Where are you FROM?

As many of these posts have found life, so begins this one: On a friend’s Facebook page. The attached picture of a 10-year old boy’s essay about “where he is from” was posted by his mom, my friend.

I think it’s remarkable. Astonishing. And filled with a wisdom and a life lesson we would normally expect from adults. Or, at the very least, someone with more than 10 years on this third rock from the sun.

Did you read it? It won’t take long. I can wait.

When someone asks us where we’re from, we usually respond with a location. I grew up in LA, but I live in the Bay Area now. Not this kid. He saw right through a routine question and extracted something so much deeper and more meaningful. He’s not from a place. He’s from his experiences.

He’s from Little League Baseball and wrestling with his sister. He’s from this bobblehead collection and making ice cream cake with his Nana. He’s from the pain of his two deceased grandfathers. And he’s from so much more. He’s from his memories. Because, he says, These are the memories that make me who I am. This is my world. Not just a static location that describes nothing, but an experiential slideshow of people, places and events that evokes imagery we can all see. And emotions we can all understand.

The timing of this essay was particularly appropriate for me, as I read it while I was on my way to a friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. I met this friend nearly 30 years ago on a summer trip to Israel. And, if I think about all of my life experiences in the context of this essay, I’m from my summer in Israel. In fact, my friend, the mom of the otherworldly 10-year old, was also on that trip.

Certainly, like our young essay writer, I’m from much more, but that summer is at the top of the list.

  • I’m from wrestling with my dog(s) and long summer nights playing football in the street with my brother and neighborhood friends.
  • I’m from writing. I’m from summer camp with campfires and s’mores.
  • I’m from mistakes and learning to let go. I’m from playing soccer and the broken bones that resulted.
  • I’m from days and weeks and years spent at the beach and in the water.
  • I’m from being a husband and father and trying desperately to teach my son what I wish I had known.
  • I’m recently from the Colorado back country and experiencing spirituality in a way that made me feel like I could actually touch the Universe…and the struggle to stay in that space.
  • And I’m from a summer in Israel when I was 16.

Of course, there’s so much more to where I’m from, but these are the memories that come first. These are the memories and events and experiences that provide the foundation for what I’ve become and often guide me through where I’m going. Especially the friends from that summer in Israel.

I find this twist on the message of where I’m from to be incredibly powerful. Wonderful. And, frankly, I’m shocked that I hadn’t thought of it sooner. Or been introduced to it sooner. I needed to learn it from a 10-year old. Sure, I know that we’re all made up of the sum of our experiences – from our family of origins to our jobs to the breakfast we ate this morning, but those things never entered my mind when I previously thought about where I’m from.

I know the next time someone asks me where I’m from and I rattle off a variation of the above list that it might be strange. I might get one of those what are you on? kind of looks. But so what? I’m guessing the ensuing conversation will be undeniably more genuine. And it will certainly be more interesting.

So…Where are you from?

Do You Suffer From IDD? The Intention Deficit Disorder Epidemic

A friend of mine recently posted a video on her Facebook page. It was shot at a yoga and music festival in Santa Monica, California, and it was simply a compilation of different people defining their intentions. As one might expect at a yoga festival, many of the intentions were about authenticity, mindfulness, consciousness and the like. However, as one of the bracelets I wear symbolizes intention, the piece sparked a thought about something more specific and personal.

I often suffer from IDD: Intention Deficit Disorder.

IDD is the key reason why goals go unrealized. It is the driving force behind failed New Year’s Resolutions. And it plays tricks with authenticity. Intention Deficit Disorder is a condition that is best defined by not recognizing why you do something. Intentions are a driving difference between wants and needs.

Without intention goals are easily blown off. Intentions are specific. They define you. They define your actions. They define your needs. In short, when you understand and acknowledge your intentions for some action (whatever it may be), your goals are more likely realized. Why? You’re willing to work harder toward making them happen because you understand exactly why you need to do it in the first place.

How does this manifest itself for me personally? As I’ve written here any number of times – I struggle with staying in shape. I’m in shape. I’m out. I’m in. I’m out again. I set a goal that I want to be a certain weight by a certain date. Why? Because I have an event that day. My intention is fleeting. Shallow. And, being in shape doesn’t last. What happens the day after that event? Hell, more often than not, I don’t even get in shape for the event. I need a more meaningful intention. (I should point out that for some people – the intention to look hot for the pictures is perfectly okay. Just not right for me.)

I’ve recently redefined my workout intention, however. And, now, getting back into shape is something that will last. I will stay in shape. How do I know? Because of my growing passion for the backcountry. My intent for working out now is to be ready for spontaneous hikes and long-planned strenuous backcountry adventures.

After being turned on the spiritual wonder of the Colorado wilderness – I want to be ready for any call made by my friend, Dude, can you be out here in a week for this epic hike I just discovered? I don’t want to say, Can’t swing it. I’ve let myself go again. Never again. I want to be able to have as many of those magical adventures as I possibly can. And, the only way to do that is to be ready. The fact is my intention isn’t about working out at all. It’s about the adventures. My intention is to spend as many days as possible out in that wilderness.

