Tag Archives: Change

The Life Blueprint

blueprints

(Image/thescoutlife.com)

“All models are wrong. Some are useful.”Faris Yakob

The Life Blueprint® is a lottery system which varies from person to person.

Two people have sex and conceive a child, and on the day the child is born, they are given their customized Life Blueprint.

They vary dramatically from place to place. The kid slinging rock in south central Los Angeles who never met his dad has a schematic which looks much different from the one handed to the private-school teen from Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

The fisherman’s son in the Philippines has a Life Blueprint that looks and feels different from that of a bank president’s daughter in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I was handed a Life Blueprint, too. Just like them, and just like you. While all of them tend to vary among the various cultural demographics, we are all united in that we were all handed one with no attached instructions.

No one told us we weren’t obligated to follow the blueprint, and because we were babies and stuff, we weren’t smart enough to ask: “Umm. Why do we do things this way? Might there be a better way? Are we allowed to study other Life Blueprints and experiment? Are there examples of other people doing things differently and succeeding? What if we studied the Life Blueprints of a bunch of people we want to be like, and then follow the steps that apply to us? Why isn’t that an awesome idea?”

Maybe some people have these conversations through their formative years.

I didn’t.

I was just alive one day and felt happy to be loved and fed and hugged and protected by those who cared for me. Maybe if you live in a place where bombs fall at night, or with frequent gun violence in the neighborhood, or where people die often because there’s no accessible sanitary drinking water, you aren’t lulled into the comfort of the Life Blueprint. Maybe when you witness a bunch of shit and horribleness in daily life, you’re always looking for an escape.

So am I lucky? Because of my safe but perhaps sheltered upbringing?

Or unlucky? Because I accidentally believed one of Life’s biggest lies. The one we believed because no one told us differently.

The Way Things Are Here is THE Way.

We don’t see it as optional.

We see it as the path. Because everyone we see and everyone we know is walking it too.

What’s Your Life Blueprint?

I could have this wrong since I only have access to one brain, and it’s failed me before, but I’m pretty sure my Life Blueprint is shared by A LOT of people in the United States.

I imagine non-U.S. residents who haven’t spent much time stateside mostly think of New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and maybe San Francisco and Chicago as representative of typical Americans.

But I think most people grow up in places like me.

Some smallish town in what people on the coasts call the “fly-over states.”

We grow up going to Friday night high school football games, going to church on Sunday, knowing personal secrets about people in other families because so many people know one another, and we don’t have to drive far to see farmland.

I grew up in a small Ohio town just like that. There are many good things about such a life. And as with everything, there are tradeoffs, too.

The Way (When You’re Me)

My Life Blueprint was basic enough.

You go to kindergarten when you’re 5, and you go to school and do your best every day until you graduate from high school 13 years later.

You have to do a good job in school so you can go to a good college, because that’s The Way to succeed.

Then, when you’re 18 and know a million times more than your stupid, close-minded parents, you move away to college, but probably not too far, because out-of-state tuition is a bitch and because you need those idiots to give you money, and a place to do laundry and eat balanced meals when you occasionally come home because there aren’t any unmissable keg parties on the radar.

Then, you get your bachelor’s degree, which means you’re ready to be a professional-something!

Then, you have choices!

  1. Take a job doing a thing for very little money relative to the median household income and try to work your way up.
  2. Go get a master’s degree to demonstrate MASTERY of a subject.

Maybe it’s nice having a master’s degree. I know several people with them, and I don’t think any are morons. But after five years of an inefficient major-switching, college-newspaper-editing, pot-smoking march toward my piece of paper telling the world I Did It!, I wasn’t interested in sitting in any more classrooms.

The Career Way

I’d followed the Life Blueprint, but even I had the good fortune to walk a path different from the average college student.

I can’t be sure how other college graduates feel RE: preparedness to tackle their career upon leaving university life. But in terms of doing the job? I was in good shape. I graduated with a Communication degree with a concentration in print journalism after floundering through three semesters of Business school where I failed Intro to Computing—the basics of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint— TWICE, because that class was stupid and student loan money wasn’t “real money.” (I wonder whether I’m the only person to ever do that. Maybe!)

