playground called Angel Park. This park honors Ryan Szcybor who died of leukemia at 15 months. Both playgrounds, built by loving communities, honor not just these two children but all children. Angel Park was built to bring joy to families and to be completely accessible to children with disabilities. It is truly a labor of love.

Nearly 4000 volunteers dedicated their loving time to constructing Angel Park. Donations came in from everywhere (as did the volunteers) and together they built something miraculous. Many of the park’s creative features were designed by children at elementary and middle schools. One of the children even drew a zip-line which would eventually grace the park as a very popular attraction.

I had an opportunity to speak with David, pictured below with his daughter on the zip line he helped build. He told me with obvious joy how the volunteers built everything there. The zip line was his favorite project and he shows obvious pride in his involvement. If it looks like it is “industrial strength” you are right. He told me it could easily hold me and that heavier men “tested it out” over and over again during construction. (“Weeee-ha!”)

Angel Park broke ground in March 2016 and then opened early November 2016. In only eight months Angel Park went from vision to reality and is in fact the most impressive playground I have ever seen.

Dave, a community member and dedicated volunteer.
Dave, a community member and dedicated volunteer, stands by the zip-line he helped build as his daughter soars across her Dad’s creation.
The castle-like structures of Angel Park are obviously very well constructed and lovingly crafted. Walls and benches are creatively and skillfully painted and the entire park is top-notch.

Productivity When it Matters Most

So, what it is that generated such amazing productivity from so many hard working and dedicated people? The answer? They had love in their hearts and a worthy cause. In today’s workplace so many organizations struggle to keep their employees motivated, morale high, and productivity soaring. Yet, the answer is so simple… love and a worthy cause.

Isn’t it amazing how inspired we can become simply by the idea of making a meaningful difference in the lives of others? When we understand that our work really helps others, we soar. When an organization goes off course, dilutes its values, fails to affirm its members, and gets in the way of people helping people, we fall.

Organizations fail to get the highest levels of productivity when love deteriorates and the organization’s demonstrated behaviors are seen as contrary to its core values. However, everyone is motivated by a supervisor that demonstrates genuine care both for the employee and the organization. Everyone is motivated by an executive team that lives the values they espouse. Everyone is motivated by the opportunity make a positive and lasting impact on the world and to have the opportunity to help others. Everyone is at their most productive, most creative, most dedicated, and most inspired when they have love in their hearts and a worthy cause to work for.

Forget compensation. No one got paid for Angel Park. Forget hypocrisy. Everyone was there to love, support, encourage, and give. And positive change? Angel Park will stand as a testament to love as it brings joy to countless families and children. Productivity? Off the charts! 4000 people came together, got organized, and built a masterpiece in a very short time (while going to school or holding down full time jobs).

Can you imagine the productivity of your organization if everyone felt the love and passion that the 4000 volunteers felt? It would be off the charts!

Is it possible? Yes, if organizational leaders will jettison the hypocrisy, jettison the workplace bullies and toxic employees, fight for a worthy cause, and love, love, love the people they work with and the people they serve. Who would think it would come down to love? When you think about it, it is a no-brainer, and yet the most obvious answers can sometimes escape even the most intelligent leaders.

  • Steps Forward
    • Effectiveness: (motivation)
    • Health: Heart (inspiration, service to others)
    • Health: Spirit (love)
    • Health: Body (exercise)
My wife sits on an angel wing bench.
My angelic wife is a real stickler for the park rules.

I’m Getting Moving!

Last year my wife and I made one of the hardest decisions we had ever made. We pulled our daughters out of a prestigious private girl’s school to our local public school (going into 3rd and 4th grade), a decision the girl’s deplored. It was very difficult for us to due to the girl’s tears and my family’s multi-generational connection to the school.

