Tag Archives: goals

Losing Hurts and that is Good

A last second basketball shot

The photo above is a last second game winning 3-pointer in the championship game… for the other team. My second son is number 15 in the red uniform. He has never lost a game like that before.

Teen performing a speech

The picture above is my oldest son, performing serious prose for Speech. At districts he got third in one round, but got sixth in another. He didn’t qualify for finals.

As a dad it was hard to lessen the pain my sons felt after each of these moments. Even harder to explain the benefit of losing (blog post from 2011). I want them to know that character is built on both sides of the coin, winning and losing. I want them to know that it is important to feel the pain of defeat because it means that their heart was in it.  And honestly, I think that is the most important aspect to success.

Anyone can participate in a sport or activity. Some are even successful without ever putting their heart into it. I mean that they can win on talent alone, but that isn’t the only reason to be involved in an activity. Finding out who you are and expressing yourself through that activity is the greatest achievement.

No matter if we win or lose we have moments that reveal who we really are in our pursuit of our goals. Putting our heart into an activity allows us to become ourselves, to understand who we are. To be great as a person. I know I am their dad, but I am proud of the men my sons are becoming.

My oldest son got his first main role as a third grader. He was Charlie in Willy Wonka Jr.

Boy performing as Charlie

This year he choose to perform Sweeney Todd, one of his favorite plays, during Speech season. Next year he hopes to perform an original piece, plus compete in Poetry. I am proud of his strength to perform pieces that are true to his heart and not sell out in hopes of winning.

My second son started playing basketball in first grade.

boy dribbling ball

He has worked hard, from that first game when he would not move from his spot on the court when he was on defense, to playing with the NBDA Bison Green team. I am proud of his work ethic and focus on achieving his goals.

I am most proud of both of them for feeling the sting of defeat, because it means their hearts are in it, win or lose. And if they keep pursuing their goals with their heart, I know they will succeed, especially in life.

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Staying True To My Younger Self

I apologize ahead of time, this post is going to ramble, but come together at the end. If you have a busy day you may want to save this post to read later…

I recently shared a post on Facebook about an aspect of writing that all writers go through, rejection. In this digital age we get rejection emails instead of letters, and my mailbox was filled with them. I’ve been getting a lot of them this year. Even when you know this is a part of the process, it is still hard to deal with right at that moment, or in my case, so many at one time. And some of them hurt more than others for different reasons. The grand prize for one contest I entered was to speak about poetry to students at colleges. I thought that would be cool.

I was thankful for all the responses from family and friends on Facebook telling me to keep writing. To stay true… which brings me to a YouTube video.

Dream On” by Video Advice is one of those motivational videos that mash up  different speeches with video clips, mostly from movies. This video’s audio starts with a quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Commencement Address at the American University in Beirut:

Girl looking at mirror

As you think about that for a moment, let me share what my word of the year is:

Designed by second son.

The idea behind that word was for me to BE a good father, to BE a good husband, and to BE a writer (yes, I hear Yoda, too). Instead of trying to do these this year I am going to fulfill those roles, which highlights the Facebook post, rejection letters (emails) are part of the process of being a writer. Especially since it has been awhile since I have actively pursued getting my work published. I have to be ready for those setbacks.

But let’s connect the Facebook post to the quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and the responses I received about staying true…

What I find most empowering about his idea is how Nassim Taleb flips the idea of looking back on our lives. The popular idea is to give advice to our younger selves. Heck, there’s even a web series where athletes write back to their younger self (The Players’ Tribune). Let alone the popular songs and such.

But Nassim Taleb flips the idea, asks us to consider if who we have become would make our 18-year-old self proud. Did you fulfill the potential you held at that time? Did you pursue your goals? Did you live up to your own standards?

That’s a powerful idea…

And as I worked to publish the 20 Year Anniversary of my first book of poetry And I Never Told You, I came to realize as a poet, as a writer, that I had let myself down. Not that I ever stopped writing, but I let that part of me fall to the bottom of my priority list. As Nassim Taleb states, life corrupted me.

Corrupt might be a harsh word, but still true. As I read through other poems to add to the book, I noticed how the poems had more passion. They were raw, even undefined at times, but the poems represented my troubles and joys authentically. My poetry now is stronger in form and still reveals depth of emotions, but maybe not so openly. The poems have a guarded feel, more layers to get through. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, some of my favorite poems are from the last couple of years. What I hope you understand is how life has changed me to be more guarded in my works, to be more guarded in my everyday life. The irony is that I still feel the same pain.

