On the Backcountry, Danger and Finding Balance

It’s been two weeks since my friend Jeff and I walked out of the Colorado wilderness after our four-night and five-day backpacking adventure. It’s been two weeks since I’ve spent time each day looking at a blinking cursor, trying desperately to answer the most frequently asked question: How was your trip?

Like last year’s adventure, I find myself full of conflicted, mixed emotions. But unlike last year’s adventure, there weren’t any near death experiences. There wasn’t any snow. And, at no point did Jeff nor I think we were fucked. (Except maybe when the enormous Bull Moose wouldn’t stop staring at us.) Strangely, I think I have found this to be disappointing.

Yes, the trip was amazing, but (sadly?) we didn’t almost die. That has been the stock answer to anyone who asked.

I think this is why the cursor has blinked for two weeks without any keystrokes to show for it. I almost felt the trip wasn’t worthy of documentation – even by blog. We hiked. We slept. We ate. We (deleted by lawyers). We hiked some more. That kind of thinking, however, doesn’t do justice to what such adventures do for our mind and our soul. We don’t need to nearly die in order to find our meaning or tell a story. At some point in the last two weeks…I think I finally discovered that. So here’s the answer to that question. This is the story.

My flight landed in Denver around 1:00PM, we took our first steps on trail after 3:30 and we had to cover a minimum of six miles. We didn’t cover enough ground on the first day of our trip last year and we never recovered. We didn’t want to make that same mistake again. Getting to the first night’s campsite felt like a sprint. We were racing the sun. Neither one of us had any desire to find our way down the trail, set up camp, cook and eat in the dark. (Well, I didn’t, anyway. I suspect that Jeff was intrigued by the prospect of having to find our way by headlamp.)

Because of this “us against the sun” mentality, I missed the first day. I have pictures that document our participation in this race against time, including some beautiful shots of Sawtooth Peak, but I don’t remember being part of it. I was far too focused on the destination. Far too focused on what it meant to lose this battle with daylight. And, because in the days and weeks leading up to the trip, I was dreading this first day, I was far too focused on what could possibly go wrong. In doing so…I missed everything that was going right.

Turns out the sun beat us. It was down before we got to our camp. We did, however, beat the light. There was just enough to figure out where we would set up shop. Jeff had pre-prepared goat cheese and chiles stuffed chicken for dinner. Two of the biggest chicken breasts I’ve ever seen. And after the sprint to the site, it was the best chicken I’d ever eaten in my life. We had made it. The first day was over. The day I had dreaded for weeks and months was history. I was relieved, but I was also kind of lost. I completely missed that day. I know we hiked six miles. I know we gave up more than 2,000 feet of elevation (that we would more than make up for the following day). But I was so anxious about the sun and the dark and the this and the that…I missed it. I climbed into my bivy and thought about the next day, which was scheduled to be the longest day of the trip, including 7.5 miles, 3000 feet of elevation gain, one pass and climbing Sawtooth Peak. And despite having just missed the first day of my trip, as I fell asleep, I was mostly thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get to the next camp.

Last year’s trip was so moving, so inspiring, so difficult and such an incredible test of my ability to perform outside of my comfort zone that it gave me a kind of natural high. A rush of adrenaline. And, despite the fact that I publicly didn’t necessarily need to experience that again, I think privately, I wanted to. So, as I waited for some kind of danger along the trail, with each drama-free step, I continued to miss the beauty all around me. I was looking for something that wasn’t there. The metaphors crunching under my boots.

Believe it or not, prior to leaving for Colorado I spent measured, thoughtful time considering which earrings to bring. I didn’t want to take my favorite pair of hoops, as I couldn’t risk losing them. Same for the expensive studs. So, I settled on a pair of matching yin/yang studs. I figured that the proposed spirituality of the adventure and getting away for a “digital detox” meshed well with the balance message of the earrings. It wasn’t until we reached camp the second day that I realized that I had lost one of the earrings. The irony of this was not lost. I was out of balance. Don’t know if it was my yin or my yang, but I was definitely missing one of them.

While I didn’t miss the second day quite as badly as the first, I was still more or less head down in my pursuit of that day’s goal: Get to camp. I remember the highlights of the second day – getting over the pass, climbing Sawtooth Peak, dropping 3,000 feet and especially the best bagel and almond butter lunch I’ve ever had, but my focus was still very much on dropping the pack at our campsite. In discovering I’d lost one of these earrings, I realized I needed to get my act together. I needed to realize what was around me, not what was miles ahead. I needed to find the moment before the moment vanished behind me just like that earring did.

The next two days were filled with amazing sights, dramatic waterfalls (I have the pictures to prove it) and multiple trips off trail to take in spectacular views. I kept shifting my remaining earring from one ear to the other to remind myself to stay in balance. Jeff and I camped in ridiculously beautiful settings, managed our first campfire and continued to eat like kings. (Buffalo bratwurst with sautéed red peppers and onions. Really.)

