always be closing

‘thoughts are great…but action leads to closing’         emailsig


A.B.C.


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.  

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Matilda comes up with the best ideas!


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.  

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Closing the deal


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.  

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Finishing touches


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! 

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harvesting is closing

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.  

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Finished a dance season…proud Dad!



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!

 



Organization


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.   

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thoughts are great…but action leads to closing!


Music:  Blind Pilot is an Oregon based band.  They use interesting instruments like a mountain dulcimer, vibraphone, and a harmonium.  Here’s a great one called New York.




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i’m no different than you

just my thoughts man – right or wrong…just what I was feeling at the time’ – Jay Z

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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!  

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i am moanaaaaaaaaaa!
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?’


You feel me?



Music:  Here is an oldie but a goodie from The Lumineers.  The band leader’s wife told him he was like the Dead Sea…that she’ll never sink when he’s with her…and he wrote a song including this sentiment.  How romantic. 

emailsig

r.o.i.

‘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 to006 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 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:

  • road bicycle
  • electric guitar
  • trip to Disney
  • log splitter (for firewood)
  • brick and stone walkway
  • drone
  • motorcycle

 

proximity

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.

Music:  Ryan Adams continues to be very inspiring for me.  Here’s a great song with just him and his piano.

I’d so appreciate it if you liked, subscribed, shared…really showed love in any way.  
All love!
emailsig

      

gamble on a school night

‘a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for’  – William Shedd

 

Spontaneity.  It was 1998.  I was a senior in high school, and it was a school night.  I was sleeping over my friends house though, and two other guys were staying over too.  My host-friend suggests that because his mom is asleep (must have been 9 or 10pm), we should take her car and drive to Foxwoods Casino.  We can have the car back before she wakes up, and even make it to school first thing in morning.  


I was never spontaneous.  I’d say I was nervous, shy, scared of the unknown, and therefore calculated and somewhat structured in my ways.  When this journey to Connecticut from Concord, NH was brought up, I probably started asking, ‘well ok, how long does it take to get there?  Do we all have enough money?  How old do you have to be to enter a Casino…to gamble?  What classes do we have in the morning, and what time do we have to be back…exactly?  And that means we’ll have to leave Foxwoods to return at blah blah blah.  I can see my friend smirking now…and telling me that none of that matters.  We’re just going.  


Somehow we actually did make it to Foxwoods and started gambling.  When we were huddled around my friend at one of the tables as he was doing well, we noticed security guards in nice suits approaching.  They split us up and asked us questions.  Mostly about our age or birth dates.  Then they told my friend to cash out on his winnings, and told us all to get lost. We got home in time to quietly push the car back into my friend’s garage, and sneak into his room as though we’d been there all night.  His mom had to know.  But she never showed it.  We went to school on maybe a half hour of sleep.  But the stories and excitement were enough to make that next day, one of the best days of my high school career.  Today, as I did that day, I can reflect on the awesome feelings of freedom, bravery, risk, adrenaline, and a sense of brotherly love that this experience created for me.  

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I wish I figured out then that spontaneity was special.  It was part of that experience.  It was central to it, and key to the everlasting memory it solidified within me.  I wasn’t at all self-aware then though.  I probably couldn’t pronounce spontaneity.  And even though I was easily influenced by others and did have fun doing crazy things in the following years, I never embraced the idea of improvising in my life.  I needed a script. 

