I recently saw the official video of Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind, and it blew me away. I loved it and immediately knew I wanted to write about it.

It’s a simple lyric; most of the words are single-syllable. But the message is profound – wherever your life takes you, stay humble, be kind.

McGraw’s words speak to a particularly American (and old-fashioned American, at that) life-view, but the video shows us people from all cultures, all lands. Buddhist monks. Hindus, Africans, Native Americans. A red-haired girl dances. An old cowboy looks with stern dignity from the screen. An infant is baptized. The heart of the song’s meaning is universal.

The final shots show the face of a child, morphing before our eyes through the stages of her life into a proud old age.

Because sometimes pride is warranted, and it is perfectly okay to feel it, when you’ve accomplished something, when your work bears fruit. And there is no inherent contradiction between pride and humility – remaining humble reminds us of everyone who helped our work, smoothed our path, soothed our heartache. We “built that,” true, but they enabled our accomplishment. Such helpers are there for all of us, if we remember to remember, acknowledge, and to be grateful.

Kindness in our dealings – can’t we all use more of that? Both on our end and on the part of others? Sometimes it isn’t easy – we’re tired, we’re busy, we snap. But, if we are mindful and careful, we can do better to model the qualities we’d like to see more of in the world. So, let us do that.

Starting today, let’s all do our best to stay humble and kind.

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear your take on being humble and kind in today’s world.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

I’ll admit it – I wasn’t overly excited to see the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. But it was recommended to me by a good friend, and I figured it had to be worth watching.

For those who don’t know, the film is based on the relationship which developed between Fred Rogers and Tom Junod, a reporter sent to interview the iconic Mister Rogers for Esquire in 1998. Rogers, as probably everyone reading this knows, is played by Tom Hanks; Junod’s character, here re-named Lloyd Vogel, is portrayed by Welsh actor Matthew Rhys.

Well, I am glad I did see it – there are so many worthwhile takeaways – not least, the acting of both principals.

But what impressed me most was watching this strange friendship develop – the smart, flip-hip urban reporter, wearing cynicism like a feather in his cap, and the soft-voiced, mild-mannered host of an immensely popular children’s television show.

The reporter thinks Rogers cannot be true; Rogers thinks the reporter is worth enlightening. And both are willing to explore this. Chance encounters can lead to life-changing experiences, as the reporter finds.

The reporter finds Mister Rogers is real – despite his initial unwillingness to think so. Fred Rogers has done him a service in broadening his mind and perspective. And gained grace himself by doing so, as well as an honest and sympathetic portrait in the magazine in question.

A mutual benefit.

This is not to say we should make a point of intimately befriending every single person who comes into our lives – we’d never have the time to be a real friend to anyone at all. But if we’re open and sensitive to the person we can really help, the person who can really help us, or both at once, we can find great enrichment.

Think of your best friends – how have you met them? What if you hadn’t met them that day, in that circumstance? How would you have found each other? Would you have given them time to become friends at all?

So much of the beauty in life depends on our being open to it – let’s guard our time and hearts, sure, so that we don’t short-change the people we already value, but let’s be open to seeing when the investment of both is worthwhile.

What unexpected encounters have been life-changers for you?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear your stories!

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

This year our country celebrated its 244th birthday. As Abraham Lincoln put it, our nation was “conceived in liberty,” and I started thinking about liberty, independence, and what those words, those concepts, really mean as part of our lives.

Some people take liberty and independence as an opportunity – even perhaps a requirement – to disconnect from other people. Certainly, they are allowed that choice.

But choice is an integral part of liberty, and we don’t lose our liberty, or our independence, when we choose to connect. Independence and interdependence are not mutually exclusive, because neither can be made absolute in our lives.

Because the rights of liberty come with responsibilities. To offer others what we’d like to receive ourselves – courtesy, truthfulness, trustworthiness. Love. Dignity. Support in adversity, genuine happiness in others’ good fortune. Gratitude.

