Tag Archives: work

Move

Sharks have to move to stay alive.

This is mostly true (Must Sharks Keep Swimming to Stay Alive?). For most species they have to move to push water thru their gills to breathe. So, to stay alive, they must constantly swim, be in constant motion.

What about us?

Do we need to move to live?

I say, yes.

And not just physically. We need to move mentally and emotionally. Living is moving. One of my dadisms is “We are all works in progress.” I know that we can stop growing, but we shouldn’t. Yet, there are too many things today that hinders us from moving in our lives.

The obvious factor is smart phones. I see the effects of this device as a dad and as a teacher. 

My students get restless when we take notes, but if I give them some down time with their phones… the room is quiet… and they just sit there looking at the screen. I see this with my daughters, too.

The way we use our smart phone gives us a false sense of motion, of living. An interesting TED Talk, “Why our screens make us less happy” by Adam Alter, highlights the fact that many of the apps, social media, and games have no “stopping cues”. Moments that allow us to consider moving on to something else, like the end of a chapter in a book. So, we scroll through Twitter or Instagram because we can, it feels like moving. It keeps us scrolling because the feed is moving, too. There is nothing that cues us to stop. Of course tools like this don’t want us to stop.

Adam’s talk also highlights why this can be an issue. In his talk he visually shows how much time we have in a workday from three different years; 2007, 2015, and 2017. The blue sections indicate work, responsibilities for family, and eating/sleeping. The white space is our “personal time” and the red area overtaking the white area is how much time we spend on a screen.

Chart from Alter, Adam. “Why are screens make us less happy.” TEDTalk. April 2017.

Life is moving. We are not moving when we hold a screen in front of our face. It’s not just the physical aspect either. If you think about it, much or our life is lived in our hearts and minds. The way we think, what we feel, our motivation affects how we move about in a typical day. 

We need to move in this field of our lives, too. Screen time is not the main hurdle in this area, attitude is. As an English teacher I have to fight the belief students have that reading is stupid. Understand, I teach seniors, so their belief about reading (and writing) is hard to break through. Reading is one way we can learn, but we can learn from others through listening to their stories and perspective. Social media is not the place for this, especially at this moment.

Growing takes emotions and thinking. Feeling all of our emotions allow us to understand ourselves. This takes courage and a willingness to face our own shortcomings. Thinking through our emotions and our perspective makes us better people. Also, this type of moving allows our everyday life to be lived on a deeper level, to have a fuller, more joyful life. We stop taking things for granted because our hearts and minds are in constant motion. We are moving. We are living.

Maybe Ryan Bingham (character from the movie Up in the Air) was right…

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I used to

I used to get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the day. One cup of coffee, yogurt, and a banana. I would get back into bed (on my wife’s side) for a few minutes as my wife would finish getting ready for the day. I would shower while she ate breakfast.

But now, we get up at random times.

 

I used to teach in front of students. I could tell who was having a bad day. I could tell if my hyper class would have to be reined in because the lesson needed focus from them. My day was a roller coaster of grading, answering emails, and teaching.

But now, I answer emails and grade assignments as they are completed online.

 

I used to believe that I would live forever. That I had time to do everything I wanted with my life. Life was an open highway.

But now, well actually, I’ve realized that my days are numbered for some time now. This moment in time dealing with the COVID-19 situation has reinforced the reality that life is fleeting. As a society we are forced to deal with so many factors we take for granted in our everyday life. A handshake, eating out, graduations, and just the joy of an open highway.

 

I used to distrust people. OK, to be honest I still do, but that is a personal journey.

But now, I wonder what the effects of this pandemic will have on our culture. We were already dealing with anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Dealing with screen time and its connections to these emotions.

 

I used to go to church with my family, shake hands with others during The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Peace Be With You).

But now, we watch Mass on TV. Hearing the echoes of the few people in attendance during the filming of the service.

 

I used to make one box of blueberry muffins. When the boys were young, 12 muffins were enough for the family.

But now, we have added scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, and we will have to start making 24 muffins as my oldest son has moved back home to finish his semester of college online.

 

I used to believe in love…

But now, I still do… There is no greater force in this life than Love. Oh, I know hate and other negative forces seem to gain more attention and seem to be more powerful. That the world is falling apart… but Love is what will rebuild the world.

 

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The Power of Together

I bet you have heard the word Synergy before.