A couple of weeks ago, I quickly grabbed a couple of snacks, some wipes, my new cheap and obnoxious mirror lens sunglasses, and Matilda, and hopped in the car without knowing where we were going.  I know…you probably do this like every weekend.  But I couldn’t think back to when I had last done it.  Kind of made me sad.  Anyway, I still live in Concord, NH.  And what I love about my geographic location is that all within about one hour away…I can drive North to the White mountains, east to the ocean, or south to the city of Boston.  All great options.  Matilda asked where we were going.  ‘I don’t know Til…we’re just going on an adventure…and we get to choose where we go.’  I told her that I was now leaning toward Portsmouth over on the coast, but then I remembered those fun books I used to read and I told her this is called ‘choose your own adventure…and you get to choose!’  She said she didn’t really want to go to Portsmouth, and wanted to go to Mother and Child, a pretty hip consignment shop in Amherst that her mom had brought her to.  So that was it!  We found a cool dress for her, played hide and seek in all the clothes, and upset one of the old employees who thought we were being too loud.  It wasn’t Foxwoods.  It was incredibly fun though. Matilda was able to choose it.  And that morning, I never would have guessed that this experience would have been in my future.  

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don’t try this at home


I noticed a huge change within myself after having a child.  Matilda has helped me learn so many great things…one of them being the ability to ’embrace spontaneity’.  Children often live in the moment.  Not reflecting on previous behaviors.  Not planning out the steps to our future.  Simply enjoying this moment.  They make quick, thoughtless decisions based on passion, desire, love.  They often don’t know the consequences of making the wrong choice, choosing the wrong person, wearing the miscalculated dress, or chomping on Nerds candy instead of an organic apple.  

Don’t let fear get in the way of being spontaneous.  Embrace the risk involved.  Acknowledge an uncomfortable feeling, but let yourself be ok there…and remember how much you can learn there.  About yourself and others.  Go on more ‘choose your own adventures’, let your kid choose their own outfit and then splash in the puddles, jump on the bed with them, and eat lots more Nerds.    

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could be my favorite pic of all time

 

music:  One of the best guitar players in the world.  Prolific writer.  Pop, electric, or acoustic. Every album is good…including his new ‘The Search for Everything’.  John Mayer.  Click here and check this out!  

grow up

originally published on 4/16/17

 

 

‘life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage’  – Anais Nin

 

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As the perennials start poking through the soil, and colorful birds return from a warmer place, we are re-introduced to the Spring season.  What a wonderful time of year to consider growth.  If there’s one thing that makes me feel alive…it’s growing.  And I’m thinking about two specific pieces of that:  learning and doing.  Much of how we grow is based on these two principals, and each are important in their own way.  


We are all constantly learning.  However, some of us are taking in much more than others. One can learn by simply sitting and thinking.  Actually, one can learn by simply sitting and breathing.  Sometimes the thinking can get in way of learning.  On top of that, we as individuals get to choose what we learn.  What have you chosen?  


Over this past winter, I think I learned more than in any chunk of time in my life.  By using the internet and my library card, I feel that I’ve taken a 4 month intensive course on a huge variety of topics.  Because my business is landscaping, I have a lot of time off in the winter.  I use much of this time to study some things I’m interested in.  It’s allowed me to spend a lot of time doing exactly what I want to do, and follow my passions by taking an extreme focus on my interests.  Although, I feel like a bit of a renaissance man in a sense, in that I have such a wide scope of things that intrigue me.  Years ago, it seemed like this was a hindrance in life…and that since I was interested in many different ideas, I’d lose focus on the few that I should follow.  Jack of all trades, master of none.  However, as time has gone on, a couple of threads have persisted and continue to be present in my life.  And on top of that, I feel really confident in casting webs in a bunch of other areas.  I don’t want to miss out on something incredible because I didn’t try it.  If I see something I like, I’m not afraid to dive right in.  I’m always motivated to learn about my passions and seek out information through any way possible. 


Actually, I prefer the most efficient way possible. Peter Theil (co-founder of PayPal) asks us to question our efficiency by saying, ‘How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?’  I love this idea!  It’s not that you can easily complete everything on your list that fast…but it forces you to question what the most efficient way is to your destination.  This can easily apply to things like travel, learning a musical instrument, starting a business, buying a house at the ocean, writing a book, etc.  You may have to reassess your current routines and structures in order to achieve these things.  But that can be a good thing!  In fact, I would say that 90% of us would benefit from some sort of radical change in our lives. Are you willing to be ‘radical’ and take on that risk?  Think about a part of your life that is so routine…or monotonous.  Get out of it now!


