Blog Post # 58 – The Long View

Too often, we obsess on the short-term fix.

The quick solution. The easy answer.

Hopefully, we will all be on this planet for many years to come.

Strides in medical research and better lifestyle choices mean that many of us will live much longer than our grandparents did, at least on average.

We need to take that into account when deciding what we can build, accomplish and achieve.

If we take the long view – we’re talking five years, ten years and beyond – it changes our outlook on things.

It frees us to dream a little bigger and to try a little harder.

And we are not talking here about saving for retirement or thinking of that glorious day when we can “do what we want really want to do.”

Rather, we are tapping into our life’s work. Our special purpose. The one or two things that we want to be known and remembered for.

Narrow minded thinking yields narrow, little goals.

An expansive mind, open to all of life’s possibilities, produces huge goals – something important that is worthy of actually be called a goal.

So let’s challenge ourselves today to find our BHAG – big, hairy, audacious goal.

A marathon.

A novel.

A 60th wedding anniversary.

A trip around the world.

Let’s dream big, paint the sky and start striding towards something truly remarkable.

And then do one small thing today – this day – to bring ourselves one step closer to our shining future.

Blog Post # 57 – Give Yourself Away

Nobody really told you what it would take.

How becoming a mother would change you.

The sacrifices involved.

Sacrifices both large and small.

You give and give and then give some more.

And when the children ask again, you give once more.

Before they were born, there simply was no way to explain to you the amount of sacrifice that motherhood would take.

As Bono sang, “you give yourself away.” Then he sang it again and again.

Three-hundred and sixty-four days a year, you give yourself away.

Today is the one day out of the year when we honor you.

You will probably give a little of yourself today too.

Motherhood is a gift that you give to your family each and every day.

It would be easy for those of us who are not mothers to opine that being a mom helped you stretch, grow and expand your heart.

But that is not for us to say.

Because you are the only one who truly knows how much of yourself you have given away so freely.

We simply stand in awe of you.

And applaud.

Blog Post # 56 – The Day We Dreaded

Today is that day.

The day we dreaded.

The day that we knew would come.

Because sooner or later, this day comes for all of us.

My friend lost her papa yesterday.

He passed away after a long battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS is one of those diseases that claims too many papas and too many mamas.

It is somewhat ironic that the disease is known by the name of one of the greatest baseball players to play the game given the fact that my favorite picture of my friend and her papa was taken at Busch Stadium during one of the Cardinals’ amazing runs through the baseball playoffs.

After her papa received his diagnosis, my friend waged her own private battle against ALS – organizing walks to raise money, reminding us of the ALS water bucket challenge and creating pocket sized stand-up photos of her papa for us to take to famous places all over the world.

My own papa’s heart stopped working when I was 11.  He was on vacation in Lake of the Ozarks and they had to airlift him on the side of a helicopter to SLU Hospital.  

My papa had a quintuple bypass back when bypasses were a relatively new thing.

Luckily for us, my papa lived.  I had friends whose papas weren’t so lucky in those years and every time that I see my papa, I thank my Higher Power for the extra time that we have had with him.

My friend loved her papa completely.  At the end of the day, I believe we all love our mamas and our papas completely.  They may have their flaws – but they are our only mama, our only papa.

I will be thinking of my friend and her papa very much in the days to come.

If you have it in you, please say a little prayer for my friend and her papa and her mama.

And if you have some spare dollars, please consider sending a little to continue the fight against ALS.

Rest in peace, Larry.  You were loved.

Blog Post # 55 – The Grace of Unplanned Opportunities

Serendipity.

Luck.

Fate.

The will of a Higher Power.

Often times, we try to bend the rest of the world to our will.

To control the outcome. To minimize our risk.

We want people to do what we want them to do. And to do so quickly and without objection.

Drive, drive, drive – push, push, push.

We leave little opportunity for chance. When we hold on so tightly, there is neither opportunity nor space for the beauty of fate.

It is sort of ironic.

We push so hard for things to go our way and we forget that some of the most beautiful moments of our lives are the ones that we had no control over.

The grace of unplanned opportunities.

Meeting the love of our life when we hold the door open for her.

Having a great idea while going for a walk.

Running into an old friend at the mall.

