Tune in to Life

Tune in to Life

Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin, says that as a leader, it’s crucial to prioritize time in every workday to schedule nothing and to focus on thinking- he has a 90 minute to two hour daily block. If you’re stuck in the rut of the overwhelm of work, culture, and life, it can feel impossible to take a step back just to breath. Jeff believes that the act of reserving this time and dedicating time for contemplation, coaching, and strategizing is what has led to such tremendous success for Linkedin, which Microsoft recently purchased for $26.2 billion.

Jeff understands the power of human connection. He leads the largest professional networking site in the world of over 450 million professionals. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that the leader of a digital world, with a population larger than the US, in a society that is “always connected,” feels the most productive part of his day is derived from scheduling nothing. It’s only then that he’s able to tune in to what’s most important.

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Cal Newport, Best Selling Author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” and “Deep Work,” argues that in order to focus your mind entirely, you must eliminate distractions. In fact, in order to master the hard things and produce at an elite level, the most important objectives for students and professionals today, he explains, one must focus on deep, uninterrupted work. While this seems self-evident and obvious, it’s rather profound upon consideration and personal application.

Cal, beyond being made famous by his books, has also been made famous by a rather extreme-sounding TEDx talk in which he argues against the use of any social media. He believes that social media distracts, distorts, and absorbs your mind’s attention, disabling your ability to think clearly and preventing the mind’s engagement.

To tune into life to be so good that others can’t ignore him and to do deep work, Cal argues, it is imperative to eliminate distractions.

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At times in my life, I’ve been so engulfed in personal productivity that I’ve created and led trainings on the most important time management mechanisms, Eisenhower’s Matrix, Pareto’s Principle, and Parkinson’s Law- what I call the Big 3 productivity hacks. With Eisenhower’s Matrix, I organize tasks into buckets, knowing that the non-urgent but important bucket needs to be my primary focus. With Pareto’s Principle, I map out the 20% of my tasks that produce 80% of my results and prioritize those. And, lastly, with Parkinson’s Law, I underscore the truth that what I focus on expands to the time allocated to it, driving priority, focus, and time constraints to the most important tasks.

Jeff and Cal have obviously mastered productivity theory. It’s important to note, though, that each productivity hack also drives the same point. They all say the same thing in unique ways. In order to do great work, ignore distractions, focus on what’s important, and tune in to what’s crucial.

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If you want to do great work, prioritize time to think and strategize, like Jeff Weiner. If you want to do great work, ignore distractions like Cal Newport. If you want to do great work, focus on what’s important and turn off everything else. This is the only way to tune in to life.

The Most Meaningful Song

When I was in third through sixth grade, I was a proud member of the Children’s Choir at my church. I absolutely loved to sing, despite never being the best (My brother, Brandon, is an amazing singer, but that’s another story). Later in life, I found a love of karaoke and married a woman who is a far, far more talented singer. In fact, in early 2012, when we were moving from San Diego to Denver, we threw our going away party at a Korean Restaurant/Karaoke Bar. As you can imagine, it was epic.

While I still sing to myself, to my baby, and to my wife, it had been a long time since I had sung in a group- they don’t make baby friendly karaoke bars, I guess.

In May 2016, when I attended Camp Grounded Digital Detox, one of the workshops that I chose was “Gospel Choir,” which was far more enjoyable than I could’ve imagined. For me, when choices were seemingly unlimited, I chose to sing. I loved every minute of it, too.

We sang classic, soulful music– many songs that I had heard of but never memorized, and one special song I had never heard before that truly sang to my heart and soul. It became the most meaningful song to me. Our choir leader was a long haired, long bearded, shabbily dressed, modern day hippie with glasses, and a banjo. With his soft voice, strumming his tiny banjo, he taught us the following lyrics, from a song called, “Everything Possible,” by Fred Small:

“You can be anybody you want to be.

You can love whomever you will.

You can travel any country that your heart leads,

And know I will love you still.

You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around.

You can choose one special one.

And the only measure of your words and your deeds,

Will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.”

Since then, every day, I sing these lyrics at least once and often many more times, like a silent mantra in my head, and every time, I think of my daughter with hope and love.

