Category Archives: Life

Change Part Two: Believe

In the last post about change, I discussed how change happens one step at a time. That one step done over and over impacts your life.. But what step do you take? I’ll answer that with another question: What do you believe?

I recently held an afternoon workshop on leading from your WHY. In one segment of the workshop I addressed how our everyday behavior is based on what we believe. We are on autopilot for most of our day. This is not a bad thing, but it is important to address because what we believe sets the standard of our autopilot. (I wrote about this idea in the post, “Default”.) For real change we will have to connect a few dots. Those dots can get deep and complex pretty quickly. So, I will try to delve into this without writing a book…

First, you have to be honest about the change you want and what you believe. This process takes time and reflection. I recommend taking time to write out your thoughts and share your insights with a close friend. This helps you be accountable for the step you choose to take, which we will discuss in a minute. Back to the process, you need to evaluate your beliefs and be honest about living up to those beliefs. This is hard. Don’t rush the process, though. When you have a clear picture of your core values, you will then be able to see what the next step is.

Second, you have to have the courage to step in the direction of your beliefs. This is the hardest thing to do in the world, (which is why it is good to have someone who will help you along the way). Too many times, external factors influence our everyday life, and we let those factors determine our steps. There are too many reasons for that to work through in a blog post, but some of the main reasons are fear, acceptance, and emotional pain, especially from the past. We all have personal hurdles that will take courage to overcome. These factors sit between what we believe and how we live our everyday life. It will take courage to step in the right direction.

Change is important.

Change is growth.

Changes takes steps, everyday.

A single step may not seem to do much until you notice, that after time, you have become the person you have always known you could be. All because you took that first step, everyday.

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Change Part One: One Step at a Time

I recently finished reading, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, by Alexandra Horowitz. The book is centered on Alexandra taking walks with experts in different fields. She walks with a sound designer for theater, a senior scientist for the Humane Society, and many other experts that teach her (and us, the readers) about the world around her through their perspectives. It is a fascinating read. One chapter, no, one anecdote really got me thinking about the power of taking one step. And how that changes things.

As shared on page 44:

Together we climbed up a few marble steps out of the museum. Each step was irregularly concave, worn down by the foot falls of countless visitors ascending, and rounded at their  leading corners, from countless descents. This erosion is petrified human activity. Each of those steppers toed the marble and push seventeen (or so) of its molecules forward, or to the side. After millions of steps these gentle shovings change the shape of the rock from tabletop flat to soft undulance.

Below is a picture from a gazebo on the Hastings Campus of CCC.

Worm Wood steps

In the picture you can see the effects of the steps people have taken on the paint and the wood. You can see how the wood has also been worn down by each step over the years.

The marble steps, from the book, and the wooden steps, from the picture, show how a collection of single steps can affect our world. It is a circular idea. A single step doesn’t seem to make much difference. It takes a lot of steps to create enough force to change something (marble stairs), but that doesn’t happen without a single step.

Change can’t happen without you taking the first step. You won’t see the effects of that change until you have taken a lot of steps, then all of a sudden there it is. There was no single step that made the change in the marble or wooden steps, but without all those steps the stairs wouldn’t be affected.

So, if you want to make a difference in your life. If you want to change something, all it takes is a step, then another step, then another step… until the effects of those steps change your life.

The next post will look at how belief is an important part of change.

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I Wish Life Was More Like Family Feud

Seriously, I wish life was more like Family Feud. I know your chuckling to yourself, but hear me out. Here’s my reasons.

1. Family is important

OK, I know the game show is called, Family Feud, but the importance of family is highlighted in the show. From everyone in sport jerseys to wearing the same color, families show their solidarity on the show. And they show support for each other, even with the craziest answers, by saying, “Good answer!” after each response. Many times, each family gets to share an important aspect of their family, like accomplishments or unique situations that defines the family in some way. Imagine what life would be like if families showed this kind of bond everyday.

Also, even though families compete against each other, they shake hands before each toss up question, then both families come out to celebrate the end of the show. Doesn’t matter where the families came from or what their ethnicity is. What would this world be like if we treated each other with that level of respect?