Like the last trip, I trained like a madman to get ready for this one. I didn’t go on as many training hikes (in fact, there was only one) and I didn’t mountain bike, but I rowed more, paddled more, ran more and lifted more. I was in better shape and I was even more ready. It was the snow that made the last trip so challenging. Without the snow, I wouldn’t have been so ruined. I wouldn’t have found myself attracted to the danger. I would have learned how incredible the backcountry was. Because of the snow, I assumed every backpacking trip would feel death defying. The snow made me skeptical of each and every step. That uncertainty made the trip. It made the story. But without it? I needed to learn to just take it in. I needed to learn to just enjoy where I was. I needed to learn that each journey has its own rewards (and, perhaps, that the level of difficulty only counts when score is being kept).

It’s kind of amazing how expectations can ruin the journey. Fortunately, I caught myself before it was really too late. Had I missed the waterfalls…I can’t even imagine that. After I posted my pictures, a friend asked, “Did you see any waterfalls?” It was a joke, but without the context of what those waterfalls meant – it certainly just looked like I was obsessed by falling water. Possessed by falling water. Those waterfalls represented something far greater, however. They represented finding my balance. And my moment.

The last weather report Jeff and I saw before stepping onto the trail suggested that we should expect some wind, rain and maybe even snow on our last night. Our original plan was a long hike out the last day. Instead, we made more ground than originally planned on our fourth day, which included a glorious hike to a lake and then a breathtaking and mysterious trip over the pass. (Mysterious because even as we climbed ever higher, we had no idea where the trail was taking us.) We dropped our packs and climbed a peak, which topped out at just a few steps shy of 13,000 feet. And then we started down the mountain to find our final campsite. That night, as the wind whipped and the rain teased, I found myself thrilled to be out of danger. No anxiety. No fear.

We woke up in the morning under threatening skies and Jeff suggested that we pack up and leave. This could get ugly, he said. A far cry from, We’re fucked. I was okay with that. Finally…I was okay with that. Turns out that we not only got off the mountain before the rain, but also missed a major snowstorm up on the pass. As we drove to breakfast, I silently twisted the one earring and realized not what I missed, but what I didn’t miss.

And in that moment, I found a sense of balance.

On Flexing Your Perspective

As with the recent passing of a high school classmate, real life has a way of interrupting our routines. And when this happens, particularly when faced with a sudden death, we “find perspective.” We rediscover the importance of living in the present. We’re reminded about how fleeting time is. How short life is. Suddenly all of those inspirational quotes that fill our social media timelines (and are prominent at A Day Well Lived) seem to ring ever more true. We make promises to ourselves that, “From this day forward, things are going to be different.”

But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered through the years, it’s that perspective is easy to find, but difficult to keep.

Perspective is a lot like love. We fall in love and the only way to stay in love is to work at it. It requires practice. The heart is a muscle that must be flexed. Perspective, too, is a muscle that must be flexed. I’m not sure that perspective is something you have. I think instead, it’s something you must practice. Something you have to build. Yes, we “have” physical muscles, but the only way to build them is by working them.

I’ve come to realize this over time. Prior to Mike, I’ve experienced the death of far too many friends and people in my life. And it started when I was young. With each passing and each funeral, I was convinced that my life was going to be different. I would often ask myself, “If my life ended today, am I where I want to be?” Far too many times, the answer was no and I would make some big change (even going so far as to move across the country). In these changes, I was always certain that, “This time, I get it. Life is short. From this day forward, things are going to be different.”

They rarely were.

It never took much time for me to start stressing about the little things again. The first guy to cut me off on the freeway would get an earful. (That is, if he could hear me.) It didn’t take long for me to overreact to things that are truly laughable. It never took long for me to slip back into old habits. I didn’t practice perspective. I didn’t work at building it. I didn’t strengthen my perspective muscles the same way you’d work a bicep or quad in the gym. Or love in your relationships. I just thought that “having it” was enough. I took it for granted.

Last Friday morning, my son had a test to get his green belt in Taekwondo. I was hell-bent on getting in a workout. I wished him luck and about halfway through my session, I realized I was an idiot. Here I was with the opportunity to go see him test and my priority was to make sure I got in 60 minutes of sweat (that I could do anytime during the day)? He truly didn’t care whether or not I saw him test, but I did.

His test was a memory and moment that would only come once. Sure, there will be more tests and more belts, but this was the only time he’d test for his green belt. I ended the workout immediately and raced to the dojo and watched his test.

I didn’t do this for him. I did it for me.

I think intention is a key point to successfully building perspective. In order to flex the perspective muscles, we need to understand why. Why do you want to have perspective? It can’t be simply because it sounds good. Anything that requires change needs a healthy dose of intention. For me? It’s so I don’t miss moments. I don’t miss experiences. It’s so I don’t miss green belt tests. By ending the workout early, I may have short-changed whatever muscles I have in my shoulders, but my perspective got a big workout. And while K-Man passed his test, I passed one of my own.

Perspective and intention go hand in hand. The only way to keep it is to work at it. And the only way to truly work at it…is to understand why it’s important that you do. Otherwise, the same mistakes will be made. The same old habits will return. It’s easy to get inspired. (I’ve written about the dangers in that.) It’s easy to find perspective. But if you keep getting inspired and you keep finding perspective, but nothing is changing…Where’s the perspective in that?