It’s safe to say that most of the things at which I’ve “failed” (in quotes because I’m not really sure what failing means) are the result of not having a clearly defined intention. They are the result of not truly allowing myself the “why.” It’s also important not to be afraid of the why. Yes, there have been times that I’ve needed to do something, to succeed at something, purely out of spite. I’ll show you! I’m not proud of it, but that was the intention. And, when I finished that project – I could let go of that spite. The intention was pure, even if it wasn’t executed with the purest of hearts. That’s okay. It was true. And I’m happy to say that intentions driven by spite (or the like) are now far and few between.

Why do I need to do something? This blog, for example? I started it at the beginning of the year with the goal of writing once a week. Why? What was my intention? I have a dear friend who is an accomplished coach and writer and she kept pushing me to define it. Because I want to write more. Why? Because, if I could anything in the world, I’d write. Why? Because I want to find my voice. WHY? I finally just spit it out: Because it makes me feel good and, frankly, I like feeling like I’m having impact on the people who read it. Fine. Good. It’s okay to admit that you are not only doing this for yourself. There’s some ego wrapped up in it. That feels wrong to write, but it’s true.

Intention Deficit Disorder sucks. It keeps us from being the best of ourselves. The thing is we all know when we have it too. We all know when we’re coming from a place of insecurity or self-consciousness instead of intention. You’re doing things because you should not because you need to.

The good news is that IDD is solved with a simple reality check. Why? What is my intention with this action? I realize that sometimes it’s difficult to be honest with ourselves, but it’s the core to getting over IDD. And we all need to get over it.

What’s your intention today?

This is Bull(y)shit

My writing process is best described as herky-jerky. It’s usually a combination of starts and stops and starts again, as I look for the final groove that pushes me to finish whatever piece on which I’m working. The stops are usually spent online, as I try to calm my brain. And, sometimes, I’ll find something online that takes me far afield of where I was originally planning on going. This post is one of those.

You see I was deep into a post – about intentions – when I had gone as far as I could with my thoughts. I had a pretty good premise (I think), but it simply wasn’t quite coming together in a way that I liked. So, I left the post to recalibrate my thoughts by reading the latest happenings in sports. Wonder if the Giants won last night? That was the plan, anyway. But then I read yet another story about a gay teen committing suicide as a result of bullying. And my brain was far from rested.

The reactions to reading about tragedies like this are immediate and obvious. It turns your stomach. The older I get the less I understand hate. Yes, especially, as a father, my stomach turns even more. Into knots. I find myself fighting back tears, as I try to, but can’t possibly, imagine the pain the kid must have felt and now that his family and friends must feel. Moreover, as a father of a six-and-a-half year old son who has routinely been on the receiving end of what is probably just blown off as “play,” such stories send my mind reeling. When my son comes home upset because (insert name here) once again (repeatedly) took off his hat and threw it, I wonder is this the start of something bigger? Could this happen to him?

It seems we live in a society where bullying is everywhere – the media, politicians, athletes, radio call-in shows and on and on. Realistically, though, I don’t know much about bullying. I don’t know how it goes unchecked. I can’t understand the parents of bullies. I can’t understand administrators who let such behavior go unchecked (as it was in Jack Reese’s case). Although my son is more often teased than teasing, he has been known to “return fire,” and I’m on him immediately for it. If I ever hear him talking in a bullying tone to anyone, it stops there. If any parents ever tell me that my son was bullying their kid(s), I take that seriously. Seems most parents have that, “What? Not MY kid.” attitude, that allows the behavior to continue. I’m not suggesting that I’m a better parent – far from it – maybe I’m just not completely desensitized as so many others have become.

I have no idea what to do about these feelings that I’m having. What I do know, however, is that I feel the need to do something. We often feel that this can’t happen to me when the thoughts are just too uncomfortable. But, this can happen to you, your friends, your kids and so on. And it just has to stop. My heart breaks when I read these stories.

So, the original intention post has to wait.

Instead, I offer a simple challenge. Just “like” this post at A Day Well Lived. Because it seems to me that doing something, doing anything is, indeed a day well lived. That’s all you need to do. If you’d like to comment – that’s good too. And for every one of those likes and/or comments, A Day Well Lived will donate $1 (up to $500 and ultimately maybe more) to the National Bullying Prevention Center.

I’m tired of reading about teenagers who feel their only recourse is to commit suicide to escape the horrors of bullying. I can’t stop it on my own, but I can do this little bit.