2. The show is fair

There are two aspects to this fairness. The first is when the judges make a mistake with a situation or answer the show brings back the family to play again. The show owns up to the mistake and makes it right.

But the show doesn’t let a family just win… How many times have you seen the Fast Money round end in 199 points?

It takes 200 points to win the 20,000 dollars. No extra help to get over that limit. That’s fair.

3. Laugh… a lot

The show is filled with laughter. Contestants laugh at themselves, laugh with each other and with Steve Harvey. There is some serious money on the line, or two strikes, but there is always room to laugh, to enjoy the moment.

And when a family wins, pure joy!

So, yes, I wish life was more like Family Feud: Importance of Family, Fairness, and Laughter… and 20,000 dollars would be nice.

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Your Story. My Story. Our Story.

Your Story.

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of a former student, Jason. The wedding was centered on the couple’s Love Story. The program shared important dates for them; first road trip, first date, the day he proposed. The ceremony, also, intertwined their Love Story. It was a beautiful moment… in their Life Story.

The wedding party had seven former students; the officiant, the groom, an usher, and four of the groomsmen. Not to mention all the other former students I visited with during the reception. It had been over 10 years since I had seen many of them. Many of the conversations centered on how life had changed for all of us. Trying to tell our Life Stories in 10 minutes. In one way it saddened me. To know, that at one time, our stories were being written together. Now… the stories are separate. In fact, even though Jason and I have kept in touch (mostly through Facebook), the wedding was the first time I met his bride.

Isn’t that Life.

You have your story. I have my story.

But, even in small moments, it is our story. And that is the greatest aspect of life I know. Each of us plays the role of protagonist in our lives. We forget that we are characters in other people’s stories. I was the English teacher, the coach, and for some of my students, something more. Jason and I spent hours playing basketball and talking about life. For each of my former students there was a unique aspect to our relationship. For example, I gave one student a quote every month for a year. I will admit to feeling a sense of pride knowing that those memories were part of their stories. To remember the good times and the rough times because we wrote that part together, just in different perspectives.

Even though our stories are now being written separately, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t play an important part in the past. Because isn’t that what makes a great story? Moments that are worth remembering. Stories that are retold. Being remembered by someone. Yes, you have your story. I have my story. But really this life is our story.

(A little trip back to eighth grade…)

 

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The Dash

I was doing some digital cleaning of my files when I came across the rough draft of an old blog post. Due to job changes, most of my original posts are lost or in rough draft form. This post was not in the usual folder I keep for my writing so I was surprised to find it. It was written December, 1, 2010. I have made some small edits, but decided to post it as is. I hope you enjoy, “The Dash”.


Yesterday my wife and I attended the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side.  We also went to the burial site ceremony. As the preacher talked, I could not help but to gaze at the headstone by my feet.  The person was born in 1905 and died in 1988. Eighty-three years of life. Now; two dates and the dash between (Yes, I know the poem “The Dash”).  I walked around after the services to look at other headstones. Some were so weatherworn that I couldn’t read the names, others had rings interconnected with wedding dates, and newer headstones had no death date.  Waiting for the occupant to die so that the death equation could be filled in:  Birth – Dash – Death.

It has been a hard 2010 for me.  I have had friends move away, coaching positions removed from me, a handful of students who simply do not care but thought it was my fault for their educational experience.

I have had some great moments in 2010.  Coaching a junior high girls basketball team that is simply talented.  Receiving awards and opportunities to speak or present at conferences. Taking seven athletes to state track.  Getting the opportunity to build a home. The continuing experience called Fatherhood.

2010 will be remembered on my headstone as a dash.

A dash.  That’s it.

Life will go on without me when I complete my own death equation.  Steve Jobs discusses this in his Stanford Speech: “…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Pearl Jam also expresses this idea in a simple line from their song “I am Mine”

I know I was born and I know that I’ll die
The in between is mine

But do we?

Do I?

