Category Archives: Random Thoughts
So, did you miss me? I know I haven’t written for a little while. Little things like a wedding, dance competitions, carving out new adventures, all seemed to have gotten in the way of my ramblings. Don’t fret though, I’m back.
I thought Father’s Day weekend was a great time to jump back into this blog thing. For me it’s a great time for reflection and introspection. So many great things have been happening lately and it really occurred to me how much I miss my dad. I vacillate between the joy and accomplishments of my beautiful daughters and the lack of opportunity to share them with my dad. A Father’s day conundrum.
My oldest daughter Ashley got married last month and while as the saying goes “you didn’t lose a daughter, you gained a son”, I somehow felt my little girl slipping through my fingers. “She will always be daddy’s little girl” wasn’t working really well for me either. I quietly struggled with the admission that she had grown up and that she was more than ready to carve out a new life of her own filled with joy, happiness and success.
I had to come to grips that being a dad now meant that my role, should there ever be a need for sage old advice or comfort for any heartache was to just offer a sympathetic ear or a selection of profound wisdom when called upon. I got that, but I couldn’t let go of a quote that I read years ago. I never could find the author who was attributed with saying it, but he simply said “a daughter may outgrow your lap, but she will never outgrow your heart”.
I come from a family where the men often had a difficult time holding their tears in. My grandfather cried. My dad cried. Not just at funerals or somber occasions, but at sad movies, winning touchdowns, overtime, and little kids birthday parties. . I cry at spilled milk, which really is pretty funny because I’m lactose intolerant.
I missed my dad as I walked my princess down the aisle. I wanted to cry and share with him in all of the bittersweet moments, but of course, I couldn’t. And for some strange reason I couldn’t cry.
That is not to suggest for one moment that I was not overcome with emotion, because of course I was. It was one of the most memorable and happiest days of my life. I had just made some bizarre fundamental commitment that I was going to hold my emotions in check. My kids wondered what was wrong. Why wasn’t dad crying?
Maybe a higher power was at work. A hand on my shoulder letting me know that I needed to be strong for the both of us. No meltdowns allowed.
I missed my dad him when my younger daughter Alexa took third place with her solo in a regional dance competition, performing it for only the second time on stage. She was awesome. I never saw her dance like that before. Her stage presence, her emotion, her technique was incredible.
I looked at my wife who was wiping away tears. I looked at Ashley whose tears were flowing the minute Alexa walked out on stage. I was stoic. Just didn’t cry. Maybe my father was there with me once again with his calming hand on my shoulder sharing in the great deal of pride we both felt.
With each movement I was memorized. This was my kid on stage. Commanding the attention of the audience and the judges who were going to critique her performance. I got goose bumps. I could feel my pride bubbling over, but I refused to cry.
Why couldn’t my dad be there to see this? He would have loved to watch her performance.
Some may say that Father’s Day like Mother’s Day, Valentines and Sweetest Days are Hallmark holidays and for some that may be true. But for some like me, it is a great day to ponder days of past present and future.
Yes, I really do miss my dad. I miss sharing and laughing. I miss ball games and bowling. I even miss lectures and an occasional spanking. But this weekend, I’m going to celebrate the memories we shared. I’m going to commit myself to laughing and maybe sharing a tear or two.
As far as my own two precious daughters, I am going to revel in their successes. I’m going to gloat, celebrate and shout out my enthusiasm about their victories, and I don’t care if I embarrass them. I know in time they will forgive me.
Since I hope you all have an awesome Father’s day weekend. Let me help you to solve the Father’s day conundrum. First remember that a great dad fills his wallet with pictures where the money used to be.
Secondly, take the time to remember what you valued most about your father and celebrate the days of joy and memories. Grab your kids and give them a big hug and kiss and tell them how proud you are of what they have made out of their lives and that being their dad is one of the greatest joys in your life. It’s even okay to shed a few tears.
Thank you dad for teaching me what it means to be a great father, Happy Father’s Day dad.
I recently wrote an article for the Detroit News and Free Press Working sections entitled “Turn your passion into employment. It was about uncovering what you loved to do and turning it into a life’s vocation. I didn’t realize at the time I wrote it how closely it hit home. While over the last year I had chosen to make some substantial changes in my career path, until I saw my words in print, I didn’t realize that in many ways I was talking about myself.
The wonderful thing about discovering what you’re passionate about is that you can jump in with both feet, become overcome with that passion, and all the while have little time to deal with the trivial things that used to make up your monotonous days.
As most of you know, last year after thirty years in the mortgage industry, I decided that I just didn’t want to do it anymore (I am still happy to help friends, relatives and the numerous past clients of mine who I came to love doing business with). I had headed up small companies and I led larger corporations. I tried out my entrepreneurial hat, and I was even elected by the governor to serve on Michigan’s inaugural Mortgage Industry Advisory Board.
And I got bored.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the mortgage industry; I just wasn’t passionate about it anymore. Too many changes and less for the good, than you as a consumer might suspect. We were all guilty. Lenders, Brokers, Wall Street, even the consumer played an integral part in its demise.
I was fifty three and working thirty years in an industry that no longer inspired me.
More than half of my working career was now over. While I give you that I made a good living which allowed me to sustain the quality of life that I wanted for my wife and girls (and I give you that is instrumental for me), I became selfishly unhappy.
