Inspiration | Philosophy | Motivation | Marketing | Business

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 3)

I Like to Read but I LOVE to Write!

When I read I learn things about stuff but when I write I learn things about myself.

Writing slows my brain down and forces me to think. For a man who speaks the first thing that comes to his mind that’s important. As funny as that might sound, it really isn’t. My whole life my mouth has gotten me into trouble. Things sometimes come out in a way I didn’t mean them to in my ready-fire-aim brain. That never happens when I write.

Writing is like exercise for my brain. I ALWAYS feel better when I lift weights or write my thoughts down. It doesn’t matter what the topic is and certainly not if anyone else reads it (though I like composing things that people can hopefully relate with) Articulating my thoughts or feelings on a subject through writing forces me to examine my own thoughts and feelings cementing my perspective on whatever it is I’m writing about.

My brain is EXPLODING with thoughts regarding this year’s Cabomonium. If I don’t push myself to do something I know is good for me (weird huh?!) and pack my gym bag I won’t lift weights tomorrow…or do what I should and compose my thoughts regarding Cabo.


Something tells me I’m not alone in feeling better and learning more when I have the discipline to write out my thoughts.

Is that true for you too???

It’s still January so how about joining me with a New Year’s resolution to express yourself more by writing more in 2016?!

If you’re bold enough to post what you write on social media I don’t think it would hurt you either. Just do your best to project positive versus negative thoughts when you do (since when has projecting negative thoughts helped you anyway?!)

Just write from the heart and you will find it softening and your resolve strengthening in the process. If you want your biceps to look good though, you will still have to do “Reber’s!” Hah!



Love to Write Blog


What’s Your Cabo?!

Today Ed, Brian and myself accompanied by our better half’s depart for Cabo. I’m looking forward to the further life memories we are about to make together. It’s been three years now since we lost our National Sales Manager Perry Molema. My fondest memories of the almost 15 years we worked together were made in Cabo.


I’ve been leading excursions to Cabo since 2005. When the economy imploded in 2008 I circled the wagons and took off 2009 and 2010. I, like many other business owners, worried about the future and rightly so. However, the future is what you make it and at some point you gotta get busy living, or get busy dying. In my book it’s not really a choice…Carpe Diem!


Perry Molema’s unexpected passing only fueled my fire to live each day like it’s my last. As I stated while honoring his memory on a beach in Cabo nonetheless, none of us can choose when we leave, but all of us can choose how we live each day we are blessed to be here.


Can you say Cabomonium?!

One of Perry’s favorite places on this earth was Cabo. Through Aquascape he got to experience it multiple times. Some of you will be introduced to the magic of Cabo for the first time this year. I was going post this on the Cabomonium group page until I thought of one thing. Some of you will experience Cabo for the first time…next year!

With that for perspective here’s the one thing all of us need to define for ourselves.


What’s your Cabo, and what are you going to do to make it happen in your life?!


Living life any other way isn’t really living life. After all tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.


Today I will see Ed for the first time since before Thanksgiving. If you haven’t noticed he’s been pretty busy on a little project in South America. I’m entering my 23rd year working with Ed. I want no regrets in my relationship with him or anyone else for that matter.


The last day I spent with Perry we played a round of golf. He loved golf, me not so much. As it turns out I couldn’t have scripted a better last day together.


Here’s to all of us defining our Cabo and than going out and making it happen in 2016!



Where is your Heart?

Where’s Your Heart?

This is a business group so I get all the talk about money here. But when I saw this post, from the number one installer of Aquascape products nonetheless, it inspired me to get something off my chest that’s been weighing pretty heavily on my heart for awhile now.

Steve Martin is leaving his company for three months to do something he values more than money. He’s making an incredible sacrifice by investing 1/4 of his year not working IN his business, not even working ON his business. Instead this small family businessman will be AWAY from his business for 25% of the year!


He’s got his whole family in tow too hauling them to literally the other side of the planet. They aren’t in Kansas anymore either Toto. Bangladesh is as far from rural PA as one could get! I had no idea Steve was even going till I saw his post asking for prayers for his family. Modest to the core is he.

