Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Richard Branson Wisdom....

Don't know what you think of him, but the final sentence of his new book is very thought provoking...

Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

Live an enriching life....pretty good mission statement, I would say. And, in your moments of choice, what if you asked yourself, what is the most enriching thing I could do right now?

There's another interesting point buried in there. You know, I read the book "When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss, which is a biography of Vince Lombardi. I know this is heresy, but I don't wish I was him at all. Yes, he was a winning football coach. But, he was obsessed with his job, and a distant father and husband with no life outside football, and he died too young.

So, maybe its the quality of life...not the height of the ladder.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One of my odder goals

Last New Year, I was in a reflective mood. I named it the YEAR OF ME, not to be self-centered, but to signal to myself that this was a year when I had to change things to take care of that I could be a better father, sure, but also so I wouldn't grow old and look back at life as wasted year on top of wasted year.

One of my watch more baseball. Why? Because baseball used to be a source of great pleasure to me. I could sit and watch a summer night melt away, listening to the Reds on the radio, and lose myself in the languid sounds of summer. I waited to read baseball books after the World Series was over, so I could have seamless, 12-month baseball in my life.

Lately, not so much. When listening to baseball, I have not been able to lose myself. Baseball requires an active mind...its action does not press itself upon you. I just felt like a step to peace was to reconnect with baseball.

I think I accomplished it. I had the MLB Video package, watched games on the web, on TV, and same some games in person. I read more about the game, followed pennant races.

All part of peeling back the onion and figuring out how that person I was before found peace.

So, I write this tonight, because I kind of thought the World Series might end. I use to mourn that was so hard to go from the excitement of the playoffs to nothing. I actually missed baseball.

Thanks to inclement weather, the Series goes on...which is to be celebrated. And tonight, a successful day under my belt (and two glasses of wine), I can look back and now I invested in something that makes me happy and at peace, and I am more at peace than I was at any point last year.

And, hey, there's an opening day countdown on my web page already.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lifehack Mania

Every once in a while, its good to take a step back. As people metric and task their lives into oblivion, are they really making progress toward peace. Merlin Mann is a smart guy who is kind of going through this transformation, thinking better not more. Anyway, he posted a tweet that has to make any lifehacker think....

Yeah, well, maybe if the Buddha had Dashboard, he'd also check every 3 min to see if his MacBook Pro shipped. Wait. Let me do that one over.

Sometimes, we might be too into management and not enough into enlightenment. David Allen talks about this....the purpose of all of this is to free your mind up to find your place on earth...mind like water, is the concept. Allen is actually quite persuasive on this.

Some of us might be hiding from what we will find when our mind is like water, that's all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One of those days

It was one of those days...long week, very tired and stressed. Don't know what it was, but about noon I put all the problems to bed and suddenly felt very, very sick. Flu sick. I got my work done and left work early.

I had plans--a date in fact. I canceled it...and came home, slept, had a late dinner, and I'm feeling a little better right now. A little sick, but better.

You know what? What I needed tonight was downtime, not a date. I needed to totally shut everything down, sleep, watch a movie (All the King's Men, very good), and not have to talk to anyone or be on sit in my sweats on the floor and just let the motor wind down.

At one point, I thought all I needed was a woman who would date me. Now, I understand it may be more complicated than that...but I'm determined to keep an eye on what is working for me. And I understand...maybe I'm OK on my own.

An intense relationship is probably not going to work for me right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another step up the mountain

Yesterday was another decent step forward. First, despite strong levels of stress, I still let myself leave the office feeling good, and let me enjoy myself.

And I took another step forward. One of my issues is that I am a pleaser. Which is something that can be good, but also can have its drawbacks. It has been especially true of women. I have craved their approval that I often completely mold myself to earn their approval. Spent a couple decades doing that, in fact.

So, a situation arose with a woman I am starting to see. She wanted one thing, I wanted another.

But, I'm determined to learn to be the person I want to be--giving, caring, but asserting what I need for me, in my new life. I'm not going to fall into the same thing again.

So, in an email, I calmly, but without undue explanation, asserted what I wanted to do.

And you know?

  • She doesn't hate me.
  • She's still speaking to me.
  • She's glad to know what I am thinking.

Dang? Really? Who would have thought it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yesterday was better...

I had a hard day yesterday. Lots of pressure, unreasonable people, unreasonable demands, and stress. And, I had a high pressure assignment today.

But I kept my perspective, remained positive, laughed at some things, didn't take everything so personally, and left here feeling pretty good.

Do you know how liberating it felt? To have, even for one day, let myself feel good even when everything looked bad? To drive home NOT burdened by the cares of the world, but ready to enjoy some time to myself?