Have I synthesized this information (reading strategy, I know. I am an English teacher)? Have I spent too much time in a bad mood?  Have I spent too much time waiting for tomorrow to be better? Am I where I am needed and wanted?

Are you?

I have been shown this year, in different ways, that life goes on without me. At the funeral service, the message was centered on the idea that our lives are our sermon to the world.  My life, my sermon, will be a dash on a headstone, but I hope it is felt in the hearts of my family and friends.

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Life Thoughts: Pruning

So I was mowing the lawn last night. Headphones on, music on shuffle. Thinking about life.

And as I was mowing the edge of our landscaping, I noticed how each plant was in a different stage of growth. But all of the plants still had signs of winter, of dead material that was still visible.

Plant with dead stems and spring growth

Then I had a weird thought… What would we look like if our growth was as visible as plants? What signs of our old self would be visible? What would our growth look like?

It is still early for the plants around our house. Some have almost shed all the dead material and are close to being in full bloom. Others are still at the beginning stages of growth with more dead stems than green leaves. But isn’t that the same for us? Each of us at different stages of our development. Individually fighting through the dead material so that we can fully bloom. And, like the plant pictured above, that stage of shedding our past is not pretty. It takes time and nurturing.

No matter what stage you are at in your season of growth, summer is almost here. Take some time to finish pruning winter’s effects so that you can bloom.

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The Balance of Fatherhood

Person standing on wood planks above a city

I am going to state up front that this blog post will challenge you. Plus, it will not provide any answers to help you, but I hope to provide an opportunity to spend time reflecting on the importance of your career and of fatherhood. The balance of both of these responsibilities is at the center of our everyday life. This balance deserves an opportunity to be talked about, to spend time thinking about, to find the correct balance. So, I am going to ask you to watch a TedTalk and listen to a podcast as we look at this balance. Ready? Let’s start with the video. This a great TedTalk, but pay close attention to the ending, at about 8:55 to the end.

First, let me agree at the moment with Larry Smith. He is correct that we can hide behind human relationships. We mask our own fear with the idea that we are at least being good people. He is also correct about that mask being false. How can we have great relationships if we are not being our authentic self? And our jobs, our careers, our passions are one of the ways we express ourselves to the word. So, Larry is correct in challenging us about pursuing our passions… but hold on. I’m not done challenging you.

I want you to listen to the podcast, “Family Snapshot” from the memory palace. The podcast is based off of Charlie Duke’s book MoonWalker. (Which is on my reading list.)

Next time you are outside at night, look up at the moon and think about how cool it is that there is a family portrait on the moon. I will admit, as a dad, that idea is cool! But at what cost?

Now, the focus of the rest of the post will center on the balance of fatherhood and careers. I will state my opinion a little later, but want to work through the idea first. So let’s connect a few dots here.

Larry Smith makes a great argument about why we need to pursue our passions. I agree, but I think he simplified the father-son/daughter relationship to a moment of giving advice. Which I agree with, too. Fathers (and mothers) are the first examples for their children about pursuing goals. We also help them deal with failure and a range of things that deal with careers, but a relationship is more complex than that moment, and a father-child relationship may be the most complex relationship in this life.

So, that brings us to Charlie’s story (at least what is shared on the podcast), an absent father that walked on the moon, who in a unique way, will have his family live forever in a picture on the moon.  Imagine when someone finds that photo, thinks about the people in the picture, standing and smiling, a happy family. Another type of mask. Charlie’s relationship with his family was tested, if not actually present.

Balance

Responsibility

Goals

Career

Family

Fatherhood is a balancing act. Yes, I do believe you can pursue your passion, reach your personal goals. Yes, I believe that nuclear family relationships are the most important relationships we have. What is the balance? How do you find it? I don’t know. If I did, I suppose I would be the famous author I dream about. But I hope that this post got you thinking, reflecting, and moving forward toward your goal, and when you come home your children run up to you with a hug, glad to have you home because it is a beautiful day and they want to play outside.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Share this with anyone who would enjoy it.

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