Because this is just bull(y)shit…

Pomp and Circumstance: My Keynote Address

It’s that time of year when celebrities, business leaders and otherwise noteworthy influencers stand before eager crowds of graduating classes and their families to deliver carefully selected words designed to inspire, motivate and, of course, get posted on Facebook pages. Shockingly, sadly and unexpectedly, I haven’t been invited to deliver any keynote addresses this year. If I had been, however, this is what I would say…

Graduating students, family, faculty and people who are here, but aren’t sure why…I’m honored to standing before you today…(And all that other stuff that I would actually say that seems to take up far too much time in any of these speeches!)

I speak to hundreds of college students every year. And, as I do, I’m always awe-struck by the opportunities that they have – that you have – in front of them. Your world is a big, blank canvas, on which you can paint anything you want. As a result, most speakers will get up in front of crowds like this and strongly urge you to go do anything you want. And to be anything you want. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t! is the crux of what most these keynote addresses are all about. Be bold! Don’t be afraid to dream! You only have one life! Stop me if you’ve heard all of this before.

I’m here to tell you different.

Don’t be anything other than exactly what and who you are. You KNOW what your passions are. You KNOW what your dreams are and the vision for your life. The fact, is, however, you can’t have big, audacious dreams for yourself, until you are comfortable with yourself. YOU can’t get what you want, until you know who you really are. And, more importantly, until you’re completely comfortable being that person all the time – scars, warts, successes, failures and all – dreams can’t be dreams…they are only fantasies.

Until you learn how to take responsibility and avoid blame; until you learn how to refrain from passing judgment; until you learn how to stand in front of your parents, your bosses, your friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and everyone else and say, This is who I am…the rest can’t actually happen. The dreams can’t happen. The audacious goals can’t happen. Because if you don’t give yourself permission to be yourself, you’ll sabotage those dreams and goals…every single time.

I know. Because I’ve done it myself.

Yes, in theory I was invited here today because I’ve accomplished a few things in my life that many people find impressive. That’s flattering and I appreciate it. But, it took me far too long to get here and I wasted far too many years doing things for the wrong reasons. I don’t look back with regret about “what might have been,” because I stand here today having ultimately gotten to the “right” place. But, I do look back and wonder what I might have been able to do with those 20 years of living someone else’s life or someone else’s vision for what my life should be.

I spent 20 years worrying about wants instead of needs. What could I have done if I had actually taken the screenwriting class or if I had taken that job at ESPN? What if I had the understanding and courage to say to family and friends, I appreciate your concern for me, but you don’t understand ME like I understand me.And this is who I am.THIS is what I need to do!

And that’s why I look out here today and feel a sense of, not jealousy, but envy. I’m envious of the opportunities you all have to get the next 20 years right. I was recently speaking with a soon-to-be graduate and he was lamenting how, for the first time in his life, he felt lost. He’d always gotten exactly what he wanted. He couldn’t understand why, now, nothing felt right. It didn’t take long to understand why he felt confused. It didn’t take long to dig into the core of what he was really all about and the risks he needed to take, but felt afraid to take.

You have the opportunity to understand right now – that difference between wants and needs. And, while the difference is difficult to explain, the feelings are easy. If you have everything you want, but not what you need – you’ll still feel unfulfilled. WANTS are what you ask for when you’re not being true to yourself – because when you’re not true to yourself, you NEVER ask for what you need. And the wants fill that void. There’s nothing worse than waking up day after day and looking around and wondering why you feel so badly when you have everything you want. Why do you feel so badly? Because you don’t have what you need.

Listen to those celebrities, business people and influencers who tell you to dream. Dream big. Listen to Steve Jobs when he says to screw what others think and follow your instincts. But make sure they are YOUR instincts. And then surround yourself with people who know YOU. Surround yourself with people who will not only support you, but will do so by calling you on your bullshit. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you, question you, and help you both stay the course and recognize new ones.

When you do reach this point – this point of being true to yourself, when you do have a vision for what you need and a big dream for yourself…you’re going to need to work your ass off. It’s been said that if you do what you love you won’t work a day in your life. It’s not true. You’ll work harder…because you care more. It’s personal. It also means that you might have to do some really crappy work that you absolutely hate, but you don’t care…because you have a vision and a dream that is true to you and you’ll do what it takes to see it through. You’ll happily be a waiter, or work in the mailroom, or take the receptionist job because that money provides you with the opportunity to chase your dream. It’s part of your plan. (That’s not to say those jobs aren’t great gigs – just not the ones you thought you’d have.)

Want to know why this is particularly important? Because another fallacy is the idea that you can’t be successful at something you don’t like. Unfortunately, you can be. In fact, you can be really great at something you absolutely hate. Can you possibly think of anything worse? Imagine, you’re good at whatever it is, so you keep getting promoted, keep making more money, but you’re miserable. I knew someone who had the very top job in his field, which paid him millions of dollars a year, but every single day was an absolute chore for him to get out of bed. It takes an incredible amount of work, drive and perseverance to make your dreams come true, but it also takes the will to make incredibly difficult choices. There may come a time when you find that you’ve gotten too far into a career track that has taken you too far away from your vision, but you have a vacation home, the car of your dreams and everything you want. Can you make the tough choices to get back to what you need?