These lyrics are more powerful than that to me, though. They embody what I feel everyone should hear from their friends, loved ones, and the most important people in their life. They embody true, altruistic, and unconditional love.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, how smart you are, or anything else. The honesty and sincerity of these words echo through the chambers of time.

For Women Everywhere

The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations, can never effect a reform.” -Susan B. Anthony

Yesterday, my wife, daughter and I went to the Women’s March on Washington- Fresno because it was true to ourselves.

People were there for so many reasons.

We were there to stand with the disenfranchised and for empowerment, equality and justice for women everywhere

From Joan of Arc to Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks to all women across the globe, I was proud to join my wife and daughter with millions of others as we marched in solidarity for civil rights, women’s rights and human rights.

We believe in women. We believe in human potential. We believe in dignity. We believe in peace. We believe in love. We believe in inclusivity. We believe in compassion. We believe in equal rights across the country and across the globe.

Not everyone marching aligned with our full perspective of the world, but that’s okay. Not everyone marching was there for the same reasons, either, but that, too, was okay.

We came to represent all women.

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To best identify our motives, beliefs and values, we, like many others, decided to make a sign.

We included a drawing of Rosa Parks on it- the black woman who refused to yield her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955, who became a historic symbol of protest against injustice in the Civil Rights movement and still today.

Since her act was frequently marginalized by people saying that she must have been tired to not want to move seats, the quote we chose from her said,

“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

It took guts to stand up for what is right for Rosa Parks. She was persecuted and imprisoned. She suffered. She risked her freedom and personal safety.

In the 2017 Women’s March on Washington- Fresno there wasn’t even police presence that we could see. If there was danger, we likely would have left. There was no legal consequence and certainly no fear of loss of safety. In fact, it was easy to express solidarity with women- almost too easy.

As Rosa Parks was a symbol then, we felt it important that she remain a symbol now.

Another quote we chose was taken from Shepard Fairey in his “We the People” image series created for this specific march. It read, “We the people defend dignity.” If there is one indelible right that all humans should share, it is the right of dignity and mutual respect. Every great mystic and spiritual leader expresses dignity and respect for others as a primary tenet of living a righteous life. It’s too easy to decrease the dialogue to shouting and ignoring, and to resort to name-calling and bigoteering. It’s too easy to write adrenaline-filled comments online and say things to others that we shouldn’t say. Having dignity is to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard, and to expect the same from others.

Lastly, we included an American Flag and the words, “God Bless America.” We recognize the incredible privilege that it is to be a citizen of this country. We are grateful that this country mandates freedoms. We are grateful this country mandates human rights. We are grateful that this country encourages public discourse.

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I’m proud that we went. I’m proud of that sign. And I’m proud that our daughter was able to join us.

Knowing that I marched for my wife, daughter and for billions of women everywhere will always make me smile

Seeing my daughter looking up to my wife holding that sign will always make me proud.

Women's March on Washington- Fresno

Step into Fear  

Step into Fear

I had become complacent. Everyday I’d go to work in my cubicle, help students with their lives, and look out the window to beautiful Downtown Denver.

Did I really just become another number in a mega-corporation? I was helping people every day. I was coaching students to success. I was imparting my strategies for a successful life onto dozens of people each day, but it wasn’t enough.

I was valuable. But I felt that tinge of restlessness– that feeling that calls to higher purpose.

I felt that feeling that you get when your values aren’t entirely congruent with your actions. My work went from fulfilling advisement and coaching into “activities,” “tasks,” “trainings,” “emails,” and “meetings.”   I got lost in the minutia.

My cup had gone from overflowing to half empty.

I practiced mindfulness, remained positive, and practiced gratitude, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to make a change.

It was time to step into fear.

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I walked into the office that day like any other. I greeted friends, associates, and colleagues enthusiastically. I sat at my desk overlooking the bustling downtown area and began helping students.

Then an email appeared in my inbox: “Optional Voluntary Layoff” My jaw dropped. Whispers spread like a wildfire through the over 150 cubicles on my floor. Was this really happening?

I texted my girlfriend (Now, my wife), who worked at the same location at the same company. She received the same message.

Limited approvals. No consequences. Pay and benefits. Man, that was enticing.

