Three Halloween Observations

(1) The rich know how to give.
(2) Opportunities to teach children are abundant.
(3) It’s a great chance to get to know your neighbors.

I will not write about these lessons independently but will share a quick (mostly incoherent) snapshot that hopefully captures the essence of each lesson.

“Let’s go to the rich neighborhood” we used to say as trick-or-treaters.  Not a Halloween went by without some discussion of potentially getting a full sized Snickers bar.  We never made it to “those” neighborhoods.  In fact, no matter where we went there were punk kids stealing bags of hard-earned candy.  (Ironically, I doubt those thieves will ever be in a position to hand out the aforementioned Snickers bars.)

My children love sweets just like anyone else, but they are also no strangers to moderation and healthy food choices.  For this reason, they have been content over the years to just fill up their Halloween buckets and call it a night.  This year they even seemed a bit uninterested, skipping houses that were decorated and had porch lights on.  I was shocked.  How could this be?!?!  “Kid’s we’re going to the rich neighborhood.  Tonight you are going to learn how to hustle!”

pumpkin

We jumped in the car, drove off the military base and down the road a couple of miles.  I explained that “when dad was a youngster” we used to run door to door filling up pillowcases full of candy.  I concluded my unsolicited history lesson and parked the car. We started to pound the pavement, albeit slow at first.  It took the kids an hour to really find their groove.

How rich was the neighborhood you ask?  Depends on your definition of “rich”.  Very small homes were selling for 1.3 million.  Every yard was perfectly manicured.  Most driveways were adorned with luxury vehicles and many families were driving door to door in golf carts.  One family was even driving through the streets giving out candy.  We ended up with 20 “full sized” treats between 3 kids.  (Score!)

There are undoubtedly snobs in this world who happen to be rich and therefore give the wealthy a bad name.  But, my experience last night was remarkable.  There was not a single home in which we were not greeted with exceptional warmth and kindness.  Almost every homeowner interacted with the kids commenting and inquiring about their costumes.  I asked some of the homeowners about a piece of art that I saw hanging up on the wall and they invited me in without hesitation.  There were home builders, artisans, orthodontists, and retirees.  Roughly 50% of the homes held out a bowl of candy and told the kids to “take what you want” and/or “take some more.”  It is evident that the financially independent have become so for a reason.  Most have worked very hard to get where they are, they have learned gratitude and are quick to give back and share, whether it be advice, friendship, material goods or services.

I found plenty of opportunities to teach the kids.  From safety, to hard work, to manners.  My boy is still a bit too young to use a filter and is often brutally honest (as a child should be).  At one home he told an older gentleman that he didn’t like trail mix.  The man’s feelings were hurt, based on the words he murmured under his breath.  I noted the address and will have my son mail him a handwritten apology letter.  My parents and grandparents never tolerated a lack of manners and that has trickled down to their posterity.

THE CHALLENGE:  First, if you think the wealthy segment of the population is a bunch of detestable shmucks, STOP!  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Isolated incidents do not represent the masses.

Second, teach the rising generation.  They need to learn social skills.  They need to learn principles of safety.  They need to have fun, create good memories and spend time with mom and dad.  They need to learn how to work hard.  Halloween is a perfect opportunity for all of these.  Last night was not at all about the candy, it was about the children.  It was about the education.

Photo by Philip Hay

 

 

Fix Your Cheese

This headline is alarming in so many ways.  Prosperity can turn us into real meatheads!  (excuse the pun)

burger

So here’s the deal, Google’s cheese is on the bottom of the cheeseburger.  (C’mon Google…even Microsoft got this right, duh!)

For some things in life order matters – very much so.  There are times to build a proper foundation.  There are times to get out a yardstick and level.  On occasion, your project is so important that you will scrap the entire thing several times along the way before getting it right.  Other times, the order is worthless.  For example, it doesn’t matter if I put my left sneaker on before my right.

