Category Archives: Life

More Than a Few Lessons…

unsplash-massimo-mancini

I turned 50 a while back.  Although it’s just a number, it’s a big milestone.  Hopefully, it’s a halfway point.  During my first 50 years, I’ve learned some things and here they are in no particular order:

  • The quest for the Holy Grail is all about the quest, and less about the Grail.
  • Soft tissue injuries are much harder to get over than you think.
  • Execution is all about preparation. Prepare well, and you’ll be able to execute when called upon.  Wing it and your execution will be a crap shoot.
  • Preparation is difficult and requires discipline. Building and maintaining discipline is one of the greatest challenges in life.
  • No matter how smart, strong, tough, fast, or independent you think you are. You aren’t.
  • Nearly everything is easier said than done.
  • Just because you can watch someone do something doesn’t mean you know anything about what it takes to actually do that thing.
  • Doing is the key to enjoying. Stop talking about it.  Stop thinking about it.  Stop procrastinating.  Stop making excuses.  As Nike said so well, Just Do It!  You’ll probably suck at it at first, but so does everyone else.
  • The real “99% and 1%?” Ninety-nine percent of people will try something, suck at it, and quit.  One percent will continue the struggle (see discipline above), and incrementally improve.  They may even continue long enough to become a master at it.  Another variant:  only one percent will try something, and the other ninety-nine percent will focus on explaining why they can’t or won’t.
  • Whenever I’ve become the most anxious in life, I usually realize that I’ve skipped exercise or going outside to play for more than a week (it happens more often than I care to admit!). Exercising and playing are the best ways to build a foundation of clarity and calm.
  • Another thing I’ve noticed when I’m most anxious is that I’ve probably pushed gratitude out of my mind. When your mind is filled with gratitude, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for other things like anger, frustration, or negativity (this also happens more often than I’d like).
  • Vacations are nice. Travel is nice.  Seeing exotic places is nice.  But, there’s nothing like creating a life at home that doesn’t require a vacation for happiness.  Vacations should be icing on the cake.
  • Every person who lives in the US should spend at least two weeks in a foreign country…preferably when they’re young. That way, the lessons they take away from the experience can be applied early in their life.  Something I’ve found from traveling to at least 10 (maybe more) foreign countries is that the US is like Disneyland.  Even compared to modern and thriving countries, the standard of living in the US is noticeably higher.  It is easy to take all these differences for granted, or to be truly ignorant of them…until you spend time in a foreign country.
  • Tom Petty had it right: The waiting is the hardest part.  Everything in life takes longer than you plan in your head.  That’s probably because we plan and think in our head for a long time before we spring our thoughts on the “world.”  Or, things just really do take a lot longer than we think they should.
  • Jobs become obsolete (and so do certain companies). People don’t (and neither do companies) unless they allow it.
  • The best way to avoid obsolescence?  Continuous learning.  Continuous exploration.  Saying yes more.
  • Save early and often in your life. Those savings will yield a huge amount of freedom later in your life.
  • In the struggle between service and earnings, choose service every time.
  • The most beautiful sound in Nature is uncontrolled laughter.
  • The most beautiful sight in Nature is the smiling eyes of someone you love.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash–Massimo Mancini

 

Later…

Later creates room for compromises.

Later lives for tomorrow.

Later keeps lists.

Later allows us to avoid.

Later tells us why we’re preparing.

Later delays forgiveness.

Later is born from hope.

Later connects without really connecting.

Later captures what we imagine.

We often try to create what happens later by our actions today.

Later provides direction.

Later reduces today’s expectations.

Later can hijack the present.

Later is the carrier of our dreams.

Later gains power when it remains vague.

Later simplifies execution.

Later is where many careers will find their stride.

Later is where the craziest ideas go to die.

Later tells us it’s okay to delay.

Later is where big ideas find their future.

Later makes it okay to add complexity.

Later drags us reluctantly forward.

Later makes today easier.

Later makes today harder.

Later isn’t guaranteed.  It can easily turn into never if we allow it.

