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Glen Allen, VA 23060

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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad

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WGarth Callaghan

Emma's Center (She goes to a high school with a special group of classes which focus on Humanities. About 1/2 of her classes are with the same group of students. It's called a "center") had a potluck last week so the parents and teachers could get together. Believe it or not, I am not entirely comfortable with forced social fun. And I wasn't feeling particularly well that night. It wasn't a good combination. 

I was approached by a parent of a freshman. She recognized me and asked, "Are you the Napkin Notes Dad?" I am never very good at these types of things, and I was a bit taken aback at being 'recognized', even in my own community. She commented that she could never do that. I had to assume she was referring to writing a note each day. I didn't get a chance to follow up with her and I regret it. I didn't have a good answer but thought about that interaction all weekend. 

I think this is a fear we all share. None of us, parents, managers and leaders, writers, and especially student, like to look at a blank piece of paper. 

If we were to commit to writing a note each day, what would happen when we failed? What would happen if we missed a day? How would it feel to let your child/employee/publisher down? 

The answer is simple. But I got the answer from something that happened about 20 years ago. 

Circuit City was soliciting a new ad/branding campaign. I was privileged to see a concept video from Chiat Day. The video took us through a brief history of how electronics have impacted our lives, and ended in the future, showing a clear TV hanging in the middle of the room, visible from both sides. I won't go into the full video details, but suffice it to say it was magnificent. One of my coworkers was tearing up in the conference room as the lights came up. 

The CC Executives decided they couldn't go in this direction. They explained, "Our stores are small, dirty, and dark. If we run with the concept commercial, we would disappoint the customers and not meet expectations." The Chiat Day team responded simply. "If you run this campaign, they'll forgive you." 

I've written a note each day for years. We've set the expectation. I have (shock!) missed a day now and then. I've driven to school in order to drop off a note. Lissa has picked up the responsibility when I couldn't get out of bed in time. That's what our family does. 

If I were to really drop the ball one day, yes, Emma would be disappointed. I would certainly expect a comment, possibly with a side of snark. She expects there to be a note, and she would definitely ask what was up with me missing a day.  

However, one day out of two thousand school days she's already received a note, she'd likely forgive me. 

Don't let the fear of striking out stop you from stepping up to the plate. 

Pack. Write. Connect.