On (Re)Defining Friendship in the Face of a Tragic Death and the Now

I feel blessed because I liked high school. I wasn’t so fond of the tests, and there were a couple of teachers I could have done without, but I liked pretty much everything else about it. I wasn’t one of the “popular kids,” but I found my space. I had my set of really close friends, but also knew lots of others. I don’t think I really had a problem with anyone. One of those people that I knew, but with whom I wasn’t close, passed away this week. And, though I didn’t know him well, I find myself profoundly impacted. Maybe it’s because he was my age, or because he, too, had a young kid, or maybe it’s just because anytime you know anyone that dies, it’s impactful. The reasons don’t necessarily matter.

Mike’s sudden passing has not only made me think deeply about the more obvious concepts of mortality, health and fatherhood, but also about friends and the very definition of friendship. I knew Mike in high school, but we didn’t hang out. We weren’t “friends.” We were friendly. Like so many relationships in our lives now, however, Facebook made us “friends.” We interacted in cyberspace and communicated with “likes” and occasional comments.

Though I didn’t know him well, I do know that Mike lived the good life. Spending time with him at a recent reunion solidified that reality. Smiling. Laughing. Engaging. As fast with a quip as he was with a hug, or a tequila shot, his spirit was on full display at the reunion. Since the reunion, Mike has been suggesting events, golf outings and anything else to get us back together. No sense waiting every five years to see everyone is what I suspect was his driving motive. I was looking forward to participating in some of those activities. No point in waiting.

When I first got onto Facebook, I “friended” just about every person I’d ever met. This included lots of people from high school. Maybe it was silly. After all, I hadn’t spent any time, or even communicated with so many of these people in more than 20 years. Why, now, were they suddenly my friends? They were “people I used to know” at best. So, I “defriended” a few of them. Admittedly, including Mike. He was clogging my wall! And in the Age of Social Media, this was a huge burden! No sooner had I done that, however, and Mike sent another friend request. I accepted it. And, in doing so, was taught a lesson.

Friendship takes on a number of different meanings. In some instances it’s all-encompassing. We have those friends who get calls when times are good and when times are bad. These are the friends that know us better than we know ourselves and the ones we turn to when we need a push in the right direction – even when (especially when!) we don’t know what that direction is. But, it’s naïve to think that all friends can be like this. So, there are others. There are those who were part of a profound life event or experience. I went to Israel when I was 16-years old and to summer camp when I was younger than that. The people with whom I shared these experiences will forever be friends – whether I talk to them or not. There are school friends. Friends from activities. And still others.

Then, of course, there’s that “Facebook Friend” category. According to some (including, at one point, myself), Facebook has diluted the meaning of “friend.” Although Mike technically was a school friend, Facebook Friend was more of the category in which he belonged for me. Though I remember him pitching for our high school baseball team, I had no idea the kind of spirit he possessed until we connected on Facebook. At one point, I thought the purely Facebook Friend to be the weakest of all kinds of friends. The least “friendworthy.” I don’t think that anymore.

I’m impacted by Mike’s passing because of the obvious, but also because I have a new understanding of “friend.” Since his passing, reading the posts about Mike has been a daily reminder about the importance of experiences and interactions with people. It doesn’t matter how many we have, what matters is that we have them. Although I may not have as many as Mike’s “all-encompassing” friends, or those with whom he played baseball, my experience with Mike was memorable. He was just that engaging. And despite the fact that my experiences were few, he has still taught me this valuable lesson.

When someone passes, it’s natural to think about our own morality. We’re reminded to hug those closest to us. Death is the ultimate equalizer, as it immediately provides importance to the now. It makes us sit up straight and take stock. It often makes us realize that we need to reset our priorities. We’re reminded how fleeting life is, and with our feelings of immortality removed, we’re vulnerable. We need to hold onto this vulnerability, as it provides a catalyst for self-discovery.

When tragedy like this strikes, the urge to come together and remember is fierce. The need to talk, share and reminisce is overpowering. And the thing is, it doesn’t matter how much I know about someone. It doesn’t matter how much someone knows about me. If we’ve shared space. If we’ve shared thought. If we’ve shared so much as a glance. Dear friends…That’s exactly what you all are. Friendship is as much a feeling as anything else. It shouldn’t and can’t be defined by, or weighted by how people met. Whether they met in cyberspace ten minutes ago, or in pre-school decades ago…who cares?

So I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to know you better, Mike. It’s now up to the rest of us to take your lead and start planning the events, golf outings and anything else to get us all back together. It’s not even a question of “why wait?” It’s a mandate that we can’t.

Rest in Peace, Brother…

On Broken Dreams, Raging Rapids and the Calm

I’m terribly behind in my thoughts. It’s not that I’m not having them. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Every time I sit down to write one thing, I end up starting 10 thoughts, but nothing finished. It makes me feel a bit manic. Crazy. Insane. What I should say is that I’m terribly behind in completing my thoughts.