Furthermore, don’t fall for what has become the oldest cliché in history, “In this economy…” That cliché is made for people who like to have an excuse. It’s a statement made by those who blame and judge. Things are tough in this economy, I can’t do (insert the dream here). But, it’s not for people like you. People who are authentic and will always fight to stay authentic. It’s not for people who have a dream. “In this economy” is just a hurdle to leap over. Eff this economy. It is what it is and you have dreams that aren’t fantasies.

Before I end this and you enter into this awesome part of your lives, I want you to remember that it’s easy to get “inspired.” It’s easy to get inspired by a sign in a window that says, “Color outside the lines,” or by a graduation speech like that one Steve Jobs so famously gave at Stanford a few years back. It’s easy to get inspired by a TV show, movie, or even by Oprah. It’s easy to get inspired by a story posted on your friend’s Facebook wall. It may even be easy for you to get inspired by what I’ve said. But, as you leave here today, I want you to remember that words matter, but actions matter more. Without action. Without forward motion, you’re not inspired. You’re merely a listener. Remember, my friends, inspiration requires that you act. That you DO something. Without action, those visions and dreams don’t happen. If you ever say, “I want X” or “I need Y” and you don’t do anything about it…you might as well just say, “I can’t Z.”

If you take away anything today – besides this piece of parchment – it’s this: Every single day is an opportunity to live well. A day well lived is a gift that requires you to trust in yourself, in who you are. A day well lived means that you handled tough days with the kind of grace that felt right. A day well lived is celebrating the little things that make a day special. A life well lived is made up of thousands upon thousands of days well lived. One after the other. And, frankly, there’s simply not enough time for judgment, fear, blame and illusions. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to make mistakes. Just own them and move on. And please, don’t get all caught up worrying about building your personal brand; worry about building the best possible you. The rest…will take care of itself.

Congratulations! Go kick some ass.

Focus Pocus

There are a few potholes that, despite my best efforts, I hit over and over and over again. One of these, which is not uncommon, is the feeling that I’m not achieving as much as I think I should be. The thing about this particular pothole is that I can’t always see it coming. I might be cruising along, feeling pretty good about myself, and, without warning, I end up skidding into the guardrails, frantically trying to avoid going over the cliff. Sometimes I’m more successful at that last part than others.

I don’t know what it is about these last couple of weeks – perhaps Mercury was in Retrograde (whatever that actually means, I’ve never really known) – but I’ve really struggled to stay consistent. I’m up. I’m down. I’m sideways. I’m backwards. I’m over the cliff. I climb back up, dust myself off and just as I get myself centered, the bus comes from off the screen and takes me out. (You know, like those scenes in the movies that always make you jump out of your seat.)

Even as I’ve rediscovered my fundamentals, however, I feel like I’m missing a kind of balance that allows me to take a shot and stay on my feet. Or, as I told a friend this week, “I don’t mind falling down. I need to learn how to get back up faster.” What do they say? It’s not about the number of times you get knocked down; it’s about how many times you get up. I agree, but only if you get up quickly.

At any one time, I might have five or 10 projects in some state of development. From TV shows to apps and books to apparel, I’m always working on the launch of one idea or another. What happens, however, when the development on ALL of those ideas simultaneously comes to a halt? I come to a halt. I hit the “underachieving potholes.” And, if I’m hitting those potholes at the same time I’m reading about the achievements of others…no guardrail can hold me from going over the side.

Clarity comes at the strangest times, sometimes. So, this last week, as I was cooking chicken and rice (yes, for my dog – that’s another story), I realized that I try to do too many things. Having too many balls in the air at one time is a recipe for disaster. Not only can the balls all come crashing down, they have a tendency to crash into things you weren’t even juggling in the first place and make additional messes.

I found the magic of focus in chicken and rice. I discovered that I needed to let go of a few of the projects I was developing (at least for the time being) and focus on the two or three that brought me the greatest sense of joy. I needed to focus only on the ones that were closer to my core fundamentals.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my friends’ successes. I don’t feel any sense of jealousy when I read about some great achievement. Quite the opposite. As I’ve said before, I appreciate the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. I celebrate them.

When I hit those potholes, my feelings are about me…not them. It’s not about jealousy; it’s about fear. Fear that I spend too much time on the ground when I do get knocked down. Fear that I’m running out of time. That’s how I ended up with so many projects. I figured the more I started – the better chance I had to seeing one of them through. But, frankly, the opposite proved to be true. Every project actually suffered with each new idea. Just as there are only so many hours in a day…there’s only so much focus.

And with a little Focus Pocus…I can make projects disappear and more focus appear. Presto!

Back to the Fundamentals

Ding, dong the funk is gone…But, not before ending up getting sick.

After being wiped out emotionally, mentally and spiritually for a week, it’s no surprise that my body inevitably gave out physically. So, I caught a reasonably bad cold. I was laid out for a couple of days and still have the leftover sniffles to prove it.