Yea, I know “Happy wife, happy life”. But what if dad’s not happy? Are dads entitled to not be happy?
I loved everything about my life, except work. Why? Because it was work, a job I went to every day. I had gotten to the point where my career defined who I was.
I struggled with it and a tough couple of years ensued.
And then I realized, I didn’t have to be miserable. Being miserable was a choice I had made and I had what I had because, in truth, it’s what I wanted. And then, well, here’s a thought, I didn’t want it anymore.
However what was it that I wanted to do?
What was I passionate about? What did I possess the talent to do?
As a business coach I understand that there are two things you can’t coach. You can’t coach true passion (you are either passionate about something or you’re not) and you can’t coach a lack of talent (you can certainly coach up talent, you just can’t coach up a lack of talent for something).
I needed to uncover what it was that I was passionate about, because without being modest, I knew that I had the talent to do whatever I set my mind to do. What excited me? What couldn’t I wait to get involved in? What made me smile and feel fulfilled?
Whole Foods Markets were started by twenty-five year old college dropout John Mackey and twenty-one year old Rene Lawson Hardy, natural food connoisseurs who saved and borrowed money from family and friends to open their first store.
Apple computer was started by a “geek” in his garage, who prided himself on his electronic hacking ability. PCs Limited was the initial operations of Michael Dell run from his dorm room, until he decided to drop out of college to run his company full time.
In 1971, English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel, and writer Gordon Bowker invested $1,350 of their own money to open a store initially known as called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice.
Talent agents once described Fred Astaire by saying “Can’t act, can’t sing, balding… Can dance a little” and Clark Gable with “What can you do with a guy with ears like that?”
So what was it for me?
If you have followed my blog from the beginning, you know where the title of the blog “Ramblings of the Bruce” came from. Well I decided, it was time for a new identity. I was going to take ownership of “The Bruce”.
Sure it was still going to be exciting in my new role as the Chief Marketing Officer at Main Street (the bank that bought my mortgage company), but I was going for branding. I wanted to accomplish something much bigger. I got hungry. I was going to fuel the fire brewing in my gut.
It was time that “The Bruce” was destined for greatness.
So who or what did I re-invent?
• I became a blogger and a Facebook philosopher who you found here (or maybe I found you).
• I became an author currently working on re-editing my first publication “It’s a Great Deal, All Three of Me Think So”.
• I became a contributing author to the Detroit News and Free Press.
• I perfected what I had learned coaching others and became a partner in Business Edge, an internationally recognized Executive Coaching Firm.
• I formed a partnership in a new and exciting entertainment firm entitled D’ City Sound.
• I got my mug in national publications.
You see my passion, aside from often talking too much, is helping others. I love to see people smiling and having a great time.
I love to help others see things that they might have never seen before.
I love the look in their eyes when they arrive at a solution or an answer and you can just see their whole lives unlocking behind their eyelids.
I love it when they smack their foreheads with the palm of their hands, as if to say “Was it really that obvious?”
For the first time in a long time I’m having the time of my life, and I am passionate about what I am doing.
Do you love what you do?
I mean are you really passionate about what it is that you do?
If you are and you do, it’s awesome, rewarding and fulfilling all at the same time. If you are not, take a step back and look at your business life. Look at it from the outside looking in and not how you have looked at it over the last ten or twenty years.
I say “Happy Dad, glad dad” too.
Or as George Burns once so eloquently said “I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate”.
Being passionate means not only discovering what you want to do more than anything, but resisting the urge to never attempt or quit because the challenge appears too great.
At this time last year I wrote a rather lengthy list of resolutions, or maybe better said goals or aspirations that I wanted to accomplish. I am happy to say I did a pretty decent job of fulfilling the items that I jotted down. Yes, I even had the privilege of helping a little old lady across the street. This year however, I have a different plan.
I’m going to take what some may see as a rather complex plan and make it simple. I’m going to limit myself to improving three areas of my life.
• Laugh a little more
• Love a little more
• Live a little more
For those of you who have been following my blog or read my book, you know that my favorite quote is by Robin Williams who once quipped “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
No, I am not saying that I’m going to be laughing more at you particularly (well, maybe some of you), but more specifically about myself and life in general. I’ve found that at times I have lost track of the fact that I can’t control what others say or do, but that I do have control over how I react.
Lawrence Welk, clearly known for his hilarity once said “There are good days and there are bad days and this is one of them.
Nothing personal, but I’m not going to let you get me angry or frustrated anymore. It started out as an awesome day and I’m going to make damn sure it ends as one. If your being a moron or an idiot, congratulations on that. I wish you well on your behavior and I hope for your sake you get that burger made your way.
From now on I’m going to be the next guy in line thinking life is too short.
I went to a Lions game this past week and stood in a long line in the restroom. A man in line behind me decided he didn’t want to wait and relieved himself in the sink. I just stood there shaking my head with a what an idiot look on my face, when the gentleman behind me started yelling at him. He was shocked that I didn’t join in on his tirade.
The truth was what exactly was I going to say to someone who relieves himself in a sink that was going to alter his behavior? He’s an idiot, I got it. I laughed my way back to my seat.
Funny how much easier life is when you realize that it is much easier to laugh at it rather than tangle with it.