Part of what makes it difficult is that we are trained to do what everyone else is doing.  We are taught to melt ourselves down to a common denominator in order to neatly fit the mold that society has created for us.  Once we are molded, we’re put on a track.  Boys take a left, girls go right, black this way, white that way, gay over here, straight over there, religious down that ramp, agnostic up that ramp, college bound with that crew, others this way.  Last week I wrote about how we think (Click here for the post), and touched on how I’ve fallen into a ‘normal’ that just didn’t feel good, but it seemed that everyone else was mostly doing the same.  Life is waaaaaay too short for that type of thinking.  We get such a small amount of time here.  Spend it learning about the things you love!


Now, the other important piece of this is…doing.  I was discussing this with a friend the other day, and he advised to not just get caught up in the learning portion of things.  You can’t just keep watching and learning what others do.  You have to implement it into your own life!  If you’ve been meaning to start a blog but haven’t, stop reading so many others, and just get to creating your own.  Want to start your own business, and you’ve been reading and researching and watching others succeed?  Scale your idea down and start the process this week!  Been wanting to learn Spanish for the past 5 years?  Spend 10 minutes tomorrow beginning the process and creating an outline for yourself.  Don’t let anything seem daunting or intimidating.  Remember that once you decide on something…you’ll just put one foot in front of the other, and things will naturally start falling into place.  In the words of Emerson, ‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.’ 


Here is a list how I’ve grown in the past couple of years…things I’ve learned about, or done. Hopefully it will help inspire you to try something new!

  • quit job
  • started landscaping business
  • kept bees – harvested honey
  • learned guitar
  • learned singing/voice
  • learned how to keep chickens
  • learned organic vegetable gardening – created garden site
  • snowboarding – finally cleared a big jump in the terrain park (I’ve been scared to try)
  • won a bunch of men’s league basketball championships
  • took up road bicycling – competed in race
  • took down walls in house – reconfigured stairway
  • started a blog
  • started a basketball training business
  • began meditating daily – practicing mindfulness
  • learned a lot about parenting – still an amateur
  • started writing a daily journal entry
  • brought Matilda to Disney World
  • created a new website
  • started a podcast
  • began writing on Medium.com (a community of thinker, writers, readers)
  • started indoor rock climbing
  • began an ‘advanced athlete weight training’ program

Now, along with doing a lot of these things…I failed a bunch a long the way.  My bank accounts have been extremely low at times. I’ve fallen and hurt myself a bunch on snowboard jumps (only to have teenagers laugh at me).  I’ve lost some basketball games, and found injuries there too.  In my first bike race, I was destroyed by most of the other riders.  I’ve been stung by my bees!  

It’s not necessarily an easy road to follow the path that you’ve chosen, and that you’ve just learned.  In fact, it’s probably more difficult.  I’ve found that in life…the right decision is the one that’s more difficult.  The easy way is the regrettable way.  This is so true for everything from relationships to work.  So why choose the hard way?  Because it means you’re living a more passionate lifestyle, which will build your health and happiness…and that of those around you. Because it’s a life that you’ll want to tell your kids about. Because it’s different, and it’s what probably about 1% of people do. Because it’s fun!

If you need a couple ‘doers’ for inspiration…check out Tim Ferriss and/or Casey Neistat. These guys get cool stuff done, and are very inspiring to listen to or watch.

What is your potential in all of the areas of life?  Are you learning about and doing the things you want to do?

I’m not living to my full potential in many areas.  However, I try to be fully aware of that…and work hard to close the gaps.  

I have a long list of things I want to try, places I want to go, and ways I want to grow.  And as I check one off, I notice a few more have been added to my list.  

Good luck with your list, and I wish you the best!  Share your experience here if you’d like.