VERY LOW on the totem pole of consequence is the order in which I place my cheese.  The burger is no less edible and it all ends up in the same place.  As you strive to achieve your goals, be careful to pick your battles.  Don’t confuse motion with productivity.  Get away from the “cheese dilemmas” and worry about making tasty burgers.

THE CHALLENGE:  It helps to view excellence as a subtraction exercise more than an addition exercise.  Identify the “not so important” things standing in the way of your real burger.  Subtract this from your process and move closer to realizing what you truly intend to accomplish.

 

Police Each Other, Be a Dan

A bit misguided in my youth, a friend and I fought boredom one night by swapping around the neighbor’s trash cans.  Dan, my neighbor from across the street was a prison security guard.  He had no reservations seizing us with a tongue made of razor blades!  I’m grateful he was there to correct me!

Fast forward…

I don’t recall much about my 5th-grade experience.  After all, that was back in 1989.  My strongest memory is of twin boys completely disobeying the teacher.  They walked to the front of the class at will, threw chalk, knocked down the erasers, fired spitballs and cut the line.  They had no boundaries.  They were the most popular kids in school.  I saw they experienced a level of freedom that I longed for.  I was painfully shy.  I had no popularity to speak of.  I strongly considered following their lead.  Something inside me told me not to.  I listened.

Fast forward…

The twins continued down their path of rebellion.  Just four years later one of them decided to continually push me from behind for nearly a half mile on the walk home from school.  When I finally decided to stand up for myself he punched me in the face splitting my tooth in half (all for no rhyme or reason).  To this day, I am unable to floss without discomfort.

Fast forward…

In high school, the twins persuaded me to make a choice that was not congruent with my beliefs.  Nothing sinister or cruel, but enough to lead me astray.  It was a pivotal moment in my life.  It came at a time that I should have been forward thinking in all matters pertaining to my education and future career.  I often wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t listened, or if there was a Dan available to tell me to stay true to my beliefs.

While the twins and I don’t keep in touch, I don’t have hard feelings towards them either.  I’d be happy to spend time with them and catch up on the years that have expired since our interaction.  Still, I didn’t have to lose a tooth.  Plenty of cars drove by before I got sucker punched.  Plenty of school kids were watching the entire event transpire. No one stepped up or stepped in. Where were the “Dans” at?

Fast forward…

Today I parked my car at the beach, which happened to be on a military base.  A pickup truck pulled into the parking lot and the driver gave me a dirty look as he passed by me.  I’m not one for confrontation but I could tell the driver thought he was special and probably needed to get knocked down a peg or two.  He confirmed my suspicion when he got out of his truck and started to urinate in the parking lot.

I approached him and rather forcefully censured his misfit behavior, particularly for missing the urinal positioned just 30 yards away and for ignoring the fact that women and children were in the area. Despite his simple reply of, “Roger that” – I could feel his ego peel back to the nub like a filleted fish.

fish

Nobody is more comfortable peeing in a bush than a Marine.  That’s not the real issue here.  The real issue is the young man’s lack of respect for social etiquette.  Military members are expected to act with integrity on and off duty.  He clearly was not.  The real issue here is the PATH that he is going down.  If he can issue a dirty look and urinate in a public setting, what is he willing to do when the sun goes down, when the door is locked, and when nobody is watching?  That’s not the kind of guy I want around my daughters.  It’s not the kind of guy that should leave the bar with keys in his hand.

THE CHALLENGE:  One great lesson the military has taught me is to “police each other.”  What would the world look like if there were enough REAL men and women willing to STAND UP and SPEAK UP when they see something wrong in the world?  Try it.  You may have to fillet some feelings, this in turn might get you punched in the face, stabbed, or shot.  Who cares!?  You will feel good inside.  Most important, you might just make an impact on someone going down the wrong path, someone who is willing to listen, someone who might blog about you 30 years down the road.  Have the courage to BE A DAN!

Photo by Kathy

 

“Keep the Change”

While volunteering at a concession stand during a college football game I observed 3 types of customers.