It is amazing – the things that can happen when we let go of the outcome.

Even if it is just a little.

Blog Post # 54 – Fiercer

Life can be tough. You are tougher.

The competition can be fierce. You are fiercer.

The hurdles can be significant. You are building something of significance.

Nobody said that life is easy.

That you can get what you want by just coasting along.

In any worthwhile endeavor, there will be obstacles and pitfalls all around.

As Jules riffed from Ezekiel, “the path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.”

And, of course, when I say “you,” I mean “we.”

We are tougher. We are fiercer. We are building something of significance.

And when we reach out from our comfort zone, when we take a risk – the world reacts.

It may react positively, it may react negatively.

This is out of our control. Completely.

But we aren’t fighting for them. We don’t need their approval.

This art we are creating, this life that we are building, these relationships that we are building.

We do it for us. For our inner self. From our place of strength.

We stretch ourselves because we know this is the one shot we have at life.

This marathon called life only happens once.

This is our shot. And we will take it together.

Go!

Blog Post # 53 – Turn Off, Tune Out and Kick Butt

“Serial rapist on the loose in South City.”

“Are your kids being poisoned by their school cafeteria lunch choices?”

“Mayor Smith resigns in disgrace.  Our exclusive story coming up next!!!”

Local and national news are designed to elicit one of two emotions – (1) fear or (2) anger.  Stories that produce both of those effects are the most popular.

One of the best small decisions that I have made over the course of the past few years was to stop watching the news.

I do not watch local news.  I do not watch the Crisis News Network.

I turned off the liberals on MSNBC.  I never started watching the unfair and unbalanced Fox News.

I do not listen to news on the radio very often.  And when I do, it is National Public Radio, which does not depend on ad revenue to survive.

Instead of the squawk box and the boob tube, I listen to podcasts.  

I choose podcasts on topics that I like with positive, upbeat messages.

Some of my favorite podcasts include I Love Marketing, On Being, Smart Passive Income, Brendon Burchard, The Ziglar Show and a guy named Michael Hyatt.

I listen to stuff from Gary Vaynerchuk almost every day.

And Seth Godin has a great series of talks on startups that they turned into a podcast.

I also use the time in my car to listen to books.  I borrow CDs from the county library and I buy books from Audible.com.  I just finished John Grisham’s latest book and now I am re-reading The Emyth Revisited by Michael Gerber.  

In turning off the predictable garbage from corporate media and by choosing what messages reach my brain, I believe that my outlook has actually changed for the better.

I engineered away the negative and regularly fill my head with upbeat messages that expand my brain.

I encourage you to try turning it all off for 7 days.  See what happens.  You might really like it.

Blog Post # 52 – A Simple Kindness

People come into our lives.

Some stay close for years to come, others fade away quickly.

Mentors guide us.

Teachers instruct us.

Old friends challenge us, new friends excite us.

But what is the word for the people from your past who changed your life for the better with a simple act of kindness or generosity.

I ran into just such a person on Grant’s Trail recently.

We call him Mr. Fitz

His son and I were close in high school and college.

And several months after graduation, I was living in my parents’ basement, trying to figure out what to do with my life.

The phone rang. It was Mr. Fitz.

“Hey turks, what are you doing these days?”

“Nothing much,” I replied.

“Why don’t you come down to Gray & Ritter (his law firm) and help us out with this case?”

So began my return to an interest in the law.

I worked for two years between college and law school at G&R, sorting mail, running errands, tracking down documents (this was pre-internet) for cases the firm was handling.

This little job literally changed the trajectory of my life.

It reignited my desire to be a lawyer.

It led me to law school.

It introduced me to many of my very best friends.

If I hadn’t gone to law school when I did, I would not have met my wife.

My four kids wouldn’t be on the planet.

All from a simple act of generosity from someone in a position to help.

Nobody asked him to do it. He just did it.

And changed my life.

Never underestimate how a small act of kindness, especially an unrequested one, can change someone else’s entire future.

You may have to seek out such an opportunity, but it is so worth it.

Blog Post # 51 – Darkness, My Old Friend

So very easy to slip into the darkness.

The hollow place.

Where no light reaches.

The spot inside where the wind howls, forcing a shudder.

