Tag Archives: people

Foundations of a Good Life

Being in education I see too many students carrying the weight of the world in their backpacks. Their faces straining as they drop their packs next to their desk. They sit at their desks, rolling out their shoulders. Sometimes they hold their head in their hands, trying to gain the strength to learn how to write a compare and contrast essay.

I know how they feel, I was that student. In some ways, this post is written for them. These are the top five foundational characteristics to a good life. 

Number 5

Curiosity. This world is filled with wonderful things. Staying curious about the world will open new opportunities. Curiosity is the willingness to be adventurous, even during a routine day. To not close your mind to the beautiful and cool things around adds depth to the ordinary aspects of life.

Number 4

Goals. I know some people might disagree with this idea, but goals do not have to be grand, they can be simple to-do lists you make for the day. They can be grand, though. Any level of goals creates action. Goals develop purpose for our lives. Even during the roughest moments, we can take steps toward the goals we have set. 

Number 3

Others. I’ve said this before. “Life is a team sport.” This is the most complex characteristic. Creating the right team is critical to achieving a good life, but it is hard to create that team at different times in life. I will acknowledge that (see number one characteristic). You don’t need a big team, you need a strong team that supports each other.

Number 2

Love. This might come as a shock for some of the faithful readers of this blog because I have written about Love in a number of different ways. Love is a foundation for a great life, no doubt. Keeping an open heart, being vulnerable to receive love, opens up a powerful way to live. I do believe that Love is the only way we create an incredible society and world. But…

Number 1

Strength. Every characteristic listed needs, in some ways, strength to accomplish. Strength to make hard decisions. Strength to keep your heart and mind open. Strength to choose to love others, even when they hurt you. Strength to endure when your backpack feels like it is carrying the weight of the world. You build strength by working on keeping your curiosity of the world, striving toward goals, finding the right team, and choosing love… you’ll find you are stronger than you know.

Tomorrow I will share the top five things that bring me joy in this life.

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Our Gift is for Others

The hardest part of our gifts – of our talents – is that they are not made for us; they are made for other people.

Let me explain…

Yes, there is a payoff for our gifts for us. Our talents enrich our lives, brings us joy. In some cases we even become rich and famous from our talents. There is a payoff for us. But we can live our whole life without expressing our talents. We can be happy. We can even be rich and famous without spending a day working on or sharing our talents.

I am a writer, a poet, a blogger. But I could spend my time not writing and be fine…

Here’s the catch.

My gift, your gifts, are meant for other people.

We have a responsibility to give our talents to the world. This is where I am going to dive deep; the why of it all.

I’ll continue to use my writing as an example, but you can swap in your gift for the rest of the blog. Ready?

A void. There is a void in our lives and in the world if we don’t share our gifts. Yes, the world will go on. Our lives, as mentioned before, will go on, but there is a void. We and others will miss moments of joy and inspiration that can change the world. I know, you think I am using a hyperbole here. I am not.

You may have seen the movie, Coach Carter, where the above clip originates from. Or have read the quote, “Our Deepest Fear” from Marianne Williamson. Part of our light is our talents. Our gifts are meant for others.

One of my favorite moments as a poet was the night I attended an open mic in Omaha where I was able to meet a young poet who was inspired by my first book of poetry that I self published in college (And I Never Told You: 20 Year Anniversary Edition). His mom bought him a copy of the book at a local coffee shop when he was in high school. He is now a regular performing artist in Omaha and Lincoln. It was only because of social media that I got to meet him and know the story.

My story highlights a hardship of our gifts… knowing what happens after we give our talent to the world. Even if we become rich and famous, we don’t know how our talent helped someone.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He knows his talent is appreciated by people because of the money he earns, by his popularity. But he has no idea how his books gave me an escape during some tough times. Stephen King doesn’t know the joy I’ve experienced sharing his stories with my kids. Taking them to see the new movie version of It. He doesn’t know… and that is OK because his gift was meant for me.

As a writer I know it is hard dealing with not knowing how my words affect the world. I am sure it is the same for you. I write something I think is awesome and nothing. No thumbs up, no like or love icon activated. No retweet. I have to be OK with that because my words are meant for other people. Writing brings me a sense of joy. It is awesome when a poem finds it way out of my head and onto the page. Then I must give that poem to the world for others to use. The same applies to you and your talents. If we learn how our gifts helped someone, inspired them, that’s cool, but usually we will never know. That’s not the reason for giving.

Do you see the void now? If you do nothing with your talents you miss out on a deeper joy in your life, but the world suffers more. When you share your talents you gift the world opportunities. Opportunities of inspiration. Opportunities of joy. Opportunities to change. Your talent is a gift… give it.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

 

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Review of 2019 Through Songs

In 2018 I wrote a blog about twenty years of marriage based on songs. I enjoyed writing that blog, so I thought it would be fun to revisit 2019 through music. So, grab your headphones and travel with me as I share 2019 through songs.

