FLAKEY AT BEST

My kids grew up on Sea World – how lucky. My best animal adventure was a school field trip to Roger Williams State Zoo in Rhode Island – how lame.  Talk about apples and oranges.

While I never experienced the magic of watching people ride dolphins, I wasn’t clueless about underwater life. My older brother had a paper route and that allowed him to save enough pennies for…wait for it…wait for it…a fish bowl.  He never went without a fish.  They were sometimes gold and sometimes neon.  Eventually he discovered his favorite variety, a Siamese fighting fish.  They were terribly boring so I thought it was a good fit for him (we had our share of contention).  I can’t remember any of those fish living very long.  Unfortunately they seemed to go belly up within weeks, and while I don’t know the exact cause of death, I’m sure my generous contribution of fish flakes didn’t help.

Occasionally we took a summer vacation across the country all the way to the beehive state. We quickly learned that there was no way to frontload the fish food.  If they didn’t die from overeating, starvation was certain, even after cannibalism ensued.

As humans we tend to scoff at the scaly creature circling the fishbowl. We might suppose that fins and gills equate to a complete lack of human characteristics.  But the aforementioned observation changed my mind.  Hunger is as real as it gets!  Gluttony isn’t too far off the mark either.

Hunger makes the world turn. Let’s face it, we get up and go to work so we can eat.  Joey Chestnut got up one day and decided he would set a world record by devouring 74 hot dogs.   But hot dogs or not, no matter how full you get… it won’t be enough.  It won’t sustain.  Give it some time and before you know it that tummy starts to grumble.  Bears stock up for hibernation, but soon enough even they roll out of the cave for a midnight snack.

The takeaway (and please don’t nuke this one) is this. For anything to sustain maximum vitality and life, it needs a daily dose of nutrition.  Forget burning the midnight oil.  It’s not sustainable.  “Two-a-days” at the gym?  When did this become a thing?  How about “five-a-days” or “ten-a-days”?  Stupid right?  Work a job for the overtime?  Not for me.  Why?  Because you still have to flip burgers, drill oil, or file paperwork the next day.  Run a marathon in your 20s, cool…but what can you do in your 60s?  Maybe a mile per day, or even a mile per year is more sustainable for the long haul.

THE CHALLENGE:  Keep it simple.  Don’t overfeed your fish!  But don’t let them eat each other either.  You have to feed the things you want to keep alive.  You want to be a great artist, welder, pilot, musician, or mechanic?  The formula is simple, feed your craft.  Sure there are times to put in a little extra, and there are times to back off.  But remember this – play the long game!  Be consistent!  Watch how many flakes you put in the bowl and don’t go on vacation for too long.

DEFLATED PAY

As a native “New Englanda” it was especially easy for me to watch the entirety of Tom Brady’s career unfold. Season after season I wanted to quit being a spectator of the sport, and not because I don’t love football – I do.  Yet there is a longing to invest that time elsewhere.  I have been unsuccessful at shaking the game (cheesy pun, I know), I just can’t help but watch someone who has mastered their craft.  Even you haters out there can’t deny the fact that Tom’s records are unbelievable, and that’s not counting 6 super bowl wins.  Just to list a few:

  • Best touchdown to interception ratio in a single season: 28:2
  • Most games won by a quarterback: 237
  • Most Super Bowl appearances: 9
  • Most Super Bowl MVP awards: 4
  • Most passing yards in a Super Bowl: 505
  • Most playoff wins: 30
  • Most career passing yards, regular season and postseason: 81,683
  • Most career passing touchdowns, regular season and postseason: 590
  • Most Pro Bowl selections: 14 (tied)

While it is more important to master my own craft and set my own records, I always felt that there would be a lesson I could take away from the GOAT. The lesson I was looking for finally surfaced, “take a pay cut!”

There are a number of key elements that allowed Tom Brady to be so good for so long. It was a perfect storm.  A perfect coach quarterback combination, a perfect competitor to get overlooked in the draft, a perfect time to enter the game as a starter, a perfect combination of winning teammates, a perfect division of teams that couldn’t sustain winning seasons, etc. etc.