Music: In lieu of the brothers in the band Dawes, that I recommended on the last post…another pair of brothers that know how to play are The Avett Brothers.  Check them out here!   

   

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tell me a story

‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare

 

What kind of story are you telling?  What type of narrative streams through you?  We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through.  And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see.  Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.

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The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself.  When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts?  Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts?  “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night.  In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought.  You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day.  If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?   

For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful.  I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things.  I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?  


My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day.  I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me.  And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day.  Writing this sounds depressing.  But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’.  I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control.  I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.   


I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone.  For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear.  Tony Robbins talks a lot about these.  The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car.  Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy!  I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us.  Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________  think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term.  Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’.  ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’  Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told.  Ultimately, the tale is up to you.  


I used to drive like an idiot.  It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose.  I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible.  It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late.  These days I drive slow.  I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush.  And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never.  It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them.  A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts.  And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.  


Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch.  And it can take a lot of practice.  A lot of changing habits.  And a bunch of self-reflection.  You may not love what you see!  But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.      

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There are many ways to start drafting that story.  One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation.  Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad.  And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.  

How to we start though, and how do we practice often?  Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for.  2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate.  Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed.  3. Wish happiness on others.  Simply choose a person.  This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by.  Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today.  Do that for 3 people every day.  4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them.  Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something.  If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them!  These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute.  And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.  

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Movie:  Stranger than Fiction.  Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role.  He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post!  I have the movie if you want to borrow it.  And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries!  Joking…unless you have some. 


Music:  Gregory Alan Isakov. Soft acoustic. California. Song Writing. Emotions. Click here to listen…and love it. 

born and raised

‘When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence’    – Thich Nhat Hanh

Music:  I would say Justin Vernon is somewhat of a musical genius.  His band, Bon Iver, is pretty special.  Click HERE to listen while you read!

 

What does it take to raise our children properly?  And when are they ‘raised’?  How can we measure what we’ve done…what they’ve done…and decide if they’ve grown up, succeeded…if we’ve succeeded as parents?

I think about this a lot.  And I’m always trying to gather answers from books (just finished ‘Duct Tape Parenting, and I loved ‘Parenting without Borders’…check my reading list HERE), and other parents, and family.  Parenting is unique and intriguing.  We’re all just trying to do what we think is best, and use what we believe to be, the most effective strategies in order to prepare our children for the future.  Do we employ methods our parents used that proved to help us, and that left us with happy memories?  Do we fall into inevitable patterns and behaviors that we swore to ourselves we’d never practice?

With the fact that I’m only 4 years into parenting, new experiences, and questions, and trial and error, have been frequently arising.  It’s forced me (or allowed me) to strengthen my opinions regarding methods, search deeper for more understanding, and laugh when I catch myself thinking I’ve figured it all out.  I have figured out a little actually, and have gathered some ideas I believe in:


Circle of Elephants

Our children do best with a strong support structure around them.  We as parents can fulfill the immediate needs of our kids.  But we can’t do it all.  This is the ‘it takes a village’ idea.  There are so many obstacles and challenges in our children’s future.  There are many hyenas trying to get at our baby elephants.  Our community is where we can find and select our other elephants that will create a circle around our calf.

Matilda with her Aunt McCall

We should look to our relatives, our friends, our schools, our neighbors, our church, our coaches and others that we trust to be part of our network.  I think this is such a healthy way to ‘use’ people.  And immediately that term brings up a host of negative connotations.  However, along with a love, companionship, trust, and reverence we have for these folks around us, we can also simply appreciate that they all offer wonderful and diverse perspectives, beneficial for raising our kids.  If this is a consideration of yours, you’ll be able to ‘use’ their help.  And especially as the children grow older, they’ll hopefully see some individuals in the circle as mentors, and will be able to access them on their own.


