Monday, June 27, 2011

God Moment #23: Up With People - May 2, 1990

Have you ever had moments in your life where you think, "W

ow, what a coincidence!"? I sure have. Sometimes, though, I look back on the experience and the o

nly conclusion I can come to is that God chose that specific moment to show himself to me.

Here's God Moment #23...


I had just received my first F.

It was a big test in my 'Unix Programming' class towards the end of my 3rd year of university (To this day when I hear 'semiphore', 'symbolic link', or 'mutex' I break out in a cold sweat). I hated that class, but that wasn't why I got my bad test score.

I was burnt out.

For three years I had taken 16-20 credits per quarter, while working 16-32 hours a week at Dayton's. I loved that job: I spent hours at a time unloading trucks for a department store. My co-workers were great, hours were great, money was great, and it was highly physical...a well needed stress relief from classes.

But the pace was taking it's toll. More concerning, I was feeling stagnant in how my life was unfolding and what kind of impact I was having. I saw a well-worn (read: boring) pattern starting to unfold as to how my life would proceed, and I was not happy with what I was seeing.

That's when it happened...I remember as clearly as it was yesterday:

I was walking away from the Computer Science building after receiving that test score. It was bright and sunny out, but I was mind was swirling with what the future held. In desperation I prayed, "God, I need something to change in my life. Please help me." (note: Don't EVER pray this unless you're serious about it)

35 minutes later I reached my dorm room (Centennial Hall...single occupancy dorm room...awesome digs). I was quite blue and dragged myself to the 3rd floor...feeling lost and defeated.

I opened the dorm door...

...and the phone rang.


"Hi. I'm calling for Greg Hintermeister? I got this number after calling your parents home."

"Yes, this is Greg", I said abruptly. I almost hung up thinking it was telemarketing.

"Hi. This is Up With People. If you recall, you auditioned over a year ago?"

Of course I remembered. My girlfriend, now wife, attended the show at Northrop Auditorium, and stayed after to be interviewed. I had been accepted, and thought I might travel after graduating. But after a year, the excitement had faded and I really had no intention to travel. After all, once I graduated, I would have job offers from well-paying tech companies and a whole year 'playing and traveling' would make any programming skills quite rusty.

"Yeah, I remember", I replied.

"Well, we are in need of musicians, and we are wondering if you would like to travel with us this coming year?"


"We realize it is short notice, and you only have two months to raise the 12K required. Since we need your particular guitar skills, we are willing to give you a $3,000 scholarship"

...silence...with a big 'ol smile...

"Up With People plans on traveling all over the world, and you will have an adventure beyond your wildest expectations"

My response?


...or maybe it was something a bit more professional...

"OK! Great. Well, we will mail you a packet on how to raise money, what to pack, when to arrive in Tucson, the guitar charts to practice with, and potential tour locations. See you in July!"

Just like that my life trajectory changed forever.

I'm not sure what exactly happened next, but my dorm speakers (2 3'x3' concert-grade speakers) were thumping celebration music (Prince's "Trust", if I recall) loud enough that when my friend opened the door to see what was wrong, he saw me doing an 'animal house' dance move on the floor as it was the only way the excitement I felt wouldn't physically burst through my chest.

"Dude, what's up? Hey! GREG!!!"

I looked up, stood and paused the music, straightened my shirt, and said (with accompanying fist-pump):



It wasn't until a month later I remembered the prayer from earlier that morning.

This was God Moment #23: When God showed me he was real, he cared, and he loved me by giving me a year experiencing the world through Up With People...when I most needed it...and least expected it.

Now looking back, that year in Up With People impacted my life in so many ways. It gave me a travel bug, a thirst for adventure, a curiosity to try new things (food, experiences, points of view), a world wide perspective, and it gave me life-long friends.

And, it turns out that my UWP experience was more important than my coding skills in landing my first...and job (IBM).

Oh, and most of all, this moment set in stone my faith in a living, loving God.


Have you had any God Moments in your life?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Clarity...From The Sunset Chairs

DId you ever have a brief moment of clarity?

That singular moment where you step out of your day-in, day-out routine to catch a rare glimpse at how your life is truly unfolding?

I had that on my birthday.  May 15, 2011. The day I turned 42. 

Surely this was a God-given gift where He showed with utmost clarity how my current life is way beyond what I could have ever dreamt blessed my life really is...

...and that I am ignoring, and at risk of abandoning, all I have because I'm serving a vague notion of 'career advancement'...trying to impress important people with impressive titles.

Here's what I saw:

Our sunset chairs.



Waiting.    (even the cat was waiting)

It was like the sunset chairs were speaking to me.

First they were blunt: 

"Look at this beautiful patch of land, this home that you love! Listen to the music you create! Look at that amazing woman you married and those four terrific kids? Why are you ignoring all that?!? Why are they a 'distraction' to you? What about the reservoir behind those trees? Why haven't you had an adventure with your kids there lately? What's wrong with you!?!"

My response? 

"I'm not happy. I'm worried about impressing people, fearing an uncertain future, and lost in a swirl of goals and aspirations that seem to be blocked by the current culture of our company. I've got a mortgage that won't quit, and I want to be accomplishing something important and I need to focus on that."

Then the sunset chairs sighed and used a more gentle voice.

"Sit down. Lets take a look at what's truly important that you're missing"

...and then I saw, clearly, like a film was lifted from my eyes, what I am missing that is truly important...

