Are you happy and full of joy?

A dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which the word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.” All that is good, but what is the real difference between Joy and Happiness? I being the curious type had to know, so I decided to do some research.

I have been told that happiness is external and based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. So, happiness is the result of outside situations, people, or events that align with your expectations. Joy is internal and comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, and why you are (Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pathological-relationships/201212/joy-vs-ha).

I was getting a better idea of the difference but I wanted to see how the words were used. Just about every reference I found referred to a religious text. Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. A little research showed me the word “happy” comes from the Hebrew root word ashar and means “to set right or be blessed.” The word “joy” comes from the Greek root word chara and means “to be exceedingly glad.” Found that at http://www.gotquestions.org/joy-happiness.html. Getting closer but still not real clear on what the differences are. After reading several of the verses where the words were used I concluded that happiness tends to be fleeting and depends on circumstances. There was always an event that preceded happiness. Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith or self-mastery skills. True joy is not dependent upon circumstances.

It would seem to me that happiness can be acquired. I can purchase a car or earn a degree and be happy. It is more dependent on my ability to control my future, define my vision and stay on my path to success. Happiness is always passing through. I can be happy for the few minutes that it takes to have my morning coffee. Joy seems to need a bit more work. I believe that joy is dependent on my faith, attitude and self-confidence. Activities like meditation are better suited to joy. So, consider having my morning coffee while I meditate. I can go forth and be happy or joyful.

If I wanted to be happy I would head to the boat dealer and buy that Grand Banks yacht that I always wanted. Of course, happiness may be short lived when the first payment notice arrives. If I wanted to be joyful, I would sharpen my self-mastery skills and learn to meditate. I chose meditation because if Joy is internal, that skill is best suited to find it. I also prefer being joyful because I can’t afford to buy a yacht every week.

My bottom line on finding joy is this; develop a faith that melds well with your culture. With that faith develop a set of values and a vision. Define your path guided by your values headed towards your vision. Now consider skills, relationships, career, and memberships that will reinforce your faith and help you realize your vision. Now here is a wonderful thought, if you did all that you could be both happy and joyful.

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Who is in control?

I have noticed a few lively discussions over issues where both sides seem to be saying the same thing. I thought about that and decided that perhaps the real issue was a need for a sense of control. I doubt that either side would have absolute control, so I will say that the need is for a sense of control, not just for control. I believe that this is more than a quest for power. I have witnessed people getting real frustrated and upset. Now I had to wonder how often do I do this myself.

I do not think that it is any secret that I have been diagnosed with a muscle myopathy. One of the most disturbing things about having a terminal illness is the feeling of powerlessness, of being unable to do anything about it. Being unable to control the illness and knowing that others cannot help either can be a little unsettling. With this need for a sense of control, I noticed that I was doing a few other things.

  • Completion of outstanding things, so I don’t have to worry about them. I started to view everything on a short schedule. I had to do it now. This was a little more than a need for control. It was a need to unclutter my life.
  • Understanding of how things work. For example, I started reading every article on myopathy I could fine. There was a naïve thought that if I had the knowledge, I could gain control.
  • Being able to see what will impact my day. I had a real focus on putting everything on a calendar. If I did not know what was happening, I could not plan. If I could not plan, I could not get control.

I started to become a real control nut! When I look around and watch what people do, I see a lot of control nuts. A significant portion of our everyday activity is related to achieving our much-needed sense of control. We have rules, rituals, and social conventions everywhere. Our values tell us what to do, what is right and wrong, what is good and bad. When everyone in the group follows the rules, all is well.

For me, this is not about power… it is about trust. Trust and control support one another. Not only does trust allow me to give up control, but the need for a sense of control drives me to trust others. That does not always work because once I determine there is a pattern of not doing what they said, trust is gone. Expectations become a burden, and I am frustrated again.

Time to get off this train. I have been looking into meditation, and most of the books refer to a set of eight pathways. The first pathway is to have a wise view. With a wise view, you recognize that it’s not your job, nor is it in your power, to control what happens outside of you. You understand that instead, you can only control what happens within your mind. It is like what we teach in our self-mastery retreats and I tend to forget.

