Thursday, February 2, 2012

Eyes in the back of my head

"I have eyes in the back of my head!"

I don't believe that there is a single parent alive that has never used this phrase! As a child every time I was caught doing something that I shouldn't be doing, my mother would tell me..."I know everything you do...I've got eyes in the back of my head." Right after the swift cuff to the back of mine! Ahhhhhh grasshopper!!!

I spent my entire childhood trying to see those eyes, but we’re always covered by her hair.

Eyes in the back of your head can give you great insight into what is yet to come. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much I use this concept in my daily life. Mom used her "back-eyes" to catch me while I was up to no good! I use the eyes to make sure that the "no good" doesn't happen.

I think it actually saved my life a couple of weeks ago...........

Driving the highway with two friends in the car…cut to the 401, heading south, heavy traffic. My eyes are constantly shifting. Right mirror…left mirror…rear-view (eyes in the back of my head) mirror…until my eyes lock onto the rearview! What I see takes me only seconds to process. BIG red truck, flying onto the 401 from an on-ramp. Dude ain't paying attention!!! Big red slams into the car in front of loses breaks on impact, and is now hurdling at high speed towards us! The only thing between that car and a 30 car pile-up, is ME....getting out of his way. I grab the wheel and turn quickly...a hard left, onto the shoulder of the highway. As luck would have does the car now on my tail! The rest of the story you can imagine.

So in the end, those "back-eyes" prevented what potentially could have been a brutal accident. No one was hurt. The car sustained a great amount of damage. But, we are all alive and well to tell the story. Those eyes came in mighty handy!

I think we earn these "eyes in the back of my head" with age and life experience. Those of us with children can vouch for this! We have the privilege of drawing upon the great insight "the eyes" afford us.

Oh yes....I can see the faces my kids are making behind my back, after one of those "I told you so" moments! And I already know what is most definitely going to happen if my kid is peeling an apple... like an old man on a front porch, whittling a stick! He has the scars on his fingers to prove it! But these are the life lessons that plant the seeds in the back of your head....that will one day, grow into a set of eyes!

I try to put these eyes to good use in my work as well. While I am taking a client's design from paper to landscape, my brain is in a constant state of "seeing a step ahead". I must be able to play out what needs to happen in the second phase of a construction, while the first phase is being completed, and the third phase is yet to happen.....How , both "before" and "after", might affect each other.

My advice is to make sure that any landscape designer you employ has the ability to do this. It's crucial to the cohesiveness of your plan. So I say, let's embrace our eyes! All of them- the ones we see with, our "third eye", and the ever mysterious "eyes in the back of our head". They worked well for our mothers!

So if you're standing behind your designer, and they know that you are making faces....Hire them!

Friday, March 18, 2011

You look like your Gazebo

You know how “they say that people look like their pets? Well, here’s a question…..Do people also look like their backyards? Metaphorically speaking of course. Cuz that’d be just weird to look like a yard!

For example……my wife and I love to entertain during the summer months. Our personalities tend to be free spirited, inviting and friendly, and just a little bit wild! We have a wide variety of friends as well (variety being the operative word)…….some are more low-key ,serious and cocktails, while the others are more “loud music, tequila, and patio-turned-dance- floor!”

So our yard….(the one that is still in the works), reflects and accommodates all these needs.

If you are wanting to create an area in your yard that will reflect your lifestyle, ….. then take a look at your life!

Do you have children? What are their ages?

Do you entertain?

Who do you keep company with?

Do you enjoy yard work and gardening? Do you even have time for it?

Do you want to be able to almost “live” outside?, reading, hanging out?

Will you want fire? Gas or wood burning? How about a water feature?

Do you need a bar? Kitchen? Shed? Treehouse?

Pool? Hottub? Gazebo?

Music? Piped throughout your yard…….

Ahhhhh, but do you have nasty neighbors? Or dogs…messy dogs? Maybe your yard is built on a massive slant? Now that can be tricky!!!

So all I'm saying is really give your lifestyle and needs some focus! Our yard can accommodate almost every circle we run with….from tea time with the in-laws to the friends who sing out loud over a couple of vodkas, to our 19 year old’s crazy crowd.

Our neighbors are not great fans of ours, but in our defense….we live across from a retirement home and in a neighborhood full of retirees! That wasn’t well thought out….so I speak from absolute experience!

So yes…..I guess I DO look like my yard….minus the dog poop!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Relationships and Red Wine

After my last blog, I started to think about relationships. Relationships in the context of my work. Like what kind of cheese I will have with my wine?

The longer I sat and thought about this whole idea, halfway thru the bottle, the more similarities I discovered that there were between my marriage, and the relationships that I develop with my clients on a professional level.

Now, there are obvious differences, and I’m sure I need not explain those to you…..but the similarities are probably what makes working with my clients easy and rewarding.

So, this week’s question is……if I treat every client relationship , with the same amount of dignity and respect, as I do my own personal relationships……would the experience and outcome always be positive?

I’m a relationship guy. Always have been. I mean let’s face it…….they are what make the world go around. At any given moment, on any given day, we are interacting with someone! Some are great experiences….some not so great! The trick is, to make each encounter work for you in some way, shape or form. Learn from it. Grow from it.

We all know that relationships require work. Some of us are only discovering this after many failed partnerships. We’re a little slower than the average Joe! (no offence Joe!) Ya know what they say though…’s not the destination that matters…’s the journey there!

Now that I’ve got this whole “love relationship” stuff all worked out……(for the most part)…..I can apply some of the same strategies to my client relationships.

Doctor Phil would soooo appreciate this……..

First word of advice….. You have to love what you do….with a passion!!!

We all know what happens when love and passion leave a relationship!

So I look at what works for me in my partnership at home. I’ve learned to be a good listener. To “hear between the lines”, looking for subtle hints or information about wants, needs, likes/dislikes etc. I acknowledge that I’ve heard them, because EVERYBODY wants to be heard.

TRUST! I think that once the client trusts me, and can appreciate that I know exactly what I’m doing…….a tight partnership develops. If you keep them abreast of what is happening and what is going to happen, their anxieties melt away! Imagine if you took off for a couple days without telling your wife/husband where you were and what you were doing?!?!?!? Ohhhhh the doghouse is not the most comfortable place to sleep!

Consideration and compromise………both very tricky when there are budgets to follow, and tastes to appeal to. When a client has a particular desire, it can’t always happen the way they want it to. So here is where compromise comes in handy. If your communication ability is in tact….there should be a happy ending. The customer is happy, and I get to do my job within the budget, and by-law restrictions.

I like the fact that I develop relationships with my clients that allow them to feel free to ask questions, give input, accept feedback and tell me when there is something that they are not pleased by. But by far, the best part of my job, is the part where we stand in their gorgeous outdoor living space, and toast it with a glass of merlot.

So back to the original question…….I would not be able to sleep at night if the outcomes and experiences I had on a daily basis were negative. Like a marriage,….I work at it!!! The alternative? ……… Keep one eye open while I sleep.