Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 113: Thoughts of 33

I turned 33 yesterday.

Birthdays are a great time of celebration. First, we celebrated the fact that The Boy slept until 8:00. That's not a typo. We didn't know what to do with ourselves in the morning; we may have hovered around his door for 30 minutes just wondering when he'd get up. I might have also banged a few pots and shouted, just to make sure he would wake up. Alas, he did and thus we celebrated. Then The Wifey, The Boy and I went out to breakfast at one of our favorite spots in the hood, Baker Miller. Whether you live her or plan on visiting, this is a spot you have to check out.

Then we rocked some church, which was so necessary for me. The services was centered on the amazing love of God and the powerful work of Christ on the Cross. For me, it was a reminder of what's truly important. So much in my daily life competes to rob me of that truth; I often just give in to it. But worshiping God with His people on Sunday pulls me back in. What a great gift that is every week, especially yesterday for my birthday.

We had planned an outing to the Botanic Garden, but The Boy remained a sleeping machine, napping for 2 1/2 hours until 4:00. Stace gave me the last of my gifts yesterday (the first two were bacon jam for the burgers I make and a book), which was a basketball! I decided to head out to the courts and actually dominated some kids 15-20 years younger than me. Well, not dominated. And not sure if it's real talent if I'm beating kids in middle school and high school, but they were taller than me so you be the judge.

We rounded out the evening with some Friends and some thai food.

As much as it is celebration, it's also reflection for me. That's what I do.

33 is a year of continual character development. I don't know if it's so much of "what do I want to accomplish?" as "who do I want to grow to be?" The Wifey and I talked through this and the two major themes I want to focus on are being present  and being grateful. They go hand-in-hand.

I tend to live in the clouds, focusing more on ideas than concrete reality. This means I look more to the future and what could be, what should be, or what ought to be, than what is. Much of this may be a result of not being grateful for what's right in front of me. My hope and prayer is that for 33 I practice the art of gratitude, particularly to God, for all the good gifts he has provided and continues to provide, allowing me also to be present with each day he gives.

What about you? What do you usually do for your birthday? What are you focusing on this year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 112: "You Have to Learn to Love the Bomb."

If you haven't had a chance to read the cover story in GQ with Stephen Colbert, I'm glad you're reading this blog.

It came out early last week and I just got around to reading it. The entire story may be a glimpse of the person we will see hosting The Late Show next month, following in the footsteps of the great David Letterman. If it hasn't been clear up to this point, the Stephen Colbert hosting The Late Show will not be the same man who hosted The Colbert Report, the character he somehow pulled off for nine years.

This article goes into that, his tragic family history, and his deep sense of gratitude for life. Yet one piece of the interview stood out most. It was in the context of his early career in improv. He mentions that while he was at Second City he was told by the director, "You have to learn to love the bomb." Colbert explains:
“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn't ‘Don't worry, you'll get it next time.’ It wasn't ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you're failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”
That is absolutely profound, isn't it? "You have to learn to love the bomb." And I really appreciate how Colbert expounds on it in a meaningful way. It's not that you brush failure off or that you cheapen it with platitudes. It's not a "pick yourself up by the bootstraps" approach. It's an actual love of the process of failing. It's being right in the thick of failing, watching the faces of people who are looking back in horror or disappointment or anger, and embracing it. And it's the love of that experience in those moments that actually conquers the fear that comes so much more naturally to us.

At another point in the article Colbert says, "The process of process is process." His point is that there is intentionality behind everything done. I also take it to mean learning and movement are just as much the goal as creating a good show. That's helpful to me because it's hard to grasp how I'll be able to understand – not in an intellectual way, but in a deep, applicable way – how to love the bomb. The process is "a long time." And perhaps, for you and me, it just means putting ourselves constantly in situations where failure is the most likely option.

It's scary even typing that. But I guess that may just be one step closer to loving the bomb.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 111: Pursue Patience, My Friend

"It's a jump to conclusions game!" Oh Office Space. This was one of my top quote 90s movies. Knowing that movie is like wearing a badge of honor, or I guess 127 pieces of flair.

