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

 

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

 

 

“Extra! Extra!”

Before TV, radio, and the internet, people got their information from newspapers. In those days it was a lot harder to “tweet” out a message to the world. Newspaper carriers would call out the phrase “Extra! extra! Read all about it!” This indicated that there was “breaking news” that occurred after the originally intended newspaper had printed. An extra section was then printed to include the latest and greatest happenings.

news

I suspect the publishers had to be judicious with their additions. It was a massive undertaking. The stories had to be good enough to recoup the cost of production.

Today’s communication medium has no such limitation. This is unfortunate indeed. Why? We miss the main story! All day long we consume the “extra! extra!” stories. We are drowning in information but starving for wisdom. We are liable to waste time browsing rather than searching. Our minds are radically malnourished on the media’s nutrition plan.

THE CHALLENGE:  Get away from all the “extra” information you don’t need. If you are following my blog (thank you) it means you STILL have goals and aspirations to fulfill, which means you need TIME to make them happen. Do you really need to scroll your social media, again?  Do you really need to open that junk mail? Will you really fall for that click bait? Stick with the main story, preferably your own!

Photo by Dustin Diaz

Humps For Days

“Hey dad, what should I draw next?”

“Draw a camel.”

“Okay, how many humps do you want it to have?”

“Just one”

camel

Camel humps store fat (not water). These humps provide nourishment to the camel when food sources are low. When the fat reserves are utilized, the humps sag like deflated balloons. It takes two things to “re-inflate” the hump:

(1) Food

(2) Rest

Your dreams, your vision for what you REALLY WANT TO DO OR BECOME is like a camel hump. There are times when it is full and robust. There are times when it is drooping and appears like a wilted flower. A vision must be fed, then affirmed through appropriate action. A vision must be protected (like rhino horns). Achieving a vision doesn’t occur overnight, so take some rest. Allow time for your thoughts and efforts to digest. Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest. It’s a constant cycle. If you are not where you want to be it is because one or more elements of this cycle have been neglected.

THE CHALLENGE:  Too many “humps” equates to mediocrity. Pick a single hump to focus on. After tending to all of life’s responsibilities, that’s about all we really have time for anyway. Now, go re-inflate your hump! Here are three way to do this…

(1) Go dream

(2) Go act

(3) Go rest

 

Photo by compassrose_04

Shark Attack

Cubicles are dreadfully uninspiring and most of my workday is presently spent in the unforgiving grasp of four drab walls. I make it a point to frequently stand up and wander the office space. Today, an observant watchstander made a clever estimation after he saw me roam the building, “Nasfell, what are you doing? You’re like a shark swimming around a tank.”

shark

On the way home I was listening to a Neil Gaiman book where he stated, “Sharks are better at being sharks than anything else.” (Okay, okay that settles it…I know what I have to write about.)

I love this idea from Neil, although I’ve always applied it to chess pieces. A knight is powerful because it moves like a knight. A bishop is powerful because it moves like a bishop. A rook does not try to imitate a knight or a bishop. Each piece is impeccably flawless and fiercely powerful in its own right.

chess

THE CHALLENGE:  You are like a chess piece. Determine what “piece” you are and stay true to that, and that alone. We spend too much time trying to change – and not enough time trying to be what we are. In your social interactions, remember – we are different – and that is okay! Genetic diversity is nature’s strength as it is society’s. Be careful not to judge a fish for its inability to climb a tree.

Photos by Nan Palmero and Steve Johnson

“A New Car!” Part-2

Click here for part-1.

HondaE

In 2004 I purchased (via a whole lot of debt) a Honda Element. Unfortunately, the salesman was brand new to the job. He told me I could get the car in blue, that it was located on another lot – he lied! After hours at the dealership and well into the paperwork I saw the word “green” designating the vehicle’s color. I questioned the sales rep. “I thought you said I was getting blue?” He told me that he was mistaken and that green was the only color available. I was extremely disappointed. Still, I signed on the dotted line. Why?