Or maybe have read about how two horses can pull three times the weight of one horse. If you add in the factor that the horses were raised together, they can pull four times the weight. This is the example many people use to show the power of synergy.

But synergy is not just for horses, it is an important element to our lives. There are a few aspects to understand about the synergy concept to gain the most from it.

One, the idea of synergy is often renamed depending on the environment. In sports we call it team. In life it is family and friends. In business it has been labeled tribe and team. At the heart of the matter, it is the idea of everyone working together. Working together for a common goal. That is the second aspect.

Horses don’t just pull 30,000 pounds around the field for fun. It is work and there is a destination for the load. No matter the situation: a basketball season, a happy family, reaching a sales goal, there has to be a unifying destination for the work. A WHY. Simon Senik’s book, Start with Why, is a great resource for diving deeper into this part of synergy. At the surface, though, it means everyone working toward a common goal.

A hard truth here, synergy has always been used to highlight the positive. The truth is that synergy can also destroy. In real life you can have a group of people who build momentum in their negative attitude and destroy a team. Destroy the culture of a business. So called friends that bring you down from accomplishing your goals. Synergy is about how much a group can accomplish together. That means both positive and negative outcomes. This truth highlights the importance of the destination. It also explains the importance of the third factor, the right team.

The example of how much weight horses can pull has an interesting twist. As the story goes, a single Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian draft horses that are “strangers” can pull over 20,000 pounds. But a pair of horses that are raised and trained together can pull over 30,000. Consider that idea for a moment.

A team that has been together over time, who have gone through the same training or life experiences, has the greatest outcome. I hate to bring it up again, but that means both positive and negative outcomes. It is important to remember as we deal with changing things for the better. Back to the idea of a team that has grown together and the work they can accomplish.

This is powerful. This is a factor in an outstanding life. At the moment of writing this blog it is state basketball time. Eight teams in each class have made it to the state tournament. Teams have grown together over the season to reach this goal. You will hear the word “team” in the interviews, from both the winning and losing coaches. It might be a cliche in a way, but it is true. It takes a team to get to this level. A group coming together for a common goal. Synergy in action.

The same happens in our personal lives. Our friends, our family, are part of our personal synergy. The difficult part is that there is not always an end goal with these relationships. Sometimes the reason, or the why, of our relationships is lost. Then we feel like we are drifting. Relationships feel shallow. Understanding and working for the WHY of our relationships is paramount. A strong marriage or friendship takes work. There are many ways to do that work. One example from my life is our tradition as a family for each person to choose a word of the year, then displaying that word in a unique way in our home (Living by One Word). Throughout the year we check-in on how we are doing with our words. We grow together.

Creating positive synergy is a powerful element for any team. No matter what type of team you are on; basketball, sales team, or family.

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What Happens When You Strive for Your Goals

Last Friday the country artist, Hailey Steele, visited our school to sing a few songs and to share an inspirational message about chasing dreams.

You may or may not recognize her name (I share a music video at the end). Hailey was part of the duet, The Line, on season two of The Voice.

Hailey shared part of her story with us in between singing some of her songs. She decided to drop out of college after her first semester to follow her dream of being a country music artist. She was only 19 when she moved to Nashville. You can learn more by reading her story at her home page linked above.

But that wasn’t the part that stuck with me. Hailey shared the advice we all hear, to follow your dreams. Which I agree with, but that is for another blog post. What stuck with me was when Hailey shared how pursuing her dream led her to opportunities she had never dreamed of. That by going after her dream she was able to do lots of cool things along the way.

Hailey Steele doesn’t have a number one song… yet. She is still working on her dream. But because she is working on her passion, her path is filled with moments that couldn’t be experienced if she had never went for her dreams.

Reaching our ultimate goal is never guaranteed. Not everyone wins. But reaching for our goals creates moments that enrich our lives. By working on our passion, by striving, moving forward, our paths take us to new opportunities we would never have had otherwise. Those moments should not be taken for granted… they are milestones for our hard work.

Thanks, Hailey Steele, for reminding me of that.

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I am not Special

There are over 9 million men in my age group in America.

I, and about 75 million other people, have high blood pressure.

There are about 33,812 members of the Poetry and Poetry Editors group on Linkedin that I belong to.

There are 72,000 views of  “Crockett’s Theme” on YouTube. I account for a few of those views.

More than 5 percent of the whole world has hazel eyes.

I am not special.

There are about 3,290,000 households in America as big as mine.

Sting and Mahatma Gandhi share my birthday.