Nassim Taleb’s quote seems to hint that life corrupts us with money, status, and things like that. But life can corrupt us with fear, pain, confusion, and simple busyness. What bill is due this week? What time is the dentist appointment? These things can blanket our dreams and even our hearts.

So I am making my younger self proud by BEing the poet and writer that I wanted to be. I know there will be rejection letters and other hurdles.  How about you?  What could you do today that would make your younger self proud? It doesn’t matter how old you are now, what matters is that you can pursue your goals at any time. Let today be day one of your success story.

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2010 National Honor Society Speech

Person at Podium I discovered a draft of my speech for Centura’s National Honor Society Induction Ceremony in 2010. I, also, had this photo from that night. As I read over the speech I could imagine me writing this same speech today, of course I would be older. I would have more failures and more successes to share…  Anyway, I thought the message was worth sharing. Enjoy a small trip back in time to when I was 38…

Centura National Honor Society Speech

Good evening… I am honored to speak at such an important event in your lives.  I stand before you at the halfway point in my life, I am 38 years old.  In those 38 years, I have failed many times.  I lost my last high school football game in 3 overtimes, and then would quit playing football after my freshman year in college.  I let my first true love leave me and never got her back.  I technically do not have a mom or a dad to help me through life.  In high school, I dated a girl my best friend liked.  We did not speak to each other for 6 months.  I have yelled at my children only because I was having a bad day. I have had personal dreams die. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels taped together.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Uhmm Mr. Boelhower this is suppose to be a happy occasion…”  Hold on, give me a moment.

I stand before you at the halfway point of my life, I am 38 years old. In those 38 years, I have succeeded many times.  I was selected to play in the Wyoming Shrine Bowl, one of the few players to be selected from a losing team.  I would compete in track and field at Hastings College and continue as an assistant coach.  I am married to a wonderful woman and have five beautiful children. And yes, it was true love at first sight, at least for me.  My best friend was my best man at my wedding, and I was his best man.  Just last night at the dinner table, we laughed as we made-up the shortest “Once upon a time” stories.  I have succeeded at dreams I never knew I had. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels so much love it could exploded.

Now, why do I share this with you, because you will someday stand at the halfway mark and find that life has been nothing like you thought, and that is the beauty of it, both the pain and the joy.  But to get to that point, to be able to embrace the complexity of life you need a strong foundation, which brings us to this moment.  Why we are here.  Tonight is a moment that symbolizes the foundations you build your life on, Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character.

Each of these foundations is important to life.  Let us take a minute to redefine these foundations with real world definitions.

Scholarship:  It is not just about the grades.  Scholarship is discovering and sharing the truth.  The truth of what works in this world and what works in your own life. It is learning from your mistakes and your victories.

Service: Is not just volunteering.  Service is Love in action.  Love of family and friends, of your fellow humans, of a better tomorrow.  Service is the opening of your heart to see others succeed.  The cool part is when you do this; you start to see your true self.

Leadership: is not just being the head person in charge.  Leadership is the courage to serve and to learn.  We are all leaders at some point in our lives, as a mom or dad.  A coach, a friend.  Many people “talk” about what should be done, few do it.  It takes courage to get things done; it takes courage to do what is right.  It takes courage to open your heart, to love those around you.

Character: is not just principles of morality and ethics.  It is your everyday life, lived.  It is the choices you make, mixed with the things you say, combined with the attitude you express.  It is you, everyday.

These foundations are strong; these foundations allow you, us, to handle the darkest hours.  They give us something to land on when we are knocked down.  And they provide the support to pick yourself up, to not shy away from the pain, but build and learn from those moments.

These foundations are good.  They allow us to bask in the sunshine, to truly experience love, joy, and life.  They lift us up.  They connect us to others, friends, family, and community.  These foundations give depth to our lives and fuel us to pursue the dreams we choose.