As much as I love to laugh, the past year had its moments of tragedy and loss for me as well. I bid farewell to some that I thought would be here much longer. I know I have blogged before about seizing the day, but like all of us we tend to get caught up in the minutia.
Well, I’m done with minutia. The heck with all of you people and you’re whining and complaining about inconsequential stuff. Tell it to someone who cares, because I really don’t care if you didn’t get extra pickles. Step aside because someone that is important to me is waiting for me.
Life is not about no onions or extra dressing. Life is about sharing your time and energy with the people you treasure most. It’s about making sure they know how you feel. It’s about saying “I love you’ or “I am so proud of you”. It’s about saying to your partner “thank you for sharing your life with me” or to your kids “I’m honored to be your dad”.
I know you have heard it thousands of times before, but life really is to short and you just can’t get back the people or days you lost. I’m going to fill my cup with the things I am committed to saying to the people I love and care about this year.
In the words of actor James Earl Jones “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter”.
In 2011 my oldest daughter is getting married. I couldn’t be happier. She’s going to begin a new chapter in her life. If she were to ask me I would tell her simply to live each day as if it were her last. No, it’s not my intention to be morbid, but it is my new found commitment for this year.
I got caught a few times last year existing rather than living. It’s kind of funny when you coach others for a living and you trip and fall on the same floor you’re coaching on. The minutia tripped me up and on an occasion or two I lost my passion. I lost track of my priorities and let my emotions drive reaction rather than taking action.
Well, I’m back. For some of you that might be a little scary or frightening, but I’m going to make 2011 one of the best years of my life.
There is a quote which has appeared many times and in many places attributed to numerous authors which simply says “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intentions of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming…What a ride!”
It is an awesome quote but I will just simplify it with what another renowned comic, Johnny Depp said “I think the thing to do is enjoy the ride while you’re on it”.
A new year is a fresh start. I’m going to laugh a little more, love a little more and live a little more. How about you?
I believe in freedom of choice. The choice we have over our emotions, that is. No bold political statements here, as I will leave those for a much smaller forum and those much better suited to debate it. Freedom over our emotions is my agenda today. As human beings we have become proficient at reacting rather than acting and forgetting that we do in fact have the ability to control a large part of the outcome our emotions dictate.
Let me take a brief moment before we get to heavy to draw my distinction between reacting and acting.
Reacting is not a process. It is what some would call an involuntary response. It is the response we exude driven solely on how we perceive life. Something happens, we react. For some who get screamed at, they scream back. For others they may find it funny and yet others may be frightened and cowl. No voluntary thought process involved what so ever.
Acting involves the process of actually thinking. We provide ourselves with a ten second rule to organize our thoughts, digest the positives and negatives of our response to all parties involved and deliver our calculated response in a systematic manner.
So now you know. You are a Reactionist and not Democratic or Republican like you thought.
I believe that every day begins as an awesome day. Being here, being present with good health and the ability to pursue happiness and wealth (However you may choose to define it) are all that we can ask for. When our feet hit the floor for the first time every morning, it becomes the launching pad for the day’s events.
Then the inevitable happens. The dog did a number on the carpet and the kids over slept their alarms for school. There is no milk for the cereal and why does it always happen that you break a shoelace when you are late out the door?
Because life happens. If you are thinking that your day just turned into what you just cleaned up from your dog, shame on you. Remember life is about choices. You can choose to react angrily about what has happened so far in your early morning and consciously decide that they are all tell tale signs of what is destined to be a miserable day, or you can make the choice to decide that these are all things that just happened. They are insignificant and meaningless and go on with your awesome day.
That is the beauty of having the freedom of choice.
So you are at the office and you get a phone call. The person on the other end of the line is agitated and starts yelling at you, and of course their hostility has everything to do with you. It’s a personal attack on your character, ethics and credibility. You can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up and finally you lose it.
Who can yell longer or louder? Who can burst a vein in the middle of their forehead first? Or probably most important in any who can out do the other phone conversation, who can slam the phone down in the other one’s ear first.
If you’re chuckling, good for you. Pretty silly huh?
My question is this “At what point in the conversation did you realize that this person was out of control, behaving like an immature child, and without being offensive, a moron?” Or maybe the better question is that if you realized all of that early on and you allowed yourself to become that destructive, exactly what does that make you?
Guess it was your choice again huh?
Did that moron just ruin your awesome day or for you is it still an awesome day that just got sidetracked for a few brief moments?
There is that freedom of choice thing again.
The funny thing about life is that it is what we make it, far more than what others make of it. For the most part, we choose when to be happy or sad. We decide to be angry and frustrated or acknowledging and accommodating. I am sure you have heard it before, life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Robert F. Bennett once said “Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself.”
Now for me, that’s pretty deep and for those of you who know me quite well, you know that I am all about finding the fun in life. So given that lets try Mae West’s infamous quote “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
Since we have all become so inherently ordained to reacting rather than acting, lets choose the road less traveled. Life really doesn’t have to be as difficult and challenging as we sometimes choose to make it. As we have said, it is what we make it.
After a long and tiresome day (only after our hero deemed it to be) an executive calls home. His wife inquires if he wants dinner. The executive inquires “What are my choices?” Without missing a beat, his wife proclaims “Yes or No”.