I won’t even get into how many people wear Nike shoes. Or are fans of the Vikings. In fact, all of us are more connected than we realize.

But that is for another post, this is about how unspecial I am. And that is OK because I am unique. There is a difference.

My life, just like yours, is mine to live. This post is mine to write. My kids, my family, my friends are woven into my experience. They are part of my unique opportunity at this life. Even the smallest moment, like you reading this, is a unique thread in both of our lives.

If we change our perspective a little; move from thinking we are special to understanding that our life is unique to us, even if many of the components are seen in other people’s experiences, we can embrace the joy and power of living an incredible life.

 

This is your day.

No one can live it like you can.

So, the question is; what are you going to do today?

 

 

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Throwback: Graduation Speech 2000

I was doing some digital cleaning of files on my computer when I discovered my graduation speech for the class of 2000 at Pawnee City. This was my first year teaching. I had a thing about entering the room, making a “Grand Entrance”. This speech took me down memory lane…

 

About 18 years ago you all made a “Grand Entrance” into this world. You wailed, you cried.  Your parents wailed and cried.  Neither of you were sure of what was going to happen.  The future was a closed door.  But together you opened that door and traveled to this moment. This door.  Graduation.  Most people think of this moment as an ending. I ask you to think of it as a chance to make a “Grand Entrance”.

Yes, you are leaving the halls of Pawnee City High.  Leaving those oh so comfortable desks. Parting ways with my oh so efficient pencil sharpener. Never again to sit on the “sharing stool”.  No more watching us teachers lean against the wall. You are done with all the intellectual endeavors.

However, what lies ahead is a world totally different then what you are leaving.  This ceremony is your first step into that world. And your only chance to make that “Grand Entrance”.

Some of you will go on to college (a totally different type of intellectual endeavor), others the arm forces, while some will take on the responsibility of working. You may have an idea of what you are going to do, but deep down you are unsure of what lies ahead.  What is behind this door? I can’t tell you. Your parents can’t tell you.  But don’t be afraid. Open this door with passion. With the lessons we, your parents and teachers, have given you. With your heart and soul, open this door with your own style.

For unlike 18 years ago this “Grand Entrance” is a solo. This is your opportunity to change your world. How you enter this next stage, how you enter through this door, will set the tone for your life.

If you enter with your head down, scared to see what is there, you will miss so many opportunities.  The only view you’ll have is of your shoes. That’s not nice. Unless you spend as much as I do on shoes, then that’s a different story. Of course my wife has curbed my spending a little. But I do have a baby on the way and he or she will have the coolest shoes. Oh, did I just get off the subject?  Sorry seniors, a flash back to AP English!

If you enter looking back from where you came from you’ll never get the chance to be a better person. All you will have to measure your life by is what you did in high school.  Plus, you will probably be knocked down from any obstacles that lie ahead. That’s not nice.

If you enter running just trying to get to the next door, more than likely you’ll end up missing the perfect opportunity for you and smashing your head against the wall.  That’s not nice.

But open this door. Take a second then make your “Grand Entrance.”  A 360-degree spin.  A high swan like leap. Walk through the door with an “It’s all good in the hood” swagger. Whatever kind of entrance you make let the world know who you are and that you are here to live.  You are here to view what is possible, to grasp the best opportunity for your goals.

I welcome you all to the graduation of the class 2000.  Be prepared for a little wailing and a lot of crying. But most of all let us enjoy the “Grand Entrance” of this class into the world.

Seniors you have my permission to go, but this time you don’t have to come back.

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Not Under the Tree

Yesterday at church Father started his sermon talking about which experience was better: Attending a Husker game in person or watching it on TV. He expanded on the idea to discuss how important it is to be present in our faith, to be present in our lives.

Then my youngest daughter noticed that time moves. I let her wear my watch during church. At first she was fascinated by the backlight button. She would push the button, then cup her hand over the face to see the numbers light up. Toward the end of the service, she noticed that the numbers changed. My daughter updated me every minute through the last song.

“Dad, it’s 10:28 now!” she announced.

She was fascinated with this new knowledge… that time moves on… no matter what we do.

We can spend it on a phone. We can spend it on a computer. We can spend it learning. We can spend it with friends and family. Are we present as time moves forward?

Being present means that we have to deal with both the positive and negative of our lives. This is the biggest hurdle for us. It is easy to be present in our life when things are good. But to be present in life when things are tough, when you have to face the truth of your life, to face your fears and doubts; that takes strength.