The line came to mind as I'm reflecting on another aspect of my life, and perhaps yours, that directly clashes with the ability to stay curious.

It's impatience.

I was talking with a fellow Highlander today (if you're not sure what that is, it's someone who works at my company, Highland Solutions) who has decades on me in experience both in sales and general business and plays a key leadership role. First, and without any prompting on my part, he affirmed how curiosity has been a trait that stands out clear and is one that has benefited me at Highland. However, I quickly moved to my self-confessed impatience. See what I did there?

Anyway, he made a key observation about what my impatience does to my curiosity. He said that impatience will get in the way of my desire to learn, to ask questions, to get deep enough to satisfy the curiosity. I will want to arrive at the answer too quickly, to move on to something else, too feel like I've figured it out. In other words, I jump to conclusions.

While we were talking about me, I think this applies to anyone, especially people who are driven by learning and the pursuit of understanding. In a world that wants to "figure it out" and "do things as fast as possible," impatience can be held up as a virtue and thrown in the mix of other traits like hustle and grit. But what usually gets left behind are key questions that need to be asked, follow-up that needs to occur, and a willingness not to force the issue or grip too tightly to control – all key components to patience, wisdom, and of course curiosity.

I guess what I'm saying is that impatience and curiosity never mix well together, like hot dogs and ketchup (sadly there are too many of you out there that still don't get this). What I also learned today and implying by this are that curiosity and patience are actually like two pedals on a bicycle; they have to work in tandem to be most effective.

If you find yourself at a point in life where you "want to know more" or "want to understand" an instrument, a person, a business, a point in history, a financial system – whatever – pursue that interest. That's your curiosity. But also be aware that to achieve a real understanding, the pursuit of patience will be just as key.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 110: Stay Curious, My Friend

When I was a kid I used to tinker a lot more than I do now. I remember that I would take apart our old phones and try to learn how they worked – just so I could, of course, figure out how it could be turned into a keypad for a bomb (a pretend bomb for the government peeps monitoring every one of our words). I remember another time trying to learn how staplers worked and I ended up putting one right through my pointer finger.

I received a message on LinkedIn the other day from someone I know. He was someone that I worked with and he shared some really kind words about the work I'm doing at Highland and it reminded me of those childhood days. He wrote,
...You have a bright future ahead of you. You have a natural ability to lead clients that many do not possess. You have a high sense of curiosity too which ultimately makes you great. Stay curious my friend. 
"Stay curious." If I had a mantra as a child or really cared to have one today, that would be it. I appreciate the comment not because it may or may not be true, but because it's a wake-up call for this soon-to-be 33-year old man to be that boy, that curious boy who was willing to turn phones into bombs and staple his finger just to learn.

Curiosity is learning without pretentiousness.

Curiosity is chasing down knowledge not to be a know-it-all but to truly understand.

Curiosity is asking all the questions, the obvious ones where you may be perceived as stupid by the listener and the hidden ones where you're perceived as a genius (and seem only to come after asking the obvious ones).

Did curiosity kill the cat? Maybe. But what I do know is that curiosity took man to the moon.

Stay curious, my friend.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 109: An Observation of the Last Few Weeks

Some of you reading this aren't aware of the experiment I started with back in April. Was it really April?

In an attempt to write more, to write consistently, and to build an audience, I sought out to write everyday for, at most, 30 minutes. Thus the title for this blog, Thirty Minute Thoughts.

I've definitely been consistent in the time spent with each post. I don't spend over 30 minutes writing, though I'll use a little bit of time editing.

I've been consistent in writing more. I've blogged more this year than any other year since I started back in 2003. I posted for something like 75 days straight.

Building an audience has been so so. I haven't been consistent in seeking subscribers, reaching out to people individually, or using other methods to get more readership.

And I haven't been consistent in writing everyday. While that part has changed, I'm okay with it.