Because I was a college journalist lucky enough to be at a university with a fairly sophisticated newspaper published twice weekly (frequent by college newspaper standards), and hustled on summer and holiday breaks in professional newsrooms who welcomed my reporting, I had written hundreds of stories—including local front-page and even some national news—before getting a desk in the newsroom of a Florida paper after graduating.

I’m not sure what people who study economics, political science, or whatever feel after graduating.

But that’s kind of my point.

Take the poli-sci major who spends four years sitting in lecture halls and writing papers after reading pieces and parts of their 10-pound, $300 textbook. They graduate with $100,000 or more in debt, but they have their fancy new bachelor’s degree which will help political strategists or those managing political office staff realize how qualified they are!

Life Blueprint Challenge Exercise

What if the person who did that, instead of going to college, read one non-fiction book per week about political strategy, political history, biographies of politicians, or about any ancillary subjects important to those seeking political office?

What if the 18-year-old, instead of college, had volunteered all of her or his time to a local or state candidate’s election campaign, asking questions and experiencing life on the inside and building a network of strategists and elected officials?

What if, instead of going into debt $100,000 or whatever, they spent a fraction of that over four years traveling and gaining the kind of depth, perspective and maturity that only comes from experiencing new things?

Who do you want on your team, Elected Official or Person Running for Office?

The 22-year-old with mountains of debt, little to no experience, and a bachelor’s degree?

Or the one who read 200 books, worked on several campaigns, can pick up the phone for advice or to recruit help from a large network, has countless hours of real-world experience, and a ton of personal references from those she or he worked closely with?

On what planet would someone think the bachelor-degree way is better? Because the Life Blueprint said so, and so did all of our friends’, so we never question it?

And, honestly, Everyone 30 and Older Who Now Realizes Our Parents Knew Things: What is the WORST-possible outcome of this? Starting college as a 22-year-old and a ton of maturity and experience to apply to the classroom?

I don’t get it.

The Marriage Way

Where I’m from, you start thinking about marriage in high school or college. Anyone who has dated for two years might get married, and it’s not even weird. Seriously.

When you’re in high school, you’re surrounded by a bunch of single people just like you.

When you’re in college, you’re surrounded by a bunch of single people on the same general life path as you.

And even though Typical College Student demonstrates morally questionable behavior on the daily RE: sex, drugs and rock & roll, after a lifetime of church-going in Small Town, Fly-Over State, he or she has likely been taught that all sexual activity outside of marriage makes God, our parents, and most people we know really sad and/or uncomfortable.

Throw a bunch of college party-attending, single people with raging hormones, a lifetime model of seeing people meet and marry in their early to mid-20s, and a Life Blueprint in their back pockets reminding them they should hurry up and get married because of the sex thing, and also to have babies, because That’s Just What You Do—It’s The Way!, and it’s no mystery why so many young, well-intentioned people meet, fall in love, and get married without knowing The Things Married People Should Know.

Why do we do things this way?

Well, because we can’t know what we don’t know. And the Life Blueprint says we should do it this way. We look around, and everyone else is doing it that way, too, so it must be what’s best! I mean, everyone’s happy and winning the Game of Life, right?

Why?

Because we (and our children, if we’re not careful) believe: This is simply The Way things are done.

Because, models. All that we see, which tells us do this, and not that, because this is normal, thus obviously best.

But what if it’s not?

Because all models are wrong. There’s no such thing as One Size Fits All in the human experience.

But some models are useful.

Seek. And ye shall find.

…..

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How to Find the Classic WordPress Editor and Not Kill Yourself

peter griffin grinds my gears

(Author’s Note: Feel free to skip to the bottom of this post for help finding the old “Add New Post” page because most of this doesn’t matter. Also, I know most of you have already figured this out because you’re a bunch of smarties. This is for the people who haven’t and are possibly just one or two posts away from offing themselves to avoid having to use the new editor again. They deserve our support.)

Ohhh. THIS is what she was talking about!

A friend who blogs on WordPress asked me how I felt about the recent changes to the “Add New Post” page.

I think she said something like: “I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m not sure I like it,” but at the time I was still seeing the trusty, familiar WordPress editor page that doesn’t hate children and puppies when I went to post something.