One of the biggest moments in 2019 was when I decided to audition for the musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. And I did because I got the part of Vice Principal Douglas Panch. I had a blast. (Here is the blog post about that experience: What I am Learning.)

His name is Brett, and he is a service tech at the Honda dealership in Joliet, Illinois. Long story short; he got us home after our mini van broke down during a basketball tournament in Chicago this summer.  Brett is a good person.

Staying with the basketball theme, this is one of the songs my second son likes to listen to to get ready for basketball. After the Chicago trip, his team went undefeated for the rest of the summer. Through all the miles and hotel rooms, ponds, and fruit smiles, the show goes on… and as a dad, I couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.

My oldest son ended his high school acting career playing Tevye from the play, Fiddler on the Roof. I cried. As a father, there is nothing that breaks your heart more than the joy of seeing your children shine doing what they love. My oldest son has been acting since he was 9 years old. Watching his last performance was one of the best moments I’ve had as a dad.

I’ll end with this song from Macklemore… Even though it was released in 2017, this was a major song for me in 2019.

 

Share the song that best represents 2019 for you in the comments…

 

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We are Flowers

A single daisy.

A single flower.

A single person.

Beautiful, even alone.

But add another daisy.

Add another flower.

Add another person.

No daisy is jealous of another.

No flower is envious of another.

No person is worried about another.

Only a single field filled with beauty.

 

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When is it the Right Time to do the Right Thing?

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle.

To reinforce the importance of doing the right thing. My wife and I spent the weekend at a youth basketball tournament with our two middle daughters. As you can imagine, there was all kinds of people and craziness. Youth basketball tournaments have a unique chaos to them.

First, understand we do enjoy seeing our kids play. We are thankful for the hard work it takes to run these tournaments. This post is not about that. It’s about people.

I’m not going to rant about all the stuff that goes on. From the yelling at refs, yelling at their own kids as they head to the car, or the way people disregard others around them. One child throwing popcorn all over everyone while his parents did nothing.

I’m going to use one situation, parking, to ask the question: When is it the right time to do the right thing?

If you have ever attended an event like this, you know that parking is difficult. There is never enough parking. Plus it is the middle of winter. But what is worse is the cars that blatantly take two spots by parking their cars so that the car is over both yellow lines. Or the person who parks so that the handicap spots can not be accessed. How about the cars that park away from the curbs so far it is hard for others to drive between the parked cars and the car six feet away from the curb.

My favorite is the glare you get because someone is driving the wrong way for the entry drive to the parking lot and you had the audacity to drive correctly and they have to pull their car to the side.

So, when is it the right time to do the right thing?

When no one is looking?

When we are all dealing with the same situation?

When there is an emergency?

 

When?

I believe we should do the right thing every time.

 

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Good People in the World

It was 7:20 this morning on the way to preschool when my 5 year-old daughter asked me one of those questions that challenged me on whether I should tell the truth or not…

“Are robbers real?” she ask.

I decided to tell the truth.

“Yes, robbers are real,” I said.

“Do they rob money?” she asked.

“Yes, they rob money,” I said.

“Have you seen a robber?” she asked.

At this point, I decided to say no, even though I have caught shoplifters at various retail stores I worked at while in college.

My daughter was quiet for a few seconds. I wondered where these questions were coming from and I was debating whether I should ask her about them.

“Are police real?” she asked.

“Yes, police are real. There are more of them than there are robbers.”

Again, she was quiet but then asked, “Do robbers rob houses?”

As a dad this question challenged me again. How much truth of this world do I share with her. “No, house can’t be taken. Home is a place we are safe.”

“Robbers are in jail, right?”

“Yes, the police catch them and they are grounded or put in jail.” I explained.

“What happens if the robber says, ‘sorry’?”

They do not teach you how to handle the question stage. I replied that robbers can say that they are sorry, but they still have to stay in jail or be grounded for awhile as punishment.

“Policeman catch robbers? And robbers can say sorry?” she asked.

“Yes, they can. But there are more policemen than robbers,” I started, “there are more good people in the world than bad.”

But something in my heart fell when I said that. I started to have my own questions run through my head. The main question was centered on if what I just said was really true… The guy behind me was tailgating me. The news is nothing but how divided we are and how hateful we are to anyone that has a different view than us. At the store the other night a little boy was being yelled at by his mom and his big sister for every little thing he was doing. My girl’s elementary school had to use security camera footage to deal with a situation this week.

Is there more good people in the world than bad?