I’m notorious for not resting when I should be. Sure, I might be in bed, but there are incredibly bad movies and tons of reruns to watch in between slurps of chicken noodle soup. How can I be expected to sleep when I can watch “For the Love of the Game” for the ten thousandth time instead? Catching up on back episodes of “Life’s Too Short?” More important than sleep! I think the DVR is probably responsible for colds and flues lasting longer. We used to sleep when we were sick and got quickly back on our feet. Now we catch up on the hours of content we have recorded. That’s gotta be worth at least one, maybe two, extra days of sick time!

As I was getting caught up, I was particularly intrigued by an episode of “30 Rock.” Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, gives her accountant a big speech about how “this year is going to be different!” She rattles off all the activities, adventures and experiences she’s going to have. He looks up, incredulously, and reminds her that she said the same thing the year before (and, as it turns out, she’s been saying the same thing for years). Liz checks her diary, only to discover that she’s caught in a kind of “Groundhog Day” existence.

Although it’s only been a few months of regularly writing MONDAY VIEWS, I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years. So, like Liz, I checked back. Exactly one year ago, I was sick. Done in by a funk and stress. Like this year, I was annoyed that I had (again) gotten out of shape. And, while this year’s funk, stress and cold was a walk in a park on a beautiful spring day compared to what I experienced last year, the resulting slap in the face is no less awakening.

Unless I make some major changes – real changes – I run the risk of ending up in an annual cycle and reliving the same year over and over. It may feel like things are different and I may be making some strides toward living the life I imagined, but if I find myself in bed every April, I’m really just kidding myself. It won’t matter how many amazing hikes I take each year, or how much I convince myself that I’m living a life of experiences, if I continue to fall down at the same time over (more or less) the same obstacles, I’m going to end up filled with regret.

As I was laying in bed, I also watched a bit of baseball. While it’s easy to use the start of a new baseball season to make a point (something like, regardless of what happened last year, every year is a chance to start anew), I was struck by something different. One of the announcers was asked about the difficulty players have in re-establishing their fundamentals. In short, how long does it take to get your body back to fielding, hitting, throwing and running with the correct form…the correct fundamentals?

I have no idea at all what his answer was, because I started thinking the idea of fundamentals. When I hit the skids and end up in a funk, it’s usually because I’ve gotten away from my fundamentals. For me, they include (among other things), working out, writing, making time for deep conversations, talking to my son about life’s lessons, playing, not taking things too seriously, listening to live music, not judging myself and, most importantly, not worrying about the stuff that’s out of my control. (I mostly trip on the last one. Oh, and the working out.)

For you, they might be totally different. The fact is that, without fail, if I’m true to these fundamentals…life is pretty good. When I get away from them, just like the Boys of Summer, I make errors. Baseball players get in slumps. I get in funks.

It feels great to be back on my feet. It feels amazing to be healthy enough to be able to workout again. And to write. I don’t want to find myself writing a post like this in April 2013. If I stick to my fundamentals, I won’t have to.

What about you? What are your fundamentals?

Crashing Plates, $600MM and Owning the Funk

My writing process is reasonably simple. I get a clear thought in my head, or I see/read/experience something inspiring and the resulting ideas come flowing through my fingers. When I don’t get that clear thought, however, when I don’t have some idea for an opening sentence…I can’t get started. It’s not even so much about powering through. I don’t even know how to start.

My hope for this blog (the whole blog – not just this post) was to be a little thought provoking, a little inspirational and maybe sometimes a little controversial. And it was always meant to be true, authentic and real. That is to say that I didn’t want to be writing anything that I wasn’t really feeling. I didn’t want to write about inspiration if I wasn’t feeling inspired. Truth trumps inspiration. Or rather…it trumps bullshit.

In that spirit, I’m not feeling it. And that’s the truth. As I often do, I’ve started multiple versions of today’s post, and each time, I’ve tried to connect what I was feeling to some kind of discovery – like the closing scenes of Sex and the City or Doogie Howser. You can just imagine me longingly gazing over the top of my computer screen searching for some kind of lesson. What happens if there isn’t one?

The fact is that I woke up late last week and the plates weren’t spinning anymore. They were crashing down one after another breaking into thousands of little pieces like the heavy rain that was falling outside. Nothing felt right. Everything felt wrong.

Every now and again, it just all feels too hard. Work is too hard. Parenting is too hard. Relationships are too hard. Working out is too hard. Paying the bills is too hard. Hell, walking the dog is too hard. Every thought, every step, every breath feels labored. The delicate balancing act that keeps all of the plates in the air…just stops. And then, they crash. I crash.