Act more, react less. Make productive choices and enjoy life. That’s what freedom of choice is really all about.
For those of you who have been following my blog, I know that you have come to know that I prefer to write about the simple things in life. Usually I try to find something to make you chuckle or to make you look at life just a little bit differently. Every once in a while something monumental arises that I feel that I really want to address, but for the most part, I believe that life is tough enough and a little slice of humor or lightheartedness is the perfect escape.
On that note, we are now hosting our third foreign exchange student over the last six years. For those of you who have never entertained the thought of doing something such as this, I must tell you that it has been one the most rewarding experiences for not only myself, but my family as well.
Two of the young ladies were from Germany and one from Finland. Their knowledge of the United States and the American people come only from word of mouth from friends or siblings who have traveled here or what they have seen or read in the media or for that matter what they have studied in their schools. In truth, probably not a fair picture of arguably the greatest nation in the world.
Uniformly, the one thing that hits them first is that we are the land of excess. Shopping, restaurants, school of choice, freedom of religion and political views, police and fire protection all being abundant. Specifically they have the freedom of choice, far more options that they have ever known, and the ability to make choices without duress.
I must share with you how incredibly refreshing this is. Yes, “taking things for granted” is overused American slang to depict our laissez-faire attitude. It fits in well with our “sense of entitlement”. However looking at our culture paints a completely different picture when viewed through different eyes.
Spending a day going to Lafayette Coney Island for lunch, taking in a Tiger’s game and then having an awesome piece of pastry from the Astoria Bakery in Greek town takes on a whole new meeting when looked at through the eyes of a sixteen year old exchange student.
The reason I bring this up is that being of the Jewish faith, my family just celebrated the New Year. And yes it is a religion not a cultural background (I have no clue why Jews themselves site their religion when asked rather than their heritage). For those of you who never knew, I have Hungarian, Turkish, Polish and French Canadian ancestry. Yea, I know, that explains a lot.
While let me be clear, this blog is not about religion, it is about the spirit and message of the Jewish holiday. The celebration of the Jewish New Year is unlike many others in that it encompasses atonement and repentance as part of the ritual celebration.
For those of you, who are completely unfamiliar with the Jewish holidays, indulge me and I will take you on a thirty second tour….
Rosh Hashanah is commonly referred to as the “Jewish New Year.” It is observed on the first two days of “Tishrei”, which is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar (That’s why it never is the same day on the American calendar).
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the ritual High Holidays or “Asseret Yemei Teshuva” the (Ten Days of Repentance) which are days specifically set aside to focus on repentance and conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur.
According to Jewish tradition, it is said that God opens the “Book of Life” on Rosh Hashanah and will ultimately inscribe each person’s fate for the coming year on Yom Kippur. During the Ten days of Atonement Jews often try to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings.
Known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days of the year for Jews. Given that its central themes are atonement and repentance, Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 24-hour period (sundown to sundown) of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue or temple services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days
So, you ask what am I really getting at here.
For me, this is a time of reflection. No it’s not Thanksgiving and I am not going to bore you with all of the things I’m thankful for. It is kind of a reverse Thanksgiving if you will.
I look at my life over the last year and ponder was I good dad, was I the best husband I could have been. Could my friends count on me when needed and could my employer count on my best efforts? Did I make my parents proud and did I add favorable to my legacy.
Was I able to take the time to sit back, like the wonderful exchange students that we have had and realize all of the wonderful opportunities I have been granted. Have I been grateful and appreciative to those who provided me with them, or have I taken them in stride as if I was entitled?
Thank you all so much for following my blog. I hope that it has enlightened some of you, made a few of you chuckle and in some small way enriched you. Thanks for bringing me into your life. To those of you whose path I may have crossed this past year that did not leave you with a favorable memory of me, I certainly take responsibility for that and I hope that you allow me to make in right.
Take a moment in your busy life to stop and think about atonement and repentance. Think about that relationship you ended over something ultimately silly. The argument that resulted in hateful words that you wish you could have back. The really stupid thing you did that you so regret.
There is always time to correct them and make amends. The saddest person is the one who goes to his grave holding on to his anger and animosity.
Enjoy life my friends and all that it has to offer. Make peace and create joy and happiness. For those of you celebrating a very heartfelt “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year).”
It has been a very interesting experience for me over the last year or so writing my book, posting irrelevant anecdotes on my Facebook page and writing semi-monthly blogs. I have had some really interesting feedback. Unless, some of you are just trying hard to be kind, it has all been amazingly positive and inspiring. I thank you all for that.
There was a time in my life when I really worried about what others had to say about what I said and or did. I had to have that reassurance and vote of confidence. My first baseball coach had “confidence” written on the back of my jersey instead of my name. I was really little okay, but I was cute and the moms all loved me, and I had game, so eat your hearts out. Even today, I will often find myself prefacing what I am going to say as if it were an intrusion or that it needs the proper “set-up”.
You know I really used to care. I really really did. What if people see me as an idiot? What if they think I am a complete imbecile? What if they take on that I am just plain odd and that they don’t want to have anything to do with me?
I remember my dad saying, “Son, people can always be perceived as being smart until they open their mouths”. I became great at the “nod” and a master of words and phrases like “I understand, tell me more “or “What is the reasoning behind your thoughts?” Or even simply the word “Really?” I didn’t want to face being judged.