Nobody knows for sure what would have happened if Tom left the Patriots to chase the money. My guess is some more winning.  Why?  Because winners win.  However, I believe it would not have reached the level of success sustained with a single team, a single owner, and a single head coach.

Instead, Tom restructured his contracts multiple times leaving an estimated $60 million (low end) on the table. You might be thinking, “That’s easy to do when you are already financially free for life.”  True, I’ll give you that.  But is there a lesson here for us?  What does a pay cut mean to you and me?

Remember the fly in the movie “A Bug’s Life?” He said it best, “I only got 24 hours to live and I aint gunna spend it here!”  This is a lesson I haven’t fully learned.  Mortality has an expiration date.  If we were acutely aware of our limited time on earth, we’d be more judicious with our time.  We would do what matters most.  We’d be more than willing to take a pay cut.

Everyone (at one point or another) takes a pay cut, even if that point is death. But no matter how high you climb the corporate ladder, there is still room for growth.  No matter how big you grow your business, you can still expand, or at least start another business.  Whatever level people stop at, they accept a pay cut.

Once you’ve met the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter – how much more do you need? What would happen if you were more like Tom Brady and gave your special talent the “hometown discount?”  How good can you get if you stop playing for money and start playing for the love of the game?

THE CHALLENGE: I understand in life you have to “Do what you have to do, so you can eventually do what you want to do.”  If you’ve been in this position for awhile, maybe now is the time to go all in.  If the promotion comes, take it…but don’t chase it.  If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.  If you only had 24 hours to live, would you take a pay cut?  What records would you set?  What statistics would your fans appreciate?  How many times would you win the big game?

THANK YOU BRENDA

Rarely do I pay special tribute to a female not named “Mom” or “Wifey.” This is one of those occasions.

Brenda was a childhood neighbor. She was sheltered.  Lived in a home raised by religious zealots.  Good kid.  Real good kid.

It wasn’t often that she could come outside, but when she did…one thing was for certain. We would race.  She was fast.  I’m talking road runner fast!  I can’t recall ever beating her – and I’m okay with that.  She made me faster.  She helped me establish a solid foundation of good health and discipline.  Our races taught me the value of friendly competition.

I only saw Brenda once as a young adult – but after all these years she still manages to live on in my mind. Every time I run with a goal to be fast, guess who is two steps ahead of me?  Brenda.

In my mind’s eye I travel time and space. I see and feel myself as a kid running down Martha St. with everything I’ve got.  But, for whatever reason – I STILL can’t beat that 9 year old girl who manages to stay just out of reach.  I’m okay with that.

THE CHALLENGE: Being YOUR best doesn’t necessarily mean being THE best.  Be okay with that.  Be okay with knowing the person you can’t quite beat is making you better every time you try.  Identify a “road runner” in your realm of expertise and go race.  RACE TO WIN EVEN IF YOU KNOW YOU WILL LOSE.  You may thank them one day.

Dickies and Monsters

Laundry is done. It’s time to fold. Everything smells fresh. You feel good about the empty hamper. BUT…then you notice…a clothing article is missing. You already know, the “sock monster” struck again.

You don’t know where the sock monster lives. You don’t know what the sock monster looks like. You don’t know how to make it go away.

In fact, you only know two things about the sock monster.

1) It likes to eat socks.

2) It will never eat BOTH socks, ONLY ONE.

Today, I learned something about the sock monster that I never knew before. He spits out every single sock, and you’ll never guess where…

Right on the ground! Don’t believe me? Go to a public laundry area and watch carefully for one hour. Garunteed you will see socks landing on the floor like autum leaves. When you are on the outside looking in, it’s so obvious you can’t miss it. A sock gets dropped on the floor and then is accidently kicked out of view.

The grand irony here is that socks go awol due to our own feet! Yes, feet! The very thing that socks have sworn to protect and serve.

