Personal Evolution and Breasts

Radio - 92/365In spring of 1997 I was invited to be on a Battle of the Sexes radio program which I lost because faced with answering either “a Big Mac” or “an average woman’s breast” for which weighed more, I was too embarrassed to say the word “breast” on the air.

I cite this personal struggle, because I’m a firm believer that we must evolve as people, which I evidently have done in the intervening years. Last night I said “breast” in public about a hundred times, often to complete strangers who gave me money in return. What was the evolution from meek grad student to top salesman? Lots of rejection and a little success.

From fall 1997 to around 2001, I was a website generalist which meant I sold websites, acted as account manager, designed, and even developed those websites. I got rejected a lot on the sales side of things, but I learned from my mistakes. Eventually, we moved to a specialist model and so I was put in charge of design which is where I excelled.

I also started helping out with recruiting drives for the Minnesota Junior Chamber (Jaycees) around 2000. Going door to door and asking people if they are interested in volunteering their time in the community and then having the audacity to suggest they pay you for it (membership dues covered insurance for events, communications, and marketing materials) can be a tough sell if you don’t develop a thick skin and a sales tactic. I started focusing on selling the idea to the community leaders and getting them to help me identify potential members and publicizing it for me (I had always envied Tom Sawyer’s ability to get others to pay him to paint the fence, and thought there had to be more applications for that strategy in life). When I wasn’t getting others to sell for me, I found that humor and getting people to admit that they cared about something seemed to be my strong suits.

Fast forward to last night – I was at a pub crawl with Jaycees to help fund a charity bike ride (Disclaimer: I work in a marketing/technical support role for the regional RE/MAX franchisor and the event is being sponsored by one of the brokerages I support – RE/MAX Results). The crawl organizer was having little luck at getting those in attendance to sell the ribbons she had made to increase visibility/funding. The unwritten rule for Jaycee alumni is that if a current member will do the job, you step back and mentor them, but if no one is stepping up, you can show them how it’s done.

So I put the pink ribbon necklace around my neck and marched over to a table of three men and a woman and got their attention so that I could make my pitch.

“Pardon me, but I was wondering how you feel about breasts?”

I kept this as my opener throughout the night as it caught people off guard and they would smile as they pieced together their response which was usually “They’re awesome!” or “I am in favor of them.”

“So from what I’m hearing you say, you are in favor of them continuing or improving in quantity and quality?”

This would be met with a number of cheers and affirmations. The goal being to get them to vocalize that they cared about the cause.

“So this young lady that I’m with is going to be biking for breast cancer research, to help find a cure, and she’s looking for assistance in fundraising. For a buck, I’ll give you one of these lovely pins which you can wear proudly to express your support of breasts.”

At the first table, I actually pulled nothing as they claimed to be out of paper money (this was my one-off for the night as I averaged $3-4 at every other table). A guy one table over from them heard the pitch and came over to our table afterwards to buy three for his table, thereby starting my streak which lasted until I quit selling, so a 100%+ conversion rate.

I am sharing this story because it’s a personal evolution victory and would love to hear about yours. Also, it’s because I had a lot of fun making people laugh in exchange for money.

Creative Commons License Niklas Morberg via Compfight

Summer Bucket List – 2013

Photo from Niagara Cave tripHave you created your summer bucket list? The goal is to be able to look back and say “this is what I pushed myself to accomplish.” So many years bleed into one another, and it’s easy to wonder what has become of your life, but having a list every year, helps remind you of what progress you have made – what positive change you have wrought in your life.

Last year I announced to the world my bucket list items –  I stood up to my fears of Lasik and dropped about 10 pounds over the summer (which the long winter unfortunately repaid in full, partly in muscle so I’m not despondent).

My big goal for this year was going to be to learn to ride and acquire a motorcycle, but early in the year I came to the realization that there was another goal to supplant that one – to improve my photography/videography skills. It is a skill set that has personal and professional significance beyond just the confrontation of fear that the motorcycle choice would have represented (two of my brothers had significant motorcycle accidents in high school, poisoning my interest in that transportation mode).

Toward that end I purchased a Canon T4i and have been working to learn the art of photographic composition, currently focusing on creating depth of field photos (example from my recent vacation) where only the item of interest is in focus. I’ve posted some of my shots thus far online if you want to peek at my progress.