I will be out on the deck working on my meditation skills.

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Are you being too negative?

Someone told me that I was negative. OK, what does that mean? I believe that we are bombarded with negative thoughts. For every positive/feel good story there is in the news; there are a lot of negative stories. After the bombing incident in Boston or the latest shooting incident, I would discuss gun control or homeland security. Was that being negative or was that a search for an answer?

I try hard not to be negative. I didn’t realize that every time I talked about how warm the house was that I was negative. I thought I was just making a statement of fact. How can you talk about something that you want to change without being negative? This becomes a bigger concern when my focus is helping people improve. I look for things that could be improved. OK, baby steps, I could have said I look for things that were wrong.

The negativity seems to come from the delivery of the message and interpretation by the recipient. I believe that part of the definition of being negative has to be your intention. If your intention was to prove someone wrong or make them feel bad, you are probably negative. Many times being negative is a perception. I don’t like being corrected, so I perceive that as being negative. When someone perceives that they are being challenged, they will tend to see the statement as negative.

If I take my example of the house being warm, I could get two different responses. If you agreed with me that the house was warm you would probably respond with – right, let’s adjust the heat. You were not challenged if you agree. If you didn’t agree with me, you might respond with – why are you so negative. If the statement is worded as a challenge, you get these results. The clue was when I said – I thought I was just stating a fact. But if I word it as my opinion and all about me there is no challenge. So instead I could have said “the house is getting too warm for me, can we adjust the heat?” If they agree, the temperature will be adjusted. If not, you put on a pair of shorts. The odds of changing the temperature is the same, but the odds of hurt feelings are much less.

The same observation pertains to an office. What if I walked into the work room and said the copier is out of paper? OK, a fact. What does that mean? Did someone forget to load paper? All of this challenges someone. What if I said; “I loaded paper in the copier so the next job would print.”

What I have discovered is that absolute statements tend to challenge. Instead, state how you feel or what you want. I am going to be doing a lot of copying, can we please make sure there is paper in the machine? Just saying the machine is out of paper is a challenge.

I also believe that there are times when a challenge is appropriate. There are times when you must be able to make a negative statement in such a way that they see the reality of the situation along with a solution that shows a course correction.  You must first make sure it is your role to deliver this statement.  At this point, it is important to have clarity with the statement, the purpose for the statement, and the suggested solution. Getting negative can be empowering because it allows you to see the reality of your situation and limitations. Without negativity, you may never find out that you could do better. I will admit that positive thinking produces amazing dreams, visions and goals. I am all for it. However negative thinking produces plans and strategies to improve. Make sure that your intention is to improve or help.

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My Expectations

I was sitting on my deck this morning just thinking about life.  I was huddled around my fire pit with a hot cup of coffee at 5:15 this morning thinking about all the unfinished projects we had and wondered why they were not being worked on.  I decided to investigate one of the big projects and discovered that the person in charge didn’t feel good. He was well enough to work on his projects.  Just to put this into perspective; I have to mention that I was having trouble breathing, my legs ached, and my left hand was cramping, but I was ready to work on the project.  At 72 years young, “I just don’t feel good” seems like a good day to me. So why do we have so many unfinished projects?

OK, got to be careful here; I don’t want to wander into judgment land. That place is full of land mines and pot holes.  I found a lot of projects on hold and not one person said – I just didn’t want to do it. Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations. I tend to believe that if you agree to do a project, you do it. Well, that seems to be unrealistic at best.

How many of you have done this at work?  I’m not saying that you can’t have expectations, just that they have to be realistic. I’m not even saying that you have to lower your expectations, only be aware of how they can affect your day. Every time that an expectation bumps into reality, we have an event. If you remember your self-mastery exercise, you should know what an event kicks off. After further thought, it occurred to me that I had a choice. I could focus on the unfinished projects, or I could enjoy the beautiful morning.  I chose to enjoy the fresh air and my cup of coffee.  Of course, that didn’t help get the projects done.