On Friday morning, I hadn’t yet picked up the pieces and was still feeling out of sorts when I got caught up in the Mega Millions frenzy. With a winning jackpot of more than $600 million, I had no choice but to buy a few tickets. Like millions of others, I imagined what I could do with $600 million. I imagined all the good things I could do with the foundation I would launch. I imagined the new opportunities I’d have with my business. I imagined the houses in Tahoe, Wine Country and Colorado (not to mention Italy). I imagined the check I could write to help fund a few education causes in which I’ve become active. I would write and workout as much as I wanted. It was a good dream.

As I slipped back and forth between the crashing plates and set-for-life fantasies and after I learned that I didn’t win the $600 million (shocking!), I found that much of what I was feeling was some level of self-pity. What I was feeling was the stress of business deals not being closed as quickly as they should. I was feeling annoyed that I had (yet again) gotten myself into shape only to find my way out of it. I was feeling the not-so foreign pressure of making just enough money to “get by.” I thought of all of these things I wanted to do with the Mega Millions money and figured I could pay other people to spin my plates for me!

But, instead of trying to just shake it off in the name of perspective (oh, how I hate that), I decided to own it. I decided that I was just going to cop to the fact that in that time and space, I didn’t really feel like everything was great. I felt confused by the dichotomy of my surroundings and how I feel. When I looked around, I couldn’t understand why the plates were falling. I was in a funk.

As I woke up today, I still don’t really feel like the plates are back on top of the sticks and spinning again and I’m okay with that. It’s where I am and it’s the truth about how I’m feeling. Yes, I’m angry with myself that I feel this way. I’m annoyed that I feel frustrated by things that are out of my control. I want so badly to be above that. Sometimes…it’s just not possible.

I know that nobody likes being in a funk. But, I think that such things are a good test for what we want. And, more importantly, what we need. I think it’s good, from time to time, to have the plates crash. It allows us to reset. It allows to us to figure out if we were spinning the right plates. A funk can be a test. Do we want to spin those same plates again? Or are there new ones that are more important? Some of my funk is often the realization of time that was wasted. The funk is a cleanse. Not an easy one, but a cleanse nonetheless.

So, I own this funk. I know it will end. And I trust that I’ll get back to the inspiring, motivating and maybe even controversial posts that I had hoped to write each and every week. More importantly, I’ll wake up, plates spinning and realize that, having gotten over myself, all of those things I wanted to do with the $600 million are actually within my reach.

In the Presence of Passion

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about passion and its place in our lives – professionally, personally, spiritually, financially (all of the big “llys”!). I’ve read books. I’ve watched TED Talks. I’ve even started producing a video/documentary, interviewing people who have followed their passions to create the lives they’ve imagined.

Passion is a big part of the PAVEMEANT speech (representing the “P” in PAVEMEANT). There may be more quotes about passion on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms than any other subject. It’s been said that if you follow your passions you won’t work a day in your life. Or follow your passions and the money will follow.

In short, it seems that passion or talk about passion is everywhere. I suppose that’s the nature of the times. When we’re in a “gotta do what you gotta do” kind of environment, our passions are often sacrificed. It almost feels selfish to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do. In these times, sacrifice seems to be celebrated more than passion.

But passion isn’t about want, it’s about need. There’s nothing selfish about it. And the truth is that following passions often requires far more sacrifice than not following them. Never mind the blood, sweat and tears that following passion requires, but fighting the naysayers and the judgment, overcoming the fears and the unknown…That takes real sacrifice. The fact is that if you follow your passions, you’ll work harder than you ever imagined. Because you care.

One of the reasons I started working on my video project is because I want to discover any common threads that allow people to follow their passions. There’s a famous management book called, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I want to find out if there are “Seven Habits of Highly Passionate People.” (Or if there’s even just one habit – I want to know what it is.) After all, if it’s so universally accepted that following our passions will lead to great rewards (in however you want to define that), why don’t more people follow theirs?

I’ve read a number of books that talk about ways to discover your passion or to even discover whether or not you’re following it. One of the more common practices suggested is to write your own obituary. The theory is that you’ll write about yourself in your most glowing, dream-catching way: Todd was a best-selling author and so on. (I have a problem with this, however, as it provides energy to thoughts of your death. Which, by the way, is the same reason I shy from talk about “bucket lists,” but that’s a completely different post for another day.)

This past weekend, on the heels of speaking at USC (one of my favorite things to do in all the world), I was thinking (again) about passion. I was going to see some live music (also one of my favorite things to do in all the world), at one of the more remarkable venues I’ve ever experience, and I was suddenly struck by the what I believe may be the truest test of whether or not you’re following your passion:

Spend time with someone who is.

I think, for the most part, some days more or less than others, I do a fairly good job of following my passions. Or, at the very least, I make sure that I spend time cultivating them on a daily basis. I do this mostly by writing. When I went to the show, a few hours after my “discovery,” I spoke a friend who works at the venue. She had just returned from South by Southwest, the famed technology and music expo. I told her, “You’re living the dream!” And her teasing response was, “Don’t be jealous.”


