Monday, August 1, 2011

Much too smart to be this d@mn dumb!

Hi folks, hope you’re well.  I am eyeballs deep in a very busy month.  It is an exciting time at our home.  My oldest is on his way to college in…get this…WEEKS!  It still amazes and confuses me that I am old enough to have a son who is going to college.  His transition has encouraged a bit of change for Mom and I too.  We’ve been busily preparing for the next phase of his life…and ours.  That’s where today’s topic came from…Much to smart to be this d@mn dumb.

I am a pretty smart guy.  I am not bragging and I am not apologizing.  It’s just an accurate statement.  I learn quickly, I gather data, analyze it and, professionally at least, I take that new found data and use it to the advantage of the corporation.  Makes sense right?  Of course it does!  We all do this every day, that’s what companies pay us to do.  That’s why we’re more successful than the competition…yaddah Yaddah…YADDAHH!!!

AND THEN….the work day is over and, all too often – not always but often - all that good book learning, all that knowledge and experience evaporates and suddenly I am dumber than a football bat. I go from highly valued business leader to beer swilling , whiskey drinking, knuckle dragging, doofus! (Remember that commercial where the really old grandma looking lady has the punch line at the end of the commercial “YOU’RE AN IDIOT!”???  They made that about me.)  Often times, I am barely smart enough to even find my way home.  I am completely capable of doing some of the dumbest things you’ve ever heard of.  It’s true.  I am guilty as charged. 

So without further ado here is proof that I am….

Much too smart to be this d@mn dumb….

1)      I don’t work out enough.  Now I know that lots of you don’t work out,  for many, working out is doing their job on a day in and day out basis.  However, for yours truly, my job, while intellectually stimulating, does NOT exactly qualify as a workout unless you count the occasional, “awww shoot I’m late for a plane, OJ Simpson sprint through an airport.”

Why does this happen?  Seriously….WHY??? I like working out.  I like the way I feel after I work out.  More importantly, here is the plain – completely – uncomplicated – simple - easy to understand - so straight forward a rock should get it - truth.  Are you ready?  Working out makes me better at ________________.  You can fill in the blank with whatever you want.  Here are some examples:
·         Working out makes me better at the office.
·         Working out makes me a better father.
·         Working out makes me a better lover.
·         Working out makes me a better friend.
·         Working out makes ME better.

They all work, every last one of them!  For me, you and your 18 closest friends and enemies.  Taking care of your body makes you better at….EVERYTHING!
I don’t save enough.    Now when I was growing up, I only knew one thing about money.  I wanted more of it.  With that simple fact came a commitment to working hard, and doing my best to doing better than the other guy.  Fact is, I add value to my fellow worker; I add value to my corporation and I have been paid reasonably well for doing just that.  Here is another fact. 

I spend too much. I save too little.  I passed economics.  I have a 401(k).  I have friends who are brokers and friends who are business owners, CEOs and Doctors.  I understand the math.  I get it, retirement is an expensive proposition. Best I can tell, I am a few bazillion and seventy three dollars behind on my retirement plan. I know.  I know.  I know…but…STILL….I…do…NOT…save…enough!

3)      Corporations don’t value your loyalty until they prove they value your loyalty.   Now, don’t misunderstand this one, I love my job, and this has nothing to do with the employer/employee relationship.  This one is about where we buy from.  How long have you been with your insurance company?  Electricity provider? Bank? Internet Service Provider? Cell phone provider?  Remember that I told you that we were shipping Kyle off to school.  Well, in the process of getting ready to ship him out, I’ve uncovered substantial savings just by reorganizing our relationships with service providers.  I have been a loyal buyer to many corporations for years.  It has cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. 

4)      I should be sleeping right this very minute.  Now most of us are of the opinion that we are part of the 10% or so of humans who ACTUALLY don’t need 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep every night.  I am much more like a 6.5 hours of sleep on a reasonably consistent basis kind of a guy.  This is why I am not infrequently exhausted and chronically looking for the right combination of caffeine, vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements and endorphins to kick me through the day, week, or month (not necessarily in that order).

5)      I should be working out my brain, the way I should be working out my body. One of the things that scares the beejesus out of me is getting old, really old, and having my mind go.  That really truly scares me.  What’s the best defense against the kind of diseases that attack the brain?  Exercising the brain.  I think I do a reasonably good job in this department, but while I continue to learn and grow, why does it all have to be about work?  I STILL can’t play the piano, STILL can’t speak enough Spanish, I love taking pictures, but don’t have a clue how to do it.  Enjoy a good bottle of wine, but know very little about it….there is so much to learn!   