I was impatient. I had already decided in my mind that I was driving away in the car that I wanted. I envisioned “a boy and his dog” taking tons of camping and road trips, going to the beach and hauling my bike around.

hondaSurf

Unfortunately, just like the salesman, my story was a lie. I rehomed my dog, rarely went camping, and didn’t take a single road trip (at least no trip that couldn’t have been achieved in the vehicle I traded in). I took a job that required lots of highway travel. This accrued many unnecessary miles and “swilled” (to drink something greedily or to excess; guzzle) lots of gas (try flying an airplane shaped like a toaster and see how long you remain airborne).

It didn’t take long for the Honda to receive many battle scars – from intentional scratches, induced by delinquents, to rocks cracking the windshield, to bad drivers (not that I am blameless, for I punctured the rear bumper last year).

In any event, the car got old and dirty and I was comfortable with this – too comfortable. While I firmly believe in being humble and modest as to material possessions, I also believe in cleanliness and good order. I believe in quality craftsmanship and maintenance. Cleaning out my car for the last time caused me to realize that I had been toting around “junk” for years! This was an embarrassing moment of self-awareness and a catalyst for change. Do I really need a map in my car? Do I really need a small fire extinguisher? Do I really need that extra plastic spoon or highlighter? Do I need floss in my glove box? When do I ever use these things?

It was a fantastic vehicle for its consistent performance and reliability and I recommend Honda to anyone. I abandoned my plan to drive her until the wheels fell off and made the call to take a preemptive strike as a preventative measure. For me, she represented something I didn’t really want from the beginning and now that she was showing signs of fatigue it was time to spend money either way.

I chose a new car, new make, new model, new mode of power – electricity. (I’m sure you can guess the generic questions I get.)

Here are three things you should know about electric cars:

(1)  They are scary smooth. Test drive one of these and you are likely to get hooked. They are quiet…reeeeaaaallllyyy quiet. After three days I still have trouble telling if it is running. It is truly a delight to drive. The immediate response time is amazing – no more waiting for combustion! If you prefer to quickly scoot around Sunday drivers this technology will be most satisfying.

(2)  If you drive your vehicle until the gas tank is on empty, then this is definitely not the type of car for you. If you forget to charge your phone at night, don’t even think about electric. You will want to plug your car in every day just like a phone. The benefit of fuel savings will be replaced with the “burden” of charging. All the time you save NOT doing oil changes will be spent at charging stations.

(3) Don’t expect to travel across the country. In fact, don’t expect to go far at all – in some cases that might mean the next big city. Your potential distance will be cut to a small fraction of what it is now. If you like to “get up and go” with no aim or forethought….you guessed it, not the car for you. (Unless of course, you are willing to trade a mortgage for a Tesla, which offers respectable mileage per charge). There are plenty of charging stations in the urban environments but if the back country is your thing – good luck.

(4)  It’s good for the environment (and when I say environment I mean lungs – nothing worse than a face full of exhaust when I’m out for a run). I happen to believe that climate change is not the senior ranking threat facing mankind. But, since I’m in a position to contribute to a positive movement, why not?

Number three listed above will take some getting used to. But I’m okay with that. I stopped telling myself a lie that I need a car to travel to “who knows where”. I hate traffic. I go to work and come home and do my thing. I go down to the beach for my run and have a couple of nature spots to sit and read or reflect. That’s all I need. While writing this, my wife (ironically) told me that she’s sitting in traffic. Why is there traffic?  Because there is a whole society on four wheels without limitations. Have you ever stopped to think how your life would change if we all had to revert to horseback? Life as we know it would be flipped upside down.

THE CHALLENGE:  What lies do you tell yourself? Do you drive a big truck imagining that you will spend most of your time on muddy roads shooting at wildlife? Do you drive a fancy sports car thinking that you will pick up a bunch of “chicks” (or dudes – more on that word later)? Do you sink a bunch of money into a car so you can “eventually” race it? Is your garage occupied with a fixer-upper that you will “one day” make look brand new?

If you do what you love, great! If not, stop believing your own false narrative. This applies to everything, not just cars. Get your story straight, then get your surroundings straight.

Images tactically acquired from Car Buzz