Well, I love all of you but get this; I am strange, idiotic and silly stupid at times. I am the tomato of fruit (it is) and the peanut of nuts (it’s not) and I love it. The cold hard truth, and we have all heard it before, is that life is hard and then we die. I am all about finding the nonsense in all of it.
If you have read my book or followed my blog you know that I love Robin Williams and have often recited his quote “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” The truth is, I love his madness. I love his ability to pick on anyone at anytime without trepidation and just live in the moment. His approval and acceptance come from his ability to be completely comfortable with his own sense of insanity.
I honestly don’t believe that we are fundamentally willing to put ourselves at risk enough to live from and inside our own sense of insanity. Now let me be clear here, not going insane and doing something which is illegal, unethical or immoral, but insane only to the point that you are willing to put yourself at risk to take on something new and exciting. Something refreshing and out of character which creates the room for you or others to laugh at or with you.
I love it when I walk up to a stranger and say something completely out of left field and they just start laughing. I love making silly faces when it’s not called for. I love telling a really bad joke at the most inopportune time. It allows me to be human and it allows me to be me.
If I make you smile and brighten your day, mission accomplished for me.
If you hang with me, you’re going to run the risk of being embarrassed, because I don’t take myself seriously and neither should you. I’m not for the weak of heart. The one thing I will guarantee you is a pretty funny ride. I’ll take on doing whatever it takes.
As I have shared with you, my daughters are dancers and if I wanted to be an active part of their life, I needed to take that on as well. For the last 15 years or so you can find me on a couple of warm June nights performing at their annual recital with other dads, who like me, have plenty of room for not really caring what other people think. I’ve dressed up in drag many times; I’ve been Santa Claus’s elf, entertainers Pink, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and even Tina Turner. I’ve even stripped to my boxer shorts, t-shirt and a white top hat parading around to the song “Leave your hat on”.
Believe me there is nothing more thrilling than chasing a makeshift boob made out of styrofoam across a stage.
I might be a lunatic but after years of mental anguish and much therapy my kids now know I am willing to do what it takes to be the cool dad. Embarrassing at times sure, but I know they are proud when their friends tell them how “cool they think their dad is”.
It’s really not just about being crazy for crazy sake; it really is about giving you permission to step outside of your comfort zone and having some crazy silly fun. I want to find the fun in everything. I want to laugh out loud and it doesn’t matter to me if I am laughing at you or myself.
Some people choose to define insanity in the manner in which Einstein’s did. That insanity was doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. I mean absolutely no offense to those who may suffer from any mental illness and respect the challenges that they may face. In good spirit and in the face of challenging you to love life just a little bit more I choose to define insanity as:
1. You write to your mother in Italy every week, even though she sends you mail from California asking why you never write.
2. You wear your boxers on your head because you heard it will ward off evil dandruff spirits.
3. You always have to apologize to your next door neighbor for setting fire to his lawn decorations.
4. Nobody listens to you anymore, because they can’t understand you through that scuba mask.
5. You have meaningful conversations with your toaster.
6. Melba toast excites you.
7. When the waiter asks for your order, you ask to go into another room to tell him because “the napkins have ears.”
8. The person you always talk to is invisible to everyone but you.
9. You keep thinking this is the year for the Lions.
10. You see migrating flocks of ducks in the fall and only your attachment to the toaster keeps you from joining them.
Love life my friends and try taking on just a little more craziness and a little more silly stupidity. You just might find out how far a good hearty belly laugh can take you.
So here I am sitting in a chair at the mall while my wife and daughters are looking at wedding dresses when I can’t help but overhear an elderly couple across from me debating some issue which in the grand scheme of life, was probably insignificant. “You’re missing my point” he argued. “You’re wrong” he further exclaimed.
Not to be outdone she fired back “No, you’re just not listening to what I am saying” she continued on with “If you just be quiet for a minute, you will see that I am right”
As I listened to them I began to chuckle watching how animated each of them were becoming as they tried so hard to forge their argument. Each was convinced that they were right and that the other was wrong. While it was cute for a while, it became a little sad that neither was giving in and they were both getting extremely upset with each other.
I started thinking and wondering if it is fundamental human nature that for us to be right, someone else has to be wrong. Is that really true? Have we become as a society, that judgmental?
The question drove me to do some research (okay I Googled it) and I found that everywhere I looked the difference between right and wrong was based on some sense of morality. But is it really, because I’m not necessarily sure I agree. Isn’t morality in a sense, a form of judgment?
Couldn’t right and wrong be simply defined as a matter of ones perspective or experiences that drive their specific viewpoint? Could it be that an opinion is just that, an opinion not necessarily based on any absolute truth or fact, thus making it neither right nor wrong?
Let’s look at it this way. Say you are enjoying a great movie on the couch in your living room with your significant other when all of a sudden they proclaim “I am freezing in here; I’ve got two blankets on me”. Your immediate reaction is “Are you nuts, I’ve got a tee-shirt and shorts on and I am as hot as I could possibly be”. Immediately an argument ensues as you call each other crazy.
Now here is the funny part, the only real absolute truth is the temperature on the thermostat. Everything else is opinion, judgment and or perspective. No morality here that I can see. Could you both be right? Can it be both hot and cold in the same room at the same time?