It’s because she’s nice and not dramatic, unlike me who has a tendency to arm-flail and loudly express displeasure with more exuberance than is warranted. I’ve had to point this out more than usual lately: I am all about hyperbole and exaggeration and redundancy and saying things more times than necessary.

So, did I really want to kill myself after having WordPress’ updated “Add New Post” page thrust upon me like an uninvited, smelly penis?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Not All Change is Good

For anyone still reading who doesn’t publish on WordPress, you might be thinking: “Oh, Matt! You’re just being silly! EVERYONE resists change at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll see it’s actually better! You can’t stop progress!”

And if you are thinking that, you can go drink pee and like it.

I was in the newspaper business for a decade. We would infrequently make thoughtful design changes to the daily newspaper, and geriatric anal-retentives would lose their minds because we moved the crossword puzzle from the third page to the seventh and now their lives were ruined and they were cancelling their subscriptions just as soon as they finished their episode of Murder, She Wrote.

I’m not one of those All-Change-Is-Bad people.

So when I stumbled on the new-and-different WordPress editor, I embraced it as a fun new toy to play with.

But THEN, I played with it. I used it to publish five blog posts. And honestly? It was a little bit shitty and kind of sapped my will to live. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s obviously not an improvement, and I’m always confused by “updates” in which regular users lose more than they gain.

The new interface is kind of like a Slinky that doesn’t slink. Or playing basketball with a half-deflated ball. Or playing music with an out-of-tune guitar that’s missing its B string.

Maybe I’m a Terrible User

I may just be doing it wrong.

For example, it’s not difficult to add tags to posts in the new editor. But I’ve posted three times now forgetting to add them because of how different and hidden the new tag box is.

The shittiest change for me was trying to link to old posts. In the classic editor, when I want to add a link, there’s a little search box where typing in a couple keywords will bring up titles of all related old posts, and it’s super-easy to click on them and add the link. But now it looks like this:

Sad Link screen

All the great, user-friendly functionality is gone. I have to open a new browser window and find the post I want, and then copy-and-paste the URL to create a link. And that’s fine! I can handle it, I guess. But why make it suckier and more difficult for no reason?

How to Use the Classic WordPress Editor Instead of the New One You Hate

If you want to use the old “New Post” window that you’re comfortable with, it’s relatively easy to do…

When you’re signed into your WordPress account and you click on “My Site” in the top left corner, it takes you to an Admin page where you can see stats and stuff.

If you choose “Add New” from that page, you’ll be doused in sadness when this pops up:

Booooooo WordPress

BUT. REJOICE!

If you look all the way to the bottom left, you’ll see “WP Admin,” in all its nearly hidden, understated glory:

WP Admin Click That

This is where you want to select “Add New” to create a new blog post:

That's your friend

And now, dear friends, life can suck a little less:

classic wordpress editor

Maybe WordPress will kill the classic editor entirely one day. But until then, keep on keepin’ on and stuff.

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Faith Like a Child

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, s

Because I was an only child, I often found myself meeting and playing with new kids.

No one cared about how much money your parents made. Or what clothes you were wearing. Or the color of your skin. Or where, or if, you went to church.

You only knew you were both kids and playing is fun. So you both played.

So long as no one was mean, everyone had a good time. You just played and played and played until someone’s parents made them leave.

We all wanted to be older. To not have anyone telling us no. To have our own money to buy things. To stay up as late as we wanted. To watch big-people shows. To sit at the adult table for holiday dinners.

No one at the kids’ table understood that life was never better than it was right then.

We all grow up and wonder why we never appreciated how good we had it.

Why Are Kids So Happy?

Someone smarter than me can probably put this in more academic terms.

But it’s because the kids don’t know about all the shit, right?

Because they are less likely to have lost someone in a tragic accident. They are less likely to know heartache and betrayal. To know poor health. To care about the social implications of poverty or their skin color or sexual orientation.

They’re happy because their shit pile is so light AND their bodies are so full of energy. Almost every kid will just run and run and run and run and laugh the entire time with their friends (maybe someone they just met!) for hours and hours.

Because Play! Fun! Laugh!

Before some grouchy, sad adult drops the hammer and makes them quiet down or stop running or go home and take a bath before bed because we have very important adult things to do tomorrow!

When Do We Lose Hope?

What’s the thing that has to happen for people to do that?