The other hurdle is the simple task of being present in the routine of life. We work, we clean, we post on social media, we eat a snack, we live everyday. Being present in the routine is hard. It is easy to just let time move forward. “It’s 10:17! Time for bed.” And another day goes by without us really living it.

To be present everyday. To embrace the complexity of this existence. To face our fears. To love with an open heart. To find joy in this world. That means living our life. That is opening a present that can’t be found under the tree.

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#Life

Even for me, sometimes too many things happen at once that challenge us. Too many dots show up and it is hard to connect them in a clear meaningful way. Right now I am in that situation. I am hoping that writing this blog post will help me find the connections, while bringing something toward your life to think about.

So here are the dots that have happened over the last few days:

Dot One: Reading poetry by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Blake (to name a few) in English class. Poems like “Sonnet 60,” “To an Athlete Dying Young,” and “The world is too much with us.”

Dot Two: Attending the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side that battled cancer for four years. She was only a year older than I am.

Dot Three: Returning to Centura for a basketball game to connect with past colleagues. I also saw the school’s new academic display that had a section for the Teacher of the Year award, which I received in 2010.

Dot Four: Going through a “first year.” Dealing with all the positive and negative components of that.

Dot Five: Getting a chapbook of poetry ready for submission… actually, dot five is writing in general.

So let’s connect some dots with a quote from Macklemore:

Every dot is connected to this quote in some way. This life is fleeting. We all die. We don’t face that reality. We don’t live like our death is a truth. We have songs, we have graduation speeches, we have posters reminding us of the fact. Expressing the idea that our lives should be lived for something more deep and meaningful… but we watch another YouTube video, or retweet a meme, or spend time talking bad about someone. We simply waste time, waste our days on things that don’t make our life incredible.

See, the second part of the Macklemore’s lyric takes all the dots to a deeper level. What we do with our lives dictates how long it takes to die a second time… Think about that for a second…

Dot One: Reading poetry from the 1800’s.

Dot Two: Family. The love we create by being family.

Dot Three: Being involved in people’s lives.

Dot Four: Being involved in people’s lives. Even when it is tough.

Dot Five: Writing so that my words can be a part of somebody’s life.

When will Shakespeare’s name finally be said for the last time? When will yours? When will my name no longer be said?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that what we do while we are here determines how long we will be remembered.

This isn’t about being famous. This is about facing the truth that we will die. At some point we will no longer see a sunset. We will no longer have a great cup of coffee. Be able to hold hands with the person we love. If we truly lived with the truth of death, our lives would be different. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t work, or that we wouldn’t watch a YouTube video. It means we wouldn’t waste our time and energy on hurting people. We would chase our goals. We would cherish the opportunities we have to learn, to read poetry, to drink a good cup of coffee.

But most importantly, we would love with an open heart. We would love our life and the people we get to share it with. I may never truly make it as a writer or poet (but I will keep trying), but I am a father, a husband, a teacher and a friend. How I live my life in those roles will determine how long it takes to die a second time…

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Invisible Fences

Fences.png

I love when different ideas collide in life.

A while ago a photo based blog post appeared in my WordPress reader, “Ghost Fence,” by Elan Mudrow. The next day my daughters and I took a walk in our neighborhood. They love to see all the dogs in the yards or on the front steps. There is one house on our route that the dogs come pretty close to us, but my girls never get to pet them because the owner has an invisible fence installed on their property. They have a few little signs and you can see the transmitter on the dogs’ collars. My girls love see the dogs up close. They know that the dogs can’t cross the invisible fence, and they know not to try and make the dogs cross the fence, either.

As I do, these two events got me thinking about our fences. Our ghost fences that keep us on our lawns without us even knowing it.

The first fence I thought of was habits. Our life, even our thoughts, are often dictated by habit. I’ll cover thoughts in a few minutes with another fence, so for this fence I’ll address how the habit of getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, keep us from exploring the world. Even our weekends are habits. I have them. We get groceries every Saturday morning. Now, habits are not a bad thing in and of themselves, but they can keep us in place without us ever realizing it.  Days, weeks, and then years, even, go by as we find ourselves wondering when we will do anything exciting. When will we pursue that dream?

Life habits are easy to change. You recognize the habit and make the change. Even if it is something as simple as changing the route you drive to work, you will notice the change in energy for the day. For bigger things, like finally writing a book, you will have to make some other changes in habits, like writing for an hour every night. But still, making that change is relatively easy… it is the other fences that are harder to bring down.