Later only matters in the present. By the time we get to later, there’s a new later that will once again seem more important than our new present.

There’s more to say on this subject.  I’ll probably get to it later…

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me!

Disneyland-POTC_sign

If you’re like me, you know the only way to turn at the end of Main Street USA is left.  Left, toward Adventureland, and New Orleans Square.  Sure, you could go for one of the “speed” rides like Space Mountain over in Tomorrowland.  Buzz Lightyear (Astro Blasters) is a good one.  Or, maybe Thunder Mountain.  The Matterhorn is re-opened, if you like to have your spine compressed (not sure why they didn’t fix that problem during the most recent refresh).

But, the best rides are definitely in Adventureland.  The Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion.  Don’t even get me started on how awesome Tom Sawyer’s Island is.

The Jungle Cruise is all about the puns.  Indiana Jones is (mild) sensory overload and a neat cave walk to and from the ride.  The Haunted Mansion is a cross between Tim Burton’s vision of the world, and old school special effects that are still cool.

The best of all is Pirates!

First you’re in a New Orleans bayou.  Crickets are chirping, a few frogs are croaking quietly, and fireflies dart about.  It’s dark, quiet, and lazy.  The swamp guy sits on his porch, smoking a corn cob pipe.  The sound of slow banjo picking comes from his house.  Do swamp guys have CD’s?  Electricity?  Does he have a banjo-playing friend in the house?  Then, total darkness, a quick drop, and we enter a pirate’s lair.  It’s clearly seen better days.  Tons of treasure gather dust and cob webs.

I’ve never known what a New Orleans bayou has to do with being in a pirate’s lair, but over the years, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter.  “Dead men tell no tales!”  Just as you figure out that all the riches and treasures in the world didn’t do these dead pirates any favors, a foggy curtain projects an apparition of Davy Jones, warning us about the cursed lives of pirates.  Our boat ignores the warning and carries us into this cursed world.

We enter a pitched battle between a pirate ship with cannons blazing, and the shore defenses firing back.  It’s a desperate battle with explosions and lots of yelling.  Somehow the shots never hit anything vital, or do they?  The battle rages on, but we pass safely under the line of fire.

The harbor comes into view.  Not just any harbor, but a “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me,” harbor from long ago.  Pirates are drinking and singing.  Some of the less fortunate are dunked endlessly in a well.  A vain search for Captain Jack Sparrow.  Others are sold as brides.  We see drunk pirates singing to themselves and no one in particular, scheming ways to find more treasure.

The scene shifts again to a prison where the only hope of escape lies in convincing a dog to give up the keys.  The dog never budges, but always looks like he might.  Hopefulness mixed with despair.  If only the prisoners would realize that their only salvation is to find a new strategy, a new direction.  Of course, they never make this connection.  We slowly pass under a collapsing ceiling, and back into the harbor.

The town is ablaze, but nobody cares.  We know the flames spell disaster, but that’s lost on everyone in the scene.  They continue to drink, sing, and chase each other in a search for the next moment.  Some fire randomly across the water at their friends.  “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

The dichotomy of the celebratory singing and the evil that humans do to one another isn’t the point…or, maybe it is.  All the while, our boat floats lazily through the scene.

We begin our slow climb out of this cursed world as Jack Sparrow tell us to, “Drink up you laddies!  Yo Ho!”

What makes this ride so popular?  Definitely not the speed.  Is it the “escape” into another world?  Maybe.  But, is it really an escape?

Each of us can relate to being the pirate.  We’ve been dunked in the proverbial well…sometimes we do the dunking.  We’ve fired aimlessly at our enemies (and our friends) at one time or another.  Oblivious to the pain we may cause.  We’ve focused solely on the now.  Ignored the future.  We’ve looked for treasure.  Maybe we’ve found it…and yet, our search continues.

Are we nothing more than passengers on the boat, passing lazily through the scenes of life, yet never connecting to any of it?  Hopefully not.

A pirate’s life, indeed.  Time to get in line for the next ride!

 

Life is…

As we end one year and prepare to begin another, it’s a great time to reflect.