What’s the series of events that turns the child who believes she’s going to fly to Mars, or be elected President, or be a professional athlete turn into a resigned 9-to-5er who believes: “This is just the way it is!”?

More importantly, is there any way to clean that whiteboard and start again? Is there any way to filter out the impurities? Is there any way to recapture the youthful spirit and energy that won’t be held down by gravity?

We get older and we get scared. We’re afraid to move because we got divorced or because we lost a job or because things didn’t turn out the way we thought they would. Because we think we’ve disappointed our parents or our friends. Because we reject grace and forgiveness because we kind of want to carry the pile of shit and guilt and fuckness as some sort of self-imposed punishment.

I deserve this.

People think and feel that. It’s almost like they want to serve the penance. They need to serve the penance.

Atonement.

People feel trapped in their lives and they think they’re ruining it for their children or their family and friends and I’ve already done enough damage! and now it’s just a bunch of self-loathing, disappointment and fear. They’re afraid to cause any more harm.

They’re afraid to take the leap.

They’re paralyzed.

The Thing About Data Samples

We’re not going to debate climate change. Like almost every subject my brain has ever encountered, I.don’t.know and I’m never going to pretend I do. You don’t either. We just have a lot of guesswork. Some of them are probably right.

Anyone interested in intentionally damaging the planet is an asshole. But let’s not pretend we have a particularly good data sample size to make our impassioned political judgments and arguments in either direction.

The planet is 4.5 billion years old.

Humans started recording temperatures in 1850. We didn’t get tropospheric readings (from weather balloons and satellites) until 1950.

Now I want you to think of the entire history of the earth as ONE YEAR. Pretend the Earth was created on Jan. 1, and today in 2015, we’ve now completed one year of the planet’s existence.

The data we have on climate so far is the equivalent of about the first full second between midnight and 12:01 a.m. on that first day. (A good mathematician can come up with a more-accurate analogy, but the point will stand.)

You want to bet everything on your what-will-happen-next prediction based on a second of data?

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, you still believe that energy never goes away (or should because it’s indisputable).

What happens to our consciousness remains up for debate by skeptics and the faithful.

But our energy is immortal and never-ending, no matter what.

And if there’s an afterlife? All this shit and guilt and fuckness we feel here isn’t going to mean a damn thing in a little bit.

How much of our lives have we really lived to know what’s going to happen next year? Next month? Next week?

Or one minute from now?

I hear all these stories from people. Beaten up by life. And now, they’re out of options! There’s absolutely nothing that can be done to change things. This is just the way it is.

This is not just the way it is.

We age and often feel shittier but some things ARE better now. All you need is one young child or the opportunity to spend time with one to feel better about your decision-making capabilities as an adult with a functioning brain.

Two days ago, I watched my son roll around on a dirty floor at his school with a bunch of his little friends and drop two donut holes from a paper plate onto the floor. About 10 seconds later after rolling around in Kids AIDS, he picked them up and ate them. Then he walked over to a table where drinks were set out and tried to mix white grape juice with orange juice. I’m convinced my interference is the only thing that prevented total disaster, and a shitty breakfast drink from being invented.

We have good brains and we should use them.

We’ll look to the kids, not for lessons on beverage mixing, but on how to get along with people and laugh more often.

Why can’t we be more like kids?

What’s stopping us from laughing and playing more? From not evaluating peers based on how much money they have or what their skin color looks like or who they choose to hang out with?

What’s stopping us from reaching for the stars with faith like a child?

We are not who we were yesterday.

Bad things happened to us. We did bad things. And we carry all that with us like luggage strapped to our backs and now we can’t be kids anymore because of the guilt luggage.

But we can get new luggage. Empty things waiting to be filled.

Yesterday does not get to decide who I am today.

Yesterday damn sure gets no say in who I am tomorrow.

You get to wake up every day and decide how you’re going to spend your time.

About whether you’re going to do something fun or productive or helpful or good or uplifting.

About at what table you’re going to sit at holiday gatherings.

About whether you’re going to do something with your life that sets your heart on fire and changes everything.

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I Don’t Want to be a Divorce Blogger 

Fewer-divorces-are-seen-in-arranged-marriages

I don’t know what to write about.

I don’t just mean right now, even though that’s also true. I mean in a big-picture sense—I don’t know what to write about anymore.