That is just a few of the things that have been on my mind lately.  I don’t understand the dynamic that causes us to act in ways that contradict what we know is the right thing to do.  But we do, or should I say I do.  ROUTINELY! 

I really truly don’t get it.  I’ve read Kant, I know what cognitive dissonance is.  I could quote all kinds of fascinating, interesting articles.  I can tell you about Cialdini or Festinger.  I can draft a treatise on hedonism or…or…or…WHO CARES?????  Why do I do this?  Why do you do this?  How do you contradict your internal compass?  Are you embracing pleasure?  Avoiding pain?  Are you “busy”?  I claim all three and a litany of others, let me know if you need some and I’ll lend you some of mine. 

And now that I have acknowledged just a handful of my very long list of faults, I resolve to be a better guy.  I’m going to work out a little, save a little, think a little,….yup gonna do all that good stuff, and I think I’ll start right after I get about 6 hours of sleep…. Well dang, maybe I need to rethink this whole post….maybe it should have been “Dumb enough to know better and still keep doing it”  UGH…I yield…at least for today!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gone Fishing!

OK, just so you know, I am most assuredly NOT going to regale you with my fishing prowess.  This is a fishing story of another kind. This is about "catching" something way better than your everyday catfish, blue fish, drum or shark.

Some background is in order.  I grew up, more than anywhere else, in Maryland.  Many don't realize it but you can live way...I do mean WAY out in the country in Maryland.  It was 12 miles one way to my high school (up hill both ways without shoes into the wind…but I digress).  By and large, I loved it there.  I was surrounded by a wonderful family and... lots of dirt, air and water.  Back in those days, even though dinosaurs were still wandering the planet, we spent a bunch of time exploring the countryside.  It was utterly and completely normal to spend entire days gone exploring, wandering,!  We spent hours on the banks of the Susquehanna River fishing.  I couldn't begin to tell you how many hours we spent sitting on the bank, fishing pole in hand, exploring a world we'd never seen.  Here's the thing though, we sucked. 

We weren't bad.  We were awful. If I had to survive on what we caught, I would have turned into a bluegill or sunfish or worse yet, a worm, or a can of corn, because those were the only thing we ever caught.  You see, I was never taught to fish.  It was just Rob and I sitting on the bank, talking, imagining and fishing.  We were MUCH better at talking and imagining than fishing.  As I've grown older, I've continued talking and imagining.  I've stopped fishing.

Fast forward to 2009, Kyle, my oldest is driving, and, like Dad, he loves the outdoors.  (Just because I can't fish doesn't mean I don't love the outdoors.)  Unlike Dad, Kyle has managed to learn to fish because of some good friends and this little computer thingy called the internet.  Earlier this week, he caught a 40 lb fish down on Bolivar Peninsula just over an hour from our house. 

As his skills have continued to improve (along with the value of his tackle box) he's been inviting me to go fishing with him.  I love my kids, and I love spending time with them.  I try to do the stuff they want to do, and not just what Dad likes to do.  The thing is, I'm scarred-NOT scared…SCARRED!  Do you have any idea how many hours I spent NOT catching anything?  Has to be hundreds of hours - hundreds and hundreds of hours. 

UGH what's a man to do??? You already know the answer.  It's July 2011...We went fishing.  My wife is out of town on a girls trip, so it was just Kyle, Austin and I.  So off we went.  Three guys, a truck, too many fishing poles, too much tackle, a tent, man food and a kayak.  The weather, the drive, the conversation were wonderful.  We talked about girls, trucks, cars.  We talked about the weather and the tides, the stars and college.  Often times we talked about nothing.  I sat and watched my boys, I listened to the water crash on the beach.  We cooked on the grill and stared at the stars. 

I really wish I could tell you about all the fish we caught, but I can't.  I can tell you that we spent 24 hours just hanging out and I loved it.  Very soon, we'll be starting a new chapter as Kyle heads off to college.  I don't know how many more trips we're going to get to take like this one.  I don't know how much longer he'll be excited about taking Dad fishing, but I've got a license now, and well, who knows maybe, just maybe I'm finally going to learn to fish.

I couldn't care less about how many or how much fish we caught.  I caught 24 hours with my sons and that ladies and gentlemen is very...very cool.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This is so cool!