Two weeks ago, while running on what can only be described as a miraculous trail in Bend, Oregon, I came upon some rushing rapids. I stopped in my tracks. These weren’t Class 5 Rapids or anything of the sort. But they were rapids nonetheless. Aside from the obvious emotional symbolism that rapids might represent, for me they remind me of something far more tangible: The death of a friend.

It’s been more than 20 years since I got the call that Linda had died in a rafting accident. I was a counselor at camp, one of my favorite places on earth, when I hurried to the pay phone to take a call from my friend David. I was excited to hear from him. So I thought. He told me that Linda was rafting down the American River, when the other raft in her party capsized. While helping her friends who had fallen into the water, her own raft capsized. Her foot got caught between rocks underwater. I’ve been afraid of rafting ever since. And whenever I see rapids – whether they are raging or not – I think of Linda.

After that run, my family and I went out to a fantastic sushi dinner. I chatted up the server and learned that he went to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston as a percussionist. I perked up. Are you in a band now? Where do you gig? What kind of stuff do you play? I didn’t give him any chances to answer the questions, I just kept firing. K-Man, our server is a musician! K-Man loves music and professes to wanting to become a rock star (and Taekwondo Sensei). The server finally answered. I don’t play anymore. That dream died. The starving musician thing wasn’t for me. Like the rapids stopped my run, this comment stopped the conversation.

I’m really good with talking to people about their dreams and (I think) even helping make them happen. I’m not so good when I’m told that someone voluntarily has let his dream die. And, though I didn’t know this server from Adam, I felt badly for him. In retrospect, my reaction was incredibly judgmental. The dude was ridiculously good at his job. His new dream may be to someday open up his own restaurant. That may have been his true calling. I didn’t ask because I got so sidetracked. The question was there for the taking, What’s the new dream? I dropped the ball.

The next day, I ran the same path and thought of the server and found such strength in his resolve. He wanted something different for himself and wasn’t afraid to admit it. He spent a life going down one path and realized that it was the wrong path. All that time and investment in music. I also thought more about Linda. She was so full of life. She was one of those people who lit up a room with her very presence. Her death changed the world because her life would have.

I’ve been thinking about these two people – Linda and this server – for the last two weeks. What is the connection? I suppose there didn’t have to be one, but, somehow, I felt like there was. And until I found it – I wouldn’t be able to complete a thought. Or a blog post.

I found the connection while hanging out with my son. I realized that while I’ve fought the urge to be the kind of dad who pushes sports on my kid (though, yes, I love that he enjoys playing all kinds of different sports), I have this tendency to push him to BIG DREAM. I want him to know (at not-quite seven!) that he wants to be a rock star. And, I not only want him to know it, but to want it. Need it. I want him to beg to practice the piano. If it’s not the rock star thing, it’s to be a Black Belt. But, not only say he wants to be a Black Belt, but to beg to go to the Dojo and practice. You get the idea. I want him to have a dream. I’ve fantasized about him someday saying to some reporter somewhere, I just knew this was what I was going to do.

He’s only six and three quarters. I need to let him find and push his own dreams. I will be aware of them and support them, but I want them to be his. I need to get over the fact that whenever he changes course, I feel like I failed in some way. I get frustrated by it. Did I support him enough? I even did this with the server at the restaurant, which is ridiculous. I felt badly because he decided he didn’t want to drum anymore? It’s obvious that I’m projecting my own insecurities and feelings of a personal cowardice on my son and the server. It’s easier to talk the game than actually play it. And, I’m the king of supporting the dreams, but when it comes to taking the big risks, I’ve fallen short (by my own estimation).

I suspect that Linda would be pissed at me if she knew that I refused to go rafting because of her death. She lived. She would have wanted me to do the same. I dedicated this year to experiences. It’s high time I got into a raft and took on some rapids. There’s an obvious metaphor here, right? Make it through those rapids and what is on the other side? Calm waters. Serenity. And, I imagine, a sense of accomplishment.

Broken dreams can lead to new and improved dreams, which can bring peace and calm. Maybe we just have to be brave enough to make the changes and run the rapids.

On Olympians, The Rockies and The Quest for Sustainable Energy

My business partner and I are both working on something similar. While he works with some of the world’s leading climate scientists, renowned activist celebrities and industry leading partners to help lead a charge to deliver the important message of investing in the power of the sun, wind and water, I’m working to try to harness the power of intention, passion, gratitude, authenticity, inspiration (and more!). The results, however, are the same; we’re both working toward finding a way to create a sustainable energy solution.

Just as “real” sustainable energy seems to elude most of us (though according to studies more than 80% of the American public says they want it), the more “spiritual” (for lack of a better word) sustainable energy continues to elude me. And just as big oil companies seem to be able to knock down the potentially planet saving efforts of people like my business partner and his colleagues, big negativity (or big fear or…) knocks me down. Time and time again.