A thought. A memory. A fear.

Always inviting and willing to envelop us.

To trick us into that accepting that other version of reality.

A slide into the darkness.

In just an instant, fear takes over.

Like when we awoke from a nightmare as a child.

Blocking the truth, masking the light.

No matter how good things may be going, the darkness never stops calling.

Reminding us of its presence.

Refusing to allow us to forget him.

Sometimes we listen. But at our own peril.

For today, let us forgo the slide, ignore the lies of the darkness.

To be present in the reality of our lives, instead of dwelling on the mistaken surrenders of our past.

Blog Post # 50 – Oh Captain, My Captain

A cool byproduct of our 50 day adventure with this blog has been the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with some of the folks who read it.

Short notes, Facebook likes, shares and comments go a long way towards keeping me motivated and writing.

But let me tell you the neatest thing that has happened so far since beginning the blog.

One day, a father of one of my son’s friends started a conversation with me about his own struggles with some of the issues that we discuss on the blog. He referenced a recent post and we had what I would call a very serious, heartfelt conversation.

This is a friend. Someone that I have known for many years.

Prior to this particular conversation, our conversations at school functions, ball games and kid events has gone something like this.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“Oh, you know, living the dream.”

“How’s work?”

“Busy. You?”

“Oh, yeah, super-busy.”

“Blah. Blah. Blah.”

Sound familiar. How often do we engage in chit chat?

Revealing little, sharing even less and just sort of going through the motions.

But in this discussion with my friend, we talked about important things like (1) change, (2) being stuck, (3) roles we have to play as men, dads and husband, (4) self-sabotage, (5) doubt and (6) fear.

Like, you know, real stuff.

It was like talking to a completely different person. I found that someone that I had known for years had many of the same life concerns that I myself had.

Can I tell you how freeing that was?

(Not to mention how great it felt to know that our little blog had helped spark the discussion).

Here’s the best part. Since that time, my friend and I skip right over that “what’s going on?” two-step of BS, no sharing and no revealing.

We now have a continuing conversation about big picture stuff. About struggle, about hope, about fear. We pick up right where we left off and we challenge each other. We call BS on BS and we don’t mince words.

I always liked my friend. But I didn’t really know him. Didn’t understand his mindset and didn’t know that he thinks about big things too.

So great to have taken off the boring, brain dead mask of civility to replace it with actual connection.

My respectful invitation to you then, dear reader, is this. If you find yourself thinking about the kinds of things that we write about on the blog or if you are struggling with something that you would like to share, I invite you to have a real conversation about it.

Be honest. Be discerning. Reveal a little.

I am more than happy to have a generic, no reveal conversation like I normally do when I run into other parents, acquaintances or friends out in the world. No problem.

But if you would like to engage in a real conversation, I will make it easy for you.

You don’t have to try and break the ice or feel all weird or awkward. All you have to say to me is “Oh Captain, My Captain.”

And we can talk. ‘Bout real stuff.

I will be very happy. And I think you might feel a whole lot better too.

Blog Post # 49 – Angry on Purpose

Do you know anyone who is angry more often than not?

A post on Facebook recently captured some attention when I stated that it seemed certain people walk around this world looking for something to be angry about.

We see it far too often. Friends, clients or co-workers angry at every slight – both perceived and real.

Everything around them could be going well, yet they refuse to see it.

Where does this anger come from?

Born with it? Channel it? Learn it? Catch it (like a fever)?

Someone with an angry mindset can usually find something to make them mad.

Bad drivers on the highway, poor customer service, canceled flights, low marks on a report card, too much rain, too much sun, a bounced check, an unreturned email, lost shipments … any of these things can set our angry friend off.

It is okay to be angry. It is even okay to lose your cool. But we have so much more to be grateful for than we do to be angry about.

Get over yourself.

Are you alive? Is your heart breathing? Does your mind still work? Are the people that you love okay today?

We are living in the best time to ever live on this planet. The world is literally at our fingertips. As compared to people all over the world, most of us live a life of abundance.

Carrying all that anger around accomplishes nothing. Viewing the world through an angry red filter serves little purpose.

Ease up. Chill. Engage before you enrage. We will all be a little happier for it.