My name is Rich and I don’t know the first d@mn thing about blogging!  I started writing in high school and college.  Then, life took over.  I stopped writing short stories and poems and started writing operations orders, white papers and proposals.  I’ve written three books in my imagination, but, until a week ago, I hadn’t written anything remotely like a blog.  I’ve been reading the work of a former colleague ABOUT THE SAME and I just, simply, thoroughly enjoy what Megan writes.  It’s well written. It’s goofy. It makes me laugh.  It is wonderfully random.  It makes me think….AND….it inspired me to take out my pen and start writing.  

And write I have, I’ve secretly been storing up posts for months (OK, it was only three – as far as you know!), trying to decide if I had the courage, ambition, and time to try my hand at it.  Last weekend, a short 5 days ago I started.  WOW!  THIS IS COOL.  I have no idea how long this will last or where it will take me – but I like it.

So far, my posts have been a little more serious than I imagine they might be, but here’s the thing, they’re just sort of popping out…you know, like mushrooms emerging from a big pile of, um, fertilizer!  Not only that, but people ACTUALLY read what I write, I’ve even suckered YOU into hanging around for more than 200 words.  In a week, my posts have been viewed 140 times (even if I count for 50 of them that’s still a whole bunch).  I even have 3 people (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) who have “subscribed.” Brave foolish souls that they are, they are actually, willfully sharing their time with me…because of what I write, because I JUST MIGHT say something that makes them laugh or smile, or think or reflect or just simply enjoy life. 

THIS IS SO COOL!  (He says as he feels his body drifting off into a teen like state of delirium, just without the body to go with it.)

I find myself wondering if there will be more of you.  What if MORE people read what I write?  What would that mean?  Would it be good?  What would it ffffeeeeelll like?  I think about blogging at random moments when interesting, good, bad, wonderful, horrible, special, awful, delicious, decadent things happen.  Yesterday, I realized two very important things. 1) I am really enjoying this.  If I am the only person who reads this, I want to keep doing it.  It is cathartic and it makes me happy.  2) I really like the idea that someone else might benefit in their own personal way because of something I write.  THAT IS SO COOL!

All of which leads me to this.   I really ought to learn about blogging, and hash tags and tweets and retweets and all of that stuff that “real bloggers” know about… BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY…

What could you be doing that would bring you great joy in your life.  Remember, back in the day when you sang, danced, drew, painted, ran, lifted, swam, wrote Haikus, or just sat and read. Don’t you miss it?  What if you gave yourself 30 minutes a day or every other day to do whatever it is that makes you happy for no reason whatsoever except that it makes you happy?  Just think a week from now, you could be sitting there with The Guy, or The Gal in the mirror having a cup of coffee smiling and a silently saying to yourself…THAT IS SO COOL!

PS Wanna know a secret???  My 11 year old daughter gets to read my blogs before you do. She likes it…and friends….THAT is WWWWWAAAAAAYYYYY  CCCCOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dad's Rules

I am a Dad.  I hope a good one.  Sometimes I THINK I am a good one but ALWAYS I HOPE I am a good one.  You see not one single child of mine came with an instruction manual. Ssshhh it’s a secret, I’ve totally been making it up for years now…I haven’t a clue what I am doing. 

My kids are everything to me.  NOW, before this goes any further, let me clarify, my wife is everything to me too, but this isn’t about being a husband, it is about being a Dad.  Maybe one day I’ll be bold enough to write about being a husband, but I’ve been a husband long enough to doubt that will ever actually happen.

OK - back to the matter at hand.  In addition to being a Dad, I am a mortal.  I am going to be here until I am not.  Don’t get me wrong, I “plan” to be a here a very long time, but the fact of the matter is none of us KNOW how long we are going to be here.  A few years ago, I was reflecting on this and I started building a list of Dad’s Rules.  We discuss them on special occasions and I share them here for two reasons: 1) I am not sure if I’ve ever meaningfully written them down and 2) I wonder what your rules are. 

Let me be clear, Dad’s Rules have nothing whatsoever to do with doing your homework, clean underwear (in case you’re in an accident) or taking out the garbage.  They have nothing to do with the parent-child relationship.  Dad’s Rules are my rules for being a good human.  They are my rules for living a whole and fulfilled life.  The idea is simple, if you let these guide you, everything else will become a little easier.

Here Goes!

