Tag Archives: work

Throwback: Graduation Speech 2000

I was doing some digital cleaning of files on my computer when I discovered my graduation speech for the class of 2000 at Pawnee City. This was my first year teaching. I had a thing about entering the room, making a “Grand Entrance”. This speech took me down memory lane…

 

About 18 years ago you all made a “Grand Entrance” into this world. You wailed, you cried.  Your parents wailed and cried.  Neither of you were sure of what was going to happen.  The future was a closed door.  But together you opened that door and traveled to this moment. This door.  Graduation.  Most people think of this moment as an ending. I ask you to think of it as a chance to make a “Grand Entrance”.

Yes, you are leaving the halls of Pawnee City High.  Leaving those oh so comfortable desks. Parting ways with my oh so efficient pencil sharpener. Never again to sit on the “sharing stool”.  No more watching us teachers lean against the wall. You are done with all the intellectual endeavors.

However, what lies ahead is a world totally different then what you are leaving.  This ceremony is your first step into that world. And your only chance to make that “Grand Entrance”.

Some of you will go on to college (a totally different type of intellectual endeavor), others the arm forces, while some will take on the responsibility of working. You may have an idea of what you are going to do, but deep down you are unsure of what lies ahead.  What is behind this door? I can’t tell you. Your parents can’t tell you.  But don’t be afraid. Open this door with passion. With the lessons we, your parents and teachers, have given you. With your heart and soul, open this door with your own style.

For unlike 18 years ago this “Grand Entrance” is a solo. This is your opportunity to change your world. How you enter this next stage, how you enter through this door, will set the tone for your life.

If you enter with your head down, scared to see what is there, you will miss so many opportunities.  The only view you’ll have is of your shoes. That’s not nice. Unless you spend as much as I do on shoes, then that’s a different story. Of course my wife has curbed my spending a little. But I do have a baby on the way and he or she will have the coolest shoes. Oh, did I just get off the subject?  Sorry seniors, a flash back to AP English!

If you enter looking back from where you came from you’ll never get the chance to be a better person. All you will have to measure your life by is what you did in high school.  Plus, you will probably be knocked down from any obstacles that lie ahead. That’s not nice.

If you enter running just trying to get to the next door, more than likely you’ll end up missing the perfect opportunity for you and smashing your head against the wall.  That’s not nice.

But open this door. Take a second then make your “Grand Entrance.”  A 360-degree spin.  A high swan like leap. Walk through the door with an “It’s all good in the hood” swagger. Whatever kind of entrance you make let the world know who you are and that you are here to live.  You are here to view what is possible, to grasp the best opportunity for your goals.

I welcome you all to the graduation of the class 2000.  Be prepared for a little wailing and a lot of crying. But most of all let us enjoy the “Grand Entrance” of this class into the world.

Seniors you have my permission to go, but this time you don’t have to come back.

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Not Under the Tree

Yesterday at church Father started his sermon talking about which experience was better: Attending a Husker game in person or watching it on TV. He expanded on the idea to discuss how important it is to be present in our faith, to be present in our lives.

Then my youngest daughter noticed that time moves. I let her wear my watch during church. At first she was fascinated by the backlight button. She would push the button, then cup her hand over the face to see the numbers light up. Toward the end of the service, she noticed that the numbers changed. My daughter updated me every minute through the last song.

“Dad, it’s 10:28 now!” she announced.

She was fascinated with this new knowledge… that time moves on… no matter what we do.

We can spend it on a phone. We can spend it on a computer. We can spend it learning. We can spend it with friends and family. Are we present as time moves forward?

Being present means that we have to deal with both the positive and negative of our lives. This is the biggest hurdle for us. It is easy to be present in our life when things are good. But to be present in life when things are tough, when you have to face the truth of your life, to face your fears and doubts; that takes strength.

The other hurdle is the simple task of being present in the routine of life. We work, we clean, we post on social media, we eat a snack, we live everyday. Being present in the routine is hard. It is easy to just let time move forward. “It’s 10:17! Time for bed.” And another day goes by without us really living it.

