Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Beastie Boys popped my kid's bubble!!

As parents we all try to keep our kids in a bubble. There’s no sense in exposing them to those things in life that we would either rather not explain right now, or things that we just don’t agree with. I think everybody knows what I’m talking about when talking about keeping your kids in a bubble. Well this is a story about how I absolutely popped that bubble one day with one fell swoop. Sorry Mom. Let me set the picture here for you a little bit. My oldest boy is 12 years old. He’s starting to get into music, and he’s talking to me about what music I used to listen to when I was a kid. He had the same reaction I did at that age to some of the country that my dad made me listen to. I told him he’d probably grow to love it just like I have. At any rate, I was also into early hip hop. Yeah I dance to it about as well as you’d expect me to. Anyway, I found some old Run DMC, Tribe Called Quest, and a few others that my son really liked. I was happy, he thought I was cool for knowing some of this stuff. I had succeeded! I’ve managed to show my kid something and he was happy. Riding this wave of coolness, I decided to keep going and put on some Beastie Boys one day when just the two of us were on our way to a soccer game. This was yet another hit! I was unstoppably cool. We got through a few songs on Ill Communication and all was great. Then “B-Boys Making with a Freak Freak” comes on. If you’re not familiar with this song or it’s lyrics take a minute and go listen. I’ll wait. Figure out where I popped the bubble yet? Yep just about halfway through they sample a comic who says “Shit, if I knew it was gonna be this kind of party, I’d stick my dick in the mashed potatoes” Yeah, I don’t know who was more embarrassed, me or him. My eyes got big as saucers, and as soon as I heard the line I remembered it in the song, yeah, just a little too late. The boy was equally as surprised as I was. After a few seconds I started to laugh, and we had a short talk about never EVER repeating those lyrics or telling anyone what had happened. After the fact, I took a second and realized in the whole scheme of things this was more funny than busting some bubble of innocence, but it makes for a good story. So I guess next time you’re being hard on yourself as a parent just remind yourself that you didn’t let your kid listen to a song about dicks and mashed potatoes… You’re welcome, and again…Sorry Mom. As a side note, I wondered where that line was sampled from. And I’ve done the leg work for you, here’s an answer:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Favorite Quote

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
   - Theodore Roosevelt Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

 Full script of the speech can be found here

 Take a second and reread this. This is simply one of the most powerful paragraphs I’ve ever read. This is an excellent example of how I want to live my life and a perfect example of what I attempt to instill in my children. It took me until I was 37 years old to hear this quote. I had always enjoyed Teddy Roosevelt and reading about him, but I never got to this, so I’m sharing it in hopes that it’ll be as profound for you as it is for me. I would have loved to be able to be there to hear him deliver this whole speech. I can only imagine hearing the words from the President himself.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Path...

When you’re walking or running a path you are putting one foot in front of the other until you reach where you want to go right?  Seems like kind of an obvious statement, but when you get down to it, that’s what you’re doing, you put one foot in front of the other until you get where you’re going.  Some of us can even chew gum while accomplishing this.  It’s such an easy concept, we celebrate it when our little ones learn to walk, lord only knows why, makes things a lot more difficult, but we do celebrate it.  Such a simple concept.  Yet I know when I am tired in the middle of a run and want to stop, putting that next foot out front becomes harder and harder.  Soon the voices start in my head talking about how taking a break now would be just fine, and I come up with all sorts of reasons why I don’t need to make that next step.  There’s an easy way out.  Just stop making progress.  The voices in my head at this point can rationalize just about anything if it gets me to where I can stop running.  I can let myself get there, if I give the voices any credence whatsoever.  I’ve gotten to where I start talking to myself on runs now, sometimes getting downright mean about leading the life of a quitter and all this other stuff to just keep me going that much longer and to fight off the voices. I’ve started realizing this pattern other places in my life as well.  I can imagine others can relate.  Whether it’s having difficulty at work, at home, in a relationship, exercising, or even at a new hobby you’re trying to pick up.  The voices start in your head.  Pretty soon you can rationalize everything and you find a reason to stop making progress, to stop putting that one foot in front of the other.  Pretty soon you’ve let yourself be distracted, or you’ve begun to believe the voices that the task you’re looking to accomplish is too big and you shouldn’t even try.  That you’re not good enough to get something done, or what you want to attempt is foolish.  The voices can be powerful or the voices can be subtle.  Sometimes I think my voices manifest themselves in something like allowing the distraction to go check my clan again in ‘Clash of Clans’(Laura calls it “saving my village… What can I say those little people need me…)  The point here is that something stops you from being the best you that you can be.  Maybe it is making up that next excuse for why you can't go for a walk, or it's why the couch is so damned comfortable and the TV show are so damned entertaining.  What are they stopping you from doing? The attached picture is of a path Laura and I spend quite a bit of time on.  She had this put on canvas for me for Christmas a year ago.  I’ve got it in my office now and I get to look at it every day.  I love this picture.  This picture reminds me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  It may not be a perfect step forward but it doesn’t need to be.  It just needs to be a step forward.  No matter what the voices in my head say, no matter what self doubt may creep in, or what rationalizations I can make, I need to keep moving forward.  A perfect example of this is back at my intro entry where Laura spurred me on to create this thing(  That was moving me forward, that was putting one foot in front of the other and all that good stuff.  I love walking my path.  Sometimes I make a wrong step, I hope I learn from it, but I don't let it stop me from taking the next step.  Whatever life throws at me, I know I've got that path to walk, and what can be simpler than putting one foot in front of the other?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Table for one please…