Life is complex, and that is the beauty of it.  Be confident in your foundations.  Stand tall, even when you feel down.  Love when your heart is broken.  Live everyday by what you know is true.  And live a life of greatness, everyday…

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What I Learned from My Students

It has been an interesting year for a number of reasons. But this post is about what I’ve learned from my students over the past year. Some background information, last year was my first year teaching a regular lecture college course for Central Community College (CCC). This semester I am teaching an online course for CCC. In the past I have taught the early entry courses for seniors taking dual credit courses through CCC. Even though I taught a college course, my everyday teacher life was centered in the high school routine. There is a difference between high school students and college students at CCC. This is what I’ve learned.

Education Matters

Even though I lost students over the year to a wide range of issues (I’ll talk about that in a few lines), students understood that gaining an education was important for them to reach their professional goals. I had one student who used her lunch break to attend my class. She would arrive a few minutes late, in her nursing outfit from work, and was raising a family. Another student had worked construction for almost two decades and loved it. But an accident kept him from returning to that job. He was studying business in hopes that he could return to the company in a new position.

My students understood that getting an education was going to help them reach their goals. But it is not easy.

Life Can Be a Hurdle

In high school, life is school. Football games, dances, school, they are all part of the everyday experience. For many of my students at CCC class was just a section of their life. I had students in class that ranged from 18 to 63 years old. I have a student right now who is traveling the world and taking my course online to get some general education credits handled before he comes back to the States. I had a young man at the age of 21 who had already gone through rehab twice.

I am proud to be a part, however small, of their lives. But life did cause some hurdles that challenged my approach to teaching. One aspect was the workload I expected from them. It made me think about what was really important for them in my course. This was hard for me because I love sharing extra material, to try to foster learning beyond the curriculum. I had to consider what I asked of them regarding assignments and homework. Not that I took it easier on them, but it forced me to align my course work according to importance and expected time spent on it. A simple example is that I used class time to handle small assignments and tried to give feedback on those right away because many of the assignments connect to their essays (which are the major assignments for the course). This allowed my students to work on the essay at home with more confidence in their ability to accomplish the writing.

Education versus Learning

This area is still challenging me, and maybe it always will. But not in the way you might think. I know many of my students only take my course because it is a general education course that all programs require. I actually lean on that idea to emphasize the importance of taking the course. I repeat, over and over, and over, that the number one goal is to help them become better writers for this course, for upcoming courses, and even for life. I present them with a WHY. Many of my students just want the credit, I know this. But their learning is their education which is their life, their goals. My battle is in creating a course, an assignment, or developing content that aligns to that WHY. And yes, I believe it matters.

The student who used her lunch hour to attend my class has two children and she revealed why it matters. During one session on writing with tone/voice, I was discussing how this characteristic of writing was the reason we like certain books, songs, and other media. I continued to expand on how important word choice  was in creating that tone or finding their own voice. Unbeknownst to me at the time I connected the WHY to her life when I lead a discussion on how hard it can be to write a personal letter to someone expressing our feelings (word choice/tone). I shared a personal example of writing a card for my son, and even how hard it was for me to get that card right. I happened to then share that that type of writing was just as important as an essay for my class, which I believe. At the end of that semester, which ended in December, that student sent me an email to tell me that she was excited to write a Christmas letter to her children and husband sharing how much she loved them. She wanted to make these letters a new tradition for her family.

What my students taught me was that education matters, for their goals, for their life.

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Blueberry Muffin Success

It is Sunday morning. I am making blueberry muffins for the family. Big mixing bowl, muffin mix, two eggs, ¾ cup of milk (not water), and ¼ cup of oil. Blueberries are drained and waiting. It is a familiar routine. It is a foundation of our family. A simple thing that helps keep the family and me from getting lost in the turmoil of life.

This morning I am still reeling from the feelings of doubt and uncertainty. I had a number of opportunities that I felt qualified for, but wasn’t even given a chance to prove myself. No interviews, sessions not accepted for conferences. I know that there are so many factors involved in the process of selecting candidates for a position, but, honestly, rejection hurts. You wonder why. You wonder what didn’t they see in you.

These questions fill my head as I get all the ingredients mixed and fill the muffin cups. The oven beeps that it is heated to 410 degrees. I place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 18 minutes. I grab my coffee cup (I make my coffee before the muffins) and sit at the table thinking.

Success is a tricky concept. It can be measured by money, titles, or objects if that is your definition. But what if you just want to do your best, to help people be better, to raise a strong family? What if your idea of success is happiness? How is that measured?