  • Sunsets with my wife...
  • Eagles soaring by...longing to be seen...
  • Fog caressing the valley...
  • Dew dropping from the leaves...
  • Secrets shared between me and my daughters...young son...teenage son...wife...
  • Hands held...
  • Hearts mended...
  • Family playing...
  • Frisbees thrown...
  • Baseballs caught...
  • Campfires lit...
  • Laughter echoing...
  • Stories told...
  • Devotions studied...
  • Prayers lifted...
  • Inspiration gained...
  • Adventures started....
  • Tears shed...and wiped...smiles returning...
  • Love given...received...surrounding...

Then I asked, "But what about that mortgage, cars to maintain, monthly bills to pay?"

Their response?

"They are not seen from the Sunset Chairs. All that is behind you could grow, shrink, burn, cease to exist, be sold, traded, or moved to another country. What is truly important...what you need to focus what you see...who you see...

...from the Sunset Chairs."


How about you? What do you see from your Sunset Chairs?

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Many People Does It Take to Make a Really Good Day?

I just finished a REALLY GOOD DAY.

Here's what I experienced in the last 24 hours:
  • Flight #1 on Delta: Rochester - Detroit. Slept the whole way
  • Walked to connecting gate in Detroit...right into...FIRST CLASS SEAT
  • Flight #2 on Delta: Detroit - Raleigh. Read "Quitter"...inspiring book on how to make your dream job your day job
  • Landed in Raleigh...walked...without even slowing down...into the Hertz bus.
  • First stop was Gold member drop-off...into my car.
  • Drove to hotel and got a great room
  • GPS'd 'sushi' and found a wonderful sushi place
  • Slept for 10 hours!!!!
  • Woke up (no alarm needed) and had free breakfast
  • Practiced my presentation and ran through live demo system
  • Recorded my demo one time I ran through it
  • Drove to Raleigh site jamming to music
  • Noticed Jimmy Johns and had a quick (and tasty!) lunch
  • Ran into Tony, old colleague at Raleigh, who showed me where coffee bar was
  • Hooked up demo to iffy wireless and projector...both held through the demo
  • Showed demo to Sr. VP...flawless demo
  • Met with other UX colleagues for dinner
  • Had a fantastic conversation about work, life, and adventures with my UX friends
  • Had mexican dinner with beer...then margarita (with blood orange YUM!)
  • At hotel blogging after a hot tub

If I were asked what would my dream 'work week' day be like, this would be very close.

Then I got to thinking of how many people behind the scenes made this possible.

It makes me appreciate hundreds of people...and also makes me wonder if God uses the little things people do...or the little things that happen to them...for helping others well beyond what I (or they) can imagine.

Here's what I wonder:
  • Did the lady sitting next to me on flight #1 realize how helpful she was by not complaining that I closed the window shade so I could get a reprieve from my 6 month fatigue?
  • Did the grounds crew intern who made my first flight a tad late realize that he made my walk between gates time out perfectly so I could board the next plane without sitting around?
  • Did the Delta IT staffer who coded the 'who gets a free upgrade every blue moon' algorithm realize he would make my day by giving me a first class seat on my way to a big-deal demo?
  • Did Jon Acuff know that the chapter on "doing your best at your day job may in fact help your dream job" inspire me to really hit this demo out of the park?
  • Did the guy in Raleigh that cut the Hertz bus driver off...forcing him to stop at the red light...realize that the 3 minute delay made the Hertz bus roll up to the curb and open the door JUST as I was stepping off the curve? I mean you couldn't' have choreographed that better in a movie! (leave plane...walk out of airport...across heavy traffic with a perfectly timed gap...into awaiting bus)
  • Did the gal who assigned cars know I had an iPod aux cable and would be so happy listening to Ramble On on my way to my VP demo (with AC/DC t-shirt under my dress attire as my mojo)?
  • Did the guy who dropped his car keys between the door and the front seat...making him pull out 50 seconds later...which allowed me to sign out of the Hertz lot first...realize that his 50 seconds of frustration would make me hit every green light between the airport and the hotel?
  • Did the Google developer who got the address wrong for the first sushi place realize that the next-nearest sushi place would be oh-so-tastey that totally made my night?
  • Did the front desk clerk...who decided which room I was to stay in...a room away from the 'lift' and not facing sunrise...did he realize it would be the perfect environment for me to start catching up on badly needed rest?
  • Did the committee that decided against in-room wifi realize that I far prefer wired connections anyway...and that was really the only way I was able to make a backup movie using Camtasia?
  • Did Tony realize that when he left 5 minutes early from a meeting for lunch he would cross paths with me and help me find my coffee-pick-me-up that catapulted me to a great demo?
  • Did the buildings full of developers who implemented wireless, laptop projectors, not to mention the software I demoed...did they realize they were going to work in concert together to make a senior VP happy he invested in us?
  • Did the old lady who named her weird oranges "Blood Orange" because her oranges were a tad darker than others realize it would taste perfectly with agave nectar and tequila and that it would help me unwind from a long and satisfying day?
  • Did Mark and Jack...who joined me for dinner...realize how much it meant to me to have good conversation about life, work, and adventure? Do they realize their compliments mean the world to me and help fight back the feelings of doubt, failure, and loneliness?

Sometimes I stand amazed at how the world works.

...and how God works through the world.

...and sometimes, I deflate my ego long enough to recognize that really good days are possible not because of how good I am, but because of the good people around me. 

Sure, sometimes a day bends my way because of strange circumstances...but sometimes a good day happens because of how productive, caring, and passionate a crazy amount of people are with what they do. And if they aren't least they show up and do their job. And by just showing up...look what can happen?

To all those people who made my day a great one, I say:


Here's to Life!


Thank you.

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