this week…we made calloused feet as we said ‘no’ to shoes in the cool mornings. That small decision would shape our day…shape our minds as we walked out into summer without lacing up and becoming leather tramps. A sense of freedom washes in with the tide, and then…draws us out toward the sea. We feel the vulnerability of vagabonds, releasing our ties and our ability to be held in the sway of a work week. This is summer. This is vacation. And now every step must be carefully selected, as the ‘souls’ of our feet finally have a chance to be part of the story. They have been waiting…and can now actually lead. But our gate and pace is halved, and a more mindful tale becomes etched in the sand.
our edges are also exposed, as the subtle curves of our shoulders seek the sun. Sleeves are considered low brow this week and the dresser drawers of our cottage bedroom are a mess of tank tops, sun dresses, jerseys, and cover ups. There are no neatly folded piles. No color matching consideration. No heavy cotton, or burdensome long-sleeves. Simply reach into the swirl of colors, and lift out the first least-restrictive piece your hand comes upon. Along with the lightness in our step, our arms find a wider range, and we reach to what we choose to hold with a new and more deliberate purpose.
there is no 9 to 5. No lunch break. No desktop computer. And a morning shower isn’t necessary. Deodorant is optional. It’s all coolers and ice packs, blueberry and apple fritters, hair ties and flip flops, cold, hard, sandy cottage floors, warm, soft, sun kissed skin, cherries and spf 50, pails, shovels, and skim boards, blue matted public ways opening to salty marshes, grassy dunes and piping plovers, drift wood and beach roses, sea weed, faulty umbrellas, billy’s chowder house, fish and chips and lobster rolls, everyday ice cream, Wells and Ogunquit and York, taffy stretched in store front windows, arguments over parking spots, coastal drives and Marginal Way walks, swim suits at dinner and wet car seats, arcades and beachcombers, jetty’s and a Perkin’s Cove, barnacles in tide pools, sunglasses after sunsets, salty kisses, sun burnt hugs, air conditioned naps and then hatching into humidity…it’s the song of summer…and I’m always ready to hear it again.
releasing ourselves from the career, the work week, the grind, and the frequent phone and email checks, we allow ourselves a recharge. Paradoxically, by unplugging…we become more plugged in to what matters most. A true vacation provides opportunities for an assessment of our home, work, and family balance from outside the box. A reevaluation in a sense. A fresh perspective. And a check in with ourselves to say…’hey, how ya doin?’
Do what you must to insert a getaway into your annual goals. Stop drinking Starbucks and put that money away for the next trip…start a micro business that will pay for one…cancel cable tv for the Spring and Summer. Whatever you have to do…do it! The experience of a vacation has such a valuable return on investment (click here for my post on r.o.i.) compared with buying tangible items.
‘fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do’ – john mayer
fäT͟Hər: a man in relation to his natural child or children
today is a celebration of you…of all the characteristics and actions you take on in your parental role. There is probably no greater responsibility in this world, so I hope you’ve taken the entire journey seriously. And even considering that I’m now 37 years old, your job isn’t done. You can’t retire from this one. I need more from you. I’m going to ask for more help and advice in the future…and your related position as a grandfather is just beginning.
Thinking of when you began the dad journey, I often wonder what you were thinking then…if you planned it out…how you anticipated the experience. Did you put money aside…try to work extra hours? Did you want a boy? Were you nervous as hell?
I know that when I found out I was going to become a dad, a sway of emotions overtook me. And I immediately came to, ‘ok, how the heck am I going to do this?’ I read some books, inquired with other parents, and planned out many ideas…like my daughter will only eat fully organic foods, mixed up in this trendy new blender, and…I will only put reusable diapers on my daughters bum, and…I need to open a bank account for Matilda’s college fund asap! However, I found that some of these efforts were unrealistic. Some too lofty. And some came from advice from parents who made a ton of mistakes themselves. In the end, we’re all ‘winging it’ as parents…doing the best we can…and practicing a lot of on-the-job training. No one knows all of the answers. And many of the answers work only for specific children, or at specific times. Therefore, we can all judge a little less harshly.
So dad, whatever you did during that time? It’s great. You probably made some tough decisions and came through with some great execution. I thank you so much for that! You probably made a ton of mistakes too…and you know what? I forgive you for all of them. I mean, look how I turned out!
I believe it’s easy for parents to get caught up in the details of what they must do in order for their kids to be the best on the block. I find myself wrapped up in that all too often. But if we step back and take a more general perspective, understanding that parents are more than the sum of all of their parts, we can cherish dearly the fact that our simple ‘presence’ within our children’s lives is what can contribute to a successful cultivation, an overall healthier society, and a fulfilled ‘next’ generation.