Take it one step further to an analogy that most of you are familiar with. Is the glass half empty or is the glass half full? Or is it simply a glass with a measurable amount of water in it? Maybe it’s not so much about if you are an optimist or a pessimist. There would be judgment in that right? Can it in fact be both?
Let me also be clear in what is an absolute truth. I see it as an unalterable and permanent fact. I do get that the concept of absolute truths – what they are and whether they exist – has been debated among many different groups of people, but for our conversation, humor me. I get that philosophers have waded in the muck of defining absolute truth for centuries. While, Plato believed that absolute truth existed, many others believe in relative truths, where facts may vary depending on the circumstances.
Humor me just a little bit more as I recognize that it’s difficult to disprove the concept of absolute truth, since saying that there are no absolute truths – that it is absolutely true that no absolute truth exists – is itself an absolute truth.
The hard part is that living in a world which thrives on exercising judgment leaves very little room to examine what may or may not be an absolute truth. We have become so focused on our opinions and judgments as being factual instead of taking on our country’s newest catch phrase “It is what it is” that we only want to debate for our standing rather than accept that two opinions can both be right.
While certainly the phrase is not new and the origin is uncertain, it has been around for years. It really became more prominent and mainstream in 2004 when the five-word line used by many athletes and coaches to sum up troubles of all sorts sent an instant message that it’s time to move on, and “It is what it is” was declared “The Sports Quote of the Year”.
Don Powell, psychologist, sports fan and author of Best Sports Clichés Ever!, and a local resident of West Bloomfield, Mich., whose nickname is Dr. Cliché has a theory why the phrase has become so popular. “You have athletes becoming more philosophical than they used to be,” said Powell. He further noted that many athletes are now willing to take on “It’s happened. I’m going to forget about it. I’m going to move on. … There is nothing more that can be said or done about it.”
Hanging on to what you believe to be right by making others wrong will never translate into positive or constructive conversation, nor will it ever, despite the motivation behind your desires, create the space for someone to willingly accept you as being “right”.
I am reminded of the old story I once heard about a Rabbi who was having trouble with his congregation. It seemed they could not agree on anything. The President of the congregation said, “Rabbi, this cannot be allowed to continue. We must have a conference, and we must settle all areas of dispute once and for all.” The rabbi agreed.
The Rabbi, the President, and ten elders met in the conference room of the synagogue, sitting about a magnificent mahogany table. One by one the issues were dealt with and on each issue; it became more and more apparent that the Rabbi was a lonely voice. The President of the synagogue said, “Rabbi, enough of this. Let us vote and allow the majority to rule.”
He passed out slips of paper and each man made his mark. The slips were collected and the President said, “You may examine them, Rabbi. It is eleven to one against you. We have the majority, therefore we are right.”
The Rabbi rose to his feet and exclaimed. “So,” he said, “You now think because of this vote that you are right and I am wrong. Well, that is not so. I stand here” –and he raised his arms impressively– “And call upon God to give us a sign that I am right and you are wrong.” And as he said that, there came a frightful crack of thunder and a brilliant flash of lightning that struck the mahogany table and cracked it in two. The room was filled with smoke and fumes, and the President and the elders were hurled to the floor.
Through the carnage, the Rabbi remained erect and untouched, his eyes flashing and a grim smile on his face. Slowly, the President lifted himself above what was left of the table. His hair was singed, his glasses were hanging from one ear, and his clothing was in disarray. Finally he said, “All right, eleven to two. But we still have the majority.”
Here is a little something to take forward. Remove judgment from your daily conversations and watch how people change how they interact with you. I am not saying I’m right, nor if you don’t buy into what I am saying that you are wrong; I’m just saying “It is what it is”.
I am a big Robin Williams fan. In fact, I used a quote of his in my book, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” The funny part is there is often much truth to his sense of irreverence. (Yes, a bit of shameless promotion and you can get a copy of “It’s a Great Deal All Three of Me Think So” from me, Amazon or directly from the publisher at: http://www.publishamerica.net/product87431.html
On a recent comedy show Robin made the statement “Why do they call it “Rush Hour” when no one actually moves. Okay, not as much funny as it is inquisitive. The term “Rush Hour” actually has its own Wikipedia definition where it convinces us that the term is a “misnomer” because it is “often more than an hour” and that it refers not to the “pace of traffic but the “rate of flow”. Oh, and it tells us that there are two distinct “Rush Hours”, one in the morning and one in the early evening as people are working their way to or from work.
The site even wants to convince me that there is the possibility of a “Third Rush Hour” to define the period of time that everyone is back in their cars racing around during their lunch hour. Huh?
All of a sudden the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’s Feelin’ Groovy just flashed through my head (No, not a flower child here, and by the way the actual song title is 59th St. Bridge Song and it was featured in Spiderman as the bridge that the tram was on).
If you don’t remember, try this on for size:
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
Ba da, da, da, da,…Feelin’ Groovy.
What cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
I’ve got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.
Okay, now I dare you to get that out of your head for the rest of the day.
Here is the truth my friends. We really have forgotten what is to feel “groovy”. We race to work in the morning and we race home from work at night. We race to take our kids to lessons or a school function. We are either coming or going all the time.