I've noticed something as of late. Since I've stopped writing everyday and have only posted when I've truly had time, which is now down to 2-3 times a week, readership has actually gone up. It's quite odd, especially since I feel like I'm not "promoting" each post as much as I was early on.

My interpretation is self-serving. Perhaps the content is a little better? Perhaps I'm sharing at the right time? In the right spaces? I honestly don't know, but it's been good to see that even without the largest platform I have out there, Facebook, things can still grow. Hear that folk, you can do things without Facebook in your life!

Anyway, the experiment continues. I'm still pleased with how this has gone as I'm about 1/3 of the way through it. And if you are new to the blog, welcome. Feel free to check out past posts and, if there's one you really like, share the love with the peeps you know. That would be swell.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 108: Keep Walking

Today I walked. I took just over 8,000 steps. It was a confluence of factors.

First, yeah, I'm tracking my steps. I'm one of those people in a sense. I don't have a FitBit or Apple Watch, so I have to make sure my phone is on my person at nearly all times. Not ideal. I'm also doing it because I'm trying to lose a few, eh, dozen, lbs as I've grown a bit rotund the last couple of months. There's a whole blog post on how pant sizes and belts serve as a good dashboard for certain lifestyle choices. Anyway, I love how the Health app and the MyFitnessPal apps integrate, so that the steps I take are counted and then converted to calories burned in MyFitnessPal. If you aren't rocking that, you should def check it out. So I'm tracking my steps because it easily converts to calories, which really just translates into me figuring out how much ice cream I can eat that night. Perfect logic.

The other factor today was that I had to drop off the car to get some work done. The day was gorgeous so I got to work on some walking.

The dealership is on a busy main road near us, so I decided to veer in a couple of blocks and walk through the neighborhood. I had to be in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of Chicago. I saw a Muslim family walking around. I saw restaurants representing the Middle East, India. I saw a neighborhood synagogue that was converted to an evangelical Ethiopian church. I saw Asian women sitting out in front of their houses talking. And I saw houses of all types, drawing my attention as we're still searching for our first place to buy.

If I didn't walk today, I would have missed all of that.

In a world that cries for speed and efficiency out of us, walking slows life down.

In a world that tunnels your eyes to tiny screens to stimulate you non-stop, walking gives you time to take in your surroundings and actually reflect.

In a world of ever-expanding waistlines, walking provides a simple way to fight that.

With all of the advances of transportation that get us where we want to go faster and advances in technology that get us the the things we need faster, walking can feel like a burden, a waste of time.

But I say your feet and legs are a beautiful gift of old-fashioned creation. When you have the chance to walk somewhere, don't wait until the last minute and then hop in the car. As Gloria Estefan would say, "Get on your feet!"

Take advantage of the gift you've been given. Keep walking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 107: Keep Talking

I loved and still love a ton of different kinds of music. Back in the day, when I was a teenager, I was a big fan of Pink Floyd. There's a song I would listen to over and over again on their album The Division Bell. It was called "Keep Talking." The song opens with a voice that's electronic, simulated, like one you would hear through a computer. The voice says,
For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened that unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk.
Later on after the first verse of the song the voice returns as an intro to the awesome, trippy, musical interludes that Pink Floyd is known for, this time saying
It doesn't have to be like this. All we need to do is keep talking.
I've only known these words from this song and it's always been one of the most memorable tracks on that album for me. The song is a back-and-forth between David Gilmour and a chorus of women and it feels like a couple that can't seem to connect because the woman feels like the man isn't talking and the man feels like he's can't talk. That's a pretty familiar experience, right?

So familiar, I think, that's its application is universal.

I was thinking about this song tonight as I was sweeping the floor after dinner. I, alone in the kitchen, as The Wifey was giving The Boy a bath. I thought about the conversation she and I had earlier tonight on the way home from a family walk. We had a bit of a disagreement on a major issue: potty training. I won't get into the details because, well, you know, but what's important is that we kept talking. We talked the whole thing out to a reasonable conclusion. I then thought about other times in my life with her, with friends, with work relationships, with strangers (a 20-month old provides a lot to sweep) where I didn't talk. While not talking has sometimes been the wisest course of action, most of the time not talking has only created problems for me in my relationships.