I’ve also been improving my video production skills. I’ve been doing video production for work and here are 2 examples – the January monthly with a Flip camera and the May version with the Canon T4i and a lav mic. I’m also working on a video project for the family, a documentary.

Beyond that goal, I’m also working on my distinct lack of horticultural skills. My mother planted a garden every year when she was in Mabel, and my grandmother did her own gardening up until the time of her stroke. I’ve never had a green thumb because I forget to water and care for the plants, but I’ve kept a plant alive for 6 months (one out of three I bought at the same time) so I’ve gone ahead and planted some pepper plants, rosemary, basil, and partial shade plants (begonias and nasturtiums) in the area under my deck which has been unused for the past 4 years. I will post pictures as that project progresses.

I’ve also got some other optional items. I’m going to try and post to this blog once per week. I still want to set aside a weekend to learn to ride a motorcycle through one of those on the road training programs, but that will depend upon where I can fit it in and the weather. I went white water rafting up by Duluth once with my Upward Bound group and I’d like to return this year if I can find a weekend that works.

One that I’ve partially realized is the thorough cleaning of my downstairs which I let go back in 2011 when I was temporarily unemployed and never bothered to fully revisit after. I finally got through the emotional baggage of that time so with no personal demons lurking in the crawl space, I’ve made significant progress and hope to complete the project this weekend.

How the St. Peter Tornado Made Me a Better Man

St. Peter Tornado

Trees uprooted by the St. Peter Tornado, courtesy of the St. Peter Herald

It’s been 15 years today since a tornado cut a huge swath through St. Peter, MN. I’ve written previously about where I was the night it happened – I was on my way back from my grandfather’s funeral in Texas. There was an outpouring of aid from the surrounding communities and a glut of volunteers. I did little aside from drive past, gawking at the destruction; the once majestic trees that lined the lined 169 through downtown were gone. I had other things to do and manual labor had never been my cup of tea. I was working long hours and was active in the Community Education program teaching MS Office, Windows, and HTML.

That summer I was working 100+ hour weeks doing two jobs – Web Designer/Account Manager from 7-3 (eating at my desk) and Tutor/Counselor/Instructor at Upward bound from 3:15-10:30 with full days on the weekends driving kids around or helping them confront their fears on the ropes course. It was intensely rewarding, but I knew that I needed to find another outlet – another way to make a difference in the community.

A few weeks later I had a meeting with my financial adviser who was the president of the local Junior Chamber (Jaycee) chapter. They were having a membership initiative and she gave me the hard sell. I took the membership slip back with me to my office and it sat there staring at me. At the time I was an agnostic and so the first sentence of the creed stuck in my craw – “We believe that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.” It wasn’t faith in something greater than yourself, it was specifically faith in “God.” Like our national motto and pledge of allegiance which were changed in the 1950s to reference “God” as a bulwark against the spread of communism, I learned that the creed had added that line in roughly the same timeline.

After some internal back and forth, I signed the application, wrote out my check, and headed upstairs to drop it off. I told her that I was submitting my membership but I wasn’t promising to recite the creed exactly as it was written (in truth on multiple occasions I mouthed the first line just like I would fake singing when I would go to church with my parents). I told her how in my estimation, if there was an all-powerful deity, lying to him/her to make other people feel comfortable was a no-no. I also probably went on about my favorite philosophical rant about how only an atheist could truly do good because a theist believes that the good they do will be rewarded in the afterlife, so they’re just being selfish like putting money in the bank for a later day.

As a new member, the expectation was that I should run a project. She had just the one picked out – Rake the Town. I was to promote the event to the membership and convince a number of them to join me in raking 4 yards in St. Peter (evidently all of Mankato was covered by the time I called in). It was a chilly day and I arrived in advance of the team. I was nervous – while I was comfortable leading students from Upward Bound and gamers (first two-term president of the college gaming club), regular people were sometimes intimidating.

By the time we were finishing up the last yard, I was exhausted and questioning why I was out here and why I had joined. It was about that time that the owner of the house came out to thank us. There were tears in her eyes and I wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t a big yard and it took us about 10 minutes to do. Then she told us about how the day after the tornado she hadn’t known what she would do until people showed up and started picking up her yard for her. She was reliving that moment and so excited to see that people would exhibit this level of kindness for someone they didn’t even know. I could tell she was having a hard time coping with the emotion and we were also experiencing it with her so several of us exchanged hugs with her before leaving for the day.