After all dad, I don’t remember you teaching me how to shave. I don’t think it was you who showed me how to tie a neck tie. And I’m not sure if you showed me how to tie my shoes with the one loop method or if that was someone else. But I can’t remember a time when you weren’t present in my life. You were always either there, or one simple thought away from being there. I’ve always known where you were…or at least thought I did. I can always think in my mind where you most likely are. That must be so significant! 37 years of that presence. That takes effort, and unconditional love, and careful attention. That describes effective communication, and respect, and integrity, and strong morals and values.
Sometimes I wonder how I became a certain way, or came to understand something, or why I believe in particular ideas, or practice parenting how I do. I have to conclude that your presence has greatly contributed to that. And again, many of these things seem to have been passed down with no direct speaking of, no detailed lesson taught (even though there were those too). No, this feels more like a security that I was afforded and a comfort that I was allowed…in which I was able to grow and learn and start holding things as my own. Thank you.
I honestly do hope to be as good of a dad to Matilda as you’ve been to me. There will be so many things I do differently though, and I know that’s ok. I am trying to use that ‘presence’ though…and will continue. Time will tell!
Music: I love this song…and it does have some ‘Dad’ connections within it. Enjoy!
I must admit it…my house is a mess! And…I just cleaned up that area. How does it already look like a storm hit it?
I have to confess…I’ve started a thousand projects around here, and about 999 of them still seem ‘under construction’.
I should accept it. I have a problem. Actually many, but I’ll start with this one and see if I can find closure with it.
I peg myself as really good at coming up with ideas. I have journals and sheets and post it notes collected with a bunch of random ideas. These can be related to business, the house, relationships, professional development, investments, blah blah blah. Most of my ideas are bad. However, I believe that while coming up with many poor ideas…and documenting them…I’m bound to come up with a good one here and there. It’s almost like I come up with 99 bad ideas for every one diamond in the rough. It’s a low shooting percentage but hey, if you don’t shoot you can’t score.
I do feel strongly about documenting by the way. If you don’t put your thoughts and ideas and goals down on paper, or somewhere digitally, they’ll just float around in your head, and possible float out of your head for good. Once you put them somewhere, you can make space in your head for developing that idea or adding interest to it…or coming up with another one. Find yourself a cool journal, even a good expensive one. It’s investing in your own brain/goals/ideas. And it will encourage you to put good use to it, and hold value in your own beliefs.
So I’m good with all that stuff. My interests are many. I’m quick to jump into things and just try something. I love learning anything new. However…I’m not good with following the practice of the phrase, ‘Always Be Closing’. This phrase is from the 1992 drama film called Glengarry Glen Ross, in which the character played by Alec Baldwin encourages some of the other characters to close deals within their sales work. Watch out for bad language, but here is a great clip from the movie. Look…it’s a very shallow message in regards to simply making more money above all else, and disregarding things like being a good dad, or being kind. However, it struck a chord with me in how it can relate to the idea of completing something. And this is what I have trouble with. As I said, I can start a bunch of projects. But I never seem to finish many of them.
This weekend, I had a task that I wanted to complete. The ramps in my landscape trailer have to be lifted in and mounted to the inside walls for transportation. Well, I’ve always had this crap system of a cheap eye-hook and bungee chords to hold them in place. Boring I know…bear with me. This system has bothered me for about 5 years. I can’t believe that! I’ve spoken about it, wrote down ideas, sworn at it many times…but never really done anything about it. Well on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, I came up with a plan, went to the hardware store for materials, and put in a new ramp mounting system. It was actually pretty easy! On Sunday, I found myself putting all of my tools back in their proper place, sweeping up the garage floor of all debris, and wiping down my workbench with a cleaner and paper towels. I suddenly thought, ‘Oh my…I’ve actually completed something, and I’m in the very final stage of cleaning up the mess associated with it. I never do this!’ I’m telling you…it felt so good. I immediately thought about ‘Always Be Closing’, and the benefits related to that. I thought about Casey Neistat, and how he has those words tattooed on his arm. He actually dedicated an entire Vlog to this idea. Watch it here!
Neistat says that if you start a bunch of things and don’t finish them, you’re a loser. That’s me…how sad. Someone who starts something and always finishes it is a closer. That’s not me. My new focus is to become more of a closer. I must bring my ideas to fruition…see them through to their fullest potential. I’m on it. By closing, and completing something, we are able to reap the rewards related to our project. After dealing with annoyance of the ramp system in my trailer for 5 years, and halfheartedly poking at it here and there with temporary repairs, no wonder I felt so good about putting smart and hard work to it and having it completed.
Closing leads to you feeling much more productive.
Closing frees up space in your head for other, more important ideas.
Closing encourages intellect and hard work over complaining and hoping.
Closing leads to more appreciation instead of expectation.
Don’t be a loser…be a closer!