That's when this song came to my head. As I looked up the song, I learned that these weren't the words of Pink Floyd, but Stephen Hawking. I had no idea! While I don't agree with the overall premise, I have always loved the line "we learned to talk." And then as I listened to it tonight the other line, "all we need to do is keep talking," jumped out at me. I think it's safe to say that we are actually "learning to talk" our entire lives.

Humans are so unique in this way. We talk. We write. We have words. Our words unleash "the power of our imagination." When we talk, we can be life-giving or deadly. We can build others up or tear them down just by talking for a little bit. We can create great things or destroy. Talking can be bad, but as I shared above, I think we hurt ourselves more when we don't talk. I believe this is the case because more often than not we don't refrain from talking because it's wise.

We don't talk because we're afraid.

We're afraid of speaking up because we don't want to have conflict. We're afraid of sharing an idea because we don't want to be rejected. We're afraid of asking questions because we don't want to sound stupid.

I was reminded tonight that talking isn't merely some evolutionary experience that's separated us from the animals. Talking is a gift. Don't let fear choke that gift.

Keep talking.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 106: Thoughts from the El

More games are played here than anywhere else. I've watched more folk play Candy Crush than I want to believe actually happens.

It's cavernous. I'm to blame. I'm on my computer, listening to music from my phone. I'm inaccessible to anyone and everyone. That's how we all are. We suck.

Electronic readers and activity outweigh paper. Two people are reading paper books or the newspapers. The rest of us are on our phones, iPads, Kindles, computers, or a combination of all of them.

It's beautiful here. We get such a view of the city and the different facets of it. We get an idea of the "types" of people depending on where they live. Such is the nature of the Brown Line.

Most people don't stop work on the El. They leave the office, but work still gets done. There's a quote that says "back in the day the work was done when the day was done. Nowadays the day is done when the work is done – and the work is never done." Nevermore has that been appropriate than our lives today and the El is evidence.

Candy Crush vs. the next e-mail to a client. On the El some escape and some dive deeper.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Day 105: Do Fathers Matter?

I am keeping with this theme from the last post.

I was listening to a podcast today from Art of Manliness, a website dedicated to reviving the art of being a man. If you don't know about it, the title may sound a bit chauvinistic; but the "art" suggests a nuance that's very welcoming. I think they pull it off really well and provide a wide range of topics for both men and women to enjoy.

The podcast I listened to was Why Fathers Matter. The interview was with a science author who wrote a book on this topic, titled Do Fathers Matter? where he gathers and expounds on scientific data on the importance of fathers in the family.  There were a ton of fascinating things discussed. For example, this entire idea is a topic that really hasn't been publicized much. There have been some studies, but more research and publicity has been given toward mom's role.

The most fascinating part discussed was the fact that while humans have a lot in common with other mammals, one area that we differ in majorly is how involved the father is in the lives of children. 95% of mammals never even see their children and, apart from a few obscure observations, humans spend more time parenting their children than any other animal. Fathers play an enormous role in this and I suggest you listen to the podcast.

I was blown away by the observation. To me, it says more than this notion that we have just evolved from apes and are "more intelligent apes." There's something supremely unique about the family structure of humans that's inherent to the way we not only survive, but thrive. And when fathers aren't living into that important role in their children's lives, their children suffer, the family suffers, and I believe society suffers. The role of being a parent, a father, is unique in all creation. It's a privilege and an honor. It matters!

I listened to the podcast while running this morning pushing my son in the stroller. It was the perfect setting for me to be reminded of the great, daunting, awesome task given to me by God to love, care for, protect, teach, train, and enjoy my son each day I have him. And I can't wait for our family to grow and spread it all the more!