Blog Post # 327 – The Opportunities Are Endless

Everything is an opportunity.

Everything.

If we struggle with our weight, it is an opportunity to change our diet and to start exercising.

If we lose our job, the world presents us with an opportunity to grow into something new.

The things that may, at first glance, appear to be horrible, offer us an opportunity to stretch ourselves.

To grow.

To adapt.

To learn how strong that we really are.

Some of my greatest challenges have resulted in real growth.

Right now, we face a harsh new world with an imperialist President.

This too is an opportunity.

Our job is to find the opportunity.

And in doing so, we will find ourselves.

Will we rise to the challenge?

No matter how bad things are, we have the opportunity to rise.

For today, let us find the opportunity in all of our challenges.

Big and small.

And thereby find what we are really all about.

Blog Post # 326 – The Wisdom of Willie

When I was 12, my father took me to the World Series.

Game 2. Brewers vs. Cardinals.

Our starting centerfielder was a rookie named Willie McGee.

#51.

Willie made some amazing plays in that Series, including an amazing stretch to steal a home run ball from Milwaukee’s Gordan Thomas on the road at County Stadium.

Willie is the Cardinal player that I love the most.

I have one uniform that I wear regularly and it is Mr. McGee’s.

Once, Willie was asked how he stayed so positive and always seemed to be happy.

Willie replied, “some people … when they walk in the room …. the room lights up.”

“Other people … when they leave the room … the room lights up.”

Willie said he always wanted to be the first type of person.

I thought of this yesterday when I was working out at the gym.

I’m doing this routine where I lift weights and then jump on an elliptical or treadmill between sets.

When I got on the elliptical for the first time, I could overhear a conversation between a man and a woman.

The woman was complaining about how her sister was treating her unfairly.

I tried not to listen, but the woman was cussing, badmouthing and criticizing her sister for the entire two minutes.

I finished my cardio and went back to the weights.

Next time that I came back, the woman was complaining about her neighbor.

I went away and came back.

Now she was pontificating about how terrible her job was.

The man nodded dutifully while she went on and on.

For me, I choose not to go through life like that.

Bitching about everything. Mad all of the time.

I’m sure this woman had things to be upset about.

But that is just not how I want to live.

I’d rather be like Willie.

Lighting up a room.

Being a light for other people.

And spreading joy and love instead of anger and discord.

Peace, y’all.

Blog Post # 325 – Down Time

More down time.

We need more down time.

TV talking heads muted.

Telephone off while charging.

Twitter and Facebook feeds ignored.

A lot going on in the world, obviously.

But we cannot live and breathe it for 24/7.

It cannot consume us.

We need more head space.

Time to chill.

Time to laugh.

Time to play.

This is true now, in the most disruptive of times, more than ever.

When we are organizing, advocating, protesting, posting, reading or educating, we should be all in.

Giving complete focus to the important work at hand.

But we have to – have to – give ourselves the mental space to refresh and recharge.

My friend Marwan looked at me the other day and said, “you look tired.”

I was.

I knew that I needed some mental space.

So when I got home, I turned everything off and chilled.

Came back ready to fight again the next day.

Take care of yourself. Don’t give that away too.

Blog Post # 324 – Freeze Frame

Sometimes, we eat dinner in the kitchen nook as opposed to the dining room.

I like this as all 6 of us sit in nice and tight.

But it is not without its risks.

Punching periodically occurs.

For the most part, however, it works out just fine.

Last evening, all six of us sat around the table and Amany asked everyone to talk about their day.

Yusuf told us how he was enjoying learning about the Cold War.

Ismail, as he often does, talked about some new Adidas tennis shoes that were coming out.

Noor mentioned how much fun she had in P.E. as they were practicing for indoor Olympics.

Ibrahim told a silly story about his friends.

At one point, all five of them were talking.

At the same time.

It got pretty loud in our little kitchen nook.

I paused.

And soaked it all in.

In the not too distant future, Ismail will head off to college.

Yusuf will leave one year later.

Eventually, Ibrahim and Noor will head off into the world as well.

I took a screenshot of that moment and focused on it very deeply.

A freeze frame.

God willing, one day, it will just be Amany and I in the house.

The house will seem very quiet.

And I’ll remember the ruckus, the energy, the yelling and the punching.

I suspect that, at that moment, I would trade an awful lot to have one more dinner in our kitchen nook.

Savor everything.

Blog Post # 323 – Perpetual Optimism

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier,” General Colin Powell.

It can be hard to stay positive.

To be optimistic when times are tough.

But every day is a learning opportunity.

A chance to improve.

Hanging out with people who are overly negative and complaining all of the time is a drag.

Brings us down and slows us down.

When we view a challenge as something that we believe that we can overcome, success is possible.

When we look at it pessimistically, success is most likely impossible.

Times are hard right now.

But this presents us an opportunity to be optimistic once more.

To acknowledge the tough road ahead but in a positive way.