What have I completed, and what will I begin?

How did I fail, and how will I succeed?

Who did I help, and who will I help?

What is my true mission?

I found this great reminder (as I often do) in a quote from Mother Teresa:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

 To this list, I’d add:

Life is a journey, explore it.

Life is failure, learn from it.

Life is service, give it.

Life is a gift, share it.

Life is a celebration, enjoy it!

© 2014 Bob Dailey.  All rights reserved.

The Life We Realize

Our Town

EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

 

“Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

I never read Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. It seems like the type of literature that would be required high school reading. The mundane and simple nature of the play would surely be lost on most high schoolers, so it’s a good thing I didn’t discover the play until recently.

I’ve just started reading it…the first play I’ve read in at least thirty years. What a relief to know I get to read this one for the sheer pleasure of it, and not in preparation for a final exam on the subject.

There are a ton of thought provoking quotes in the play, but these two stand out for me:

Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

It’s easy for us to see that fish swim in water that sustains their life, but I doubt they realize it. It’s easy for us to understand that we are “swimming” in the air that sustains our life, but I doubt we realize it. Life is all around us, every minute if we choose to notice.

How many of us realize how precious each day is while we are living them. The countless decisions and non-decisions we make each day, the people we impact (hopefully positively). The memories we accumulate along the way.

Instead of continuously looking ahead, chasing our dreams, maybe it’s good to look to the side occasionally. Slow down and check out the scenery that’s whizzing past as we barrel ahead to our futures. Taking time to appreciate the gift of our life, even as we live it.

Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.

If you live to be 100 years old, that’s 36,500 days. How about 75 years? That’s 27,375. Imagine you just turned 48, like me. I’ve used 17,538 of my days, so far. Trust me, I used a calculator to check my math.

Which one was the most important? How about the least important?

What are the criteria you use to define importance? Do you have your criteria all picked out? Are you ready for the days when those things you thought were important suddenly don’t matter?

Each of us can identify important days in our past. Chances are, some of the days you see today as being most important didn’t seem so important when you were living them in real time. Hindsight is good that way.

Was today important? How about tomorrow, or the next day?

Each of them will be important enough, if we take the time to realize it.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.theguardian.com

 

#tbt – Throwback Thursdays

It’s fun to see how long (and not grey) our friend’s hair was twenty or thirty years ago…especially if that person has little or no hair now (like me).  It’s neat to see our faces before years of experience (and sun damage) have made their mark.  The clothing styles are always good for a laugh…nice OP shorts, Magnum!

#tbt posts provide a window into who we were, and the things we thought were important.  As we look at a #tbt photo, we know how things turn out for this “stranger” in the picture.  The person in that old photo has years of decisions to make, countless lessons to learn, and many hearts to touch.  Each #tbt post gives us a glimpse of potential yet to be fulfilled.

Look in the mirror.  You get to see your future #tbt photo every day.

What potential do you have that has yet to be fulfilled?  Whose hearts will you touch?  Will you make sound decisions?  What will you learn along the way?  None of us know for certain.

One thing is certain.  Many of the things that seem important today won’t be so important in twenty or thirty years.

Wedding-Day

Your humble writer, on his wedding day in July, 1988.

Ode to the Rusty Chain

Ever noticed it sitting there, sometimes coiled neatly, but usually just piled in a corner?  It used to be important.  Its strength was unquestionable.  Its purpose was clear.

Now it sits, out of sight, and out of mind.  It waits for a call to action that will never come.  Many of its links are bent and twisted.  Rust has taken its shine and luster.  Time has sapped its strength.

The rusted chain rests.  Its inevitable return to Nature has begun.

It has no memories.  Its time and experience will add no wisdom.  It has no strength of character.  No moral values to impart.  No lessons to teach.  Nothing to pass on to future generations.

It is, after all, just a chain.

Balancing Attention

serenity_edit

I’ve read countless articles and blog posts about work/life balance.  They generally focus on the rigors of managing a business in a 24-hour-a-day cycle.  Some are from the manager’s perspective, and others are from the worker’s point-of-view.