What are your expectations, and are they based on reality? If you can’t walk beyond the end of the driveway, then don’t expect to win a 5K run.  This life isn’t that complicated if we follow some simple guidelines.  To begin, let us base our expectations on reality and second, communicate our expectations to anyone that needs to be involved to make it happen.  My best guess is that lack of communications is the source of the problem.  What I found was that people did not know what my expectation was.  I thought it a little strange but that was it.  So saying could you pick up the trash and getting an affirmative response is not clear.  It seems that I failed to specify when I wanted that to happen.

I have learned that unrealistic and secret expectations have the most potential to disappoint. Here is another thought, why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you won’t get disappointed.  Well, I guess if that was my attitude there would be no sense in asking anything of anybody.  That would be depressing.

That is my thought for the day.  As soon as I finish this coffee I am going to think about cleaning the garage. Not saying that I will get it done!  I am just saying that I am thinking about it.  I don’t want you to have any false expectations.

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What about financial metrics for my Firm

I was asked to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) for a law firm. Return on investment is the “return” from an action, divided by the cost of that action. The first time I saw this metric, it was used to determine the effectiveness of a marketing program. The “ROI” for a law firm is not so obvious. My first thought was that it would be the total revenue generated minus the total expenses divided by the expenses. One problem with most law firms is that they make the lawyer’s earnings equal to any leftover profit. This was a problem because it makes the expenses equal to the revenue. My next idea was to assume a zero cost for the lawyer, and that gave me a false view of true cost. The compromise I came up with was to assign a base salary and make leftover revenue after expenses be a bonus. This provided an ROI I could use for trending.

I could see a problem developing. It is relatively easy to discover the revenue, but what was the dollar amount of the investment that created that revenue? One idea for getting the expense number is to eliminate any expense that did not directly contribute to generating the revenue. This is often referred to as overhead or indirect cost. For example, the cost of a building does not directly contribute to making revenue, so it is an indirect cost. Does that mean it is part of the investment or not? This can quickly turn into an interesting discussion.

Or, you can make the case that all expenses are part of the investment. I have found that it does not make much difference as long as you know where the numbers come from, and they are consistent.

But getting back to ROI. Once you get a clean number for the investment, the formula is ROI = (earnings – investment) / investment. Return on investment is, by definition the gain from the investment minus the cost of that investment and then divided by the cost of that investment. I have found that the number, by itself, is not very meaningful. I can play with the numbers and create any result you want. The best we can do is create a trend using an ROI measure and see if we are doing better. So is it a good metric or not? I think the trend can be a good indicator.

By “trend”, I mean calculating the ROI every month or quarter to see if it is going up or down. As long as the definition of the numbers is consistent you can develop a trend. I like to use a rolling average over a span of two years.

The exercise to determine expenses is also a good exercise. Remember that expense category we called overhead? Overhead describes all of the costs a business incurs that do not directly produce output. Overhead would be office rent, liability insurance, membership fees, firm vehicles, business taxes, office equipment and most administrative costs. Well, another good indicator is the percentage of total expenses that is overhead. You would want to keep this low and make sure that the trend is not going up. The tricky part is to agree to what you consider to be overhead. As long as you keep your definitions consistent you can create a good trend for this number.

One of the keys to all of this is a good financial system that can keep track of expense and revenue categories. Once you have that you can drop those numbers into a “bucket”, like overhead. I pull numbers from the financial system into an Excel spreadsheet and calculate any of the metrics I want. What metrics do you like?

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Law Firm Leadership

Law firms are businesses!  OK, but are you the business or are you building a business? This is a question that will set the focus of your business strategy.  We suspect that many professionals start out believing that the business is themselves, and any staff they hire are support, or a replaceable resource, with their focus on management of resources. At some point the case load or the case complexity grows, and the focus changes to a more team oriented approach.  Tasks are delegated, and staff becomes more than just a resource.  Once the staff becomes part of the team and receives training, it is much more costly to replace them.  Firm associates begin to understand that their leadership involves creating a pro-active team that drives the delivery of legal services with a strong return on investment for the firm. The lawyer alone is not the business. Focus shifts from management of resources to leadership of people.