Math

There are 168 hours in a week.  How much time did you spend last week in the immediate presence of your child?  I mention ‘immediate presence’ because I feel strongly about our proximity, and accessibility, and availability to our children.  We can’t be home, but removed.  Nearby but inaccessible.  And we can’t just rely on our Circle of Elephants, before we’ve created a strong, healthy pack at home.

Matilda’s seedlings are fragile but resilient

My daughter, Matilda was born prematurely, and needed to stay at the hospital for a month or so.  Fortunately, the hospital she was delivered in (Catholic Medical Center), was practicing ‘couplet care’.  This is an evidence based best practice in maternity care, encouraging the mother and baby to be as close and together as much as possible during their stay.  I’m guessing the research and evidence with Dads is lacking…I don’t see much.  And from my perspective as a single Dad, I’m starting to notice more discrepancies and cultural norms and interesting gender roles like that still present in today’s world.  With that said, I still attempted to be as close to Matilda as possible, for as much time as possible…even so close as practicing ‘skin-to-skin’ contact when able, in order to strengthen our bond and concentrate on that connection.

Maybe we could consider Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, in which he proposes that we need to practice something for 10,000 hours in order to achieve mastery.  Maybe if we are around our children for that many hours…they will be ‘raised’!  You see, I try to think of standard time with our children as addition.  Just add up the hours.  However, I believe in somewhat of a multiplier option.  The closer you are to your children…the more multiplication is happening.  Some might see this as ‘attachment parenting’.  And by the way, the definitions for that mostly speak of a closeness for mother and child…doesn’t mention as much on Dads…there’s something wrong with that!

Anyhow, during the earlier stages of the child’s life, it’s even more exponential.  I think we can make a single hour become 1.1 or 1.2 hours with this practice.  Another way to multiply is to think of the intensity of the experience

together.  This can be emotionally or physically.  Think about if you went rock climbing with your child for an hour…and compare that to playing Angry Birds with them for an hour.  This significance of the experience is multiplied on out.  Be careful though, a once-a-month movie date does not compete with 30 days of dinner at the table together.  It doesn’t add up.

If we are around our kids for an hour before school, and lets say three hours after…is that enough?  4 hours in a given day?  Let’s also say we spend more time with them on the weekend…maybe 10 hours per day.  So 20 hours on a weekend, and 20 total during the week.  That’s 40 hours out of the 168 available.  This is obviously a very general estimate…maybe way low or way high for you.  But I would guess it’s close to average.   Is it enough?  Is that enough time for us to reach our goals as parents?  Is it enough to raise our kids properly?

This, for me, brings in the question of schools or daycare.  If a child is on the bus, at school/daycare, attending an after school activity for 8 hours a day/ 40 hours a week…that’s the same amount of time that we are spending on them…investing in them ourselves.  It must be stated that we are placing a huge responsibility…an immense pressure…on those institutions we send our children to.  At the same time, we as parents are holding a tremendous amount of trust and faith in these people and places.

Matilda made this at her pre-school.

I’ve been to school.  I’ve found amazing teachers and mentors.  I’ve had some bad ones.  Some helped me overcome obstacles, and challenged me, and helped me grow.  Some seemed out to lunch, cold, unavailable.  I’ve also taught high school English, and held other positions at schools.  I wonder if I was ever ‘out to lunch’.  Oh no!  There were definitely moments when I was!  Sorry kids.  And parents.  I only say this because I’m not sure we think enough about how our kids time is spent, if our teachers are amazing…incentivized and rewarded to be such, if the administration allows that.  “It’s a good school district,” is what I hear from many parents…but I often wonder where that came from and if they truly know what’s happening for the 40 hours a week…if their situation is truly the best use of that time.  It’s such a hard question.  And what are our options?  Moving, private schooling, homeschooling, unschooling?  Maybe it’s as simple as having that conversation with the teacher that you’ve been meaning to have.  I think these are all worth exploring.

What are your best tips for parenting?  What are the books or films that have helped you the most? Do you have a circle of elephants? Please comment, share, post, and follow if you like!

All love!