4 LESSONS FROM 4 AM

My first exposure to sleep deprivation came as a young boy.  Whenever my dad told me we were going fishing the next day, it was game on.  I would toss and turn for hours just imagining the fish I would catch.  I couldn’t wait until my dad’s alarm clock would sound its awful screech at 4:00am.  Those nights stirred my mind far greater than Christmas Eve ever did.  To this day, I would chose nature over Santa.  Sadly, I’m about 15 years removed since I last snagged a native rainbow from a mountain stream.  Now that I’m raising kids of my own, maybe it’s a good thing that there are no trout waters within a day’s trip.  My family might wonder if I had gone missing.

Listed below are 4 of the many fishing lessons that have “stuck” with me through the years.  I think these can easily be applied to mastering the craft of your choice.

First, FISHERMEN ARE THE FISH.  Look at any tackle box, there is often more tackle than there are fish!  Put a fisherman in a bait shop and all of a sudden he discovers that he needs an assortment for every variety.  Will the red lure satisfy?  Nope, he needs the yellow, blue, silver, black, green, purple, neon, rainbow, small, medium, and large version of each.

THE CHALLENGE:  Take a step back.  Master what you have.  Can you make a masterpiece with a limited pallet?  Maybe 3 colors instead of 30?  Can you craft something with hand tools instead of power tools?  Can you use scraps, leftovers, or second hand?  Can you make a hit song with one or two instruments, or limited chords?  In other words, look at your “tackle box” and tell yourself you won’t stop until you catch a record size fish on a “rubber worm” the most basic of all lures.  After all, it can – and has been done.

Second, HOOKS DON’T JUST HOOK FISH.  My wife recently called with elevated distress in her voice.  She informed me that one of the kids had a fishing hook wedged in the knee and that she couldn’t get it out.  No problem, I thought, this guy – yours truly, has lots of experience.  My brother once buried a size 6 hook in my scalp and a short time later his friend wrapped one around my eyelid.  Whether in a tree limb above, a muddy boot below, or a puncture to the flesh, no fishing trip is ever complete without some type of snag.  Hooks are designed to hook, and they don’t discriminate.

THE CHALLENGE:  Are there some pricks in your life worth avoiding?  What about the hooks that can’t be avoided?  Can you use additional caution while handling?  Anyone who gets hooked knows that it hastily puts a halt to your plans.  When it comes to your craft, your habits, your mental and physical health, etc. identify the hooks and then stay on guard.  Remember, hooks hook, and they don’t feel good.

Third, there is a difference between an “angler” and a “fisherman.”  Anglers catch more fish because they understand – you guessed it – angles.  They use principles of geometry to cast with far less effort.  They use geometry to set the hook and fight the fish while maintaining a good hook to mouth purchase.  They also use angles that are far less geometric and much more strategic such as sight fishing, matching the hatch, weather conditions, spawning cycles, GPS and fish locaters.

THE CHALLENGE:  What angle can you more efficiently employ to master your craft?  Without a doubt, there is something in your process that is causing you to take the “long way” home.  Find the best ways to increase efficiency.  The more time you save, the more time you have to practice.    I repeat, good angles cut costs and save time – be an angler!

Finally, consider the following quote:  “Fisherman, take your cue from the great blue heron, which makes its living as a fisherman.  Do herons strut about with wings flapping?  Do they splash with Zeal as they hunt for a meal?  No, they slowly tiptoe to the streams edge, blending into the background while they carefully scan the water at their feet.  When they move to another spot, it’s invariably upstream.  Each step is cautious and deliberate, causing barely ripple.”

Heron’s don’t keep their bellies full by being anything short of deliberate.  Big fish don’t get big by being careless.  Can you catch fish while being loud and obnoxious?  Sure.  But the smartest of the bunch, the most adept at survival (and nature always produces a few) will find somewhere else to feed, especially with a species as easily spooked as trout.

THE CHALLENGE:  How can you be more deliberate like the heron?  Novelist Stephen King advises that writers put their desk in the corner of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art; it’s the other way around.  Examine the most accomplished people in the field or craft that you wish to master.  What are they doing that you don’t?  How is their focus different than yours?  Do they fish like a casual fisherman, are they an angler, or are they next level like a heron?  Forget the tackle in your box, the bait you should be focused on are the clues left behind by the masters.