We made the decision for four reasons: 

  1. We were going to send our son to the public school no matter what and it would be nice for him (and more convenient for us) to be in the same school as his sisters

2. One of our daughters made friends with boys more easily than with girls (something that I will undoubtedly lament when she is a teenager)

3. As a family we would become more connected with our neighborhood and develop relationships in the community

4. Free is good

And this is what happened…

We did our research and had lots of conversations. All our neighbors loved the local public school. We made the move, the girl’s cried, then mounted their courage, went to school, and adjusted quickly. Both girls have always performed well academically and this continued. My older daughter landed a staring role in the school play and my other learned to play the recorder and enjoyed performing in the concert. Now they both have lots of friends in the neighborhood (something which was lacking before). Boys show up at our door all the time asking to play with my oldest (something I will undoubtedly lament when she is a teenager). Also, my oldest (in 5th grade) is student body president.

Mom and Dad have also enjoyed the transition. The new school is great, my wife Nora is participating in the PTA, and we run into the same people at school, church, and the pool strengthening our connection to the community. Nora and I have also become pretty good friends with the parents of the kid’s friends. One such family (Jamie, Robin, and their daughters) have become real buddies with us.

And now I am really sore…

So Jamie and I grabbed a couple beers one Saturday at an Irish Pub and over beer and Irish Nachos (which are potato skins drowned in cheese) we decided to start doing “Body Pump” at the local YMCA three times a week at 5:45 am. Though this appealed to me at the time as a way to lose the extra pounds (that I was adding to at that moment) I was headed toward a world of pain.

We are on week two and we’ve done a pretty good job holding each other accountable. I think each morning we secretly hope that the other one of us will wimp out and give us an excuse to go back to bed but neither of us wants to be the one to wimp out. As a result we have been getting there. We’ve even done two Spin classes in between Body Pump days.

Body Pump is not easy, but being part of a class helps you get a solid workout each time. (Sometimes even when I would get to the gym previously I would wimp out on the actual exercises.) I have started with lighter weights (in my younger days this would have assaulted my ego… these days… not so much). I also pause and shake out my legs when the lactic acid starts to really burn. Though I am far from a star student at least I am getting to the gym on a regular basis. I’ve noticed the difference in my body. I am tighter if quite sore.

So, this new venture is a win and a further step toward overall wellness.

Current Weight:  262.6 pounds
Goal: 225 pounds

Steps Forward:

  • Health
    • Body: + (exercise)
    • Spirit: + (hope)
    • Heart: + (relationships)

Productivity and Wellness

As a human being we have almost limitless potential in this world.  In order to make a worthwhile difference during our short lifetimes we must hone our abilities so we can have maximum impact in alignment with our values.

We must be:

  • organized
  • goal oriented
  • prioritized
  • proficient
  • efficient
  • effective
  • principled
  • healthy in mind, body, spirit, and heart

As we improve in these areas we can more successfully direct our optimized selves toward achieving that which is truly worthwhile. Can you imagine being maxed out in each of these areas?  I think it would be awesome. You would be unstoppable.  You would be your “optimized self” and be able to accomplish almost anything.

This is typically expressed as “be all you can be”, “reaching your full potential”,  or “See You at the Top” (Zig Ziglar).  No matter what you call it, we are all capable of optimizing ourselves.  Let’s do it.

I sure would like to max these out for myself.  So I am going to try.  I would not be surprised if along the way this list of eight criteria changes and evolves. I plan to do a lot of reading to understand what advances these attributes in people and I’ll be reflecting on them in my own life.

Does the title for my blog, Productivity and Wellness, really capture something as ambitious as all this? To be honest, I am not certain. I have thought about other names, but I think the simplicity of “Productivity and Wellness” captures what we are talking about in a humble way.  We can explore that more.  Who knows; we might end up renaming this thing along the way.

Give it some thought. Are these the right criteria that we should be measuring ourselves against? By maxing these out would we become “optimized” and reach our full potential?  What does it mean to be productive and well?  Share your thoughts as we begin this journey.

Until next time, be you and be awesome,