A.B.C. totally relates to keeping our lives organized too. This is an area that I struggle with, and one that I’ll be putting some more focus into. When you come home…with a bunch of things in your hands…maybe a bag or two…and pockets full of receipts and change and hair clips (for some reason, I always find myself here)…do you put everything away in it’s designated spot? What I usually do is pile it onto my dining room table. It’s flat, easy to access, and I won’t need the table until about 5:30pm. That’s not closing. That’s losing! The worst is when I’ve put together a nice dinner and I go to bring plates to the table for Matilda and I, to find my loser pile in the way. Worst!
I do have all of the designated places for things. I have a file cabinet with nicely labeled folders, a piggy bank in the living room, a cup in the bathroom for Matilda’s hair clips. I just don’t follow that step of putting things directly into their proper place. And this is key. If you hired someone to come ‘organize your house’ or your life, a main thread would be to immediately place things into their position. Put them in their home. Look at your computer desk, your kitchen counters, the desktop on your computer…even your email inbox. Are you organized? I’ve started trying to get to a totally empty email inbox as often as possible. This entails creating simple folders, unsubscribing from all of the crap, deleting as soon as possible, and once a day, taking care of pertinent messages. It relieves so much stress for me to have a clean slate. But I need to work on the more ‘physical’ areas of my life…and organize those. I want to finish more projects on my to do list…not just start them. I don’t want to be a loser anymore…I want to be a closer! Please comment if you’ve found effective ways of ‘closing’ in your own life.
‘just my thoughts man – right or wrong…just what I was feeling at the time’ – Jay Z
We cannot really judge one another, or blame one another for our thoughts and opinions. It is honestly best to forgive someone for ideas you disagree with. Best to appreciate their perspective. Taking this approach broadens your own perspective, and allows you to employ a broader scope…a wider lens.
I once heard a line related to this, and it’s surfaced often when thinking about others…and our differences. It basically says that ‘you would do exactly what any other person does…behave in the same exact manner…had you been born to their parents, in the place they were raised, and brought up the same way’. I’m not sure where I heard this. Maybe it just came to me. Actually, I’ll just go ahead and claim it as mine right now! However simple it may be, it has provided me with a moral integrity in which I believe we’re all on the same level playing field.
Here is a healthy practice for you to try: think of a child living in a very different situation and place than what you have…preferably a child in a different culture, different socio-economic situation…something almost ‘opposite’ of you. Then consider the fact that this child could have been you! What if you were born there? Had to walk in those shoes? In that climate? This consideration has helped me develop a better understanding of others, and has led to less judgement. It’s allowed me to listen more effectively. It’s let me submit to others, and forgive, and appreciate.
This can sound like a weak position. Always submitting to others, and forgiving when people hurt me, or bring adversity to my life? Won’t that just lead to people steam rolling over me and using me as a doormat? No. Believe it or not, giving up control and judgement has given me a stronger sense of who I am. Instead of wasting so much energy on trying to control others, and situations, to no avail…I maintain a positive mindset, and often frame a response in my mind with the phrase ‘Is that so?’ This provides a position where almost nothing can knock me off course, regardless of the strength of the tides. I acknowledge the potential storm. I maintain the secure and reliable mast, and calmly set the main sail. Then I begin wayfinding through the tempest. I feel like Maui…with Moana at my side!
I once feared different ideas and opinions, opposite of my own. I was once intimidated by others who stood for values other than mine. This fear is what I believe to be one of the obstacles between groups not seeing eye to eye. And considering how many of us often fear the unknown, it may not even be a conscious wall we’re constructing within our minds. A natural cascading and compounding of negative or fear-filled thoughts can build, without us being aware. It’s as if within our typical day, during our tasks, we mindlessly grab a brick and place it on an arbitrary line. When the day is done, we’ve put up a faulty facade…a sloppy screen between ourselves and others. It gives you a false sense of security, and you may be proud of where you stand and what you’ve built. But the wall was constructed on careless judgement, weak mortar mix, an uneven foundation…not deliberate decisions, mindful masonry, on a level, compacted cornerstone.
I’ve already blogged some about being aware of our own thoughts, and the benefits of thinking positive. Here is a post related to that. This awareness will help to clean up your rubble if you have some, and strengthen your position and security without the need of a wall. What’s the best way to find that awareness? Start meditating. And start being mindful of your thoughts and reactions to different subjects. It takes practice like anything else. But with a little training, you’ll find yourself on a journey filled with happiness and contentment. Your shoulder may soften with the chip removed, allowing others a better landing to lean on.
One final thought that I think of often is ‘how do i make other people feel?’ At the end of our short time in this place, this question may be central to how successful our time was actually invested. This is of course difficult to know, as we can’t totally understand how others feel about us. And it’s less about what others ‘think’ of us…more about the kindness, support, generosity, and acceptance that we provide…hopefully leading to a comfort and security felt by the people around us. I believe a good, healthy self check-in is to ask yourself ‘how am I making other people feel?’