This is the beginnings of a high-performance organization.  There are many elements of this type of organization, including a move from management to leadership principles.  One of those principles is an idea we first saw expressed in Tom Peters’ first book. He introduced us to the new concept of Management By Wandering Around (MBWA), which we have referred to as Management By Walking Around. I think that MBWA was developed by executives at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s and popularized by Tom Peters in the early 1980s. The concept involves getting out from behind your desk and interacting with your staff; find out what they are frustrated about and celebrate their successes.

MBWA works best when you are genuinely interested in your staff and their work and when they see you as being ready to listen. There is nothing more insightful than seeing what is going on in the real world; client’s concerns, the interaction of your employees with your clients, and the functioning of your law firm.  You will have a much better idea of your staff’s problems and perceptions, as well a better view of the skill of individual employees. The benefit of MBWA is you can communicate your expectations in daily informal meetings with your staff. This idea works if your focus is on building trust, delegating responsibility, and developing staff.  This does not work if your goal is to find someone making a mistake.

More is gained by watching, observing, talking, and listening than will ever be by placing this duty on others.  However, what if the Firm owner or senior partners do not want a management or leadership role?  We find this a lot.  If this is the way it is, hire a Firm Administrator to take on that role. Our approach for law firms is to implement high-performance teams.

We propose a challenge.  Take the next thirty days and make it a practice to walk through the firm and talk to people within the firm.   Listen to what they say, find out how things are going, and ask questions.  At the end of the thirty days, do you see a difference in attitude? More importantly, did you learn anything that makes you change your mind about the people on your team?  We suspect you will.

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We are our own worst enemy

Every now and then some pattern strikes me as interesting. I have been talking with several people about politics, and I know that is always dangerous but what the heck. Anyway, I began to notice a trend from people that were very emotional about a candidate or an event; they seldom had any noticeable basis in fact. I say that only because I could not find any even after repeated questioning. I began to realize that people had purely emotional positions. OK, so you probably suspected this as well, but now that I considered that I took it a step further. Hey, why not – I may as well charge down this path to see where it leads me.

Let me back up just a bit to explain my thought. If you buy into the emotional intelligence or self-mastery theory that is popular these days or at least I find it to be popular, then you are in control of the interpretation of the event and the reaction. The self-mastery theory is that an event happens, and we interpret that event based on our beliefs and assign a meaning. That meaning causes us to react. The example we often use in our seminars has two couples receiving an invitation to a community dance. One couple believes that dancing is a sin and has a very negative reaction. The other couple believes that it is a great way to have fun and has a very positive reaction. There is a whole section here about what paradigm they are in, but I am sure you remember that part if you attended any of our seminars. The point here is that one couple creates joy in their life, and one creates fear. We seem to have the ability to shape the world as we wish, yet we constantly fall due to fears and limitations that we put in our brain.

Looking closer at this, if there is no basis in fact and the event itself is just part of your belief system you are also in control of the event.   In other words, there is no invitation, which was the event, to kick off this process. The event is built into your belief system, and you are searching for evidence of it. Once you find it, you are off and running. Now that seems interesting to me. You have something that is creating a strong emotional reaction in your life that you have total control of. This is great if the result is joy, which I believe is a good thing. But, what if it is causing stress, headaches, upset stomachs, or any of the other negative results? Well, the good news is you can prevent it. The bad news is you not only created it, but it is with you always.

I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to politics. I have seen this in business as well as life in general. Have you ever noticed that the same key moment or event will produce different reactions in people? You may become depressed or frustrated while someone else may just laugh it off. Frustrating huh! You should be getting some idea as to why this happens. It is in the meaning each gave to that event. Imagine what your life would be like if you have a built-in event that is guaranteed to cause a negative reaction! No joy in Mud Ville (I think this saying comes from “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer).

Now my bigger question is, why do people do this in the first place. Some of the stories I have heard in politics are just amazing. Where did they originate? Why do people believe them? What kind of stories have you created about yourself, your clients, your staff, your business, or whatever that has no basis in fact? How many of these stories are stealing your joy? Well if you don’t like the results, re-write the story.

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Enjoy Life

Why did I wait until I was in my mid-70s to realize that I do not need a plan for everything? Why did I miss so many opportunities to enjoy life? Now that I think about it, who created all these rules in the first place?