Here’s the point of my point. Steve makes enough Benjamin’s obviously to allow him to live the life he values. All of us should be as blessed, most of us aren’t there yet. That’s why on a business page posts about making money are perfectly fine.

Until there not.

I don’t ever want the pursuit of Benjamin’s to come in front of the pursuit for perfection for the company I lead. Can you my heart with this one?!

Money can be the root of all evil (and that’s quoting a higher authority on the matter than me) If you’re pursuing money for money sake you will lose way more than you win. If your priorities for pursuing money are for the profit, your services will be out of alignment with what they should be for maximizing your return. Do you believe that?

Be honest, can you say your priorities for doing what you do are higher than doing them for the profit alone?

If the love of money is priority A1 for you than there’s a lot of things I could say to you. But to make my point there is only one thing I will say.

Aquascapes Top Frog Contractor (that means the dude that sells more of our products than anybody else) Steve Martin from Tussey Landscaping is spending the first three months of this new year preparing to serve other people instead of his business.

Any questions on where his heart is?

What about yours?


Having Heart

Watch Out for your Brian’s!

I’ve come to learn people don’t think like me. Something tells me that puts me in good company on this page. Afterall we are entrepreneurs for a reason. The problem is all of us must learn how others think or feel in order to help ourselves. Does that make sense?

We also need to own EVERYTHING we can own when it comes to how our way of thinking, believing and behaving is perceived by the rest of the world. In my case, that means saying I’m sorry…A LOT!!!

Last night I posted a long overdue blog titled “The Only Way To Quit A Job” If you didn’t read it, its on my personal FB page as well as, like all my blogs, our website (just search blogs) Anyway, as usual when it comes to my communication much was lost in translation (anyone else suffer from this syndrome?!) One of the ways what I wrote was misperceived was the thought process many, including some people on my own team had regarding the validity of even attempting to resolve a seemingly untenable situation with an employer. Why bother trying to resolve something when you’re burned out and wanting to leave? Furthermore, it’s ridiculous to have to turn in a letter of resignation to get the desired changes you feel you would need to stay. In some cases that my thinking may prove to be correct. In some cases, it may not, though. Nothing wagered, nothing earned in my book. Most people don’t feel that way and simply resign. <sigh>

In every company, I have ever dealt with or even know a little about the top reoccurring issue is either people or sales. Agreed? Aquascape is no exception but the thing that makes Aquascape exceptional is not our products, not our marketing but rather our PEOPLE. The same people that is that are the biggest pain in my a**!!!

Case in point being everyone’s favorite red head Brian Helfrich. How many of you would kill to have a Brian on your team? That is of course if you didn’t kill him first!


Brian started working at Aquascape fresh out of high school. Do I need to go any further?! Ok I will because it’s fun (now!) Brian was ARRESTED on his very first day of work (and it was only a half day at that!!!) I survived Brian and he survived me (jail cells not only keep people in they keep pissed off bosses out too) Hah! Brian has grown into an invaluable member of our team but it took years of grooming and mutual maturation to get to the place we are today.

I love Brian. He’s the kid brother I never had. But I haven’t always showed him the extent I loved and respected him. Why? Because I’m an idiot that’s why. In other words I’m just as human as almost everyone else.

Brian, as most people eventually do, got fed up with what he was doing and in particular how he was being made to feel doing it for Aquascape.

So Brian did what virtually everyone who feels like they’ve had more than they want to handle and he quit. He didn’t just quit though he quit, bought a truck, had business cards printed up and incorporated as a business.

Gut punch!

We’ve ALL been there. We ALL will be there again. It’s what happens when you own a business. It’s what happens when you are an idiot, or just another flawed human trying to figure life out.

My favorite poet, the esteemed Rocky Balboa says it best “It’s not how hard you get hit that matters, it’s how hard you get hit and keep moving forward that counts!”