I’d spent the better part of 4 years championing, defending, and encouraging higher education. I was engulfed in it. I had nearly earned two degrees, found the love of my life, made many great friends, and worked with thousands of students and thousands of advisors. I’d led and participated in trainings on communication, leadership, goal-setting, work/life balance, emotional intelligence, change, influence, effectiveness, productivity, and more.

Suddenly, I felt the real gratefulness that I had for these experiences and I was afraid. Terrified. My inner monologue weighed my issues. “If I stay, to justify my decision, I’d be here a long while. If I leave, what if I fail?”

Some colleagues had already submitted their forms- a few were already approved, cleaning up their desks and saying tearful goodbyes.

I texted my girlfriend to meet outside. “It’s a great opportunity,” I said. “I think we’d regret not doing it,” I said.

Submitted. Approved. Now, what?

Half of my peers had left the building. I was working with nearly 300 students. What would happen to them?

I sent my last emails from that email address. I solved the most pressing issues from the students I worked with. I hugged countless coworkers, friends, colleagues and associates. I told so many people how honored I was to have worked with them.

I stepped into fear.

I focused on relationships. I set new goals. I re-calibrated my life. I found my purpose, again.

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Everytime I’ve made a leap, in alignment with my goals, I’ve landed on fertile ground.

Less than 4 years later, I married my love, have a miraculously amazing baby girl, published an Amazon Hot New Release children’s book, work 100% remotely in business and education, travel more for work and play than I ever have before, and know that life is what I’ve made it.

My actions feel more and more congruent with my values everyday.

But I’m starting to feel that tinge of restlessness, that pull– that feeling that calls to higher purpose.

It’s quickly approaching. It’s time to step into fear.

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This time it’s not about complacency, though. It’s not about a career change. It’s not about moving across the country or exploring more of the world or finding myself.

It’s about being myself. It’s about being true to myself. It’s about finding truth. It’s about loving. It’s about being love.

External change is hard. Internal change is harder.

But I know it gets easier. It is easier. 

3, 2, 1 GO!

21 Quotes to Keep Moving Forward in Anything

21 Quotes to Keep Moving Forward in Anything

We all hit roadblocks that force us to stop and re-evaluate.

From family and personal issues to career and business conflicts, we are all challenged to define who we are and what we are doing every single day- sometimes more. In the countless moments when life has pushed back, these are 21 of the many quotes that have inspired me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and press on. I hope you find inspiration in them as I have.

21. “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” — Earl Nightingale

20. “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” -Henry David Thoreau

19. “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” — Napoleon Hill

18. ‘The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” — Jordan Belfort

17. “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” — Zig Ziglar

16. “If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.” — Lou Holtz

15. “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”— Napoleon Hill

14. “Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you.” — Jeffrey Gitomer

13. “You can conquer almost any fear if you will make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” — Dale Carnegie

12. “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.” — Mark Victor Hansen

11. “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie

10. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” — Earl Nightingale

9. “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.” — Brian Tracy

8. “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” — Amelia Earhart

7. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” — Jim Rohn

6. “Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey

5. “Don’t let the opinions of the average man sway you. Dream, and he thinks you’re crazy. Succeed, and he thinks you’re lucky. Acquire wealth, and he thinks you’re greedy. Pay no attention. He simply doesn’t understand.” — Robert G Allen

4. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretsky

3. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

2. “When you know what you want and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” — Jim Rohn

1. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” — John Wooden

How to Be a Jedi

How to be a Jedi

It was 2008.

Lehman Brothers shut down. Washington Mutual was given to Chase by the Federal Reserve. Lines of credit for small businesses were shut down and called due. Bankruptcy this. Market crash that. Fraud everything.

I watched the 24 hour news cycle day and night.

Fear. Pain. Panic.

It was the worst recession since the 1990s, they said. It was worse than they expected, they said. It was the worst recession since 1929, they said. And we all know what happened then.

Fear. Pain. Panic.

It was Bernie Madoff’s fault. It was Mortgage Brokers’ fault. It was the banks’ fault. It was Alan Greenspan’s fault. It was the Federal Reserve’s fault. It was the Hedge Funds’ fault.

No, it was your neighbor’s fault. And everyone else was the victim.

Fear. Pain. Panic.