I always intended to write whatever I wanted.

Early, I flirted with writing about dating. Not in any advice capacity because I was always so bad at it, but the stories of my experiences in doing so. I thought it might be funny reading about an inept middle-aged dater trying to figure it all out.

It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t have the stomach for it. I LIKE the people I have gone out with. Writing about them in the way I like to write about things seems invasive and I’m not going to do it.

Most people read this space because of stories about my marriage and divorce. I think people like reading about someone willing to point the finger at himself rather than blaming everyone else for their life circumstances.

I wasn’t evil. I wasn’t even really “bad.” I was just a subpar spouse (though I like the word “shitty”) for so many years that the negativity piled up to a breaking point and eventually collapsed when the shit pile got too massive.

You don’t know this, but I REALLY don’t like being cliché even though I totally am sometimes. I can’t NOT be a single father 23 months removed from my marital separation.

I don’t keep my house as tidy as I should. I sometimes forget things my son needs for school. I let my mail and laundry pile up.

You know. Cliché. What you might expect of a domesticated husband and father finding himself totally on his own for the first time in 35 years of life.

But that stuff is all bullshit.

I’m not going to write about all the salty-water marks (from crappy winter—not oceanfront living) tracked onto my kitchen floor, or a leaky shower head I never fix because only guests use it and I rarely have those, or some other inconsequential life thing indicative of my disorganization.

I feel like I might be getting a little cliché as a writer.

I’m tired of writing about divorce.

Life Is About Today, Not Yesterday

Only people really good at mindful mediation know how to shut their always-busy brains off for a few minutes.

According to writer and speaker Andy Puddicombe from his excellent 2012 TED Talk in London: Humans spend an estimated 47 percent of our lives (when we’re not asleep) reflecting on the past or thinking about the future.

Half the time! Not being present. Not living right now.

Seems sad considering how short on time we all are.

My divorce is yesterday. My marriage mattered. My son matters. My getting-to-a-healthy-place relationship with my ex-wife matters.

But my divorce is yesterday.

And perhaps those stories matter to a few people who can benefit from the experience of others. I’m not afraid to share them when they seem relevant.

People sometimes call me a “divorce blogger.” It’s happened a bunch of times. I don’t think I want to be a divorce blogger.

I Like Telling Stories

I worry sometimes (because I’m a little hyper-sensitive to what others think about me which is a horrible life habit and a colossal waste of time) about coming off like I think I’m a self-help writer or some guy who thinks his opinion is worth listening to.

My opinions are worth the same as everyone else’s. (Not much.)

My opinion ONLY matters when a reader closely identifies with me. They read crap I write and decide: “Wow. I’m a lot like this guy because all those same things happened to me and I felt the same way!” In THAT rare instance where we’re all on the same page is when you should be like: “Oh, Matt likes this song, and that restaurant, and believes being an insufferable cock to his wife is a bad idea! Perhaps I’ll consider that!”

All I really want to do is tell you a story. The only ones I know are the ones I’ve lived. And if you’re sort of like me, maybe there’s value there.

Or maybe not.

Like my favorite writer James Altucher often says: This is not advice. This is just what happened to me.

Divorce is shitty. And really hard. And it has mostly defined my life and certainly my writing over the past however many months.

But tomorrow and the next day and the one after that?

Divorce is going to continue to shrink in importance for me. I’m not going to let most of my life and thoughts and experiences live in dark, shitty places.

I’m not going to let the worst thing that ever happened to me define my existence moving forward.

There’s too much good. Too much beauty. Too much opportunity out there to spend so much time looking back feeling sad and angry and horrible.

We aren’t all stuck being “who we are.”

We can be different tomorrow. Better.

I’m not what I thought I would be when I imagined my life at almost-36.

I don’t know whether I’ve failed to meet the expectations of my parents. Of my extended family. Of my friends. I’ve never asked.

But I know I’ve failed myself. And it is disappointing.

I haven’t lived up to the standards and ideals I always imagined for myself.

But one of the most important lessons of my adulthood is that it doesn’t have to be this way. No matter what. We can make a different choice. A better one. Right now, if we want.

I get to decide who I am today. I’ll get to decide again tomorrow.

Get unstuck.