1. The thief – “I need a new bag of popcorn…my son spilled the last one.” I wanted to tell him that we didn’t sell “popcorn insurance”. Perhaps if it wasn’t halftime with an endless line of customers I would have requested photographic evidence.

“Hey you just sold me this bud light and it’s filled with water.” My colleague poured it out and sure enough, it was water. Cause for suspicion?

2. The honest – Some people would stand back and look at the menu for 20 minutes. Others would roll right up without ever looking at the menu and say, “I’ll take a sprite or whatever you have.” Some people had wads of cash, others had to count their pennies. Whether they had money or not, they were honest. “You give me a product or service, I give you money in exchange.” This is 90% of the consumer population.

3. The giver – This percentage of the population made a particularly strong impression upon me.

No tip jar in sight, and they still asked “Do you guys accept tips?”  


As if it wasn’t enough to pay $6 for a soda (or a hotdog encased in a moldy bun), $16 for two beers and $8 bucks for a bag of stale peanuts…then they GIVE after being robbed!

THE CHALLENGE: Find opportunities to be “the giver”. Make someone’s day, remind them there is good in the world. Good is contagious.  

Four Things…

  1. If I could give my 18-year-old self just one piece of advice it would be “master your craft”.
  2. If my 80-year-old self could come give me just one piece of advice I hope it would be “master your craft”.
  3. If I could get one piece of advice from anyone I ever looked up to, dead or alive, I hope it would be “master your craft”.
  4. If I could give YOU one piece of advice it would be…you guessed it…MASTER YOUR CRAFT.

kick

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”  – Bruce Lee


Photo by me (years ago, trying to master my craft)


 

9/11

Having ideas and knowing what to write are two entirely different things. I have a list of ideas for potential blog topics longer than I care to tell.  Funnily enough, most of what I write does not come off of that running list.

Today is one of those days. I feel uninspired and I don’t quite know what to write. Maybe that’s because what needed to be written has already been articulated.

The following is an email sent out from a respected leader.  The message is succinct, poignant and worthy of reflection. 

Subject: September 11th

NMOTC Family, 
Seven years ago I was flying to Afghanistan when I noticed our charter flight was flying right by New York City. At night, Manhattan was clearly visible with all its lights. My thoughts turned to all those who perished there, simply because they lived the American way of life. How could anyone hate us so much?

My children have never known a time when we had Peace. Sadly, nearly half a generation has gone by and it appears things have not changed. Yet another generation has been raised to hate us and want nothing more than to destroy our way of life.

Today as we remember, let us never forget. Also, Thank You for all you do to train those who will go out and save those who fight for us, each and every day. 

R/
Skipper

The Meaning of Rain

Overhead clouds just teased the parched earth with a rare southern California sun shower. It was a refreshing sight, short lived…but refreshing nonetheless.

What is the primary purpose of rain? Is it to clean the air? Give life and vigor to the plant kingdom? Provide a water source for adult recreation? If you ask my son, he might give you a different answer…

“Wow, it’s raining – that means there is going to be a rainbow!”

Bow

On many occasions, rain can be a burden. Rain can crash weddings, sporting events, or a day at the beach. Rain can cause flooding, damage property, promote injury, or increase populations of unwanted pests – such as mosquitoes. Each of these items acts as stimuli for an emotional response. Maybe you feel mad at God, the insurance company, the meteorologist, or yourself for picking the wrong day for a celebration.

The rainbow isn’t something you “take”. You don’t put it in your pocket. You don’t put it in your piggy bank. But there is gold involved. Rainbows are something you look at, you pause, you appreciate, you smile, you snap a photo and you share it. Trials will give you a new way to look at life. That my friend…is…the rainbow.  Sharing it…is…the gold.

THE CHALLENGE:  When you encounter life’s struggles, it “means there’s going to be a rainbow.”  Look for it, then look at it, then share it.

Photo by Gail