I wasn’t actually jealous. (Okay, maybe a little! The venue where she works is just that amazing.). But her response was exactly in line with the thought I had earlier in the day. If you spend time with someone who is following their passions and you feel jealous – you’re likely not following your own. If something that someone else is doing sounds “better” than what you’re doing, you’re definitely not following your own. But, mostly, if you notice how dramatically someone “lights up” when they talk about their work, life, whatever and you don’t understand that feeling…well, it goes without saying.

Being in the presence of passion is incredibly powerful. It’s also difficult. When we’re not following our own passions, being reminded of it, can be hurtful. It makes us jealous. We feel judged. We judge ourselves. On more than one occasion when I’ve gotten off the passion track, I’ve hidden Facebook updates or unfollowed Tweeters who were clearly on it. I felt that jealousy. When we’re following our own passions, however, those updates don’t make us jealous, they make us want to celebrate our friends’ successes. Congratulations! I know that feeling too!

To discover whether or not you’re following your passions, spend time in the presence of someone who is. Although another friend posted on my Facebook wall that finding people who are following their passions is difficult to do and there should be a registry to identify them, it’s really that simple. And, despite what my friend thinks, we know who they are.

I also think that being around people who are passionate helps us uncover our own passions. The truth is, I think we all know what our passions are. I think we all really do know what we want to do, we just don’t give ourselves permission to explore them. We let the “this is what I gotta do” get in the way of “this is what I need to do.” But, spending time around people who have given themselves permission rubs off.

If anything, I’m jealous of my friend at that amazing venue because she figured it out at a much earlier age than I did. She gave herself permission at a much earlier age than I have. It’s a similar feeling that I have when I speak at USC, Wow, I wish I had figured this out sooner. Not to be morbid, but the only time “it’s too late,” is when we die. ANY time spent following our passions before that fateful day, is a blessing. If you’re not following your own passions, go spend some time in the presence of those who are.

And then do something about it.

The Power of Powering Through

I’ve started five different blog posts today. There was the one about Open Mic Nights. Another about expertise. A third about religion. A fourth about…well, it doesn’t matter. None of them are going to get published.

Normally by now, Monday Views is posted and I’ve started obsessing about the stats. (That’s a whole different post that needs to be written.) For whatever reason, however, none of these posts were working. None of the thoughts were clear. None of the concepts particularly thought provoking. While I don’t ever set out to write anything earth shattering, I do expect to write something that at the very least makes me think (and hopefully, one or two of you, also!).

There are any number of excuses reasons for my “failure to communicate.” Doubt creeps in. Does anyone really want to read this stuff? Most notably, however, I’ve just spent the last three days in the Colorado backcountry. Fortunately, as we snowshoed, hiked and did a bit of impromptu bouldering, there weren’t any near death experiences on this trip. But, without any distractions, a few days in the wilderness allows for the brain to slow down to a near standstill. For me, being out in the woods is a kind of conscious meditation; I’m awake and aware, but not thinking about anything. As the sun came up on Saturday morning, I watched a bird for 30 minutes. Just watched. It was an amazing experience.

But that’s not why those other five posts weren’t working. The fact is, sometimes, you just don’t have it. We all know the feeling. We all have those days when you’re just not feeling it during a workout. There are days when work just isn’t happening. There are days when the goals you’ve set just seem too far out of reach. Or worse, out of focus. On this day, I didn’t have the focus or writing mojo to make any of those five posts work. However, these moments are important, as it’s during these times when we learn just how badly we want whatever it is that we’ve set out to accomplish.

My goal when I started this site was to publish a blog at least once a week. And, though the five other posts weren’t working (and, you might feel this one isn’t working either!), I knew that I had to get this post done. I wanted to get this done. I knew that at some point today, I was going to write and publish Monday Views. These may not be the most significant thoughts I’ve ever written. They may not be the most thought provoking, or the most read, but I will have done what I set out to do. And there’s significant power in that.

The Power of Powering Through.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve “thrown in the towel” just because something “isn’t working.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve cut short a workout (or didn’t do it at all) because I was too tired. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started to write something, got distracted when my thoughts weren’t clear and quit. That’s what’s happening, after all. In each of these instances, I simply quit. What I set out to accomplish by working out or writing wasn’t important enough to me to power through. So, I quit. And, quitting sucks. It feels terrible. It makes me feel horrible. And even though it makes me feel horrible, the more I quit…the easier it gets.

But…When I do power through? You know what that feels like. The workouts that we finish when we ARE too tired are the best. As much as I love a good run that’s easy from start to finish, I get a far greater sense of accomplishment when I power through a run that is a struggle each and every step.

If quitting makes me feel terrible, powering through makes me feel like I’ve just won the lottery. Because, when we do power through, we discover that the goals we have for ourselves are right. We want them. We’ll do anything to achieve them. We’ll even power through when we didn’t think we could.

