London Times

And so our time in London is done. In a short few days, we visited the birth place of Elizabeth I (Greenwich) and her death place (Richmond). The palaces are long gone but the cities are amazing. We visited the Richmond Green (including the Ted Lasso pub) and toured Kew Gardens. We experienced various pubs (Stage Door, Queens Head, Princes Head, Coach and Horses). We ate amazing food (Thames Eatery, Brasserie Zedel, Arch Duke, The Ivy, Colbert, and St James Cafe). We ran into friends from home. We walked and walked and walked (averaged about 10 miles per day). We observed a city prepared to celebrate Elizabeth II. It is her platinum jubilee 70 years on the throne.

London remains an amazing vibrant city but it has changed. In the future, I will write more about how London has changed since pandemic and Brexit. For now, we travel outside of London to visit dear friends we have not seen since before the pandemic.

“Happiness is a good flow of life.” – Zeno

An Elizabethan Theme

Recently, I visited London. London is a place I dearly love. A place where I feel comfortable. A place with so many opportunities to wander and ponder. I have not been in London since January 2020. Much has changed as both the pandemic and Brexit occurred. But mostly, London remains the vibrant cultural hub of activity.

As we arrived, the city was preparing to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch having served for 70 years. Most people in the United Kingdom have lived under one monarch. It will be interesting to see how history tells the story of this Elizabethan era. While the presence and celebration of Elizabeth II is everywhere in Central London, we chose to explore on the outskirts of Central London.

On day 1, we took the Thames Clipper from Embankment to Greenwich. I highly recommend this mode of transportation. Though more expensive, it is a unique way to see the city. Tip: Be sure to arrive early and get a window seat. Greenwich is famous for its Royal Observatory where one can stand on the prime meridian line. You can tour the Cutty Sark , the last remaining tea clipper. The University of Greenwich is there on the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. You can walk through the amazing parks and get great views of London and Canary Wharf. Lots of dogs and kids running around. While in Greenwich, visiting the Greenwich Market is a must just to seen the eclectic mix of arts, crafts, and food. Speaking of food, if you want to eat, there are plenty of options so come here hungry!

Little known to many is the presence of a now (mostly) gone palace. The Palace of Placentia. Henry VIII was born here as were his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is reported to have spent much time here growing up. There is a tree on the grounds which she reportedly played under as a child and remains of the tree can still be seen! So much history is present. The palace was (mostly) torn down by Charles II in hopes to rebuild something bigger and better but it never happened. Read more about it here. I highly recommend a trip to Greenwich.

On day 2, we headed to Richmond. We used the train though the underground will take you there too. This trip was inspired by watching Ted Lasso. Though we had been to Richmond before, we had not explored it through the Ted Lasso lens. We arrived mid-morning on a Sunday and all was quiet. We stumbled upon a nice restaurant for breakfast. We wandered toward Richmond Green to locate the Princes Head Pub featured in the show. We also found where Ted lives but we we didn’t find the source of his biscuits! The park was quiet and most things were still closed. We decided to walk along the Thames Path to and around the Old Deer Park and up the Thames Path to Royal Botanical Gardens a.k.a. Kew Gardens (Total walk was about 2.5 miles. It’s flat and easy.)

If you have never been to Kew Gardens and you are interested in plants, flowers, trees, and bees, this is a must go place. It is stunningly beautiful and diverse. See what is there! Plants from all over the world. Each plant is marked and many have a description. Whether you are just learning about plants or are already an expert, there is something here for you.

After a couple of hours (which isn’t enough) we strolled back to Richmond, shopped a bit and ate at the Prince’s Head. Though there are only a few original structures left, Richmond was once the site a great palace. Richmond Palace was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She died here in 1603.

So in the span of two days, we visited the birth and death places of Elizabeth I. All this was done as the country prepared to celebrate Elizabeth II.

Homecomings

My father was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He grew up in Aberdeen shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. My grandparents lived in Aberdeen for most (if not all) of their 50+ years of marriage. Both my grandparents and several relatives are buried in Aberdeen. Growing up, I visited Aberdeen a few times a year to visit my grandparents. When I think of Aberdeen, I think of family.

So why do I talk of Aberdeen? Is it because I want my readers to know about the third largest city in South Dakota? Not really but be curious and click the link above to learn more. Is it because I am feeling sentimental about life and reflecting upon all that is good? Perhaps. Is it because next week I will be in Scotland near Aberdeen, Scotland? No, but I will be in Scotland next week and will blog about it.

So why Aberdeen? Why now? Bear with the story for moment. About 18 months ago, I made the decision to transition out of higher education. As I researched career transition option, I considered many industries where I could utilize my skills. For many reasons, I focused much of my attention toward the trust industry. The trust industry has a strong presence on South Dakota due to favorable laws.

With that, I am extremely excited to announce that I have a accepted a position with Dacotah Bank in Sioux Falls as Trust and Wealth Advisor. So how does this tie into Aberdeen? Dacotah Bank was founded in Aberdeen. So, in many ways, this job is a homecoming for my family.

Transitions

At the top of this post, is a picture of a place that was a sanctuary during the pandemic. It is approximately a 2-mile walk from my home. I would come here and look at the flowers, the gazebo, and the trees. I would ponder life and meditate. Today, I came here to do the same. I wanted to teach a class here but never did.

A little over a week ago, I gave my last lecture. Today will be my last class session. In lieu of a final exam, we will watch student-made videos and say goodbye.