And…just as we know where the sun, wind and water can be found, I can find energy. I’m the king of finding energy sources. I know that if I write, or run, or (these days) standup paddle, or see live music, or have a really great conversation, or make progress on a project, or…that my energy tanks will runneth over. My problem isn’t finding energy – it’s keeping it. Sustaining it. Just as momentum can sometimes prove fleeting. It seems so can my energy.

The roller coaster-like ups and downs of charging and running out of charge are exhausting. When brilliant, inspired flashes like the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks show are followed by some kind of negative force, the light that the fireworks left in the sky goes dark. I go dark. The negative forces often come unexpectedly. And what’s worse is that most of the time these forces shouldn’t be strong enough to douse my energy. My flame should be able to withstand what is sometimes just a gentle breeze – little more than a whisper – but there I am, crumbling like the proverbial house of cards.

So, how to overcome this? How to sustain my energy? The sun, wind and water can provide all the energy we need for my business partner’s efforts, but how do I harness the powers around me to maintain my energy levels? How do I avoid what feels like an afternoon post-coffee crash on steroids? Moreover, how do I avoid the roller coaster not-so-thrill-ride of it happening over and over and over again? How do I not only sustain that energy, but also create a surplus that compensates for anyone or anything that tries to take it away from me? Go ahead, take my energy – I’ve got plenty in reserve.

I found the solution. Or I think I did.

Last Wednesday was one of those days that I may forever look back on as a potential game changer. A potential life changer. I spent a good part of the day at the US Olympic Swim Trials. Being around so many elite athletes, including those who are the absolutely best in the world, like Michael Phlelps, Missy Franklin and others, was truly energizing. It wasn’t watching them perform that drove me. It was being around so much dedication, determination and sacrifice. Talent alone won’t get anyone to the swim trials. These athletes – all of them – have sacrificed in a way that I’m not even sure I can fully understand. I was especially moved by those athletes who will never make the Olympics, but still worked and sacrificed their asses off just to get to the Trials.

After leaving Omaha, I went to Colorado to spend 24 hours at a cabin retreat with a good friend (the same one who tried to kill me last October!). Prior to driving up to the cabin, we went on a short, three-mile run. Three-miles is easy. Three miles after a 4:30 am wake-up call and at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet is more challenging. Add heat and some good hills and three miles becomes more difficult. But I did it. Not only that, I did it fairly easily. Wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever run, but I felt fine.

It was after watching the Olympians, after that run, and while talking with my friend about his plans for a new business and my plans for A Day Well Lived that the key to sustainable energy hit me: Push.

I suppose it’s kind of obvious that complacency leads to an energy drain, but I don’t think that I’m talking about complacency. I’m talking about being content. For years, I always thought that being content was the real “c-word,” but more recently, I have settled into a comfortable groove (maybe “comfort” is another “c-word,” as is “complacency” and “cruise” for that matter!). I have my routine. Life is good. But, somewhere along the line, even though I was genuinely doing what I loved (for the most part!), I keep having this energy crisis.

But, when I push – I have enough energy to last.

I was reminded in the mountains that when I push myself – I’m impervious to even the naysayers. Why? Because if I’m truly pushing myself to my limits, it doesn’t matter what anyone says. When I push myself to my limits – there is no failure. That’s why I felt this sense of envy when I was watching the Olympic hopefuls. I was envious of their ability to focus. Their ability to push. And after listening to a conversation between a swimmer and her dad, I was especially envious of their ability to move on after defeat. I sucked today. I’ll be back. That’s all she needed to say and she was moving on. (The way her dad handled it was entirely different. I wanted to throttle him. Perhaps that’s another post.)

We’re told over and over to “follow our passions.” To follow our dreams. Between the Olympians and the Rockies (and, I admit, reading a healthy amount of Laird Hamilton’s book), I realized that statement is wrong. Our passions shouldn’t lead us. We should push our passions. We need to lead. I need to lead. I don’t want to follow my dreams. Following is passive. I want to push them. I want to be active. In doing so, I’ll push myself.

And if I do that…I’ll have all the energy I need.

In Honor of Father’s Day: A Trying Decision

With Father’s Day just past, I thought I would revisit my old blog and post one of the very first (maybe THE first) “dad post” that I ever wrote (way back in October 2004).


To my knowledge, I’ve never gotten anyone pregnant.

There was the one time in college when the condom broke. And there have been a couple of “I’m late” messages left on my answering machine, but fortunately, none of these instances resulted in a little bambino. (Again, to my knowledge.)

So now, after 21 years of using every form of birth control including condoms, the pill, the rhythm method – and especially the occasional prayer – for the first time in my life I am actually having sex with the intention of knocking someone up.

You see, my wife and I have decided that, “it’s time to try.”

Instead of enjoying the anticipation and imagining all the great things I’ll do with my kid, I’ve discovered that with this decision comes a whole new set of sexual insecurities.

Since that first time so many years ago with Stephanie Robertson on her neighbor’s bed, I have reasonably overcome the “was it good for you too?” (and other) questions that plague any sexually active male. But now? Now I have to worry about a much bigger question: Can my boys swim?