Liberating is the word.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning to be at Peace again

You know, as I go from day to day, its like peeling back layers of myself. I am trying to be at peace and happy, but I feel like someone who has been in a coma and has to learn to tie his shoes again. I can remember when I was happy go lucky, when the world's cares didn't tie me up more often than know, when I could process stress and fear. When I felt capable, and trusted the universe.

I feel like I have to re-learn every skill involved in being by one. Everyday I think about something, and I try to file it away and enjoy the great weather and beautiful scenery here. But it is totally alien to how I live. I had no idea how much I lost.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting Audiobook

I've been listening to Waiter Rant in the car. Its a book that evolved from a blog chronicling the life of a "cynical" waiter, working in a strange industry and dealing with the public, which inevitably means interfacing with some pretty unpleasant, unhappy, and maladjusted people. Not to mention raunchy co-workers.

Its funny and outrageous, and a great behind the scenes look at a restaurant. We eat in these places every single week, but we don't always understand what's really going on.

But it isn't without substance. It really isn't a book about restaurants. It is a book abut the nature of work.

Its has adjusted my attitude toward work. It has me thinking a lot about work, and I came in today with a kind of peace I haven't had in a while. Such as:

  • I am looking at people differently, remembering that they have their struggles too. And, people don't deserve to feel unappreciated. And even when they disappoint you, there's a way to deal with that and make them feel appreciated.
  • I have been known to curse the heavens because of the assholes I have to deal with sometimes. I'm not alone in that, am I? Every human enterprise is wrapped up in the complex and imperfect web of humanity, for its beauty and its terror. Its like getting mad because it rains. You're going to deal with people who are pissed at the world. Get over it.
  • It helps to laugh about it.
  • Waiter doesn't let assholes hit at his self-esteem. I need to do that to.
  • And you know what? Its not bad to take a minute to laugh about it, too. Maybe not right away, but before it gets seared into your mind and gets hard wired.
Oh yeah. Unless I am treated abominably, I will never tip less than 20%. More on really small bills.

The best thing you can say about a book is that it changes how you look at the world.

Is this another step up Mount Everest. It feels like it today. At the top of the mountain is some kind of peace that lets me live happily and deal with the burdens of the world only in their time, and feel free when it is time to feel free. I'm under the same amount of stress as yesterday...but feeling differently.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pretty Crazy Day...

But, I think its another step up the mountain. It has been hard and stressful, but I have been proactive and diligent and good humored and kept things in perspective. And, along the way, some positive things have happened today. I have kept my self-image intact and tried to slog through the issues.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A revelation--and step one up the mountain

How I react to the world is all about how I feel about I think of myself as an assertive, positive force in the world....or do I see myself as a rudderless ship buffeted by the foul winds.

Am I a cause, or am I an effect?

When adversity strikes, who do I think it strikes?

  • A man who deserves adversity no more or no less than anyone else does, and who can deal with the next steps without anxiety or self-recrimination. A man comfortable with himself, his destiny and his faults, and not willing to take the blame for the world, just his part.


  • A man who believes that he deserves everything the world dishes out to him and worse, who is destined to repeat his mistakes over and over again. A man worthy of his own scorn...and unworthy of being loved unless he does what others want.

I am afraid that too often it strikes the second person...and that my self-image and self-talk, while confident in good times, is anxious and fearful under stress. Anxiety leads to depression and avoidance.

I have begun to try and channel the first guy--like when I give a speech, I pause at the mic, and I collect myself, and I think, "be in command of this room." In my funny moments, I call it channeling my inner Dan Draper. I need to do that more. A deep breath, and a simple thought, "be in command of this situation."

There are lots of things coming up....Everest is standing there, and during the walk you will be placed under stress--not the least of which is during the holidays. So, today's first step up the mountain is to take command of myself when I am under stress....just today, just the next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Its late at night

I should be in bed. Long, long day. Tired and unmotivated. Not a great day for my first trip up Mount Everest. Had about a half bottle of wine and a big glass of cognac. But, the mountain is there, right before me. And I'm going to get to the top. Which means, tomorrow, I am going to go up---however small.

Some things did go well. I have a woman who is pushing for a stronger relationship. In the past, I would have obsessed over disappointing her this week when I can't see her. And I do like her. I asserted myself positively, and didn't fall into all that co-dependency stuff. And lo and behold, she stuck with me.

How about that?

And, I'm continuing to try and meet new women, which is MY desire for my new life.

So tomorrow, a simple goal.

I'm going to be positive, and think about jumping hurdles, not resenting them.