To be present everyday. To embrace the complexity of this existence. To face our fears. To love with an open heart. To find joy in this world. That means living our life. That is opening a present that can’t be found under the tree.

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#Life

Even for me, sometimes too many things happen at once that challenge us. Too many dots show up and it is hard to connect them in a clear meaningful way. Right now I am in that situation. I am hoping that writing this blog post will help me find the connections, while bringing something toward your life to think about.

So here are the dots that have happened over the last few days:

Dot One: Reading poetry by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Blake (to name a few) in English class. Poems like “Sonnet 60,” “To an Athlete Dying Young,” and “The world is too much with us.”

Dot Two: Attending the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side that battled cancer for four years. She was only a year older than I am.

Dot Three: Returning to Centura for a basketball game to connect with past colleagues. I also saw the school’s new academic display that had a section for the Teacher of the Year award, which I received in 2010.

Dot Four: Going through a “first year.” Dealing with all the positive and negative components of that.

Dot Five: Getting a chapbook of poetry ready for submission… actually, dot five is writing in general.

So let’s connect some dots with a quote from Macklemore:

Every dot is connected to this quote in some way. This life is fleeting. We all die. We don’t face that reality. We don’t live like our death is a truth. We have songs, we have graduation speeches, we have posters reminding us of the fact. Expressing the idea that our lives should be lived for something more deep and meaningful… but we watch another YouTube video, or retweet a meme, or spend time talking bad about someone. We simply waste time, waste our days on things that don’t make our life incredible.

See, the second part of the Macklemore’s lyric takes all the dots to a deeper level. What we do with our lives dictates how long it takes to die a second time… Think about that for a second…

Dot One: Reading poetry from the 1800’s.

Dot Two: Family. The love we create by being family.

Dot Three: Being involved in people’s lives.

Dot Four: Being involved in people’s lives. Even when it is tough.

Dot Five: Writing so that my words can be a part of somebody’s life.

When will Shakespeare’s name finally be said for the last time? When will yours? When will my name no longer be said?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that what we do while we are here determines how long we will be remembered.

This isn’t about being famous. This is about facing the truth that we will die. At some point we will no longer see a sunset. We will no longer have a great cup of coffee. Be able to hold hands with the person we love. If we truly lived with the truth of death, our lives would be different. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t work, or that we wouldn’t watch a YouTube video. It means we wouldn’t waste our time and energy on hurting people. We would chase our goals. We would cherish the opportunities we have to learn, to read poetry, to drink a good cup of coffee.

But most importantly, we would love with an open heart. We would love our life and the people we get to share it with. I may never truly make it as a writer or poet (but I will keep trying), but I am a father, a husband, a teacher and a friend. How I live my life in those roles will determine how long it takes to die a second time…

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Invisible Fences

Fences.png

I love when different ideas collide in life.

A while ago a photo based blog post appeared in my WordPress reader, “Ghost Fence,” by Elan Mudrow. The next day my daughters and I took a walk in our neighborhood. They love to see all the dogs in the yards or on the front steps. There is one house on our route that the dogs come pretty close to us, but my girls never get to pet them because the owner has an invisible fence installed on their property. They have a few little signs and you can see the transmitter on the dogs’ collars. My girls love see the dogs up close. They know that the dogs can’t cross the invisible fence, and they know not to try and make the dogs cross the fence, either.

As I do, these two events got me thinking about our fences. Our ghost fences that keep us on our lawns without us even knowing it.

The first fence I thought of was habits. Our life, even our thoughts, are often dictated by habit. I’ll cover thoughts in a few minutes with another fence, so for this fence I’ll address how the habit of getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, keep us from exploring the world. Even our weekends are habits. I have them. We get groceries every Saturday morning. Now, habits are not a bad thing in and of themselves, but they can keep us in place without us ever realizing it.  Days, weeks, and then years, even, go by as we find ourselves wondering when we will do anything exciting. When will we pursue that dream?