Socks are like minutes. We have 1,440 minutes each and every day. We feel the abundance. So we get careless and drop a Dickie here and a Hanes there. We lose a neon Nike and a pink Puma. Before we know it, we wonder where all our minutes went. But there is no “minute monster” to blame.

When a sock is lost we simply buy a new set and move on with our lives, but we can’t purchase more minutes. When they’re gone they’re gone. When you are laying snuggly on your death bed there will only be one monster to blame, yourself. Only you can drop minutes on the deck and kick them carelessly by the wayside.

THE CHALLENGE: Manage your minutes. Determine where they go. What monster do you feed? Social media? Pornography? Materialism? Video games? Movies? Remember, none of THESE monsters spit out the minutes they eat.

Finally, think about it, is life really too short, or are we are just too busy to hang on to what we have? Treat your minutes like Dickies and keep them on your feet.

It’s Part of the Furniture

I’ve been toying with the idea to go “all in” on my artwork. It’s been many years since I bled ink and ate pencil shavings for breakfast.

One painter described why aspiring artists have a hard time transitioning from rookie to pro.

Wait for it…

They put their supplies away! It’s really that simple. They pack up and move onto the next thing. She explained that this behavior does not exist in the world of a pro, that their paint, canvases, and easels were all “part of the furniture.”

This is a fascinating insight. As I look around my living space I see cameras, lenses, strobes, speakers, keyboards, record player, and variety of other elements that show my love for photography and music. These elements are “messy” but I use them so frequently and they are such a part of me that they somehow become acceptable as “part of the furniture.”

THE CHALLENGE: Look around your space. What do you see? Is it a sewing machine? Bicycle? Camping gear? Weights? Tools? What do you use so often that it rarely gets put away, if ever? This is a good indicator of where to plot yourself on your goals and priorities map. Does your “furniture” align with what you truly long for most? Maybe it is time to trade your recliner for an “easel.”

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

“Don’t Bee a Hypocrite”

Thus far, my writings have turned out to be a swarm of ways to say essentially the same thing – that is to “Decisively execute the process of self-improvement.” Every day has been a new adventure in self-examination, idea expression and life observation.

I look for the best in others but am acutely aware of our shortfalls. Every challenge I give to “you” is also to “me.” Each time I point at you, the four fingers turned back at me are supercharged with interrogation.

I grow fruit trees. Spring has therefore grown to be my favorite time of year. I love to watch bees flip from flower to flower. No bees, no fruit, simple. I’ve watched documentaries and read a number of articles on colony collapse disorder (although to be fair, there is an opposing view). I’ve listened to lectures from a number of specialists speak to the value of bees and honey. I understand their importance in the cycle of life. Or do I?

In a few moments, I will execute a plan to bury an underground hive. I will fill a few buckets with beach sand and dump it upon the hive entrance.

dirt

Nobody asked me to do this. Nobody gave me the idea. I knew I preferred this method to chemicals and that I wouldn’t be doing it if there wasn’t a very high potential for the swarm to attack a number of shipmates during a training evolution. I watched a bee from this nest make several attempts to sting today and I cringed at the thought of a throng of buzzing madness. Did I do the right thing? I will know on Thursday. Unfortunately for the bees, a decision had to be made today. And, fortunately, I can dig them out in less than 48 hours. It might not work, but worth a try.

THE CHALLENGE: Not everything is black and white. In life, you will be tested to see exactly where you stand on principles that you hold most dear. It is not always easy, especially when the decision has benefits either way. Sometimes it’s a matter of determining if the benefit outweighs the associated risk. Sometimes it’s a matter of thinking fast under pressure. It might be a decision to stay committed to the long haul. The variables are infinite. Sometimes you will be right. Sometimes you will be wrong. Sometimes we may feel like hypocrites.  Sometimes we are. When a wrong choice is made in ignorance, remember that “Failure is an event, not a person.” Our personal development is a process.

Photo by skiena