I didn’t sleep well for months… maybe longer. FOX, CNN, and MSNBC were chicken little. They said the sky was falling.

So, I turned off the news. I focused on relationships. I set new goals. I recalibrated my life. I found my purpose, again.

And the sky didn’t fall.

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Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, so I’ll pass on that chocolate this Lent.

Growing up Catholic, every year for Lent, I would give up some hedonistic pleasure– mostly candy, chocolate, or soda. It was Winston Churchill that said, “Never trust a teenager without vices,” right?

Also got Lent, my family would give up something altogether– mostly television. It sounded archaic to my friends, especially since we never even had cable, but we’d shut off the television and spend time doing everything outside of the reach of technology (there were no iPads or cell phones then, either).

I always remember Lent fondly because merely shutting off the television tuned me into my life more. We played board games, card games, basketball, and everything in between. I’d read recreationally- which I didn’t do much then.

No matter what we chose to do, it was always more fulfilling than watching television. Every year, although I’d miss Seinfeld & Friends, we’d celebrate Easter feeling a little bit closer to family and a little more connected to ourselves after our television fast.

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If it bleeds, it leads.

This is an oft-mentioned philosophy of news producers and media magnates. Even Oprah in her rise gave the Ku Klux Klan show time to debate racial issues. I’m not talking about fake news; I’m talking about the news.

Today, with individuals incessantly consuming content on mobile, desktop, tablet, TV, and everything in between, with a half-dozen channels dedicated to 24/hour news, it’s no wonder that our society is becoming more fearful.

Fear strums at the adrenal medulla and releases adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing the fight or flight response. It interrupts our minds from higher level tasks. It activates our primal instinct to react upon attack.

Never was Yoda so accurate as when he said,

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

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One of my parents first dates was to watch Star Wars: A New Hope, so I practically memorized Episode IV, V, and VI. Then George Lucas re-imagined and re-released them when I was in high school and I, II, and III came out. Episode VII and VIII just came out.

When my brother, sister, and I would play “pretend” in the backyard as kids, I was Luke, my brother was Han Solo, and my sister was Princess Leia. Don’t be weird about that.

I always wanted to be a Jedi Knight. I learned the sword in Kung Fu, so I could handle a light saber better given the chance, even though Rafael was my favorite Ninja Turtle (he used sighs).

Now I know I can’t be a Jedi. The closest I can get is to just live the Jedi code,

“Emotion, yet peace. Ignorance, yet knowledge. Passion, yet serenity. Chaos, yet harmony.”

But that seems too hard, so I just turn off the news, focus on relationships, set new goals, and re-calibrate my life.

It makes me a little more like a Jedi everyday.

A Soul on Fire

A Soul on Fire

I only knew Levi from a distance, but I knew him well enough.

We were classmates in high school and he was friends with some of my friends. A buddy of mine, Forest, had a sweet high school rock band, Vuja De, and they’d perform with Levi’s sweet rock band, Mode#.

Clearly, Levi was destined for greatness. He was the consummate performer.

We graduated and went our separate ways, but I stayed friends with Forest and Forest stayed friends with Levi.

As intention and serendipity would have it, I now work with Forest, and, in May 2016, he brought our company to Levi’s Digital Detox experiment, Camp Grounded, a legendary adult Summer camp at Camp Mendocino where you soberly ditch your technology, go by an alias nickname (mine was ‘Happiness’/his was Fidget), paint faces, rock out to music, make art, and burn your fears in fire before a 3 hour silent dinner.

I took a gospel choir class in the middle of the woods, then walked around with my new choir colleagues to wake campers at dawn with songs of happiness. I woke up at the glimpse of daylight one day and walked around the woods by myself for an hour singing aloud alone and I felt happy.

I was able to spend a couple hours with my thoughts and a notepad, sitting by the river in silence, observing and internalizing the beauty as best I could.

Levi and his wife, Brooke, who was also a high school classmate of mine, created Digital Detox to inspire others to connect with each other, as humans are meant to do. They created a tribe of musicians, yogis, inspirational speakers, leaders, instructors, facilitators and creatives of all types. They were always willing to grow their tribe to include anyone and everyone.

Levi’s philosophy and, thus, a mantra at Camp Grounded was,

“Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.”