Life habits are easy to change. You recognize the habit and make the change. Even if it is something as simple as changing the route you drive to work, you will notice the change in energy for the day. For bigger things, like finally writing a book, you will have to make some other changes in habits, like writing for an hour every night. But still, making that change is relatively easy… it is the other fences that are harder to bring down.

As mentioned earlier, our thoughts are habits, too. But many thoughts are built from another fence that keeps us from leaving the comfort of our front porch… fear, pain, and doubt. We have all failed. We have all been shocked when we have tried to cross a line only wanting to see what the rest of the neighborhood was like. That pain got us thinking, created thoughts that reinforced our deepest fears, and we just kept repeating them until those thoughts became our daily dialog with ourselves. So we never try to cross that line. We don’t want to feel that pain. We tell ourselves that the goal isn’t really worth it.

Here’s the truth, we don’t have a collar on us. Oh yes, we have a transmitter, it is that negative voice in our head, but there is nothing really keeping us on the lawn. The world, your goals, are sitting there just beyond the pain. Beyond the doubt. Beyond the fear. I can’t guarantee you success, but I know that pursuing your goals will bring you more joy than you know. And that joy will short out that transmitter.

There is one more fence I thought of… and it might haunt us the most. The front porch is just too comfortable for us to get off of. As I walked with my girls, thinking about the idea of fences and even self evaluating my pursuit of the dreams I have, I admitted that some of my dreams are unfilled because life is comfortable. I’ve been held back by an invisible fence that makes my property look nice and tempts me to stay because life is good. Now, for those who really know me and my story, they know getting to this point in life has been a battle. That I have overcome some crazy odds. Many of you reading this have overcome obstacles. You deserve the good life you have. But if you are like me, there is a dream that keeps nagging at you, that keeps driving you to get off the lawn to conquer the distance it takes to achieve it. The fence of comfort is the hardest to cross because life stays good, even if you don’t achieve that dream.

As I walked with my girls, I was filled with happiness. The sun was shining. We were laughing as we watched some butterflies. That’s when my littlest one said, “Puppy! Look! A puppy!” (Every dog is a puppy to her).

Coming toward us was a golden retriever, trotting on the road. I told the girls to stand still and to hold out their hands to let the dog sniff it. They all held in their excitement as they held out their hands to the dog. It sniffed each of us and then stood between the girls while they petted him. I could see a collar on him with a dog tag. I pet his head and was going to check his dog tag when he looked at me, barked, then turned and trotted away. My girls wanted to run after him, but I said to let him go.

My youngest hollered, “Bye, puppy!”

The other girls joined in with her, all waving at him. I swear he turned back at us and smiled as he trotted away. Just a dog enjoying the world beyond his lawn. I went home to jot down my ideas for a blog post I wanted to share with people beyond my neighborhood.

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Throwback: Mixtapes

1985

“Dang it!”

I push rewind for the fifth time on the left side player. Then rewind, then play, to hear the end of the song so I can stop the tape. There has to be the right amount of silence between songs, plus this is the last song on this side, so I have to make sure it fits. I have already recorded the songs on the paper cover, in pen even. This is the first mixtape for this girlfriend, so it has to be right.

Cassette with tile of post
2018

Text message: i made u a playlist on youtube http:tube/s6dfe82jn

Text message: some obscure emoji…

My kids are missing out on making mixtapes. And that saddens me, here’s why.

 

One, a mixtape took work. You had to know if songs would fit each side. Had to have the tape of the songs you wanted. If you didn’t you had to borrow them, or try to get the song taped off the radio. And that was always a difficult situation. The DJ might talk right up to the first line of the song, or you were busy doing something when the song came on and couldn’t get to the radio to hit record.

When you handed that tape to her, you both knew the work it took to make it and that meant something.