This will be one of many transitions that will take place in the coming days. Seniors will be graduating from the institution I have loved for the past 16 years. Most will move into jobs and careers while others will matriculate to graduate school. Those not graduating will transition out of the dorms to home or other summer living arrangements. Many will transition from school to summer work and/or internships. And finally, many students and colleagues will transition out of Augustana into another phase of life (retirement, another school, work).

For me, I will continue my life change. I am moving out of academia back into the private sector (decisions will be made tomorrow). Next week, I will move back into our remodeled home. I will travel to see friends and places not seen for a couple of years (and a few new ones). My wife will transition to one year older and I will follow if a few weeks.

Today, I am pondering all of those transitions and wishing my students and colleagues the best. I hope we can remain connected but I understand that often life takes us in different directions.

I’m not attending any of the graduation festivities this weekend and my office is clean. When I leave Augustana today, it will be the last time as faculty. In the past, I often wondered how I would feel on this day. Joy? Sadness? Relief? Excitement? Mixed emotions? As I sit here on the bench looking at the gazebo, I have the answer. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Harris out.

The Last Lecture

Today I will give my final lecture at Augustana. After 16 years, it is time to move on. I am not the same person who began teaching 16 years ago nor is Augustana the same institution it was 16 years ago. This is neither good nor bad. Change happens.

In recent weeks, I have thought a lot about my final semester and my final days as a professor. Last night I watched much of Randy Pausch’s last lecture.  (I watched the entire short version (here is the short version) At a minimum, you should watch the short version (10 minutes). If you are curious, you would watch the long version (approximately 85 minutes).

In class today, I will talk about intellectual property and criminal law. I will talk about the value of brand and ideas. It won’t be perfect but there were a few stories. I hope the students learn. I have always hoped they learned.

Yet I don’t want my last lecture to be about Cody the Cow. I wanted my last words at Augie to be more. Though I wasn’t asked to give the last lecture, I prepared one anyway.  I might even record it and put it up. I give this last lecture to and for my students, my colleagues, and anyone else who cares to listen. My title is “Believe, Be Curious, and Let It Be.

So please imagine I was delivering this lecture to all of my students in person.

Thank you for coming to my last lecture. I hope you enjoy it and take something away from it. To my students, you have taught me more than you will ever know. You have taught me patience, humility, clarity, compassion, and gratitude. You have taught me to ask questions before jumping to conclusions. You taught to me think the best of people. I have not been perfect and made mistakes. I have tried to hold you accountable while showing compassion.

I hope that I have taught you something in our time together. Mostly, I hope I taught you to believe.  Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Believe in your dreams. Believe you can be better and do more. I know life is tiring and you will need to rest. Rest if you must but don’t stop believing. If you could just believe in yourself as much as I believe in you – Oh, the places you will go and the things you will do. You have no idea what you are capable of achieving unless you believe.

Think about it for a moment. If I can graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, argue a case before the South Dakota Supreme Court two years after law school graduation, become a college professor, lose 60 pounds in 4 months, and walk at least 10,000 steps every day for over two years, you can do anything.

So, do us all a favor and set your goals high and work towards them every day. Believe you can do it and go for it. I believe you can do it.  Do you?

Next, I want you to be curious. Ever spent any time with a 6-year-old? Many six-year-olds are curious. They are constantly asking questions. They want to learn for the sake of learning. They aren’t angling for a grade, a job, a promotion, a raise, or fame. They just want to know!

As an undergraduate student, I was not very curious. Like many of you, I took classes to check a box as a requirement for graduation. I simply wanted to pass the class and move on. I didn’t give much thought to why the class was required or how it could help me in life. Just give me my C and move on because Cs get degrees!

I wish I would have taken the time to think about things and be curious. Ask questions. Look for solutions to the hard problems. Listen to others. What you can learn by just listening. Read books for fun. Travel frequently and to new places. Explore where you live. Find Walt Disney’s signature on the Augie campus and tell others to do the same.

Please spend part of each day growing your mind and learning something new. Read an article in a newspaper, magazine, or website. Read a chapter in a book.  Listen to a podcast or take a MOOC. Talk to an “expert.”  Ask questions. Explore nature.

Change and innovation happen through curiosity (along with hard work, luck, and failure). Innovation happens when a curious person asks, “Is there a better way to build a mousetrap?”, “Do we need a mousetrap?”, or “Perhaps mice are beneficial and shouldn’t be trapped?” Questions are powerful. Curiosity is powerful. You are powerful. Use your power for good.

Finally, accept things for what they are. One of my favorite Beatles songs is “Let It Be.” The melody is simple yet wonderful. The lyrics provide one of life’s best lessons. 

Here is a verse – And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.

In life, there are challenges.  There are moments, days, weeks, and months that do not go your way. This is part of life. Most of this will not be within your control. But roll with the punches. Get knocked down 7 times and get up 8. Keep moving forward.

There is very little in life you can control. You can control what you eat, drink, and wear (with some limitations). Mostly, you can control your thoughts and reactions.  Beyond that, it is out of your control. So, whatever happens, don’t label it good or bad – just let it be.

To those that have been a part of this journey over the last 16+ years, from the bottom of my heart thank you. You have all given me more than I could have imagined. While I am sad that I am leaving, I am so excited about my next chapter. Life is an adventure and a journey. Enjoy the ride.