I probably wouldn’t worry so much if it hadn’t taken my wife and me about five years of weekly conversations, debates and philosophical pontification about whether or not to have a kid in the first place.

Many couples just know that they were put on this earth to procreate and multiply. That’s not us. We just happen to like sleeping in, dining out, traveling and watching too much Reality TV. Plus, we already have a nearly three year-old dog, which in people years means he would be almost done with college. And he’s never hated us. Not once.

Of course, it’s that very same dog and our unparalleled (some say ridiculous) devotion to him that makes people tell us that we should have kids. “Just look at how you treat that dog,” they say. Unfortunately, the things that we do to take care of our dog-child so well are considered abusive to a human-child. Apparently crate training a kid is frowned upon. Go figure.

As we continued to struggle with our decision of whether or not to throw condoms…er…caution to the wind and go for it, we decided to get a little more scientific and professional in our fact finding.

The psychic told my wife we’d have a boy. Our therapist asked questions in response to our questions. I logged onto Amazon.com and bought lots of books (we even read parts of some of them). And the big mistake – we told our friends and family that we were considering it.

Our FWCs (friends with children) always looking tired and exasperated, all delivered the unconvincing, “You should do it. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make,” speech. The speech always seemed a little forced. In fact, I think doctors hand out that speech to all new parents as a business development tool.

And what did our Jewish mothers-in-law think? They were wonderful and understanding and told us to, “do what you think will make you happy.” Sure. As long as, “whatever you think will make you happy,” includes getting pregnant and delivering a grandchild sometime in the next nine months.

In the end, we just decided to go for it. We were watching the 1980’s classic movie “Risky Business,” and my wife turned to me and said, “Honey, sometimes you just have to say what the @#*%. Let’s do it.” Okay.

The funny thing is that now that we’ve made this decision, I can’t wait. And, it’s not just because we’re supposed have lots of sex. It’s because it wasn’t the reality of the kid that was scary. It was making the decision.

Damn, I hope my boys can swim.

I Used To Have A Motorcycle

I used to have a motorcycle. I joke that I traded it in for my son, but that’s not entirely true. I kept if for a couple of years after he came along, but once he did, I wasn’t able to enjoy my bike the same way. My focus had changed. My ability to be completely in the moment on a ride (because I had to be) was lost. Once my son was born, I discovered a little voice that kept nagging me, What if something happens? The only way to shut that voice down was to sell my bike.

The problem was that riding my Harley provided real healing for me. Once I got out on the road (hopefully) riding the long sweeping turns, all problems melted away. Any stress was replaced by bliss. And, a real sense of calm washed over me. It didn’t matter if I rode for five minutes or five hours, the result was the same. A return to self. And, when I sold the bike, that healing space was lost.

It’s no secret that if I don’t get enough of the time like I used to have on my motorcycle, I snap. I find myself needing to hide under the nearest rock in total darkness. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to be near anyone. And I certainly don’t want to talk to anyone. Those that do talk to me do so at their own risk, as I’m likely to respond to any comment with the kind of sharp, biting tone that makes grown men cry. In other words, I become a total asshole. I’m not proud of it, but I own it.

Because I don’t particularly like being an asshole (sometimes all evidence to the contrary), and in the absence of the motorcycle, I had to discover a new way for me to “heal myself.” I’ve had to find new ways to avoid my version of the transition to The Hulk. And, you know how you can feel a cold or flu coming on? Or The Hulk knows when it’s green time? I can feel the shadows approaching. The bike chased them off. So, what to do?

Although it’s been years since I sold my Harley, I’ve only recently learned that it wasn’t the bike. It was focus. I keep finding myself coming back to focus as a major underpinning in my life. More specifically, it was the concept of being forced into one and only one moment. Maybe it’s not so surprising, but what I’ve also learned is a key element to my ability focus is the importance of “stepping away.”

I hit walls (though, fortunately, that never happened when I was on my bike). Now, however, instead of getting overly frustrated by what I perceive is a lack of forward motion (which was a root of many snapping episodes), I simply step away. Instead of getting frustrated that I wasn’t writing as well as I wanted to, I can just take a week off from writing (did anyone notice?). If a project hits wall after wall after wall? Step away. Put it in a drawer. Get away from it.

By doing so – I gain the perspective of distance. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, I think it also makes the brain grow creatively. You know the feeling – when we’re looking at something too closely, we lose the focus. The image gets blurry. Stepping away lets me regain the ability to, once again, see things clearly. It allows me to (re)gain clarity.

There are several projects that I kept trying to work on – despite the fact that they had obviously stalled. I needed to get away from them. After a week, I picked them back up and each has flourished in some way (some big ways…some small ways). Most notably, a book proposal has taken serious shape. (Hopefully, more on that in a future post.)

But there’s another element at play here, as well. I also think it’s important to use the “downtime” productively. I’m fortunate that my schedule is reasonably flexible. So, I used my recent “stepping away” time to work on a budding passion – standup paddle boarding. Instead of staring passively at flashing cursors, I got active and moved. Science has proven that movement, exercise, activity, etc., sparks creativity. And trying something new adds to that spark. For me, it creates a wildfire of potential creativity.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my motorcycle. Every single time I hear the roar of a Harley, I have to look. But I also know that those days have passed me by. I don’t think I’ll ever ride again. The potential downside far outweighs the upside for me now. So, I’ve found new ways to find my focus. And, in doing so…I’ve found ways to chase off the shadows and create.