We arrived at school, I kissed my daughter on the forehead while telling her to have a good day. And I let her go… I so hope I told her the truth…

 

 

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Life Without a Phone

iphoneI know this is going to shock you… I have been without my iPhone for two weeks. It finally died during Christmas break. I have a replacement phone on the way, but it is back-ordered. I’ve learned a few things about how a smartphone impacts our daily life.

Emerson

Created at PicLit.com

First, life goes on. Honestly. in some ways, it has been good not to have my phone… or maybe I should say apps. Some readers may have noticed that I have not been as active on Twitter lately. Especially with sharing my typography photos I make with Typic. Which I also share those photos on iTagged and Instagram. I do miss taking photos and not just for the creative things I do with them.

I could not take a photo of any of my children during the break. No smiling faces as they opened presents. No fun shots as the family let our new guinea pig, Kota, play in the living room.  Even worse, no chance to share those photos with Grandma and grandpa in Wyoming. I also couldn’t send text messages to other friends and family just to say hello. Let alone communicate with my wife to handle our busy everyday life. Who’s picking up who? Can I stop and get milk?

But life goes on.

I am more connected with the people around me. I’m not checking my Twitter notifications while my daughters take a bath.  I’m playing or talking to them as they make bubble beards. I am getting projects completed in half the time at work. I notice how people are feeling through their eyes. And honestly, right now, I feel more relaxed.  I feel free, not connected to my phone.

This feeling is interesting because when my phone first died I was stressed. I couldn’t check in on one of my favorite games, Puzzle and Dragons. Puzzle and Dragons uses a simple psychology reinforcement of tracking how many days you have played total and how many days in a row. Before my phone died, I had played for over 600 days. My streak was 496 days. Now, I don’t spend hours a day playing Puzzle and Dragons. But as you can see, I was connected to it.I won’t even discuss how many worlds I have lost in Minecraft Pocket EditionTheTop

 

 

 

I can’t calculate  how much time I spent with Twitter alone. Add all the time I listen to my music, checking Flipboard, researching new apps and just texting friends, and you can see that I was connected to the phone.

There are a number of studies about our addictive behavior with technology, this is a true concern for our development as people and a culture. These last two weeks have been an interesting case study of how connected my life is to my phone. Without my phone I am more connected with the people around me.  I’m more connected to what is going on in my life right now. But without my phone my connections with people and interest is affected. Connecting with my family in other states, friends and colleagues on Twitter, and even communicating with my family to make our daily life run smoothly has been lost.  I miss taking photos and playing Puzzle and Dragons. I miss creating typography pictures.

I learned I can live without a smartphone and when I get my replacement to make sure I disconnect from the phone to connect with the people around me. The past two weeks have reinforced that technology should enhance our lives, not control them.

But the most interesting thing I learned is that I don’t want to live without a smartphone. And that idea is for another post, I think the mailman has just pulled up…

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Trees…

Storm DamageIt was 2 o’clock Sunday morning and I was feeding my youngest a bottle. I could see lightening flash between the curtains. The wind picked up and I carried my daughter with her bottle to the front door so I could remove our flower decoration before it started to bang against the door. This summer has been active with major storms. As I sat feeding my daughter and listening to the storm, I started to think about the trees. We have a park about a mile away that had a number of trees that were damaged from the last couple of storms. Sunday’s storm didn’t sound too intense, but I wondered if there would be any more trees damaged.

And as thoughts at 2 in the morning can become deep, I started to think of us, people, as trees.

Let’s take a pause for a second to understand how I started to think about people as trees. At the moment I’m reading One Yard Short by Les Steckel. I’m at the point where the Patriots fired him in 1988 and he is talking about being broken from a few rough years of coaching.

I have had a tough transition to losing my head coaching position in May. But this post is not about how dreams change, that is for a later post.

This post is a reflection on why trees get damaged in storms.

Sunday's StormThe picture above is from Sunday. It is a tree in the park I mentioned above. The tree has withstood all the other severe storms through the summer. So why did the Sunday morning storm, which was calm compared to others we have experienced, take down the tree?

Why didn’t other trees have damage?

Why did the already damaged trees stand strong through Sunday’s storm?

I don’t have an answer.

Just as I don’t know which “storm” in life will bring a person down. We never know which storm we will be able to withstand, to be strong through, and which storm may break us. Even if it is a smaller storm.

In the park there are trees that seem to have not been affected by any of the storms. Why? All the trees experienced the same winds, the same rain, but each storm damaged different trees.

In our lives we are faced with all kinds of storms. And we prepare for them, we strengthen our character, consider the consequence of our actions, but we really don’t know which storm my totally uproot us.

What I do know is that storms will come, and that we may experience damage, but unlike trees we have family and friends to help pick up the leaves and branches. To help get our roots back into the ground and help us grow stronger before the next storm.

 

 

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