‘rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth’ – Thoreau
Return on Investment:A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment.
I am always focusing on this word ‘efficiency’. Always considering methods that will streamline, or make things most economical. And while these thoughts are on my mind while sitting in the Edward Jones office, preparing to discuss my financial investment portfolio (saying that you have an investment portfolio sounds so pretentious!), I’m writing today and thinking about how this philosophy applies to other aspects of our daily lives.
We have a finite amount of time to be alive. There are so many things I want to do! I feel if I don’t somehow multiply or compound my interest and interests, I simply won’t be living to my potential…won’t be able to reach all of my goals…and won’t be able to have a complete, fulfilling, and successful day.
Considering all of the chaos and stress and fast pace of our lives, this sounds messy, and cramming, and overwhelming. You may be thinking, ‘Right…there aren’t enough hours within a day!’ And you may be ‘burning the wick at both ends’ as they say, and feeling like there’s no catching up. How could you even consider adding new items to your plate, or reaching for new heights on your success ladder. Well, it’s always wise to consider your r.o.i. first. And practicing mindfulness throughout will keep you balanced.
speak the truth
As I age, I find myself searching for the absolute honest truth within things…good or bad…just let me see what’s real. My skin is thicker now. The insecurities mitigated. I really don’t care about a lot of nonsense that once consumed me…and that frees up a lot of space to accept truth.
One great truth always being spoken to us is our health. At Thanksgiving, when we would go around the table and say what we were thankful for, some aunt or cousin, or niece’s boyfriend would always say they’re thankful for good health. That not even a thing! It doesn’t mean anything. It’s an arbitrary, general statement used to quickly get on to the next relative. That is what I thought anyway. When you, or someone close to you becomes unhealthy, injured, or simply older and aware of new limitations…you quickly understand the fortune of good health. Turns out, it is a thing.
That is why things like exercise and diet have such great returns on investments! They are honest and effective formulas leading to good health. If you jump into an intense training program and very strict diet tomorrow, the benefits and rewards of doing so will be amazing! It’s a very simple formula. Aha! But it’s very hard work to implement and maintain. Otherwise, we’d all be doing it.
I absolutely love the sport of basketball. It has given me returns that I never expected…introduced me to so many people that I cherish…allowed me to experience passion and fun and competition and challenge…and time and time again, it has been so very honest with me. I think this is what I now appreciate most about it. ‘You get out what you put in’, is a phrase that comes to mind. I had ‘practiced’ and ‘played’ the sport from time to time, but it wasn’t until I completely focused and dedicated myself to hours of tailored training, that I came to understand what came from hard work, and how to truly invest in something for myself. At one point, during the start of my college basketball career (you can read some more about this time here…on my ‘my story’ page), I decided to, on top of a bunch of strenuous training sessions, shoot 300 three pointers a day. Along with that, the coach asked each player to shoot 100 free throws a day. I think one other player and I were the only two that did this no excuses…7 days a week. This training…the consistent repetition of movements…the culture that came with always being near a basketball and a hoop…the camaraderie gained grinding out work with others…and the grit earned by winning hard fought physical battles on my own…instilled something in me that I hold dearly to this day. The actual shooting itself became somewhat automatic for me. Three pointers felt like free throws. Free throws felt like layups. I could feel a difference. And I was proud of my investment.
Basketball is where I found this. But you can find this honest earning of truth within a lot of activities. Learning how to play guitar is where I’ve found it most recently.
shopping cart 🛒
I don’t buy as many things as I used to. I scrutinize purchases now to no end. I sit and ruminate on whether or not I really need this item…really want it. I totally consider the r.o.i. that this item will bring me over time. Is this going to be trendy to me? Will I love it in 5 years? Can I use it for 2 years, and sell it for what I buy it for? I highly recommend doing this for any big ticket items you’re considering. Also remember, buying an ‘experience’ over a tangible item is more likely to be fulfilling. In this way, money can buy happiness. I still like buying ‘things’ here and there though. Here are some things I put in my shopping cart over the last couple of years:
trip to Disney
log splitter (for firewood)
brick and stone walkway
Who are the people around you most? Are you investing in those that you appreciate and love? One of the most effective ways to find long term happiness is through your relationships with friends and family. It starts with you though. I’ve mentioned this before…’turn your expectations into appreciation’ is what Tony Robbins says, and it totally applies to all relationships. How do you keep yourself around the people you want to be around? One simple way to start is to get rid of the folks you don’t want to be around. We often have some people in our lives that empty our bucket. They are depleting. They take and don’t give back. And they are unhealthy for us. Life is too short. Value your time more, and stop spending it on folks like this. Once your standard is set, you’ll start noticing more bucket filling folks in your proximity.