I have every reason to be grateful on this earth; the deliberate practice of gratitude is something I try to make part of my daily life. Sometimes I fall short, but I make the effort. And I find that, when I succeed at counting and appreciating my blessings, love, courtesy, honesty and the rest of it come much more easily.

As important as I think gratitude is, its greatest gift might be the way it enables other states of being, other practices which make life beautiful.

So, let’s choose to be both interdependent (because we all are, in reality) and independent (because freely chosen lives are our birthright as Americans). Let’s choose this because it just makes life better, for ourselves and for others.

How do you balance independence with interdependence?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to know your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

Fellowship. For centuries, it meant mutual commitment, mutual support, mutual striving toward the good.

We retain that sense of the word, it’s true, but we’ve added a new definition as well – and one which has lost the sense of mutuality. A “fellowship” as something bestowed on an individual, not something experienced among people who have come together for a common cause.

Sure, there may be an honorarium attached. It looks great on your resume. It may even offer excitement and pleasure in the work to be done. But – well, where’s the fellowship in a fellowship of this kind?

I feel very blessed – and very grateful – to have known the great benefit real fellowship brings. In my family, among my friends, with my team at work. Fellowship both lifts us up and keeps us humble. It reminds us we cannot do it all alone – and reassures us we don’t have to. Our fellows (and this is a gender-neutral word, going back to the Old Testament) are there to help.

In the current pandemic, it can be hard to sustain our feeling of connectedness to others, our feeling that we truly are in fellowship.

But, if we think about it, haven’t we really proved that we are, in fact, connected (even if not in person)? Hasn’t this time of uncertainty and fear caused you to rally for others? For others to rally when you needed it, whether the need was financial, health-related, or just emotional exhaustion from the “new normal?”

That is what fellowship is. You showing up (virtually or literally) for others, them showing up for yourself.

How has genuine fellowship enriched your life?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear from you!

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

Into the void created by Congress’ lack of progress on the next tranche of coronavirus economic relief, President Trump marched Saturday, August 8, 2020, with a slew of executive orders.

One of these encourages employers to defer withholding of employees’ Social Security contributions, up to annualized wages of $104,000, beginning September 1, 2020 and ending December 31, 2020.

However, this executive order is short on details and guidance, leaving employers wary. Neither the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) nor the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has stepped in, both agencies declining to comment on Monday, August 10, 2020, about either timing or content of any new rules geared at implementing and / or clarifying President Trump’s executive order.

Here are some of the potential pitfalls:

  1. The tax liability will fall principally upon employers to make the payments of deferred withholdings once they become due. And there is no guidance as yet as to when that due date would be.

  2. There is no indication as to how the IRS would seek to recover funds – from employees through individual income tax forms or via extra withholdings, or from employers through audits. Remember who has the deeper pockets – the employers.

  3. While the President has said he would push for forgiveness of liability on these deferred payments, the matter is in the hands of Congress, not his own. While he has the authority to defer taxes, the President’s office cannot forgive tax payments. Congress holds the nation’s purse strings under Constitutional law.

  4. If an employer stops the withholding as of September 1, 2020, and an employee leaves for another company, would payment of the deferred withholdings be considered wages, leaving the employer responsible for additional payroll taxes on these withholdings?

  5. Payroll processors will have to scramble to implement technological “fixes” to accommodate the deferrals – and they, too, must wait for guidance.

Frankly, while it may be tempting to take whatever potential relief is offered, at this point we advise employers NOT to defer employees’ Social Security withholdings. When guidance, or Congressional action, is forthcoming, that position could change, but for now, we simply cannot recommend it.

Stay tuned – we will provide updates as they arise.

If you have questions on deferral of employees’ Social Security withholdings, please click here to email us directly – we are here to help.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

I was recently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, taking my family out to dinner – or trying to. The restaurant we chose was unable to seat us outside; the idea of dining inside made me anxious, and we left.