1) Treat others with love, kindness and respect.  It is easy to say, but so very hard to do.  The fact of the matter is that there are people on this planet that don’t like me, let alone love me. More than one person has been unkind, and I assure there is a long list of people who don’t respect me.  So???
I have found that when I treat others with love, kindness and respect, the list of those who treat me the same way continues to grow. 
There is a famous military quote “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline” which I still quote to myself in more trying moments.
“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”

Most important though, each morning I wake up, find my way to the bathroom and look in the mirror.  Every single day the same guy looks back at me and begs me for a cup of coffee.    I’ve known this guy for as long as I have a memory.   I like him; he’s a pretty good guy.  Imperfect.  Flawed.  Capable of great kindness and horrible mistakes.   He is my biggest fan and my worst critic.  He’s helped me achieve great things, and he’s been there at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey on more than one occasion.  I’ve tried keeping secrets from the guy, but the fact is, he knows it all.  He knows everything about me, even when we don’t talk about it.  He knows what makes me happy, proud, joyful, mean, angry, and ticked-off.   He has been there through it all, every step of the way and, well, here’s the thing, I have found unequivocally, that if I treat others with love, kindness and respect, handing the guy a cup of coffee every morning is just a little easier.  No, upon reflection…it is a lot easier.

2) Make Great decisions and repeat as necessary.  Life is the sum of your decisions.  It is no more or no less complicated.  NONE of us will make the right decision for our entire life.  Each of us has made dozens upon dozens of bad decisions and mistakes.  (Damn I wish I could count mine using dozens…hundreds is more like it! Thousands?) The trick is to hone your decision making skills so that you make fewer and few mistakes.  The trick is to NOT make life altering decisions or career ending decisions.  The trick is to LEARN from your both your good and bad decisions and to use that learning to make better decisions tomorrow.  The trick is to learn from your mistakes and to have the courage to go make new ones, so that, ultimately, you are making mostly great decisions. 

3) Work ethic and attitude will always be more important than your natural gifts.   Each of us is blessed with a unique set of gifts.    By and large most humans are capable of infinitely more than they give themselves credit for; it is our work ethic and attitude that dictate how much of our human potential we can actually achieve.  (mental note blog topic on potential).   

4) It is often better to be happy than right.  Now listen, I am competitive.  I am committed to winning, pretty much everything.  I am also smart enough to be right…often.  You know what though. WHO CARES???  Is it worth it?  Let me put it another way, ever heard of a “cost benefit analysis”? Do you have any idea how many arguments could be avoided by simply taking the time to assess the value of the win vs. the cost of the win? Here’s another view of it…If you have to violate rule #1 “Treat others with love, kindness and respect,” in order to get the win, is the win worth it?  Honestly, this is probably the hardest rule of them all because it requires split second, no, nanosecond CONSCIOUS decision making – typically at a time of emotional distress. 

I would never suggest that someone ought not fight for what they believe in, uphold their values, and ethics.  I am absolutely suggesting that some of us, most of us, have argued, and hurt one another, over some of the most ridiculous, obtuse, meaningless, frivolous, inconsequential, utterly, incomprehensibly nonsensical bits of nothingness.  STOP IT!  Please?

Until now, those have been my four rules and my hopefully coherent explanation of those rules.  I think by and large, my kids do a pretty good job of “getting” them.  I hope so.  I hope that I do a reasonably good job of living by these rules on a day in and day out basis and demonstrating them through the way that I live.  There is that word again…hope.  With it comes the new, until now, always important but less poorly communicated rule #5.

Bonus Rule #5) Be faithful and hopeful.  Life is full of promise.  It is also full of twists and turns, bumps and bruises.   Faith in something greater than yourself and hope for what might be are drugs no man should live without.  Life is bigger than we are.   It’s too complex and too fast paced.  How many of us have wandered smack dab into the middle of a wall that was apparently in surmountable.  Yet somehow, some way, we prevailed.  Not only that but, the effort of overcoming the obstacle made us stronger, better, and more successful.    Really, when you think about it, do faith and hope really need any kind of explanation? 
There you have it.  That’s it…at least from me.  I genuinely believe that if I can teach my kids these 5 rules, I will have been reasonably successful.  Sure, they’ll need physics and Econ, chemistry, Spanish and Chinese, but, honestly, I am just not up to the task. I will leave that to the smart people in education.  I’m sticking to the basics.  If I am here a day, a week, or another hundred years, these are the things I want my kids to learn from dear ole’ Dad.  

How about you, what do you want your loved ones, your family, your kids your friends to know?  Did I miss something?  What are your rules? What do your kids know that mine need to know?  I’m open to suggestion…

(hhhmmm…was that another blog thought crossing my mind?)