How come I never wrote my book? How come I never tried sports? Why didn’t I accept that invitation to speak? Why do I have to be so sure about every aspect of my life? Who said I have to have everything planned out perfectly? So many questions with so little time.

It is clear to me now that most plans do not work out, so why did I spend so much effort worrying about them? I am all for planning but do not expect that there will be no changes. When you act as if you have control of everything in your life, you miss out on the spontaneous, memorable aspects of it. Wow, most of the people that know me never expected me to say that! Well, I have had 70+ years to think about it.

I have always believed in a balanced life. The challenge is to balance what we must do with what we enjoy doing. Examine your values and decide what’s important to you; then set your boundaries. Not knowing what you want and trying to do everything is not a good plan. So, just because there is an opportunity in front of you does not mean that you should pounce on it. On the other hand, going through life afraid to do anything is a drag. Both extremes, doing too much and doing nothing, I believe is a problem.

Many years ago I went on a Windjammer Caribbean cruise and met a girl. OK, the secret is out. We would go our separate ways after the cruise, so why was I so worried about laughing a little. We both had fun, so why put a title on it? As long as you are happy and not violating any of your boundaries, go for it. Maybe it’ll be everything you ever wanted and more, or maybe it’ll be a disaster. Either way, you’ll learn from it. I do not advocate giving up on responsibility or accountability. What I am saying is that sometimes you have to take some risk.

If you are searching for joy, try new things and embrace the uncertainty. I think that we get so set in our way, we forget there’s more to life. Do something you’ve never done, no matter how unsure you are and don’t waste your time stressing about it. Maybe somewhere along the way it’ll dawn on you that you have a dream worth following. So what if you are a little unsure, try it. OK, let’s not get too carried away here. Sometimes that uneasy feeling is trying to remind you of something. Remember your values and relationships and if you are not violating any boundaries, try it. It is OK to be uncertain and to stop planning every step of the way. You are the one who controls your happiness. You can be happy if you choose to be, or you can let yourself be miserable.

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Declutter your life

I am beginning to learn about the importance of quiet-time. My life was full of priorities related to work, health, relationships, and problems to solve. Over time, these priorities got all mixed up, and I lost track of life. It took a major life event to wake me up. Trying to figure out how to get back on track I was introduced to “quiet time”. Every morning I would spend some time sorting out all those priorities.

I found out that distractions from the news, emails and text messages muscling in too early will mess up that priority list. Those messages can wait till much later, like after my cup of coffee out on the deck. This also helps me approach all the deadlines, meetings and tasks with a clearer set of priorities.

The tough part for me was turning off all that distracting noise in my mind. I would wake up with worries about my health, the latest problem or some work issue. Any of these items may be valid, but they were all mixed up with many distractions. This is how I was taught to break that pattern.

When I wake up, I get my coffee and head out to my special place on the back deck. I have a big deck, a fire pit, a rocking chair and a full view of nature. Now comes the tough part. How do I turn off all that noise in my head? Here is what I learned, and it works. I sit and ask myself; what do I see. After finding three things I ask; what do I feel. After three things I ask, what do I smell. Sometimes I will repeat that sequence again finding three different things for each question. Now that I am relaxed I listen. Yep, just listen. Sometimes I just hear the birds but sometimes it is amazing what messages I will receive.

Sometimes I get an answer to a problem. Sometimes I will discover someone needs my help. Sometimes I just hear that everything is going to be OK. Sounds magical and at first I did not believe it would be worth my time. I had major issues to resolve after all. Well, it is well worth the effort. Try it, you may like it.

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By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

Any successful long existing business has a story. Moreover, from the story is usually some great lessons on how to be successful. This is our story from my point of view.

I had worked for IBM for 32 years, in management, when I discovered I had some health issues during my yearly physical. Being in management I was aware of the early retirement programs being offered, so I signed up for the last program. With my health issues in mind, I figured I would take all that buyout money and conquer the world. Of course as all good plans go, it did not turn out exactly as I had envisioned. It was not that bad either. I was doing some contract consulting work for Blue Cross at the dreaded turn of the century. In the technology world, everyone just called it the Y2K project. It was December of 1999.