We have a lot to offer.

And can serve as a light in these dark days.

Optimism is contagious.

Get the fever.

And, together, we can do anything.

Blog Post # 322 – Learn Something New Everyday

Last night, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Mike Matheny, spoke at the Father-Son Banquet at my son’s high school.

Matheny gave a fantastic speech and I am now a big fan.

The coach is a voracious reader.  He confessed that most of the books that he reads are about leadership and excellence.

He listed some of my favorites.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Mindset by Carol Dweck.

All the leadership books by Ken Blanchard.

Coach Matheny had many great lessons for the young men and their dads.

We will discuss some of these in future posts.

He talked about following a Hall of Fame manager, Tony LaRussa, after Tony’s last team won the 2011 World Series.

Prior to the transfer of power, Matheny asked LaRussa for a sit-down.

He brought a big notepad and several sharpened pencils so as to take lots of notes from the Hall of Famer.

Matheny asked LaRussa what he needed to know about coaching.

LaRussa smiled and said, “learn something new every day.”

Matheny nodded, wrote this down dutifully and asked, “what else?”

LaRussa replied, “learn something new every day.”

That’s it.

Love this anecdote.  Applies to all of us.

We need to have a curious mind.

To find different opportunities to learn something from somebody else or from some experience that we go through.

And to see the cumulative effect of this learning.

To keep improving.

To find wisdom in small things.

To act on the wisdom and to never stop learning.

Love this.

 

Blog Post # 321 – It’s Different Now

Things have changed.

It is different now.

Before, I sat back.

Before, I listened.

Before, I was chill.

But things are different now.

Now, I speak out.

Now, I organize.

Now, I stand and say with a loud voice that this is wrong.

What you are doing is wrong.

I stand with the powerless.

I speak on their behalf.

I fight you with everything that I have.

Fight you in court.

Fight you in the press.

And I have allies.

Friends with bigger brains than me.

Bigger hearts than me.

More courage than me.

And they empower me.

It’s different now.

For sure.

Blog Post # 320 – What Say You Now?

You said that he wasn’t going to do all of the horrible things that he promised he was going to do.

You said that we should give him a chance.

You told yourself that it was okay to vote for a racist, but that vote did not make you a racist.

You told me that everything was going to be okay.

Well … now here we are.

This is who you voted for.

This is your candidate.

He hasn’t improved since the election.

He has gotten worse.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We are now just seeing it on an expedited basis.

Closing our borders to refugees.

Ostracizing and vilifying 1.2 billion people for practicing their religion.

Shutting down the study of climate change.

Getting into bed with Vladimir Putin.

Do you continue to feel your vote was properly cast?

Do you still think that I’m crazy for having opposed this man so vigorously?

Do you now see what you have wrought with your vote?

What say you now?

There is still plenty of room in the resistance.

We will welcome you back with open arms.

Once you have had enough, just say the word and help us in the struggle.

What say you now?

Blog Post # 319 – A Collection of Mornings

A collection of mornings.

Newlyweds awaken with their whole weekend in front of them.

Nothing to do really, but they convince themselves that they are very busy.

Later, the mom has a fitful night sleep as their baby boy kicks inside her belly.

She never really fell asleep, but as the sun peeks through the window shades, she dozes off to a gentle sleep.

Fast forward and the baby has entered the world like a rocket, taking the parents by storm.

The baby nestles against his mother’s chest as the father rises to go to work.

More babies follow.

More mornings follow, too.

Mornings filled with family breakfasts, daily runs to the daycare as the sleep deprived parents try to get themselves presentable for work.

The babies grow.

They start sleeping in big kid beds.

Getting themselves dressed and making their own lunches for school.

Mornings consist of mom and dad trying hard to awaken the children so that they don’t miss the bus.

Future mornings will include loading up the family truckster to take sonny boy and his siblings off to college.

Dressing up for the children’s weddings.

Going to visit newborn grandchildren at the hospital.

Each of these beautiful days is brought to you by the morning.

A glorious morning where anything is possible and the rest of your life still stands before you.

Pretty cool, eh?

Blog Post # 318 – Price to Pay

We want to be in shape.

But we can’t find the time to workout.

We want to be rich.

But we spend almost every dollar that we earn.

We want our children to love us.

But we don’t spend much time with them and when we do, we (and they) are looking at our phones.

Real success carries a price.

The price of admission.

A price to pay.

Way too often, it seems, we glorify the result without putting in the work.

When we do this, the glorified, fictitious result often fades away without ever coming to pass.

Maybe we should focus on the work.

Focus on the exercise and the fit body will result.

Focus on the saving money and the bank account will grow.

Focus on the children and watch our relationships improve.

Having to work for something is not so bad.

In fact, the result that comes from hard work and sacrifice is that much more meaningful than getting lucky or having something handed to us.

Luck plays its part.

But you can’t outsource the real work that needs to get done.

For today, let us think more about the effort and less about the result.