Brian and I did just that going toe to toe hurling punches and full bore roundhouse swings for an entire weekend! I even pulled in the big guns,Carla Gulisano Wittstock and Ed Beaulieu to trade jabs with Brian. In the end, Brian won. He got a big pay raise and the well-earned respect and admiration he deserved. But I won too. That was 4 years ago and today Brian is performing at a stratospheric level for Aquascape.

Quite literally Brian “Is Da Man”

We’ve all had a Brian or ten that never became a Brian because we burned em out far too early in their development stages. Can you, like me, own that? If you can’t you will never get a Brian or an Ed, a Colleen Heitzleror Jeffrey PaytonScott Rhodes Aquascape or or or… to stay on your TEAM.

But if you can own your own crap the skies the limit for your people and your organization by default.

Most organizations fail because most organizations fail their people. Ouch!

Why it took Brian “leaving” to get what he deserved out of me was obvious in retrospect. While Brian was performing miracles by growing construction sales and profits year over year, Aquascape was hemorrhaging cash as our manufacturing and supply business was drying up with the rest of the economy.

Brian’s performance was the least of my concerns right up until he chose to leave. Immediately upon Brian’s “resignation” he became my highest concern!

What’s my point with all of this? It’s of course that I love Brian! But I did a piss poor job, as I so often do, of showing it. I suspect in that regard you and I might be the same.

Can you own that? If not, you might be getting a resignation letter from your “Brian’s. Unless they do the near- impossible…and talk to you first!

With love,

The Pond Idiot


The Only Way to Quit A Job

In my book there is only one way to quit a job. In my experience as an employer going on a quarter century however, I can frustratingly tell you ALMOST NOBODY DOES IT how they should! Either I’m wrong or most of the world is wrong. Please tell me where you personally land on this subject.

The only way to quit a job (assuming it is not over an ethical situation or retirement) is to go to your boss or all the way up to the owner and ask for a meeting. The only thing you should NOT bring to that meeting is a letter of resignation. If you enter that meeting with a letter of resignation, like most people do, you are not handling the situation the way that you should. If you are wondering how in the world I could have the audacity to know how YOU, should or shouldn’t handle a situation that I know nothing about, I’d answer this way.

Simply put by choosing to walk into a meeting with a letter of resignation in hand it means that you are choosing an option you have nothing to gain from and quite possibly everything to lose by doing. Period.

Instead of arbitrarily possibly limiting your options unnecessarily, here is the approach I think that everyone should try first. (I suggest doing it in-person but I am going to articulate what you should say in letter form here)


Dear Mr. Wittstock,

                I have enjoyed working for your company for the last ten years and appreciate the opportunity you have given me to do so. I have been offered a position with an excellent company that has me considering my options with your company. The offer for employment at Company X comes with a substantial pay raise, is closer to my home, has better benefits than I currently am receiving and happens to be in my college major which would allow me to pursue my lifelong passion. Based on these factors, I am considering accepting the position at Company X. However, before I make any significant life decisions regarding my career, I’d like your perspective and feedback regarding not just this opportunity but also whatever opportunities exist for me here. 

Ultimately, my goal is to be successful and happy with my career wherever I work. Any help as my current employer that you can provide me to achieve my goals would be greatly appreciated.



John (outside the box thinking) Doe


As an owner if I received this sort of communication I might hear angels singing from above I’d be so happy! Angels don’t normally sing above my office. If this interaction occurred I would have one of three reactions.

Congratulations! Never has a better thing happened for a more deserving person! Please help me plan your going away party! Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla frosting?
Interesting . In the last year three other people have left here to work for that company. I’m not exactly sure what happened but all three of them are no longer there. Would you like me to put you in touch with them so you can find out what their experiences were there?!

You know, I almost never do this but this is for your own damn good. Would you consider staying here if we gave you a promotion to your bosses’ bosses’ job? It would also entail a doubling of your current salary and a company Mercedes. Of course you would drive it only on the days of the week you choose to come to the office. As a manager you can choose where, when and how you best need to work to get the job done.

You have nothing to lose and everything to potentially gain (a higher level of respect, a new found awareness, a raise and promotion) handling it this way. Almost nobody handles it this way! They instead choose to just turn in a resignation letter, not just at Aquascape, but to almost every business owner I know.