Thinking Out Loud: What would happen if the world were like a community half-marathon?


I recently ran in a half-marathon and was somewhat taken aback by the vocal support of hundreds of strangers. They cheered for me. They gave me high fives. They took time out of their weekends to wake up early just to make sure I was hydrated. These total strangers were encouraging, inspiring and motivating. They applauded for me as I went in search of my personal fitness goals. Not a single person questioned my motives, told me that my stride sucked, or chided me for running too slowly.

(Insert needle scratch here…)

We recently launched a new initiative  for a non-profit client, which is designed as a social media campaign to raise both awareness of the global sanitation crisis and funds to build eco-sanitation toilets. While we’ve had a tremendous amount of positive media coverage for our effort, as well as lots of love from the blogosphere and Twitterverse, I’m amazed by the number of people who have weighed in with wildly vocal criticism of our efforts. Even going so far as to question the fees we must be charging. (Which, for the record, are not only none, but we’re funding our own work on this.)

Let me back up for a moment, however, and explain myself a bit more. I don’t question anybody’s right to speak their opinion. Go nuts. If you don’t like our campaign because the language offends you. Fine. If you don’t like our style because it’s not targeting your demographic. Fine. If you don’t like what we’ve done because you don’t like me. Fine. But, what leaves me scratching my head is the fact that most of the loudest criticism came from the very people who claim to be supporters of a social agenda, which includes cleaning up the world’s water supplies.

In short, what confounds me is the fact that, while we may not be telling the same clean water or sanitation story as these people, we are, in fact, engaging people to become associated with this cause. We have raised the overall awareness about the global sanitation crisis. We have raised (to date) enough money to build three more eco-sanitation toilets (which will each provide a sustainable resource for up to 30 years and save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water). I don’t understand the need to rip the effort. Like I said – disagree with the premise, but why wouldn’t you at least applaud the fact that new people are donating to the cause of helping clean up the world’s water supply?

One of the critics of our project initiative went so far as to literally mock the amount of money that’s been raised and said something to the effect that it probably pales in comparison to the fees we are charging. As mentioned, we’re not being paid anything. Beyond that – we’re covering our own production costs. It’s not just a pro-bono account where we’re donating our time, we’re putting up dollars. (The blogger who questioned our fees wrote that if he knew we were doing this pro-bono, he would have taken a different stance. He did not, however, offer to correct his post.)

Again, please don’t misconstrue this for being upset about the criticism. No problems there. What amazes me is the utter delight that some people seem to take from ripping on…anything or anyone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude). I wonder why it’s not possible to take the joy that is associated with those half-marathons and translate them into our every day lives. Why can’t we root, cheer and encourage the success of others? Moreover, why must we seemingly take great joy in the failure of others?

We have certainly taken a strange, direct and perhaps daring approach to the initiative. So? Don’t like it? Great. It’s not for you. But, stop and think that just maybe the initiative is doing some good. Stop and think that just maybe the $1300 donated has come from people who might otherwise never have thought about donating to a sanitation cause. Maybe those people had never even THOUGHT about the global sanitation crisis. Isn’t that a good thing?

There’s an amazing organization called Charity: Water. The work they have done and the money they have raised are unparalleled. Truly amazing. Do I like everything they’ve ever done? No. But, I applaud their success. I love their mission. And, I hope they continue to raise money. Raise awareness. Save lives.

I don’t expect that we can all just get along, but I’m a bit confused at this absolute glory that people feel from ripping on others. I guess everyone really is a critic. Too bad. I mean what would happen if we actually supported everyone in every day life the same way those people supported me during those races? That would be amazing.

Humanity on Parade

The saying, “I love a parade,” was not meant for me. I’m not a big fan of parades. Sorry, that’s not completely honest. I hate parades. And I have for as long as I can remember. My disdain for parades wasn’t helped by the fact that for a number of years I worked for the Rose Bowl Parade’s public relations agency. So, parades, which I already hated, became associated with work. Parades never stood a chance.

Therefore, it was somewhat surprising that I found myself walking in my town’s community Memorial Day Parade with my son this morning. I agreed to walk in the festivities because 1) I thought the kid would enjoy it, and 2) I was walking in support of the local school foundation, with which I’ve become deeply involved. In this case, activism trumped apathy.

As I handed out candy and dog treats to the people and dogs lining the route, I couldn’t help but notice the movie-set feel of the whole experience. Little kids were out in force waving American flags. Other kids from local schools and organizations like the Girls Scouts, 4H, the local Tae Kwon Do academy performed rehearsed routines. I could have been walking in the Grady Fourth of July Parade in the movie “Doc Hollywood.” I saw so many familiar faces. Everything slowed down. I was walking in a script.

And, I was somewhat overwhelmed.