Part of the way we measure that type of success is from our jobs, from the impact we make in our field of expertise. Those are hard to measure and sometimes the most challenging aspect of success because of change. A new boss, chasing a goal, or a decision made by administration. Things change and sometimes we don’t know why. Life doesn’t always go our way and we don’t know why. That is why doubt can bring you down, you can’t argue against it when there is no easy measurement to counter its voice.

6294522979_685f90e4bc_zThe timer goes off. The muffins have a golden hue mixed with dots of blue. They smell warm and tasty. The family gathers around the table. Glasses are filled with orange juice and milk. Butter is applied to the muffins for those who want it. There is chatter, request for more drink, and even laughter.

Sometimes success is measured not by money or a job, but by a dozen blueberry muffins every Sunday morning.

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2015 Reflection

Another year has started and it always give us a chance to reflect. To consider what we have learned and how we can do things better.

What I learned from 2015

I’m not sure I can articulate the lesson I learned from 2015 in a way that clearly shows the depth of the concept, but I will try.

No one really cares if I succeed. Or fail, for that matter. That doesn’t mean it is a bad thing, but understanding the concept helps set my perspective and expectations. I have discovered that the number of people truly concerned with your success is few. There are a number of reasons for this. First, people are striving for their goals, living their own lives, fighting their own battles.  In most cases they just don’t have the time or energy to spend helping you achieve your goals.  The second aspect is that finding someone or being in a situation that someone else will help you achieve your goals is rare. There will be people who care for you and support you, but to have a relationship with someone who is working with you to achieve your dreams is rare. Being in a situation or job where everyone is working for the same goal is also just as rare. Again, it  doesn’t mean there are not good jobs or situations, but when everyone is aligned with a meaningful vision it is life changing.

It hurts, and it sounds jaded, but I know that most people don’t care if I succeed (or fail). Understanding this lesson has had an impact on how I will strive to achieve my personal goals. It has changed my expectations of others. I will not expect them to spend time or energy on my goals. It doesn’t mean I won’t ask for help or seek their support. But I won’t be delusional that others are going to sacrifice for my goals. The other change is that I will appreciate those rare people and situations that help me reach greatness. One way to do that is to help others, when I can, to reach their goals.

Happy New Year. I hope you achieve greatness in 2016.

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Base Level

NoSpeedLimit

Theme from a past year for the Centura track team.

As a track coach I had my athletes set goals before every meet. There were three levels. Great, Good, and OK. Their goals could be a time, distance, or even a specific aspect like not hitting any hurdles. When considering their goals, the athletes had to think about how the week of practice went, how they had performed in past meets, how their health was at the moment, and other life issues that could affect their performance.

Next step was to set their expectations and write out their goals at the three levels mentioned above.

Great

This goal was to be set at a realistic level, but also knowing that it would take a high level of performance to achieve. Everything would have to go right for them to achieve it.

Good

This was the performance they should expect. A little background knowledge needed here. My athletes knew the training schedule for the whole season.  They also knew that the goal of the training schedule was to have them performing at their best at the district meet to give them a shot at qualifying for the state meet. So, some weeks of practice were difficult and the athletes should expect a different time or distance during those weeks.

OK

Even though this level seems OK, this level was the most important level for them to set. This was the base level they would accept for themselves.  They would not allow themselves to perform any lower than this goal. The reason for this level was to help them handle the rough spots in athletics and life. They might have had their boyfriend break up with them. They might have gotten grounded. They might have been fighting a cold.  Instead of letting the rough spot ruin the track meet, I asked my athletes to set a base level.  Anything worse is just not an option. A rough spot can take away a whole track meet for an athlete if they don’t have a level of expectation for themselves.

But so many times in life we let a rough spot steal away a moment from our lives. We have bad days, but letting that negative moment take away everything else is worse. I don’t expect you or even myself to set goals every day, but creating a habit of considering how life has been going, being realistic, and fostering a level of expectation from yourself that you will not fall below, will allow you to be ready to experience something great.

At the end of the track meet my athletes had to share how their day went with me or their event coach. (I had a place on the goal sheet for coaches to initial.) In all they years I coached, there were a few times an athlete performed below their OK goal. But I never had an athlete perform below their OK level twice. What I miss the most this year is seeing the joy the athletes experience when they performed at their Great level. So many times they shared how they had a rough week but were not going to let the circumstance get to them and that mindset lead to a Great performance.

What is your base level?

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