As mentioned earlier, our thoughts are habits, too. But many thoughts are built from another fence that keeps us from leaving the comfort of our front porch… fear, pain, and doubt. We have all failed. We have all been shocked when we have tried to cross a line only wanting to see what the rest of the neighborhood was like. That pain got us thinking, created thoughts that reinforced our deepest fears, and we just kept repeating them until those thoughts became our daily dialog with ourselves. So we never try to cross that line. We don’t want to feel that pain. We tell ourselves that the goal isn’t really worth it.

Here’s the truth, we don’t have a collar on us. Oh yes, we have a transmitter, it is that negative voice in our head, but there is nothing really keeping us on the lawn. The world, your goals, are sitting there just beyond the pain. Beyond the doubt. Beyond the fear. I can’t guarantee you success, but I know that pursuing your goals will bring you more joy than you know. And that joy will short out that transmitter.

There is one more fence I thought of… and it might haunt us the most. The front porch is just too comfortable for us to get off of. As I walked with my girls, thinking about the idea of fences and even self evaluating my pursuit of the dreams I have, I admitted that some of my dreams are unfilled because life is comfortable. I’ve been held back by an invisible fence that makes my property look nice and tempts me to stay because life is good. Now, for those who really know me and my story, they know getting to this point in life has been a battle. That I have overcome some crazy odds. Many of you reading this have overcome obstacles. You deserve the good life you have. But if you are like me, there is a dream that keeps nagging at you, that keeps driving you to get off the lawn to conquer the distance it takes to achieve it. The fence of comfort is the hardest to cross because life stays good, even if you don’t achieve that dream.

As I walked with my girls, I was filled with happiness. The sun was shining. We were laughing as we watched some butterflies. That’s when my littlest one said, “Puppy! Look! A puppy!” (Every dog is a puppy to her).

Coming toward us was a golden retriever, trotting on the road. I told the girls to stand still and to hold out their hands to let the dog sniff it. They all held in their excitement as they held out their hands to the dog. It sniffed each of us and then stood between the girls while they petted him. I could see a collar on him with a dog tag. I pet his head and was going to check his dog tag when he looked at me, barked, then turned and trotted away. My girls wanted to run after him, but I said to let him go.

My youngest hollered, “Bye, puppy!”

The other girls joined in with her, all waving at him. I swear he turned back at us and smiled as he trotted away. Just a dog enjoying the world beyond his lawn. I went home to jot down my ideas for a blog post I wanted to share with people beyond my neighborhood.

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Throwback: Mixtapes

1985

“Dang it!”

I push rewind for the fifth time on the left side player. Then rewind, then play, to hear the end of the song so I can stop the tape. There has to be the right amount of silence between songs, plus this is the last song on this side, so I have to make sure it fits. I have already recorded the songs on the paper cover, in pen even. This is the first mixtape for this girlfriend, so it has to be right.

Cassette with tile of post
2018

Text message: i made u a playlist on youtube http:tube/s6dfe82jn

Text message: some obscure emoji…

My kids are missing out on making mixtapes. And that saddens me, here’s why.

 

One, a mixtape took work. You had to know if songs would fit each side. Had to have the tape of the songs you wanted. If you didn’t you had to borrow them, or try to get the song taped off the radio. And that was always a difficult situation. The DJ might talk right up to the first line of the song, or you were busy doing something when the song came on and couldn’t get to the radio to hit record.

When you handed that tape to her, you both knew the work it took to make it and that meant something.

Two, the challenge to pick the right songs. Depending on where you were in the relationship affected the song selection. So, you would have to listen to every song’s lyrics. You would have to evaluate if the lyrics were too serious for the relationship, while also deciding if she would actually like the song. There was some serious analysis put into song selection for mixtapes.

Third, the joy of sharing something about ourselves. OK, to be truthful this happens now, even with YouTube playlists. Right now my sons and I are sharing our top five songs at the moment (one song each day). A kind of end of summer thing. Over Christmas break we shared our top 10 important songs. My best friend and I have made various mixtapes (and then CDs) over the years. I have a feeling we will make a mix for when we turn 50…

A mixtape, or even a playlist, allows the other person to know us in a unique personal way. Yes, it is nostalgic, but I still think a mixtape is better than a playlist… there are no commercials, only music that I choose to share with you.

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