Who’s wrong…me or the world?!

Quitting a job

The Definition of Hell is a Life Without Problems

I feel the need to finish my Football/Business post from last week especially considering the outcome of the game. Not only did the good guys win they did it in resounding fashion. I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat, quite literally to the action.

Last week my team (the good guys) lost for the first time in 24 games! (just think about that?!) The star running back emotionally called out the play calling of the coaching staff and multiple players announced they were leaving early for the draft. This team wasn’t used to losing and it appeared to everyone they were coming apart at the seams the week before their biggest game of every year. Not cool!

I was fascinated to see how the best coach in college football, Urban Meyer, would respond.

First he took ownership, calling the loss on him. Next he deflected the media barrage of criticism heaped at his star running back for violating taboo and “calling out the coaches” He said it was an inappropriately timed comment made by an emotional young man and that he and the team were moving on after the player apologized to not just him but his teammates. He also said he agreed with the comments that were made and would take a more active role in play calling the next week.

Situation defused game on!

And what a game it was! After the game and right before walking into the tunnel Coach Meyer ran to the stands and I was fortunate enough to be the first fan to shake his hand after the big win. I looked him in the eye and said “great way to respond to a gut punch” He stopped, looked up and said “thanks it feels good!”

I don’t care if you’re coaching a football team or leading a team of pond builders or even computer programmers, how any team responds to adversity is what ultimately determines how successful a “team” it becomes.

I’ve been on enough high performing and underperforming teams to know that well. Today our Team is heading down to Colombia South America to tackle a multimillion dollar amazingly challenging build. It will only be pulled off if Ed can pull the group of All Star contractors together to overcome the adversity that’s already (they are starting 3 weeks behind schedule through no fault of their own) being thrown their way. I have little doubt Ed and these talented CAC’s will find a way to get er’ done!

Nobody wants adversity in their lives yet anyone who does anything is only going to accomplish it if they can properly handle the adversity that inevitably comes their way.

You learn what your made of, or not, not when times or going well, but rather when there not!

That and that alone is why “A life without problems, is the definition of hell” is one of my favorite quotes.

In that regard I say…bring it on Alabama!


Definition of hell


Rocky Wisdom

39 years ago Sylvester Stallone conceived, wrote and starred in the original Rocky, winning the Academy Award for Best Movie along the way and launching his massive career. When it debuted I was a school kid living outside Philly and it instantly became my favorite film. It still is.

Last night the 7th installment in “the greatest movie series of all time” (Sorry Star Wars) premiered. You better believe I was there, family in tow, cheering him on in CREED. It was a knockout!

As maligned as Stallone is in the press for not letting his baby die (none of which probably saw number 6, Rocky Balboa, which was outstanding) here’s how I feel.




For me it never gets old rooting for the underdog. Cheering for the person who is all heart and puts in the work regardless of what adversity life manages to throw at them. What a great metaphor for life and one I’ve enjoyed watching again and again with the boys I’m trying my best to raise into men.

In the final fight scene, in the final round, the original score started playing.


I wanted to leap out of my chair and start swinging punches!!!

Thankfully for my kids’ sake I didn’t. Hah! For my sake though I will go back to work Monday, excited as always to “get punched and still keep moving forward!”

Rocky wisdom, as simple as it is, registers with me!

Always and forever

Carpe Diem

What Success Looks Like

As I wander and bumble my way through life, I am constantly reminded how horrendously awesome it is not to have all the answers ahead of time. Agreed? My almost out of body experience of being directed for a year of my life filming a reality show for Nat Geo Wild was an education that refined me beyond measure. For that, I am eternally grateful and appreciative of the wisdom that I gained.

Aquascape Pond Squad is that wisdom manifested. Allowing life’s non-linear course of success to shape us will ultimately determine whether or not we succeed on our journey.

I am proud of the product we are producing today and the team that I get to be a part of in making it. The cherry on top is to be creating it with the friends that I have made along my journey.

This is deep, I know, but also so much more rea,l than traditional reality T.V. allows you to get!