And then we go change things.

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Faster Than Sound

The world's smartest people thought this might be impossible 80 years ago.

The world’s smartest people thought this might be impossible 80 years ago.

Bullets could do it.

Cannon balls could do it.

But no one knew whether a human being could do it.

The smartest people in the world didn’t know whether it was possible for an airplane—or a person inside—to withstand the physical pressures of travelling faster than sound.

There was only one way to find out: Try.

It required a group of people dedicated to the mission and the will to build something theoretically capable.

A group of people willing to ignore conventional wisdom. Who wouldn’t listen to the excuses for why they couldn’t.

And it required courage. Someone brave enough to be the first to do something new and different and dangerous.

A decade later, on Oct. 14, 1947, a huge boom reverberated across the Mojave Desert.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager piloted a rocket-powered plane faster than the speed of sound—the first known instance of man breaking the sound barrier.

A little hard work and bravery.

Changed the world.

What If?

I’m not a very brave person sometimes.

As a single guy, not a week goes by where I don’t see some girl I wish I had the courage to talk to, but I rarely do. Because I’m irrationally afraid of rejection as if I’ll be sitting around five years from now (or even five days from now) giving two shits about being rejected by some stranger I may have ended up not liking anyway.

And of course, she might say yes.

But sometimes I am brave. Sometimes I have the courage to ask. And sometimes they say yes.

There are moments when I feel awesome. Maybe it’s because I’m looking handsome-ish. Maybe it’s because my jokes are working. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by friends. Maybe it’s because of magic.

I don’t know how to bottle that magic, otherwise I would and drink it every day.

What if we could bottle that magic?

One of the world’s most-brilliant marketers is a man named Seth Godin.

He wrote this yesterday:

Happy wowday

Halloween gives you permission to dress up. April Fool’s, a chance to play a prank.

What if there was one day of the year where you had permission to do things that made people say, “wow.”

Acts of generosity or bravery or insight…

What if you focused and practiced and got your nerve up and leaned way over the edge, just one day of the year? If you could get out of your comfort zone for a few hours in a way that benefitted and delighted people you care about, what would that look and feel like?

Today might be your wowday.

Or tomorrow.

Up to you.

That guy often gets my wheels turning in ways others cannot.

I love being rebellious. Challenging the bullshit I observe. It’s because I almost never do it, and when I do, it’s because I strongly believe in whatever I’m fighting for or against.

My job in Corporate America has bullshit rules.

And our domesticated lives in the suburbs have bullshit rules.

And we walk around doing so many things—school, work, church, marriage, etc.—because we’re programmed like robots from the womb to do them.

A girl I went to high school with in Ohio moved to London for nearly three years.

Some of you are like: “Yeah, Matt. No big deal. People do things like that.”

Others are like me.

Move to another country? Are you insane? That’s big and scary and wayyyyy outside the box!

And listen, I don’t want to move to another country. I like the States. A lot. I live here on purpose. But it’s really just a metaphor for all of these things we do, somewhat thoughtlessly. Because it was sort of pounded into our heads from a young age that this is just what you do.

Is it?

It’s okay to do these things because we want to. Because we choose to. But, because we were brainwashed to? Because of habit?

Some habits are bad. Even if most other people do them, too.

Bullets broke the sound barrier before man because bullets are smart enough to stay out of their own way. That probably isn’t true. Bullets probably aren’t very smart at all.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them.

If we strip away the doubt—all of the excuses for not doing something. If we ignore the people who tell us we can’t do it—that we’re not good enough. If we challenge the status quo—can’t we change the world like Yeager and his flight team?

Can’t we be bullets?

Can’t we break the sound barrier?

What if the only thing we did today was make or do something that made people say “wow”?

Just a bunch of people making magic?

I bet people would hear that for miles and miles.

I bet people would write about that day.

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The Greatest Generation

willow-tree

After my parents came back to the house to tell me which one of them I was going to live with, everything’s a little fuzzy.

I just know the judge picked mom.

So, I said bye to dad—see you in several months!—and mom drove four-year-old me 500 miles east to her parents’ house back in Ohio.

I have memory flashes of sleeping and bathing at my grandparents. We lived there for a while. Celebrated my fifth birthday there.

My first life-reset.