Life has become more complicated than we ever anticipated it might be. Unfortunately most of us have cloaked ourselves completely with obligation and responsibility 24/7 without giving us room to take a breather.
I ask you, when did that become healthy?
Yes, I grant you that they are often the yardstick by how we are measured in society and I won’t disagree with you that as adults we have a sense of responsibility to our daily obligations. Our jobs, our kids, our family, our friends, social obligations, after hour work functions and on and on and on…..
I get it. I also get the fact that we will be judged by how others view how we handled each of these individual circumstances. That it will define us in life.
Well for you, if it does I can accept that. For me it doesn’t work.
I have lots of obligations and responsibilities just like the next guy and its not about who has more, it’s simply about taking time from the fast track and finding time for myself. It’s about doing what I need to do for self preservation and an ability to clear my head and complete my thoughts.
I tell my youngest daughter often that I view every day as awesome and that the only thing that can take away from that is what I personally allow to detract from it. I can only be upset or angered if I agree to take those feelings on.
No, I’m not saying that it is easy, because of course it is not. It is however the choice I chose to make.
I also choose to set aside a portion of each day for me. It does not matter whether it is for reflection, clearing, or simply alone time to regenerate. I need to mentally and physically be in a place where I can meet my responsibilities and obligations head on and with the correct attitude, because I recognize how important it really is.
I love life. I love being happy, smiling, telling a good joke (even a few bad ones) and laughing out loud.
Now follow along with me…Ba da, da, da, da, …Feelin’ Groovy.
Well, with great anticipation (okay maybe only by me) my book was finally released January 5th. The reality of this adventure has really been incredibly surreal. I never really did set out to write a book. It was never on my radar as I worked diligently in my mortgage banking and financial career.
The thought only crossed my mind after others encouraged me to consider combining what I had learned or created during my life with my unique sense of humor, personal experiences, and some would say warped look at the world.
It was that, or what they were really trying to do was to get me to commit to what I had to say to paper and then get me to stop talking. Well the last laugh is on them. Now I am writing and talking, and for me it is much easier than walking and chewing gum at the same time.
One of the interesting things for me as I travel down this new and unique path is that I have been finding great humor in the perceptions that others have developed or began to cultivate about what success with the book could bring (I know a rather amusing thought). They all revolve around the premise “Are you going to remember us little people when you become rich and famous? I think that is all too hilarious.
Recently when I strolled into my favorite cigar shop and shook hands with many of the regulars and a few not so familiar, one gentleman stated “I remember you, you’re the author” I graciously said thank you, grabbed a cigar, sat down and thought, well “Yes, I guess I am” What was amusing to me was that during a 28 year career in the financial arena, when I walked into a room I was immediately referred to as the “Mortgage Guy”
I dwelled on that for a while for many reasons. Some obvious and some not so obvious, with the thought that did the “Mortgage guy” or the “Author” really define who I was? Was it my identity or was it how others identified who I was?
I am not really sure where the adage “We are we what we eat really came from. Some may argue that it is driven from the Bible in that “We reap what we sow”. Others may argue that is simply words that were contrived to attribute our physical condition. For purpose of our conversation, it is irrelevant other than to decide if it is a precursor to our identity.
Okay, with that being said, are some of us really chickens and others turkeys?
Sorry for the fowl reference, I couldn’t help myself.
So then, what really does define our identity? Is it really what we do in life as an occupation or is that simply our vocation. Is it a measurement of our accomplishments? Many would just debate that was simply our legacy.
So who are we? How do we define what our real identity is?
Well, dictionary definitions often vary on the subject of identity. Most of them relate more to our character or personality, which is probably better defined as our sense of individuality, or by how we are psychologically identified.
I will take the position that your identity is very different from your personality. I believe that your identity is at the very center of who you are as opposed to your personality which is simply an expression of how you navigate your way through life.
Someone’s personality can at times be complex and at other times be very simple. We have learned as we have moved our way through the world that we can modify our personality to any individual set of circumstances, whether it is during social interaction or in the business climate, in order to cause some form of mutually beneficial conversation.
I do not believe that your identity is modifiable, adaptable, or flexible when considered in the same context. As Popeye said “I am what I am”.
Yes, I agree we are a product of our lives experiences. I also agree that each event, each circumstance, each person we have met through our lifetime have in one way or another, positive or negative, impacted us. However, more importantly I believe that at a very early age certain events were the major contributing factor in how we relate to life and to the fundamental person we have become.
Through these experiences we create how we see the world, the decisions we make about how we chose to live our life that protect us and the commitments that we chose to help us chart the waters so that everything remains comfortable.
I believe that defines our identity. That truly is who we are. It is nothing more, nothing less.
I can’t tell you whether you identify yourself as a chicken or a turkey, that all depends on how you see yourself and the perception you helped to create in the minds of others.
Spend some time discovering what your true identity is. Try separating your job or vocation from your identity. Now remove the distinguishing characteristics of your personality. Have a little fun with it. You just might be shocked to find out you are not the person you thought you were.
Happy New Year! It is a time for a new begging, a fresh start, a new outlook, a clean slate. I even know what many of you are thinking, “I’m going to make 2010 a much better year than last year. I am going to do it by making some resolutions and by George, I am going to stick with them!”