The smiles. The laughter. Pure joy. For the one-and-a-half hours that we slowly walked from point A to point B, there wasn’t a care in the world. We all need to be able to escape like that. We need a reminder that, yes, we can all just get along. There’s so much hate in the world – even in small towns like mine. But today? There wasn’t a single disparaging word (that I heard).

Instead, the entire community was out to celebrate each other and, although no veterans walk the parade, those who served and sacrificed their lives. (Our town is, for the most part, crazy liberal. I was told that because of the overwhelming peacenik feelings and vocal demonstrations in these parts, the local veterans association has long refused to walk in the parade. It’s too bad.)

The closest experience I can associate to the feelings I had this morning would be finishing a (running) race. People are cheering. Those lining the race route are shouting encouragement, making sure you’re hydrated and handing out high fives to any and all takers.

Such moments like the races and the parade are comprised of pure humanity. No ideologies separate us from the person in front of us or next to us. And when we’re surrounded by pure humanity…the experience is incredibly uplifting. And that’s how the parade felt. Uplifting.

I feel like such experiences are so few and far between. I suppose I could run more races to gain that uplifted by humanity feeling more often. But those races aren’t usually in my hometown, in my own community. There was something different today. I experienced this kind of euphoria on the streets that I walk and run nearly every single day. For me, it changes everything. I now know what my community is truly capable of and I now know what kind of experiences these streets are capable of delivering. And I want more of it.

When I wrote that 2012 would be The Year of the Experience, I never fathomed it would include walking in a small town parade. I was thinking hikes, travels and adventures. And, while I discover so much about myself on those adventures, today I also discovered something important. I discovered a collective spirit. I discovered community. I discovered humanity.

And I discovered that I love a parade.

A Manic Monday

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

Geezus. I have no f*cking idea what to write about.


I’ve spent almost the entire day staring at a blinking cursor. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. I have so many first paragraphs written about so many different topics that I’m thinking about contacting the Guinness people. I’m not sure if there is a record for most unfinished thoughts in a 24-hour period, but if there were…I’m certain my name would be next to it…maybe with a nice picture with my newly shorn locks. Although I’ve joked about it, perhaps the haircut I received earlier in the week zapped me of my blogging strength. I’ve struggled with my Morning Views posts previously. But not like this.

  • I started a post about blogs that list the Top 10 Things You Need To Know In Order To Do Something Or Something Else. I don’t really like the list posts and I was planning on whittling all of them down to just One Thing. (Like the classic scene in “City Slickers. That’s right, I was gonna channel “City Slickers” in a post.)

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

  • I started a post about my kid’s first trophy and how well he handled his achievement. It wasn’t with huge bravado, but instead with grace. He came in third and was thrilled. I’m terrible accepting any sort of compliments or recognizing any kind of achievement and I found his ability to do both with a kind of grace to be commendable. And if I had finished third? Don’t get me started.

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

  • I started a post about the fact that I had nothing to write about, but realized that it was just becoming an old post about Powering Through. And been there. Done that. (Though, I wrote way too much of it before thinking, Crap, I’ve done this already.)

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

  • I started a post about…nevermind. The point is, I simply started quite a few posts.

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

However, now that I’m well beyond 12 hours of staring at the blinking line (that effing annoying blinking line!), I realize my entire day got off track this morning when I looked at the calendar and sent a text to my friend Jeff, We leave four months from today, my brother!

In four months, we’ll be back out in the wilderness with nothing more than whatever is in our packs. In four months, we’ll be heading out on the kind of adventure that rejuvenates and sparks. We’re merely four months away from nearly 30 miles of treacherous climbs, breathtaking heights, nearly indescribable beauty…and (hopefully) no snow. But, just as re-entry into civilization after such a trip can be difficult, today I learned that the time leading up to a trek might be equally difficult.

Just as staying in the moment after the trek was impossible…it appears that staying in the moment in the months leading up to the first step on trail will be challenging and something to which I need to pay close attention.

I started A Day Well Lived in order to be aware of the little things that make each and every day special. I wanted to remind myself that I didn’t need to “climb Everest” in order to have a great day. I wanted to be aware that the only possible way to live a well lived life – the life I imagine – is to string together a long, LONG series of Days Well Lived. And now, I have this test: Can I focus on the little things while knowing this big “prize” is four months away? It has certainly made for a Manic Monday (with apologies to the Bangles and Prince, for that matter, as he wrote the song). With the exception of a lunch meeting today, my mind has been all over the place. Rudderless.

I think today was a great exercise for me, frankly. I think being knocked from my in-the-moment-center and rocked a bit (not real fond of feeling like a total loser for not being able to write a blog) is important. It’s so easy to get complacent – even about gratitude. It’s easy to just go through the motions. I often find myself feeling a little superior because I’m so hyper aware of being grateful and focusing on A Day Well Lived. And it probably comes off that way sometimes.

But today I’m reminded that I need to stay in my moment, truly, and that if I want to get to my mountain (literally in four months, or metaphorically in years), I can’t lose my focus.

I must not blink.