This has been hard lately. The novelty has worn off from my new life, and (whoops) the old me is still here. Don't try to do too much, don't try to climb the mountain in one day. If I can do this--for one day--its a step forward.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is my Mount Everest?

I've already talked about my favorite line in "Oh the places you'll" go by Dr. Suess. Its, "your mountain is waiting."

Recently ran across a really similar thought in one of the best blog posts I have ever read...its called "How to be creative" on gapingvoid.

We're going to spend a few days on this rich and illuminating set of personal philosophies (are they finally in that mythical sweet spot?)

Catch this:

You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don't make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.This metaphorical Mount Everest doesn't have to manifest itself as "Art". For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many. With others the path may be something more prosaic. Making a million dollars, raising a family, owning the most Burger King franchises in the Tri-State area, building some crazy oversized model airplane, the list has no end.

Whatever. Let's talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly.

Let's say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, "Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway" and take up stamp collecting instead?

Well, you could try. But I wouldn't believe you. I think it's not OK for you never to try to climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise you wouldn't have read this far.

So it looks like you're going to have to climb the frickin' mountain. Deal with it.

My advice? You don't need my advice. You really don't. The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone would be this:

"Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That is half the battle."

And you've already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldn't have read this far.

Rock on.

So what is my Mount Everest? Is it the book? No, don't think so. My private Mount Everest is really, really private. Its about altering the soundtrack of my life.

  • I wake up in the morning, and my mind is preparing for the day, looking at every single thing with dread or anxiety.
  • I meet a woman, have a nice time with her. She wants more, I'm not ready. I torment myself with fears that I am going to let her down or I have to keep her happy.
  • In times when I should be feeling good, I'm too often pre-occupied with things that make me feel bad...not all the time, but much of the time.

Fixing this is my Mount Everest. I'm 44, and I'm as independent as I have ever been. My happiness is less dependent on other people than it ever has been and ever will be. But I have to accept it, because right now, I am just choosing new people to control my happiness, and these are people with no commitment to me. At least with my ex-wife, we were married.

So, step one. This private Mount Everest exists. Climbing to the top will require the trip of a lifetime. And I'm going to take the first step right now.

When I am at the top of Mount Everest I will:

  • Take care of myself along with other people.
  • Stop letting other people determine my happiness.
  • Start letting myself feel good.
  • Stop dreading the hurdles. Take them in stride.
  • Worry about things in their time, and no other time.
  • Take action to close loops, create peace. If you avoid it, it owns you
  • Not necessarily in that order.
These may sound stupid. I mean, its not a novel or a screenplay.

But, it is so tall I can hardly imagine it being taller. It is literally the highest and most difficult thing I can imagine in my life. This habits are so ingrained, and I have tried to climb this mountain before, though I didn't know that's what it was at the time. And I didn't get to the first base camp before I came tumbling down again, or I ran out of oxygen, or whatever metaphor you want.

But let's be clear...I ran back down the mountain when it got a little steep and my focus wandered.

That's part of climbing a mountain. You gotta expect it to be steep. And you gotta climb everyday for a long time to get to the top.

So that's it. Today is the day I start my climb to the top of my own, private Mount Everest. Next, I will prioritize the first steps...what I need to do to get to the first base camp.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I really like the Happiness Project, and this post provoked some interesting thoughts for me....

One of the things I am learning is that there seems to be a sweet spot between any two competing philosophies.

  • You have to be committed to your path, but flexible enough to change.
  • You have to accept the things that happen to you....but, then again, many of our greatest minds never accepted things as they were.
  • We should learn to say YES to life....unless the real skill is learning to say no.

I guess the bottom line is that you can't bromide your life. You can't set up hard and fast rules to govern what you do and how you think.

The post linked above is about that, too. Here's the essence.....

I’m paraphrasing, but in part Dan Pink answered, “I never ask myself ‘What’s my passion?’ That question is too huge. It’s not helpful.”

I think that’s absolutely correct. One of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Think big,” but sometimes you can paralyze yourself by asking big, unanswerable questions.

This is actually a pretty big insight on its own. You can certainly think too small. Most people haven't figured out that you can also think too big. You can't see a beautiful painting on the ground if you are looking down from an airplane.

That's why I like GTD and the Weekly Review. Once a week you think big, occasionally you think even bigger, but, in general, you think in more manageable bites.

I often say, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Do what you need to do today, and check in once in a while to make sure you are oriented to the right destination. The peace you get will help you live better along the way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wonder and worry

Watching a blank screen
Originally uploaded by ToastyKen
This might be my worst habit.

When I don't know about something, I wonder about it. Now, you could do two destructive things here.

* Assume everything will be OK.
* Assume everything will be a disaster.