Oh yes of course, its time to commit to those New Year’s resolutions that will make us all a better person. You got your pen out and you are thinking hard. What will you do? Will you quit smoking? Will you eat healthier? Will you work out more?
If you’re into facts and statistics, Franklin Covey released the results of its third annual New Year’s Resolutions Survey, which polled 15,031 customers. The survey found that respondents’ top three New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2008 were to (1) get out of debt or save money, (2) lose weight, and (3) develop a healthy habit like exercise or healthy eating.
Now here are some fun facts. The survey goes on to say that 35% of the respondents broke their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January. Only 23% of those surveyed never broke them (at least at the time of the survey). The others most often broke them before the end of the first quarter. Nearly 40% of those surveyed attribute breaking their resolutions to having too many other things to do, while 33% say they were never committed to the resolutions they set.
So, where did this concept of New Years resolutions come from anyway? Well, arguably the tradition of the New Year’s Resolution goes all the way back to 153 B.C. when Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. His most prominent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January, which begins the New Year. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
I can’t be the only one who sees the humor in that. Two faces, making a commitment and then not actually living up to it. How ironic.
Well here it is. Given our success rate, I’m calling for a moratorium on strictly self serving improvements as New Years Eve resolutions. I’m calling you out. You owe it to yourself and your family to make a fundamental commitment to the three most widely acclaimed resolutions noted above. Using them as new resolutions is merely cheating the process. And besides if you are not currently complying with those commitments, the odds are, you will fail again anyway.
Let’s shift our focus from using resolutions as a false directive towards self improvement and on to making resolutions to improve the world around us. We don’t have to start big and we don’t have to commit more that we expect that we can deliver.
Start small. Think how can I improve or enrich the lives around me? Understand that on January 1st you are standing on top of New Year’s hill. You pack a snowball full of optimism, love, compassion and understanding and you send it on its way. Yes, you can be in charge of that snowball and you can take ownership of it.
I don’t know about you, but I will run the risk of getting run over with a positive punch.
Many have asked me about my 2010 resolutions. Well here they are. I have made a list of 52 resolutions or commitments (at least one per week) that I plan to complete by the end of 2010. Some might call it a “Bucket list” if you will. I am providing it to each of you to help hold me accountable during the year. If you feel some personal value in it, feel free to print it and use it, or create your own.
I resolve to:
1. Shake a soldier’s hand that I don’t know.
2. Assist an elderly person across an icy parking lot.
3. Tell at least five people to have an awesome day that I have never met before.
4. Apologize at least once for a disagreement when I still believe I am right
(and the facts back me up).
5. Just do something without asking why.
6. Be there for a friend before they have the opportunity to ask for help.
7. Make at least five strangers laugh.
8. Make a donation to at least five different charities.
9. Spend a day assisting at a food bank or homeless shelter.
10. Buy a stranger a hot cup of coffee.
11. Take a friend at his word and jump into something strictly based on emotion
rather than fact.
12. Make at least five new friends.
13. Tell my wife that I am a better man because of her.
14. Answer a phone call when I know who it is and I don’t really want to talk to
15. Renew my Detroit Lions Tickets (because even a loser needs to know that
someone still supports them).
16. Be nice to telephone solicitor (just once).
17. Donate a used cell phone.
18. Send an email to someone for no other reason than to brighten their day.
19. Treat a group of young kids for pizza and ice cream
20. Salute the American flag.
21. Buy at least a dozen products made or manufactured in my home state.
22. Tell my kids how much I love and am proud of them.
23. Pave a new and better path for others rather than taking the one I always
24. Look up an old friend who I haven’t seen in many years and buy him or her
25. Build a snowman with my kids.
26. Compliment someone’s culture by eating something I’ve never tried before.
27. Write a letter to someone just to make them happy.
28. Travel somewhere I’ve never been before and experience their culture.
29. Enroll in a young child’s enthusiasm.
30. Be so goofy one day so as to make people wonder if I’m crazy
31. Go to a Tiger’s game with friends.
32. Open my own home to others more often.
33. Have a couple of Lafayette Coney Islands with extra onions and some well
done fries with someone who has never been there.
34. Enter a contest that has absolutely no relevance to anything important in my
life just for the fun of it.
35. Do a load of laundry without being asked.
36. Jump in a pile of leaves with my wife just to be silly and to remind us why we
37. Say yes just once when I really really want to say no.
38. Go to a friend or relatives children’s function and cheer for their success.
39. Help a stranded motorist.
40. Donate a dollar to a homeless person without passing judgment as to what he
or she may do with it.
41. Just once, refrain from rolling my eyes when I really want too.
42. Break out in song and or dance one time when no one would ever expect it.
43. Call my mother and sister more often to check in on them.
44. Arrange family gatherings more often just because.
45. Talk less and listen more to the insight of others.
46. Vacuum the house without asking.
47. Be a voice of reason when called upon.
48. Be a shoulder for anyone anywhere who may need it.
49. Defend the honor and integrity for someone who for whatever reason
may not be able to stand up for themselves.
50. Help others discover the passion for, and fun in life.
51. Be an awesome dad so as to make my children proud.
52. Love my wife with all my heart.
Have a truly awesome holiday season. I wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy New Year. May it bring you all the richness you deserve.