Trying to dissipate the anxiety, which I found lingered, we took a drive. Not to anywhere, we just drove. And we happened upon an Elk Refuge – at least, that was what the sign said, we didn’t see any elk, not a one. But we did see all the beauty of nature, down the narrow road we took.

We found not only beauty, but a sense of peace – and at just the right time.

That is serendipity in a nutshell – finding something wonderful you weren’t looking for. Maybe you were looking for something else altogether, maybe you weren’t looking for anything at all – but what serendipity does is find you – if you are open to receive it.

I’ve written in the past of the value of deep focus, and I stand by that. But we can’t maintain that intensity all the time.

Deep focus is sort of a closed state – and needs to be – think of closing your office door to shut out distractions. But we need openness in our lives, as well – and if we open ourselves, we may find something wonderful. Maybe even an idea to focus deeply on!

I’ve been reading a book lately, called Mastery, by Robert Greene. While I contemplated my experience at the Elk Refuge as a topic to write about, I came upon a section in the book called, “Serendipity,” which was possibly almost too serendipitous.

One of the “Masters” Mr. Green writes about is Louis Pasteur. In 1879, Pasteur researched cholera in chickens, preparing cultures of the disease to work with. But other projects interrupted him, and the cultures sat untouched in his laboratory for some months. When he was able to resume his chicken cholera research, he injected the cultures into chickens – and, to his surprise, they all recovered easily from the fatal disease. He thought his cultures must have lost some measure of their virulence over time, and obtained new varieties of the cholera.

When he injected the new cultures into chickens – the ones he has already given the old cultures to, and new chickens – well, the new chickens all died, as he’d expected. But – and this he had not expected – the chickens he’d previously injected with old cultures all survived.

Now, this was not the first time such a phenomenon had been observed, but no-one before had taken that observation further. It was Louis Pasteur who was open enough to realize that he had, by chance, by serendipity, discovered a brand-new medical practice – immunization against disease by the administration of the disease itself, in very small doses.

And then he went to work again, and focused.

So, while we all can use better and deeper focus, we also need openness to what chance offers us – and the vision to take what we’re offered and run with it.

Think of all the vaccines we had to get as children. Of the new vaccines our children get that we didn’t. And of all the vaccines yet to be.

And let’s take a moment to honor the pioneering mind of Louis Pasteur, who was open and alive to the possibilities which had serendipitously arisen.

How have you experienced serendipity in your life? What have you found, and what have you done with it?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear your stories.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

Right now, many of us who are parents are trying to decipher, to reconcile, to discern, how our children are going to be educated this fall, whether they are in their public or private schools or in college, whether they have on-line learning set up or not.

My daughter, Meghan, will be a junior this autumn at Centre College, a small private college in Kentucky. She has been adjusting to online classes and is almost finished with a linear algebra class she has been taking online this summer.

But, having our children learning at home can give us insight into how our children perceive their education – are they engaging with what they are learning, or are they merely checking off the necessary boxes to obtain course credit? Because, if the latter, I think there might be a problem here – at least, a potential one.

Those accustomed to making the least effort necessary to achieve their goals may find themselves at a disadvantage later in life. Those who don’t embrace learning as a lifelong goal, in and of itself, can sometimes find it hard to change that mindset to embrace new challenges, adapt, learn new skills.

It can be difficult to adjust to our children being at home all the time – or it can be something we embrace with thankfulness. Maybe most of us find it difficult sometimes, and feel grateful at other times.

One thing we can view with thanks – and I know it’s hard, at this point in time, to be told to be thankful – is that we have had the opportunity to engage more deeply and more immediately with our children’s education, their learning processes, and their attitudes toward it all.

We’ve been able to remind them of the joys of learning – and to model this for them ourselves. Try setting yourself and your child(ren) a subject to pursue together, whether it is on the curriculum or not. We have been learning to play mahjong together, and are putting puzzles together as a family. Learn along with them, engage them on the subject, ask questions to spark their minds’ creativity. Most importantly, take the time to listen to what your children have to say.