One day I got a call from Cheryl asking questions about technology in a small law firm located in a small town somewhere off route 95. As the conversations became longer, I decided to travel down to visit her after my project with Blue Cross completed. I have lots of interesting stories about how this big city guy met this little southern town and southern woman, but that is another story.

Here I am with Cheryl, who is doing a consulting contract with a law firm owner who wants to grow. She is telling me that she needs help getting this law firm under control, business wise, so they can expand. I say, “no problem, business is business so let’s look at the burden rates, return on investment trends and the process being followed.” Silence in the room after that now infamous speech was made. The next month or so was spent with Cheryl and I teaching each other enough to find common ground. We finally reached a compromise position and presented a plan to the senior partner of the Firm.

To grow rapidly, we determined that we needed to apply known business theory and practices. This was not the norm for small law firms of the day. They relied on professional skills, not tools or processes. We could see what was needed but could not convince a professional skill-based staff to change. The expense side of the business was growing as the additional skilled staff were brought in to handle increased client loads. The profit margins were going down, and we felt lost. Classes we had put together to address soft skills and process were not well received. OK, so this was a learning experience. We had to develop a total solution instead of pieces.

We spent a year looking at case management systems, business theory white papers, and financial analysis of the law firm as it started to expand. We identified common steps in everyday work that could be handled by a process. We determined the need for soft skills and found business theory and a case management system that could be tailored for this law firm. We developed processes that would support the case management system. We found a financial management system that would work with our case management software and allow for trend analysis. We worked out a balanced scorecard approach for the tracking numbers instead of a singular focus on money.

All of this was done over a year with trial and error. There were false starts and a lot of frustration as we attempted to change the day to day routine. Gradually we gained some acceptance. With each step, we refined our solution.

One of the early discoveries for us was the inclusion of lifetime goals as well as business goals for the business owners. That soon expanded to include all of the staff and became integrated into our business solution. The second breakthrough was the new focus on soft skills. Along with professional skills, we included classes on communications, self-mastery, client interaction and even a class on how to answer the phone with a smile.

After several attempts to move the firm into a process based system, we hit that aha moment. We developed a hybrid system that incorporated process and skill-based areas. After several months of designing and research, we developed a law firm that relied on a case management system that was supported by both professional skills and process workers. We created profit centers with a more realistic bonus system. Classes on soft skills were tailored to law firm’s needs.

The key to any business solution is discovering what the end goal is. We developed a formal process for a small law firm to define the values, mission and vision for a law firm. With this insight, we developed a strategic planning process tailored for a small law firm. Incorporated with all of this is the concept of a merger of life and job goals that became the “Triangle for Success”. The key to the strategic solution was the definition of profit centers, need for soft skills, processes, and a balanced scorecard way of measuring success.

Did it work? After the unveiling of the new system, the Firm expanded rapidly and soon had headquarters in the big city. The legal professionals worked alongside the resource center. Other Firms were asking about how we did it. Software developers were looking at how we implemented and integrated their products. And today the owner is doing exactly what he wants to do with his life (on the beach). Cheryl and I became business partners as well as lifetime partners, and our calendar was filling with speaking engagements. Catalyst the business was born. That was fourteen years ago.

Today Catalyst stands as a successful small mentoring company. Our client base is driven by personal referrals, and we pick and choose our clients knowing that they will become lifelong relationships. As mentors, we are getting to see other people attain their dreams, and we feel ownership in their success. And on any given day you can find us sitting on our back deck with a client or two who will fly or drive in just to tell us their dreams. The advice is free and they are not allowed to discuss hiring us. This is our way of helping others find their dream.

We have on-going clients we enjoy daily. We have a pay it forward policy at Catalyst (called Catalyst Connect).  We go to the beach to restore our souls. And we go to Disney (Club Floor of course) to restore our childlike attitude about life. Our family and friends are in and out of our home doing what family and friends do.   Our days are filled with doing what we were meant to do. We believe the good life is simply this: Living in a place you like; with the people you love, doing the right work; all on purpose.

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