People ask me all of the time where I’m going with all of this. Honestly, how do you begin to even answer that when you are constantly evolving to adapt to an ever shifting playing field? I might not have all of the answers but I sure have plenty of dreams!

Pursuing those dreams, while welcoming others alongside me to play along as well, has brought a deep sense of fulfillment that I feel blessed to be experiencing.

Thank you for being a part of my journey even if it is only as a spectator. Doing something, anything, is a lot more fun when others are included as well.

Without further ado or a more continued deep reflection, here is the 7th Aquascape Pond Squad episode:

Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it!


What success

Was I Born on Mars or was Everyone Else?!

This summer we had an intern working at Aquascape that was exceptional. When it was time for her to go back to school to pursue her degree at a local community college we were sad to see her go. She had become such a valuable asset for our team and so we offered her something we hadn’t been motivated to do before.

We were happy to allow her to continue working here in between her classes. We flexed our work schedule to meet hers. When you do good work, good things happen. Funny how that happens huh?!

If that was all that happened though I wouldn’t be talking about it. Today I saw her in the lunch room and was excited to hear how she was enjoying her now second year of college. However, my enthusiasm to hear how good things were going for her wasn’t met with an equal level of passion by her regarding her experiences.

What?! This is college! It should be the time of your life right?! Surely she knows that?! Maybe she never watched Animal House though and doesn’t realize that?! I needed to get to the bottom of this problem pronto and talk some sense into her!

I asked her “why the lack of enthusiasm kid?” Her reply was telling. This semester I have all required classes. Left unsaid verbally but so apparent otherwise was how unfulfilling she found them. However her eyes light up when she said “next semester I have all classes in my major!”

How sad.

Here we find a diamond in the ruff, a young, talented hard working kid who comes into the game and is instantly contributing. We only get her services part time though as she is pursuing a dream to someday land a job doing what she’s doing now for us.

This is not my typical rant about how ridiculously over valued (and over expensive) todays college degrees so often are but rather this

In today’s day and age why is anyone forced to do anything generic just to “earn” something that is supposed to open doors for them to do something they want, and in this case actually are doing?

My point is this. We all have to do things in life we don’t want to do in order to get something else we do want. Agreed? That’s about as much merit as I can give to the craziness of seeing the light snuffed out in a talented and passionate mover and shaker who is forced to do something for no other reason than that’s what society deems you should be doing.

Pure silliness if you ask me (or have read this far)

I love seeing people become all they can be whatever it is they want to be. This girl is passionate about what she wants to be “when she grows up” and she’s going to college so she can do it.

The madness isn’t that she’s doing it already for me but rather she has to take (and pay for) some arbitrary core classes in order to keep pursuing the classes in her major she wants to take.

Every core class she isn’t passionate about is another hour of her life she won’t get back, and one fewer hour we can’t get the benefits of her talents either.

In two and a half more years she will have her degree and if she chooses to stay here I will pay her more provided she can produce more for me in return.

Something tells me she will be, but it won’t be because of those core classes we both now hate!


What I Wish Someone Would Have Told me when I was Young

Get good grades, get into a good college, get a good job. You don’t want me talking to your kids if this is what you want them to hear.

I have the privilege of getting in front hundreds of high school and college age kids every year. I love doing it too!

My main talk is “What I wish someone would have told me when I was your age”

Two things happen every time I give this interactive presentation. The kids (and their teachers) say they love it, and also they have never heard what it is I’m saying before.

Why is that and how could that be?!

I’m by no means a rocket scientist but I might as well be speaking Greek since they haven’t heard the simple things I’m saying before.

If you’re wondering what it is I’m saying I believe it’s more or less the same things I bet you would say. So then why is it that our children, our future, aren’t hearing what we are all saying?! Obviously the falls on us more than them.

So how would you answer that question?

“What do you know now that you wish someone would have told you when were a young adult?

I’m looking forward to hearing your responses.  I will then share the three main reoccurring themes I speak about every time. And since this is “what YOU wish you would have known then that you know now EVERY answer is the correct one!”



Get good grades

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