Have your school- or college-age children been cooped up with you? What strategies have you developed to cope, and to engage with them?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear any ways you’ve come up with to deal with the fallout of the novel coronavirus and the ways it’s changed all our lives.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

If you received the proceeds of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in April or early May of 2020, and have not elected a 24-week covered period over the 8-week period you assumed you’d have, then you are done, and should apply for forgiveness as early as possible, to get the process completed, right?

Well, not really. There are a number of factors which, taken together, make it wiser to wait, at least for now, before applying for PPP loan forgiveness from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

  1. The SBA and the U.S. Treasury Department haven’t yet issued final guidance on the loans or on forgiveness.

  2. Many lenders have not finalized their own technological processes for applying – they are awaiting the SBA and Treasury guidance before they can be sure their tools are accurate and compliant.

  3. In a similar vein, many payroll processors are preparing specifically-designed reports which borrowers will be able to use to support their loan forgiveness applications. Like lenders, they await final guidance.

  4. Loan recipients who can use the 24-week period, which became optional for those who received loans before June 5, 2020 (the date President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act into law) may find it allows them to meet the relaxed 60% payroll-related expense threshold for full forgiveness of the loan. Obviously, if it benefits you to use the longer covered period, you are going to do that.

  5. There’s no need to rush. Borrowers are not required to make any payment on the loan until either a) they apply for loan forgiveness, or b) 10 months have passed since their covered period has ended. For those choosing a 24-week covered period, that means they have almost 16 months from receipt of the loan proceeds. For those with 8-week covered periods, it’s still nearly a year between receipt of funds and the requirement to repay or apply for loan forgiveness.

And it may be that for a good many of us, the process won’t be as daunting as it originally appeared it would be.

We’ve previously referenced (and linked to) Form 3508EZ and its Instructions.

This form can be used by PPP loan recipients who meet one of three criteria:

  1. Borrower is self-employed, an independent contractor, or a sole proprietor who had no employees at the time they applied for the PPP loan and included no employee salaries in calculating their average payroll amount when applying.

  2. Borrower did not reduce salaries or hourly wages by over 25% during the covered period (whether 8-week or 24-week) compared with the period of January 1 through March 31, 2020 (employees who earned over $100,000 annualized at any point during 2019 do not count for this purpose); AND did not reduce the number or the average paid hours of their employees between January 1, 2020, and the end of their covered period. For purposes of this criterion, employees at February 15, 2020, who left their positions either through layoff or voluntarily, and refused a good-faith offer of rehire, do not count. Nor do they count if the borrower was unable to fill the position with a similarly qualified individual.

  3. Borrower did not reduce salaries or wages by more than 25% during the covered period compared with the period of January 1 through March 31, 2020, AND was unable to operate at the same level of business activity as before February 15, 2020, due to compliance with health and safety regulations relating to COVID-19.

In any event, it makes sense to wait, at least until the SBA and Treasury give us final guidance, to apply for PPP loan forgiveness. So much has changed since the initial “rules” were established, and it cannot be certain that the “Interim Final Rules” currently in force (as amended, in most cases) will remain “Final.”

Additionally, the SBA resumed accepting new PPP Loan applications on July 7, 2020, and will continue to do so through August 8, 2020. In the process of reviewing applications, the SBA may find additional changes it thinks should be made to the forgiveness procedures.

Stay tuned – if there is one thing we are sure of, it is that this is not the final word on PPP loans.

If you have questions on the PPP, please click here to email us directly – we are here to help.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

The recent passing of Anders Ericsson, who developed the deliberate practice theory, got me thinking once again on how profoundly helpful I have found putting that theory into practice. Ericsson influenced many thinkers and many books, including Geoff Colvin’s 2008 Talent is Overrated.