I'm in the second boat...wonder and worry. If there's something out there that is undefined--and let's be honest, life is infused with ambiguity--I tend to assume that it will be a disaster. Not just ideal, not just bad, but a catastrophe. I just color in pictures with black.

So, I need to fix that, right? I caught myself doing it this morning, and I thought...hey, if you wonder, you don't have to worry.

What comes with this anxiety, though, is a fear that makes you not want to find out the real truth, since you are so sure its horrible.

So, instead of wonder and worry, you have two healthy options:

* Wonder and wait. (most things work out).
* Wonder and investigate.

Either way, torturing yourself over the unknown is not the action of a healthy person, especially in our complicated modern world.

This is really funny

Politics...if you didn't laugh, you'd cry. Watch this. Oh, and I really do believe laughter is the best medicine. Normal amounts of sleep might be second.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Great Podcast

I really enjoy the Dan Klass podcast, The Bitterest Pill. I won't go into detail about what it is all about, because it is very difficult to describe anyway. Click here if you want to know more.

He is a Dad, and he had a great Dad post. This won't do it justice, but he has a long and crazy day with his kids, and they're acting nuts, but he's trying to do some cool, fun Halloween stuff and everybody is having a good time, but, you know, the kids are pushing back now and then, and its kind of stressful too.

If you're a parent, you have been there. And you're thinking, I wish we were done with this.

Well, in this podcast, Klass realizes that it will be all over...sooner than we think. In his case, in 9 years, and in my case it will be over in six years. I was thinking this same thought this summer when I was standing in line at Mickey's Dairy Twist, our town ice cream stand.

My son has a heroin like addiction to Mickey's. And he is always bugging me to go. We go more than we should, and often I take him under protest. But, I looked at him the other night, in the glow of the big, bright awning they have, and he was so excited and wide-eyed...and then I thought, you know, soon enough you won't have anyone to take to the ice cream stand.

And when you do, you will feel a void, the searing pain of absence. So, don't feel it now, too, right? Feel the presence and the child-like excitement, loosen up a little bit, take things a little less seriously, and enjoy the ride. The park will close soon.

Moose out front will tell you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life Crisis

OK, so in the past couple of days, really starting on Monday afternoon, I was faced with a serious personal The kind of thing that in an instant takes everything you thought you knew about your life and throws it out the window.

I have been consumed by fear and anxiety. I was pulling out every self-talk thing I had...

  • Thinking about Dan Gilbert, and knowing that my mind will compensate and it won't be as bad as I think.
  • Telling myself that there's no point to regretting what has happened in the past, and only a point in moving forward.
  • Telling myself to take responsibility for what I was facing.
  • Telling myself that people go through what I was facing all the time, and come out happy.

I don't know if any of this worked. I had tons of (probably appropriate) gut-level anxiety, but really only one full-fledged panic attack. So, I got that going for me.

And, I guess you would have to say I coped, right? I mean, I didn't curl up in a ball, kept working, all of that.

But, it was sure hard.

The crisis has passed, and apparently will not come to fruition. The relief was palpable. I don't know how I feel about how I did. It was classic fear and self-recrimination. But, again, there was no meltdown. Just a lot of looking into the abyss.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What a great day it was today. One of the things I am working very hard on is enjoying good things, without letting cares of another day ruin every single moment of every single day, as is my habit. So, my son and I were touring our local parks (long story) and I got this shot at Curtis Park in Saline.

I love the Fall, and it was so wonderful to be out and about, feeling the cool air and getting some exercise, spending Father-son time. I'll have plenty of cares tomorrow....plenty. But, I did better today truly re-creating. Not entirely worry free, but instead of my thoughts being dominated by worry 80% of the time, it might have been 20% of the time.

And in that mind set, you can be at peace....and still perform. Probably better.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I've mentioned before what a tonic exercise is for me....

Took this on a long walk through Gallup Park last Sunday. Will look even better when the colors fully went directly to my heart.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Other people are not going to decide my mood...

To the best of my ability. So help me God.

On the Way to School

On the Way to School
Originally uploaded by CaptPiper
found this photo on flickr....great shot of a pretty little town and a good place to live. The lighted trees really make the downtown look special. Sometimes, we get used to how something looks and we don't notice anymore what beauty is around us. Then we'll travel across the state (country/world) to see a pretty little town.

Its kind of inspirational....quiet and anticipating, with possibility.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The struggling continues

I woke up twice last night with anxiety attacks, and then was very snappish to people at work. Then, I did some work, got out of the office on a sales call, and things started to come around. Then, I went on a walk tonight, and as I breathed the cool night air into my lungs and got my heart moving, things began to come around. Feeling much better now.

A few things are messed up. I need a point of beginning.