My grandparents lived on a 43-arce farm in the Ohio countryside. A big, white farmhouse with black shutters.

A huge concrete porch where I spent countless hours playing. Barbecuing with my grandfather. Staring at the majesty of the vast night sky.

A red barn. Where I was chased by angry chickens. Where I would sometimes sneak into the hayloft to read books. Where I killed, cleaned and filleted untold numbers of fish caught by my grandpa and I.

Huge grassy expanses for unlimited running. Fields full of arrowheads and exotic-looking rocks to be found after the soil had been tilled. Tall maple trees I used to climb.

There were pear trees. Cherry trees. Apple trees. They attracted bees.

I was never afraid of them.

The flower beds were full of some of the biggest spiders I’d ever seen.

I was never afraid of them, either.

The surrounding fields and forest, highlighted by a gorgeous fishing pond and a one-room, non-plumbed cabin with a picturesque weeping willow tree represented my playground.

My new home.

Even when we didn’t live there, we lived there.

I spent more weekends there than not throughout my childhood.

That was a good thing.

My grandfather owned a mom-and-pop furniture and flooring store in the small town. A business started by my great-grandfather.

My grandparents have eight children.

My mother is the eldest of them. I am the first grandchild by several years. My mom’s youngest sister is only four years older than me.

What that means is I grew up in a big-family environment even though I am an only child.

Salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Barbecue chicken and hamburgers on summer nights. Fish frys. Chicken and dumplings. Hot dog and marshmallow roasting over an open fire.

These are the people who showed me how to love.

These are the people who taught me about family.

These are the people most responsible for me being whoever and whatever I am today.

My grandfather included me on his fishing trips. On his excursions to watch his beloved local high school football team vie for state championships. Running errands on the farm.

He taught me patience when the fish weren’t biting.

He showed me what it looks like to handle a life where so many people are pulling you in so many directions.

He has been a loving and faithful husband for the better part of 60 years.

As a child, I got lost two times.

Once, when I ran off to go see Santa at a relatively large shopping mall during the holiday shopping season when my mom wasn’t looking.

The police found me.

The second time, when I wandered off into the woods in search of a large waterfall like one I’d seen in a book or on television.

That time, my grandfather found me.

My grandmother often included me on trips to see her parents—my great-grandparents—about 45 minutes away.

My great-grandfather was a chess champion. And a very kind and gentle man. I can’t remember one visit where he didn’t do something very gentlemanly toward my great-grandmother. He ALWAYS helped her with her coat.

His funeral was my first experience with a family member passing with whom I was very close.

My great-grandmother could run in her 90s. Not, like, jogging. But I remember seeing her run from a doorway to a car in the rain. Things like that. One of the most-amazing women to ever live. She always had cookies. Always. Cookies.

Thick German accent.

My great-grandparents were so magnificent, it stands to reason that my grandmother would turn out so wonderful.

And that’s what she is.

I’ve shared many afternoons with just her.

We used to play Yahtzee and Boggle together. Boggle is one of the games that helped me find my love of words.

She hopped a plane with me on my first flight to visit my dad, once everyone decided me flying back and forth made more sense than driving back and forth.

Despite her unhealthy crush on Liam Neeson, my grandmother is a picture-perfect model of love, patience and forgiveness. For her husband of nearly 60 years. For her eight children. For her 19 grandchildren.

My grandmother had another surgery on Tuesday. Her legs are in bad shape after they were run over by a car.

While she was still knocked out from the surgery, my grandfather, who has had open-heart surgery twice, was admitted to the hospital due to chest pains.

Apparently his heart is only operating at about 20-25 percent. Every day we have him is a blessing at this point, mom says.

The Greatest Generation

Former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw coined the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe Americans born during The Great Depression who grew up in poverty, and then went on to fight, or contribute in some way to the war effort during World War II. My mom’s parents just missed the window, born just a few years after the generally accepted span between about 1914-1929.

I’m not going to get in the business of ranking generations of people.

We are all dealt the hands we’re dealt. We have no control when or where or to whom we are born. Whatever that reality is represents our individual “normal.”

Some people never knew a life with electricity and running water.

Others will never know a life without iPhones and self-parking automobiles.

Every generation’s job is to do the best they can with the resources available to them. So that the next generation can do the same.