Laura and I have this discussion all the time. “How can you want to go and sit at a movie theater by yourself?” she says. Sometimes I like sitting at the movie theater alone, or being in the woods alone or going out and doing pretty much anything alone. I feel like it gives me time to be comfortable in my own skin. Similar to how I talked a few weeks ago about my love of quiet time, which could be alone or with Laura sitting next to me reading her book or the kids running around like mad, I like taking time on occasion to go out and do something completely by myself. Whether that be my latest version of it where I went and shot my bow for a while, or going to a movie as mentioned, or even going to a sit down restaurant and having a meal by myself. Being alone has a lot of advantages. You get to sit there and people watch and just enjoy the whole fact that the world goes on, you get to order the weird appetizer that only you like and enjoy the hell out of it, and probably most importantly you get to see that you just sitting there by yourself, can have a perfectly good time. That sounds weird to say, but the way I look at it is if I can have a good time sitting by myself, that really takes the pressure off in most social circles. The sense of needing to be around people is much different than wanting to. I find that I enjoy myself more when I’m feeling like the later. Another advantage is the discussions that sitting there by yourself opens you up to. Last night Laura was working, and I went to the bar with her to keep her company. As she got busier dealing with customers I was left to sit by myself not really knowing a lot of people all that well. I ended up getting into the greatest conversations. One was with a retired Chicago cop who enjoyed talking politics, and more fascinatingly the idea of accomplishing big things. We talked about Stephen Hawking and team’s plans for space exploration, and the power of big ideas. It was great, I got to talk to a man that listened as JFK talked about putting a man on the moon, and then within 10 years making it a reality. Then I also got to have a great conversation with a retired Microsoft guy that was equally as fascinating. None of this would have happened if I was there with people I already knew. This ended up being a great night of conversations, simply because I was alone(ish) and open to it. The more I sit here and think about this, the more I think this is a call to be selfish every once in a while. This isn’t a call to become some isolationist and start working on your manifesto or anything like that. This is a call to take some time for you as a person and enjoy your own company. It’s a powerful thing to be comfortable in your own skin. Again this isn’t me stating that I’m going to become some hermit that only comes out on holidays to interact, but taking some time once in a while to go out and get a table for one really seems to do the spirit and soul some good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In defense of keeping score