It was repeated many times every day- and it’s true. Being present and adding value to others is where peace lives. I remember the first time someone said the mantra to me at camp. I wasn’t ready to hear it. But the more I heard it, the more it made sense. The more I am present, the higher the well-being of my life is.

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Brene Brown says,

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”

And, she’s right.

I’d like to think I’ve always been close with family, friends and loved ones. I like to think that I’ve always focused on relationships and getting to know and appreciate people more deeply. But somehow, somewhere, I know that’s not the case.

When I moved into the dorms at San Diego State, I remember seeing people being betrayed frequently for the first time in my life. I remember the pain. I slowly started losing trust in people. Perhaps, I even became untrustworthy to some. I bottled and compartmentalized emotions ever-so-slowly and continued to bottle and compartmentalize the pain, the vulnerability.

Intimacy and deep, connected relationships with others is how we make peace. Honesty with ourselves and truth with others is how we have contentment.

But, it’s hard.

It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes courage to express vulnerability. Bottling hides the shame, distrust, disrespect, and betrayal, while blocking intimacy.

I’m not a master of being courageously vulnerable, but I hope to one day be. Levi, on the other hand, was. He created a community of thousands built on in-person, face-to-face, teary-eyed intimate connections with intention. He forced people to face their fears to live their dreams. He got people in touch with their most creative center of being. He lived well and his impact will be felt through many lifetimes in immeasurable ways.

Another Levi- mantra of Camp Grounded was,

“Be vulnerageous.”

Levi knew that to be courageously vulnerable was to create a life lived well, so much so that he coined a word for it. No one could argue that the world feels the ripples that he’s made.  I know I certainly do.

I’m sure that all that knew Levi would agree Ferdinand Foch’s quote embodies Levi’s life and legacy.

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”

My camp counselor at Camp Grounded, Smiley, Author of Quarter-Life Breakthrough, wrote a much better tribute to Levi’s memory on Medium. You should read it.

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

In the 2014 film, The Cobbler, Adam Sandler is a second generation cobbler in New York, who discovers that when he uses a specific “stitcher” machine, he’s able to put on his customer’s shoes, and become them.

Of course there’s the discovery scene of him trying on shoes of all types of people in the mirror AND there’s the scene of him in the shoes of a young man with his good-looking girlfriend, AND the scene where being in someone else’s shoes goes all wrong. And it’s sweet and funny, with just the right amount of drama to make it an instant classic.

I hadn’t heard of it, when I saw it, and I almost never hear anyone mention it, but it’s a must-see film. As intended, it embodies the Cherokee Proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.”

It is only when the main character literally walks a mile in others’ shoes that he is able to see the world in the wider perspective that was there all along, enabling him to value his own journey even more.

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My wife and I, when living in Denver, had the privilege of being invited by our friend and his folks up to their family cabin in Grand Lake at the Northern Entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and on the North Fork of the Colorado River.

We fished for hours and caught nothing, and it was wonderful. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and saw two moose trotting about. We hiked up a mountain in the dark and stared for hours at the endless stars while listening to stories from my friend’s dad. We walked through the tiny shops, ate at the local restaurants, and took photos of way too much. It was gorgeous. It was amazing. It was a very memorable time.

When we were saying our goodbyes and many ‘thank yous,’ before heading back into the city, my friend’s mom said something that I’ve never forgotten. She said, ” We’ve been coming here our entire lives and love it, but being able to experience this place through your eyes as you’ve seen it for the first time has been a blessing and a reminder of why this place is so special.”

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Earlier this week, my wife and I brought our daughter to her inaugural Disneyland trip at 20 months old and it was truly magical. We love Disney, Pixar and Walt Disney’s story, but, as young parents, we were concerned.

Our main concerns were that the weather was forecast to be rain, that our daughter wouldn’t enjoy the rides, and that we would waste a ton of time bringing her back and forth to the hotel for a nap. But, as luck would have it, the forecast was clear, she loved the rides, and she fell asleep for two hours in her stroller, while we chatted and relaxed mid-day. It was perfect.

The first ride we went on was Winnie The Pooh, and I was anxious about the entire experience as we waited in line. I imagined her wanting to get out or off. I imagined her crying and screaming. I imagined her getting scared. My wife was anxious, too, but we had to test the waters.

Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life. Most of which have never happened.”

Our biggest problem ended up being different from our concerns. She was having way too much fun on the rides. From Pooh, to Dumbo, to It’s a Small World, to Pirates of the Caribbean, she was in blissful awe, and only got upset when we needed to exit, as she signed “more” with her hands while saying it aloud.

She danced with Mary Poppins, posed with Pluto, enthusiastically watched The Path to Jedi, and enjoyed visiting Minnie Mouse in her home in Toontown. She loved it all more than we could have anticipated.

We let her walk by our sides much of the time and she would stop to point at the seagulls, ducks, and pigeons meandering about and be elated.

She climbed up the stairs to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Tree House and wanted to do it, again. She saw a wall that she thought was playdough in Toontown, and played in front of it for 20 minutes. After half the day, she pointed out every picture of Mickey and Minnie, saying, “Moooooooouse!” It was adorable.

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I finally got it. It finally made sense to me. It clicked.

It was only in living Disneyland through the absolute and complete experience of my 20 month old that I realized what living life in another person’s shoes really meant. It’s not serving the poor. It’s not mirroring your prospect. It’s not reading the same books as your icons. It’s not learning through observation. It’s literally sharing the feelings of another person.

I guess you can say I put on my baby’s tiny shoes that day. I’m not sure if my emotional quotient got any higher, but I know that my love for my wife and daughter got deeper. And that’s what really matters, right?

 

The Weather of Life

The Weather of Life

Driving through Portland late this Autumn, as my wife, daughter and I drove across Washington and Oregon from Idaho, it rained. As we pulled up to our hotel, it rained. As we unpacked our luggage, it rained. As we slept, it rained. When we awoke, it was raining. And as we went on our great adventure, it rained. In fact, it never stopped raining the entire time we were in Oregon that trip.

On our way to Multnomah Falls, as it was pouring rain, I noticed a couple walking down the sidewalk, some kids riding bikes down the street, and even as we were driving by a park where seemingly hundreds of people were lined up to start a bike race, not one person was using an umbrella!

With a sideways smirk, I pointed out to my wife, “Maybe this is how they intend to keep Portland weird, eh?”

She smiled and said, “I heard that that’s a thing here. It’s so weird.” We continued on the drive without too much further discussion.

When we arrived, we grabbed our raincoats and umbrellas and headed out into the heavy drizzle coming down and enjoyed the beauty of Multnomah Falls. It was incredible. And, finally amongst fellow tourists, others had their umbrellas out and in full use. It seemed the world had become normal, again.

When we pointed out the strange Portland umbrella phenomenon to my mother-in-law, who met us there, she said, “Oh, yeah, only tourists use umbrellas.”

So weird.

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My wife and I just returned today from an amazing vacation in Southern California. The forecast was 5 days of rain, with emboldened forecasters even stating that this storm may even bring the end to the California drought. Needless to say, we packed our umbrellas and drove to San Diego to enjoy sunny, 75 degree weather and clear skies, followed by a lovely overcast day at Disneyland in Anaheim, also with no rain.

Before packing up the car for the drive back this morning, I walked to the gas station a couple blocks down for some morning coffee and waters for the ride, and it started to sprinkle ever-so-softly. This wasn’t a torrential downpour, or heavy rain, or even what I would call light rain- just a heavy mist. I even had my phone out, it was so light.

But I noticed that others didn’t seem so light-hearted about it. A man jay-walked to cross over to my side of the street with his sweater pulled over his head. Another couple had long raincoats that they pulled over their heads while scurrying along. A family of four was all huddled under one umbrella on the sidewalk, trying to avoid the lovely and pleasant mist.

“Do these people know something about the rain that I don’t?” I said to my wife.

So weird.

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We are a product of our environment. Research proves it. Subconsciously we know it. But it’s rare to gain such a pristine point of view in two different cities in two neighboring states.

According to Sperling’s Best Places, Anaheim has 129% less rainy days and 64.2% more sunny days than Portland. In Portland, it rains over 154 days per year, with 42.8 inches per year, while in Anaheim, it rains only 33 days per year with 13.9 inches of rain per year- quite an enormous disparity.