While I believe talent exists, without work, talent won’t get you far. Almost everyone has heard of Michelle Kwan, 2-time Olympic medalist, 5-time World Champion and 9-time U.S. National Champion in Ladies’ Figure Skating. What’s less well known is that she was not, by a long shot, the most talented figure skater of her day, even in this country. She wasn’t even, as she acknowledged, naturally musical. What set her apart?

At age 10, her coach related, she demanded to know, “what do I have to do to be the best?” She didn’t mean her best, she meant the best there was. She didn’t just ask the question, she did the work, the dedicated and deliberate practicing, her more talented competitors did not, and in time she beat them regularly. She retired from competition in 2006, and to this day remains the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history.

So, even great talent won’t get you to the top. Not without doing the work – and not only working hard, but working purposefully. Not, in essence, without deliberate practice.

Look hard at any “prodigy” and you will find that person has done an enormous amount of focused, deliberate work. What’s prodigious in them may be less their talent than their dedication, their application.

Deliberate practice, in a nutshell, is the defining of a goal, determining how and where you need to improve, and stretching yourself past your comfort zone so that you grow your abilities as well as realizing them. Then, reflect on your next goal, how you still must improve to get there. Rinse, repeat. It’s a life-long process, if you let it be, and a rewarding one, as you become better than you ever imagined you could be at the start.

Ericsson, may he rest in peace, transformed our thinking. We no longer believe we can just stumble into the area of our particular gift and be an instant success, living happily ever after.

No, even those with the greatest talent must work toward the goal of realizing and maximizing their talents. Deliberate practice is what gets any and all of us there, and the result is accomplishment.

How have you used deliberate practice to improve your work?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to know your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing a measure to extend the deadline to apply for PPP loans from the SBA – the extension passed both Chambers by unanimous vote, and President Trump signed it into law the day it was passed in the House.

The initial application period ended at midnight on June 30; the extension approved will be for 5 weeks, ending August 8, 2020.

At 9:00 a.m. on Monday, July 6, 2020, the SBA resumed accepting PPP loan applications.

For those whose loans have already been approved and the funds received, when you begin your application for loan forgiveness (Form 3508 or Form 3508EZ), you may be wondering whether the SBA will come back to you with questions concerning your certification (when applying for the PPP loan) in good faith that “Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”

If your loan is for an amount less than $2 million, the answer is “probably not.”

According to the SBA’s PPP FAQs:

46. Question: How will SBA review borrowers’ required good-faith certification concerning the necessity of their loan request?

Answer: When submitting a PPP application, all borrowers must certify in good faith that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” SBA, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, has determined that the following safe harbor will apply to SBA’s review of PPP loans with respect to this issue: Any borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.

However, the SBA does reserve the right to review any and all PPP loans “as appropriate.”

To support your good faith certification, should the SBA come asking, you should maintain a file of all documentation you can muster – internal and external correspondence, written or electronic, concerning any changes in staffing, e.g., employee pay, layoffs or resignations, and/or offers of rehire.

Any unusual circumstances or changes to processes such as purchasing supplies should also be documented – if you had to go to an unusual supplier because of the impact of COVID-19, keep these invoices together, along with any correspondence illustrating the necessity of the change.

Know and document the ways in which the coronavirus affected your industry (both nation-wide and in-state) and your operations, and the impact(s) of Federal, State, and local regulations on that industry and your business in particular.

In addition to maintaining documentation, it might be wise, especially for those with larger PPP loans, to write a narrative memo, drawing on all the facts and circumstances affecting your business during this time of uncertainty, and supporting the good faith of your certification that the loan was necessary.

These are just a few examples of what you can do – and remember, this is the Federal Government – less is not more in these circumstances. Redundancy is better than falling short. If you have questions or concerns, consult your advisor.

Tune in next week – there is bound to be something new coming.

If you have questions on the PPP, please click here to email us directly – we are here to help.

Until next Wednesday –

Peace,

Eric

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