A LESSON FROM CORONA, KENNY AND KOBE

Growing up my dad loved the oldies as well as a little country music.  I could stomach the oldies, I even enjoyed a few songs.  The country – not so much.  Kenny Rogers was a household name, my dad loved the guy!  But now my dad is dead.  In fact, Kenny Rogers is dead.  He died of natural causes 2 days ago.  As a young child you don’t think about death.  It felt like my dad would live forever.  It felt like Kenny would live forever.  It felt like I would live forever.  By the way,  I wonder how many people will get a Kenny Rogers tattoo?

Kobe Bryant died a few weeks ago.  I watch as much basketball as I listen to country music (zero) – combine that with my stoic nature, and you’re looking at someone who simply wasn’t as shocked as the rest of the world.  Of note, I found it baffling how many people came out of the woodworks to get Kobe tribute tattoos (but that’s a discussion for another time). 

Today, the news is reporting that the Corona virus doubled in a week to surpass 300,000 cases (add another 17,309 at the time of writing this).  Currently 13,671 deaths have resulted from the virus.  That’s a lot of tattoos!  (Maybe start investing in ink and needles instead of toilet paper – but I digress.)

I am going to die.  You are going to die.  Someone you love is going to die.  Maybe not from a helicopter crash, maybe not from a virus, but die we must.

Sometimes I ask people how long they think they will live and how they think their life will end.  When the question is reciprocated I answer, “cancer.”  But my answer changed today.

Here’s a prediction for you – you will die just like Kenny Rogers – of natural causes.  I too will die like Kenny Rogers.  We will all die like Kenny Rogers.  Everything is a “natural cause.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s a helicopter crash or a virus, cancer or a gun, drowning or electrocution, hanging from a tree or hanging on a cross.  It’s all natural.  It’s part of mortality’s condition.  Whether you suffer or go in peace, have your life taken by another person or take it yourself, it’s still the same result – DEATH. 

THE CHALLENGE:  Take a lesson from Corona, Kenny and Kobe.  The virus isn’t even dead yet and there are ALREADY a bunch of tattoos for that thing (Google if you don’t believe me).  Live your life valiantly.  Do what you love and be the best at it.  Leave your mark (pun intended).  Be unforgettable.  Measure yourself by the number of people who measure themselves by you.  COVID-19 changed everything in a week, you can make decisions to change your life just as fast.  Will you make the changes you want to see or continue to procrastinate?  Think about it.  Corona gets the job done because Corona doesn’t procrastinate – another 1,247 confirmed cases just in the time it took me to write this.  Go do something.  Make a change.

Digging for Cables

In most situations, I’m a quiet guy. Somehow my dad nicknamed me “chatterbox” as child. The safety of my own home is probably the only time I lived up to such a name.

To this day I still hear people around me say, “watch out for the quiet ones, once they snap they’ll kill you.” Can’t say I’ve ever lived up to that.

In part however, I think there is some truth to the idea that the quiet folks tend to have a little more “clack” to their thunder, a little more “cold calculation” as words erupt like lava from a once stagnant volcano.

But it’s not just the quiet ones we need to be wary of. I think we ALL have an underground cable that if split will electrocute whomever dared to grasp the shovel.

I’m saddened with how quickly people go digging for cables. They long for contention and discord as if severed relationships were the rule and not the exception. They speak truth with no restrain, intent to hurt, intent to cause damage.

THE CHALLENGE: Brutal honesty (even if a skewed opinion) is often the shovel that will get you zapped. Brutal honesty has merit, but lacks sustainability. In dealing with those around you, look for the signs posted “warning, underground cable.” Stay away, dig somewhere else. Every personality has some territory that can be explored freely. Use tact. Use love.

As for your own cables, keep your signs posted. Avoid rust and decay. Sometimes we victimize ourselves when boundaries aren’t declared early and firmly.

Photo by: Ira

Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.


Illustration by Ashley Goodall


Three Lessons From Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong earned the distinction of being the first man to walk on the moon. What can we learn from him?  Here are my three takeaways.