Two, the challenge to pick the right songs. Depending on where you were in the relationship affected the song selection. So, you would have to listen to every song’s lyrics. You would have to evaluate if the lyrics were too serious for the relationship, while also deciding if she would actually like the song. There was some serious analysis put into song selection for mixtapes.

Third, the joy of sharing something about ourselves. OK, to be truthful this happens now, even with YouTube playlists. Right now my sons and I are sharing our top five songs at the moment (one song each day). A kind of end of summer thing. Over Christmas break we shared our top 10 important songs. My best friend and I have made various mixtapes (and then CDs) over the years. I have a feeling we will make a mix for when we turn 50…

A mixtape, or even a playlist, allows the other person to know us in a unique personal way. Yes, it is nostalgic, but I still think a mixtape is better than a playlist… there are no commercials, only music that I choose to share with you.

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The Work it Takes

The college is replacing the light poles in their parking lot.

I have written about building a foundation before, in different ways, but as I walked past the hole the workers created, a different thought came to mind.

We can’t actually build a foundation until we have done the work to prepare to build it. For the workers, they had to remove the old foundation, remove dirt, and deal with the wires. Then they had to dig the correct sized hole to build the new foundation.  Let’s use this process as a metaphor for our own development.

What is the work we need to do to create the space for our new foundation?

What dirt do we have to dig into? The first step is dealing with emotions. Fear, doubt, and even anger have to be dug into. Addressing what emotions are involved is an important step. It doesn’t mean you will eliminate them. And you shouldn’t try to remove emotions, but you should address them. Talk about them with someone. Understand how those emotions are affecting your actions. By addressing them you can build your plan, which is the second step.

I believe a working plan is the best. Meaning that we have goals or milestones to reach but we need a plan that is flexible so that we can adjust as our lives change. Even as a father, I have a plan this year to make sure my oldest son is ready for college. There are milestones we want to cover with him so that he has a strong foundation for next year. Some of those include budgeting, servicing his car, and other aspects of being on his own. Having a plan is important because of the last step, dealing with expectations.

As I pondered about writing this post, a deeper insight emerged. Whatever foundation we want to build, we have to dig a bigger hole so that we can build that foundation. That means we have to deal with emotions, plans, and consider more of our lives than just that foundation. We have to dig the right size hole to fit our new foundation. If the hole is too small, we might be able to get a foundation built, but it will not be as strong as we need it to be. If you dig the hole too large, the foundation can be built as planned, but our life is affected. Sinkholes will appear. We will spend more time fixing those, instead of building our foundation.

There are a number of foundations in our lives. As time goes by we build new ones and have to replace old ones. Just remember the work you need to do before you construct a foundation: deal with your emotions, plan how to build, and dig out the correct space to build your foundation.

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Just Decide

Woman Running

Sounds simple doesn’t it. If you want to be successful just decide to be. The next day you will have all your goals met. You will be happy. Life will be easy!

Many of you are probably laughing at this post at the moment. We know success is not that easy. We know that success takes work. That there will be failures and challenging times as we strive to achieve.

But Will Smith is not wrong. And the process is that simple. It is a decision. The hard part is being able to make the decision and live by it. As a coach, I’ve seen athletes make the switch and have athletic success beyond what they imagined.

I framed the idea a little different than Will Smith does, I emphasized the importance of personally making a choice to succeed. My athletes wanted to win, to succeed, to make it to state. That was why they were out for the sport. Yet, success came when they decided to work because they wanted to, not because I said they should.

In different ways I would ask them “Are you running because I said to or are you running because you choose to work for your goals?” Again, I asked this question in different ways and at different times, but it always boiled down to the choice of the athlete. Are you doing this because I said to, or because you are working toward your goals.

And when my athletes made the switch, made the decision to work toward their goals… what a difference! I could share so many success stories with you, but that is not the purpose of this post. Understand there was still challenges to overcome for my athletes. That success came quickly for some and for others it took years, but they achieved their goals.

Success isn’t easy, but the choice is. Decide to work. Decide to work for your goals. Just decide.

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