There is a lot of neglect and apathy in this world. But I sure do see a lot of people choosing good. Choosing the harder path for their children and future generations.

More than a century ago, my great-grandparents were like me. They gave life to my grandmother. Who gave life to my mother. Who gave life to me. Who gave life to my son.

And maybe he will give life to my grandchild someday.

Everything is gone.

Youth. The time together. The big-family environment. My great-grandparents. The farm. The fishing trips.

Innocence is gone.

But everything is not lost. The stuff that really matters tends to stick.

That stuff that lives inside us.

In our memories. And stories. In our personalities.

In our ability to love. To share. To connect. To be generous. Charitable. Forgiving. Hopeful.

It won’t be long now. Until I have to say goodbye to them.

Maybe this year. Maybe in a few years. But not long now.

The people responsible for getting me through my first life-reset after my parents’ divorce.

And now I’m going through life-reset No. 2.

My own divorce.

And everything’s mixed-up. Inside-out.

There’s no rock anymore. Nothing steady to lean on.

The world’s asking me to become my own rock. So I can be a good father. A good son. A good friend. And someday, a good partner.

The world’s asking all of us to do that as we slowly lose everything on which we once relied.

So we get strong. Because we must.

And we hold one another up.

We do it for ourselves and each other. And we do it for our children.

Because our ancestors mattered.

They gave you your grandparents.

And they gave you your parents.

And they gave you yourself and an opportunity to do something great.

Maybe that’s some great big thing that everyone’s going to see and hear about in our media-saturated world.

Or maybe it’s not.

Maybe it’s just making the world a better place.

Maybe it’s just raising a child who will bring a child into the world who will bring a child into the world who a hundred years from now will change the world.

Maybe that’s why you’re here.

Maybe that’s why I’m here.

Like my grandparents.

Like yours.

The greatest generation.

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Adopt the Rhythm of Change

change ahead

Don’t get too comfortable.

I don’t mean that in an inner-peace kind of way. It’s hard to even get out of bed in the morning without that.

Just don’t get too comfortable with the status quo in your personal life—even if you like it.

This is particularly hard for men. We crave routine and stability. And our bodies don’t respond well to harsh or drastic change.

But our entire lives involve change. Hell, it might be the only real earthly constant we have.

Like it or not, change is coming.

This manifests itself in the form of social, political, economic and seasonal weather changes.

But even more importantly, it happens in our personal lives.

I have to believe all of you—while experiencing very different realities than me—must have felt the weight of all the changes in your life as we’ve collectively flipped the pages on our calendars.

Everyone’s life stages are going to look and feel different depending on our individual set of circumstances.

But for many of us, it starts with being a very young child at home. We go to elementary school. Then eventually high school. Some of us head off to college, or the workforce, or join the military.

We experience life on our own for the first time. Some of us get married. Some of us have children.

We change jobs. We gain friends. We lose others. People you know get divorced. People you know start to die.

The only constant is change. Sometimes radical change.

And it’s hard. Even when it’s good—like getting your first job out of college in a gorgeous beach community 1,000 miles from everyone you know and love—it’s hard.

One of the world’s best modern thinkers is a man named Seth Godin. Anyone working in sales and marketing has almost certainly heard of him. The great thing about Godin’s work is that many of his lessons aren’t just about maximizing profits. They’re about maximizing the human experience.

Godin is a great marketer because he understands people. I sometimes think he knows us better than we do.

He’s a magnificent thinker and writer. Please read him.

He wrote recently about professional change. About staying flexible and nimble. About staying ahead professionally by adapting to the new culture of change.

And it got me thinking: Can we adopt the rhythm of change in our personal lives? And could doing so somehow save us from some of the stress and heartache we feel?

I’m not sure. But it feels worth exploring.

Maybe you’ve heard this before: Chance favors the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur, a French scientist, said that in 1854.

We don’t get lucky. We don’t find luck. Luck finds us.

Because we make good choices that put us in a position to capitalize on the opportunities life grants us.

So, let’s be mindful of this.

Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.

To be strong and courageous in the face of hardships.

And perhaps more importantly, so we’re in a position to seize good fortune when it finds us.

Because you and me? We’re on a collision course with something life-changing and beautiful.

Let’s be prepared for it.

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