Yes, there will be times when we truly just don’t have it. There will be days when we need to take a step back and re-evaluate if we’re on the right track. If we’ve set our goals in the right place. If we’re trying to accomplish something that we genuinely want to accomplish (for the right, personal reasons). And as long as we pick it (whatever that is) back up and keep going…there’s no harm in that. More importantly, there’s no quit!

I don’t know if any of the other posts that I started today will ever get published. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter, however, is that this one did. For me…that’s the power of powering through.

The Foreign Language of Feelings

“Hey dude I got the results back,” is how my dad started the conversation. “I have prostate cancer” is how he continued it before the silence. A silence, which probably only lasted a few seconds, but was long enough to allow for a lifetime of memories to rip through my head.

Despite whatever challenges we’ve had in the course of our 44-year relationship, my dad and I were deeply connected during this silence. Not always comfortable with intense emotions, my father’s dad instincts quickly kicked in and he made every effort to calm me. They caught it early. No surgery. No chemo. A little radiation. No worries. I played along. Right, Dad, no worries. Maybe you can ask the doctors to work on your brain while they’re working on your prostate since you’ve always had your head up your ass. Ha, ha, ha. That’s how we’ve always done things – sarcasm and humor to avoid the threat of sharing any real pain or fear.

My dad has beaten cancer once before – a situation far worse than the one he faces now, but cancer is cancer. And it’s scary. Regardless of the fact that this cancer is as he said, “A walk in the park,” news like this causes clichés to roll like movie credits: Life is short. Get busy living or get busy dying. Dance like nobody’s watching. And any number of other inspirational quotes that are displayed daily on Facebook status updates and Twitter timelines near you.

Cliché or not, though, these are the very real feelings that all hit me square in the chest. Right in the heart. I felt pain. Pain for my dad. Pain for our relationship. I know he’s putting on a brave face, but I know he’s must be scared. Even just a little. I wish he could tell me that. I wish I could tell him that I was scared, too. Even just a little.

As soon as my dad and I hung up the phone, my own dad instincts kicked in and I thought of my six-year old son. My God I don’t want to ever have to tell him news like this. Much less deliver it twice, as my dad has now had to do. I can’t imagine it’s easy to say, “I have cancer” out loud, much less to tell your kid about it. But, if I do have to sometime tell my son that I am battling some horrible disease, I hope that we’ll be able to just face it for real. Not with sarcasm. Tears. Laughter. Emotions. Whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes. Maybe “whatever it takes” is exactly what my dad and I are doing. Maybe we are being real. Maybe this is our reality. The one where sarcasm reigns. The one where talking about the U.S. National Soccer Team is code for “I love you.” The one where “Fuck you very much,” is a catch-all like Aloha or Shalom. This is how we communicate and I should be grateful that we both translate this language into what we really mean. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on our relationship.

During the life flashing mental slide show that played during the silence of our call, I saw my dad refereeing my soccer games. I saw the World Cup game we went to in 1994; I saw vacations; I saw him running marathons and I saw his atrocious 70’s porn ‘stache. I saw our trip to Wrigley Field, his reward for beating cancer the first time. I thought about the endless sports and soccer conversations that kept us talking when we otherwise wouldn’t have. And what I know is that regardless of our frequent “language barrier” and the challenges that life creates, I love my dad. While it might be easy to think, “Of course you love your dad…he’s your dad,” I feel fortunate because I’m not sure everyone can actually say that.

I think we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves and our relationships. We have expectations for the way things should be instead of understanding, accepting and cherishing the way things are. I know I’ve been incredibly hard on my dad and our relationship over the years. But, I’ve learned to understand and accept that his constant “How’s business?” question is about love and his desire to see me to do well. It’s not that he doesn’t trust my ability to be successful. I’ve learned that when he says, “I don’t worry about your brother, but I worry about you,” is simply that. I’ve learned to stop holding him to a higher standard, accept that we all make our mistakes and forgive. And I’ve learned to forgive us both for our relationship.

I’m never going to be the guy who has all these great life affirming, “My dad always said” quotes. The most famous thing he’s ever told me is, “Seventeen will get you 20,” with “always carry enough bail money” a close second. (So it goes for the son of a criminal defense attorney.) For a long time, however, I think I made that the measuring stick of a father-son relationship. I was always jealous of my friends who were constantly rolling out the “My dad always said” pearls of wisdom. As a result, I thought our relationship wasn’t what it should be. I held it against him. Against us.

But that’s not my dad. My dad is the sarcastic guy who is going to make everyone in the room laugh. My dad is the inappropriate guy. (You wonder where I get it?) When I really think about it, though, he’s also the guy that told me, “You can’t hit it if you don’t swing,” and “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.” He may have been talking about Little League and soccer, but I try to live my life by those quotes. Nothing gets accomplished without taking your swings and/or shots. No goals. No dreams. No visions. If you just stand at the plate and watch the pitches go by – you’ll find yourself watching the game from the bench. That’s a pretty good gem. So swing dad. Take your shots. And crush this cancer just like you did last time.

And dad? How about that U.S. win over Italy?