Armstrong joined the U.S. Navy in 1949 as an aviator and flew combat missions up until 1952. In the last two years of that service, he flew 78 combat missions over Korea. He transitioned to the U.S. Naval Reserve and remained there for eight years until resigning from his commission in 1960. During his time in the Navy, Armstrong logged a total of 2,600 hours in flight, including 1,100 in jet aircraft. He later became an astronaut and the rest is history.

(1)  Find passion in what you do. Would Neil Armstrong have landed on the moon if he did not find a passion for being airborne? Would he have had the confidence to go into unknown territory if he had not risked his life in 78 combat missions? He not only went into outer space but did so with the intent of walking on the moon. I wonder if the thought of “moon walking” ever occurred to him during his first combat flight over Korea. Try not to think about just “getting through the day” but how everything we do can lead to something much bigger than initially supposed.

(2) Contemplate boundaries. Armstrong’s accomplishments reveal so much about boundaries, both literal and perceived. The early colonists in 1775 (at the time of the Navy’s birth) were virtually landlocked.  To the west, they were smothered by thriving forests. To the east, they had the ocean (a mighty long swim before finding a substantial land mass). They may have viewed either direction as their “outer space”, an unknown distance of unexplored territory on one hand and uncharted fathoms of a deadly ocean on the other, not to mention any number of unsympathetic enemies found in both human and animal form. We ought to take inventory of our boundaries, again both literal and perceived. Strive to gain and maintain a firm grasp on the territory in which you may legally operate while keeping in the back of your mind the possibility of breaking out and doing the impossible. America’s early settlers weren’t thinking about exploring the far side of the moon any more than Niel Armstrong was thinking about the world wide web. What possibilities do we presently overlook?

(3) Take a trip for yourself. I personally will never travel to the moon, at least not in a physical sense.  That does not mean I can’t let my mind wander (preferably not at a red light).  For me, it is important to take creative mental expeditions. Refuse to let your mind grow stale. Feed your brain with daily “combat missions.”  Don’t just “veg out” in front of the TV and let others do the thinking for you, don’t be a couch potato.  Find ways to do some mental moonwalking such as book exploration, blogging, journaling, meditation, yoga or some type of art or music. Do whatever it is that sets your mind free and allow yourself time to think outside the box.  Yes, there are infinite prospects to your left and right – just be sure to “look up” from time to time in order to find those overlooked possibilities.

 

Photo by possan

Stay Humble

“Hey mom, we’re going for a walk?” I said. “Sure,” came the reply. We weren’t thinking about safety. After all, I had a friend with me, so why should anyone consider the fact that the lifeguards would be off duty in just 20 minutes? Or that we would step into the ocean right when high tide was in full fury?

Playing Russian roulette with mother nature nearly cost my life. The fierce undertow gripped my ankles like a creature under the bed. I didn’t stand a chance! After a prolonged struggle, I was desperate! I was 10 seconds from giving up when out of nowhere a monster wave turned me into a living surfboard. It was a thrilling ride, one of desperation. I knew it was my only hope. I let gravity pull me down hoping my toes could now get a taste of sand. I was in luck. The skirmish to get back to land was real. I had to fight for every inch. My body dropped to the beach as if it were a lifeless whale. I failed to look both ways. That was 23 years ago.

Today, I took my kids swimming in the ocean. They had fun jumping waves, that is, so long as they were less than waist deep. They were timid. I tried to coax them into deeper water. No such luck. But I’m convinced my aforementioned brush with death influenced how I raise them and contributed to their immense respect for nature’s power. Patience pays off and I know that in due time they will be ducking and dodging white crested ocean swells.

THE APPLICATION: We enter life naked and helpless. The ocean is a long time coming. We must learn how to crawl, then walk and maybe endure a little pain such as hot sand, cold water, rocks, and an occasional jelly fish sting. We need strength, energy, and endurance. Eventually, we may graduate to a boogie board, surfboard or wakeboard. From there it might be a jet ski, speed boat or cruise liner. But the one thing we never graduate to is trading limbs and lungs for fins and gills. Try as we may, fish we are not.