If it’s raining and you live in Portland and are waiting to do something until the rain stops, you’d be waiting a VERY long time. In contrast, if it’s raining and you live in Anaheim, and are waiting to do something until the rain stops, any time of year, you would have to wait a day or two at most before the sunshine returns.

Folks from Anaheim have learned that rain is a rare nuisance to be avoided at all costs. Portlandiers, on the other hand, have learned to not let rain stop them… ever. In fact, Portlandiers show their resilience to the rain so harshly, that culturally they’ve identified themselves as people who don’t even use umbrellas.

So weird.

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I’ve felt the pressure of the world on my shoulders and felt like I was getting crushed. I’ve lost jobs, friends, money- the full gauntlet. I’ve felt broken and like my life is irreparable from mistakes that I’ve made. I’ve lived too many days at the lowest lows, then gone lower.

But I’ve made it through. I’ve picked myself up and dusted myself off. I’ve persevered. I’ve survived. I’ve thrived.

Now, when the weather of life changes and problems start to rain down on me, I fight through the adversity with resilience. I’ll never need an umbrella, again. I’m ready to go out in the rain.

I Just Kept on Running

I Just Kept on Running

Running isn’t a sport. That’s what I heard constantly throughout the 2 1/2 years I ran Cross Country in High School.

You’ve heard this sentiment. And it may even be accurate.

Running is different. As a distance runner, you run miles on black top, grass, sidewalk, wooded trails, sand, train-tracks, and every other surface you come across. Your competitions are at parks, beaches, schools, and neighborhoods. Your uniform is short shorts and a translucent tank top. You run in rain, snow, sleet, fog, hot or cold. You train alone, in pairs, a group, or however you want.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Runners compete against themselves. Yes, in competition, the hundred other runners are vying for the lead, too, but if you’re not capable of first place, which I never was, then the only thing that matters in competition is beating your personal record- Your PR.

My PR on the 1 mile was 5:53. My PR on the 2 mile was 11:49. My PR on the 5k was 18:11.

Not impressive. But mine.

My Junior Year of high school Fight Club debuted and my team found our anthem from the main characters, Tyler Durden.

“I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.”

The feeling of pushing past my threshold of pain to a new PR was exhilarating. And painful. My sister used to finish races with a pale, white face at the finish line, like a ghost, dry-heaving or vomiting at the finish line. That was the victory. That was the accomplishment. That was the sport of it. That’s honor.

Every time I broke my PR, I recognized that my limit was merely an illusion that I could push through, even though it seemed impossible.

And that’s not even the best of it.

We were family friends with the coach of another High School’s Cross Country team, so when I decided to start running, I trained with them in the grueling, triple-digit Summer of Fresno between my Freshman and Sophomore year.  It was horrible. It was hot. It was painful. But it felt fulfilling somehow, so I continued.

At the end of every Summer, they had a Cross Country camp in North Lake Tahoe, where their whole team + me trained twice a day, everyday, for 7 days. The clear, thin, pine-filled air of Tahoe was bliss. It was there, after 3 months of training that I fell in love with running.

The main goal of the distance run was to run at an even pace that you could keep the entire time to build up endurance. We’d run 20 or 25 or 30 or 35 minutes, then we’d turn around and run back. It was on an old, closed-down, wood chipped covered fire trail on a mountain-side, with small streams running across it. It was runner’s paradise. Since the trail was near so much water, though, if you stopped, you were attacked by dozens, if not hundreds, of mosquitoes.

Luckily, I never stopped. I just kept on running. And at around 45 minutes of running one day, something changed. I felt in the back base of my head a pressure being released into my brain and the pain start to suppress. The pressure on my eyes, which I didn’t even realize I had, relaxed. And my body felt at ease and in rhythm.  I felt like I could run forever at this pace. And, after meeting up with everyone else, I did.

I was high on endorphins and euphoric. And it was fantastic. I was in flow. I was in peace. I was in meditation. I was observing my thoughts and watching myself.

That rush of endorphins streaming through my body that day made me a runner. Finding flow made me feel a sense of belonging to the solitary life of a runner. Running 8+ miles a day gave me peace. It was no longer about the competition. It was no longer about the PRs (though I still measured them.) It was about the flow.

So, as Forest Gump said, “I just kept on running.”