I spent this past weekend in Rockford with the kids at a soccer tournament. It was great. They had fun staying in a hotel and all that other stuff that goes along with road trips, and I got to watch them compete and work toward something. This tournament as with most in the world of travel soccer handed out trophies for first and second place. There were no participation trophies, no awards for simply showing up. 3 of the 4 ended up doing well enough to come home with a little bit of hardware. I’m ok with that. We don’t all need trophies. In fact I think it does a disservice to the kids when they do get rewarded in that way for simply showing up. From the start of the article, this thing could go down the path of what’s wrong with kids today, and creating a generation of blah blah blah… We’ve all heard that before, and for the most part I think it’s nonsense. What I want to focus on is the simple aspect of competing. Whether it be our kids, ourselves, against others, or against ourselves. The thing I kept coming back to over and over during the weekend is how much I liked watching the kids compete. Winning or losing ended up being irrelevant in my eyes. Putting the kids in a position to test and challenge themselves mentally and physically, then watching how they dealt with the outcome was the highlight of my weekend, and really the reason I put them in athletics to begin with.
 I recently saw one of these inspirational notes on Facebook that talked about how most entrepreneurs fail almost 4 times on average before they find something that sticks. How does a person learn to deal with the rejection and disappointment of those 4 failed opportunities? My thought is through competition. I don’t care if it’s something athletic, chess, coding competitions, or attempting to beat your last cross stitch record(I admittedly know nothing of cross stitch, how you would time it, or set any record to be broken in the activity.) I feel like a person needs to be putting themselves out there, even against themselves to be measured and I guess judged in order to better themselves. A point here that I don’t think I can make clear enough is that this is not a call to always be successful at said competition. In fact in a call back to an earlier entry, my dad would always say after a somewhat humiliating loss in basketball, that it built character. Winning or losing really does become irrelevant. That’s kind of a hard concept to wrap my head around. This world is pretty much based on winning right? You want the bonus at work, you want to date the prom queen, you want the quickest checkout line at the grocery store. Those are all forms of winning. Admittedly odd forms, but call me out if you think I’m wrong with that. So how do I justify the statement that winning or losing is irrelevant? I think the answer there is that by simply competing enough and allowing yourself to fail and get back up, you’re going to be successful. That, in my eyes, is much better than winning. Maybe that’s the answer, success is a different thing than winning. Winning may very well be a by product of success, but at the end of the day I don’t want my kids to win, I don’t want to win at least at all things. I want for all of us to be successful. I think to do that sometimes you have to go home without a trophy.
 This is just scratching the surface on this competing in order to be successful topic, but I think it's an interesting place to start.  Is there a difference between success and winning?  I'd say winning is a one time deal with somewhat instant gratification.  Success on the other hand is a sustained thing that is worked much harder for.  What say you?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

If it's worth doing...

We’ve talked about being shitty at something.  Now it’s time to visit a topic we’ll talk about quite a bit during this blog.  Being amazing is the best thing in the world.  How’s that for an obvious statement?  My Dad would always say “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”  On the surface that sounds like a very straight forward and easy thing to do, and something that would be pretty easy to follow.  Turns out this is the toughest thing in the world and something that separates mediocre from amazing.  We all know that we’ve done things mediocrely(pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve used that word), we know the feeling “mediocrely” elicits after we’re done.  We also all know the feeling we have after “a job well done”.  These are two very distinct feelings.  Sometimes, due to circumstances, we need to be ok with mediocre.  I know that with kids running around and everything else going on in life I’m not amazing at cleaning the house.  In fact, I’d say it’s a fools errand to even try to be amazing at everything.  Simply can’t be done.  But there are those things in life that we need to be amazing at.  Those things that we spend most of our time doing.  Those things that define us.  For me that’s being a father, a partner, a friend, or my work.  These are the things that when we’ve had a day where we were amazing, we go to bed with a sense of satisfaction that can’t be duplicated.  The attached picture is of a mural that my neighbors did a number of years ago for their daughter's wedding.  I've kept this picture because it was amazing to watch them work on this in the driveway for a week straight.  The amount of time and patience it took to create this was really something.  I was lucky to be there to see them accomplish this.
I love going to see live music for just this reason.  Those people are up on stage, sharing their craft with the world, and they are amazing at it. I love going out to a restaurant, and having a server who really understands the menu and what beers and wine they have that will go with everything.  It’s simple things like that that can totally make or break an experience.  It’s a person willing to be great at what they are doing.  Even take a less obvious example, ever been to the grocery store and the checkout clerk asks how you’re doing and actually waits for an answer?  Or engages you about some item you’ve purchased and helps you leave the store with a brighter outlook?  Or take the flip side of that.  Pick anything you’ve done where you can tell those people that are paid to interact with you are less than pleased to be there and are just going through the motions?  It stinks and there’s nothing great about it.  This is why I strive to be amazing at work. 

I guess what I’m trying to convey in this post is the fact that no matter how monotonous our jobs may seem, or anything else we do in life, being amazing at it matters.  It matters to you, it matters to the people you interact with.  If you’re a parent, it surely matters to the children who you are showing with your actions how to go about things.  If you’re not, there is always the new person at work, or the countless number of people that you interact with that will leave that interaction thinking “Wow, that person is winning at life.”  That type of feeling is contagious, and so much better than trying to keep up with all the negativity we see in the media and materialistic surroundings we have.  There’s a lot more here that we can and will talk about.  For now sit with the thought of what you can do to be amazing and see how good it makes you feel.