THE CHALLENGE: Stay humble. Born broke, die rich? Fine. You may own some boats, but the ocean will always own you! True riches are found in listening to nature’s sermons.

Photo by Dave

Two Lessons I Learned From Moving

My good mother often joked about the number of pages I filled up in her address book. You might say I’m a bit of a vagabond or as she would put it, “Son, you have a restless spirit.”  This week would mark another address crossed out with a new one to fill in. I suppose she’s rolling over in her grave.

Truth be told, I long to put down roots, but I’m on a toll road – therefore, a forever home won’t come to fruition any time soon. So here I am, new environment, new internet provider, new backache from a makeshift desk. I learned many lessons from this latest move. I provide two for your consideration.

(1) TRUE FRIENDS: Moving is tedious. It takes sweat equity. It takes a little thought. It’s draining. Nobody wants to come touch your junk. They don’t want to figure out where all your little odds and ends (that inevitably aren’t boxed up) should go. They don’t want to break the fragile or priceless items. Then again, they don’t even know what is fragile. They don’t know what you want to unpack first. They don’t know your priorities.

You will know a true friend by their prolonged presence at such an event. You won’t have to beg or bribe an authentic friend to be there. They just will be.

The presence and assistance of a true friend isn’t limited to a physical move. They will be there with you for any move you make in life weather that journey is professional, physical, intellectual or spiritual. They will grab your “crap” so you don’t have as much to lift.

(2) SPACE: The physical dimensions of your abode is only “small” in relationship to the amount of possessions you own! In other words, you don’t need more square footage, you need less “wants”. For this reason, I am grateful that I keep only a handful of close friends, this requires me to do the majority of my own work. While moving, strive to lay hands on every possession you own.  In a prosperous country, it will open your eyes. How can you really evaluate your level of gluttony when there are 10-20 hands playing Tetris with your belongings?

THE CHALLENGE: Be a true friend. Next time there is an opportunity to help someone in a big way, volunteer your time and effort. (Not everyone thinks like me.) They want your help. They need it. The payoff is substantial.

Go through your belongings. Take serious inventory. Identify something you don’t really use anymore. Donate it. Dispose of it. Re-purpose it. Breath new life into it. Gift it. Every item you own that is not of real value eventually becomes a burden to those true friends. Decide now not to kick the can down the road.

Everything you own, owns you!

Photo by Pelle Sten

 

A Little Saliva Will do the Trick

Growing up in New England I had the “privilege” of becoming intimate with mosquitoes. I loved the outdoors, especially trout fishing. I traversed many miles of wilderness streams. In these woodlands the mosquitoes had no mercy!  My hands and neck became a pin cushion for these desperate Dracula’s. At times I felt I had it worse than the worm on my hook (at least it had the luxury of death).

My aunt once gave me a sneaky home remedy after she noticed me scratching my hands raw.  “Just lick your finger and dab the bite with a little saliva.” She continued, “But you can’t touch it until it’s dry…and if it’s still itchy – do it again.” She knew that by the time it dried I would often forget about the bite and move on to something more entertaining.

The trick with mosquito bites (or anything itchy) is to not give it attention. If you do, it reacts like a fussy child and will spiral out of control.

APPLICATION: The saliva remedy works well with the negative opinions of others, or even bad habits. If you give them attention, they will demand more. If you dab a little “saliva” and ignore them they will go away.

Your “saliva” can be anything used to offset the initial itch. Don’t forget Newton’s 3rd law. Ensure you have an EQUAL and OPPOSITE reaction. Some of the things you can utilize as saliva might include a favorite song, a book, a photo of a loved one, a journal or blog, counseling with a friend, reciting a positive affirmation, meditation, prayer, exercising, or service to the offender. Maybe you can try sending a paper text.

Again, I stress that your reaction should be opposite. Don’t get into a sword fight. This is not a “pissing contest.” Yes, when a mosquito bites, you kill it without a second thought, but it does not stop the subsequent itch. Our focus here is not about killing the mosquito, but rather stopping the itch.

THE CHALLENGE: Next time you give heed to someone’s negative opinion, stop! Take immediate action. Apply your saliva and allow it to dry. The itch will dissipate. I promise this works. I have been doing it my whole life.