Most articles mention sacrifices.  How families, spouses, kids, friends, and even our own health and welfare, are forced into the back seat while our hero focuses on the challenges of his/her career path.  There’s usually some kernel of wisdom…justification for the decisions being made by all involved.

Achievement rarely happens without hard work, focus, determination, sacrifice, and making the (hopefully) right choices.  What are the right choices?  That varies for each person.

One thing that doesn’t vary for each person is the value of their time.  Time is the most precious and fleeting commodity in our lives.  We can’t control time.  We only control how we spend it.

Attention is the currency we use for spending time.  Like time, our attention is limited.  Unlike time, we control our attention.  We decide what deserves it, and what doesn’t.

Work/life balance isn’t really about the demands of the job.  It’s not about the oppressive boss who demands our continuous availability, or employees who need input and direction at all hours.  It’s definitely not about checking our email or social feed every fifteen minutes.

Regardless of its details, if there is such a thing as work/life balance, it comes down to two things:

  • Realizing that we decide where to focus our attention.
  • Whether we decide consciously or not, our actions make our attention decisions a reality.

Photo credit:  Diane Anderson (my wonderful mother-in-law), who focuses (pun intended) a lot of her attention on making beautiful art with her camera.

The Bargains We Make

I came across this classic poem recently:

My Wage

I bargained with Life for a penny,

And Life would pay no more,

However I begged at evening

When I counted my scanty store.

For Life is a just employer,

He gives you what you ask.

But once you have set the wages,

Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,

Only to learn dismayed,

That any wage I had asked of Life,

Life would have willingly paid.

–by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse (1869-1948)

My Question for You

What is your bargain with Life?

Are you working for a penny, or something more?

How about your end of the deal?

Are you even keeping score?

If we get out of Life,

Only what we ask,

I say go for the Moon,

And reach for the stars.

But, are you willing to bear the task?

Everyday is a Surprise

 “Bobby (what anyone who knew me before I was about 13 calls me), it all started with an earache.  The doctor gave me some ear drops.  The pain didn’t stop and seemed to get worse, so he gave me stronger drops.  That still didn’t work.  He ran some tests and told me it’s cancer, and I’m gonna die.  It was an earache, and then I was dying.  He says that I will probably just die in my sleep, so each time I wake up, it’s a surprise.”

Pete_Triumph

In Pete’s case, it took about four months for the cancer specialists to identify the type of cancer that is killing him.  He told me the name, and said it is very rare, untreatable, and fast moving.  I made a mental note to look up the cancer and learn more about it.  As I type this post, I have forgotten its name.

The fact that each of us will die is no surprise.  The timing is the surprising part.  That, and the name of the thing that ultimately causes our death.  There’s always a name.

I remember a conversation I had with Grandpa Clyde (my wife’s grandfather) at least ten years ago.  He was in his late-80’s at the time, showing me how to cook ribs properly on a barbeque.  I asked him what it was like to have lived as long as he had.  I will never forget his response.  “If you live long enough, you say goodbye to a lot of friends and family.  Most of the people I grew up with are dead and gone.  I stopped going to funerals a long time ago.  I spend my time making new friends, and enjoying this time I’ve been given with my family.”

Growing up, Pete was one of my role models for a life worth living.  A firefighter, motorcycle tuner, racer, helmet painter, wheelie king, runner, water skier, speeding ticket magnet, traveler, and a Bluegrass fan.  Although I never actually saw it, he used to say that he also jumped rope, attended three world fairs, and a few other things that are probably better left unmentioned.  Pete never stopped making new friends, or appreciating his old friends.  He grabbed all that life has to offer, and then some.

Pete_Wheelie

Pete wears a patch over his right eye now.  The tumor has grown and prevents that eye from blinking.  He is in a lot of pain, and the pain medications cloud the passage of time.  This hasn’t stopped Pete from grabbing what life has left for him.  He is living each remaining day as a surprise.

In truth, each day is a surprise for all of us.  An opportunity to appreciate our family and friends.  An opportunity to make new friends, and enjoy what little time we’ve been given.