That moment made me feel a bit like a superhero, getting me in touch with my dream job from childhood. If I hadn’t been such a slacker and gotten yards in Mankato, I don’t know if I would have stuck with the organization. I’ve faded in and out of the organization a number of times when I felt like I was sacrificing too much of my time and career, but I’m back again, helping out the state organization as a trustee for the foundation. It’s a rush to hang out with people who are inspired to change their communities.

The Time I Almost Joined the Military

If you’ve seen the the movie Captain America, you can probably visualize the opening scene where a scrawny Steve Rogers walks into a recruiting office and tries to enlist. That would have been me at 18, only a few inches shorter.

By early Spring of 2003 I had grown 6 inches, added 60 pounds, and shed the asthma on my own super soldier formula of Somatropin and Delatestryl (obtained legally via the Mayo Clinic). I had been designing websites for over 5 years. I was burned out – my personal muse was no longer easily accessible. I felt trapped because I wanted to put design behind me before I hated it, but I didn’t see another professional avenue open to me.

I spent the bulk of my evenings and weekends working on projects in the community and for the Minnesota Junior Chamber as their Public Relations Coordinator. I lived to make a difference in the world and I worked to pay my bills. I wanted a career that would allow me to do both.

One of my co-workers had returned from his service in the Air Force where he had been working on top secret projects he couldn’t tell us about, but he did talk about some of the benefit packages he received and the pay scale. It seemed pretty attractive, but I had never considered it in the past because I knew I would be a 4F with asthma.

That March, my parents had flown us (me, 2 of my brothers, and their wives) down to Mexico for a family vacation. It was during the time that the resolution on Iraq was supposed to come up for a vote at the UN and our troops were massed, waiting for insertion. I spent a good deal of time at the beach, partying on a boat (followed by singing loudly from the back of an open air taxi), and parasailing, but every morning and every evening, I was glued to CNN as tensions escalated. I watched leaders on both sides talking about whether the inspectors were doing a good job and right wing pundits insisting that we needed to go in there to stop the WMDs before they hit Israel.

Our family meals were on occasion animated as my father insisted that the Bush administration had completely valid intel on the WMDs and I insisted that the data was suspect, that we should be letting the inspectors do their job, and that President Bush should man up and send the resolution to the floor for a vote as he had emphatically said he would (but didn’t in the end).

At 21 in South Pacific

As we marched closer to war, Senator Kerry and the rest of the Democrats CNN was trotting out for interviews started to back the president as they knew what was about to come and agreed that what was best for the men and women in uniform was a unified front at home. I was inspired by his speech and considered my own grandfather’s sacrifices during WWII. The idea of joining the  US Navy as an officer started to run around in my head.

At about a week or 2 into Operation Iraqi Freedom, the patriotism and thought of being able to get paid to feel like I was making a difference kicked in and I walked into the recruiting office after a number of walk bys. I sat down and the recruiter got me a water and started to discuss my options. I told him that I wanted to be a naval officer (my co-worker had mentioned the pay gap between enlisted and officers and I didn’t want to sign on for a pay cut).

We talked about options and he seemed to think I would be a solid candidate so he started the paperwork. When he came to date of birth, it all fell apart. While I looked like I was in my early 20s, I was in my early 30s and was past the cut off point for officer candidates. We had a brief discussion wherein I let him know that I thought ageism had no place in government service and that I should be judged on character, intellect, and physicality, but he wouldn’t budge. He told me I could enlist, but by that point my temper was up and I walked out of the office with the bottled water in hand. It sat in my car for a number of years as a reminder of roads not traveled.

In our more enlightened age where we have eliminated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, I would encourage the military to also consider a set of metrics for officer candidates that doesn’t discriminate based on age.

Photo: Collin Harvey via Compfight

What’s in Your Summer Bucket List?

Summer SunI was listening to the radio about a month ago and they were talking about what they planned to do for their summer bucket list. It got me thinking – what could I do this year to get outside of my comfort zone?

The obvious one was something I had been mulling over for a number of years but had always never prioritized or chickened out on at the last moment. Learn to ride a motorcycle. I’ve known two people who have died on motorcycles and have 2 brothers who injured themselves pretty seriously when they were learning to ride so it’s always been a scary prospect for me, but something I’ve wanted to confront.

So I downloaded the study manual and was all of an hour away from signing up for the motorcycle driver’s ed course when I spotted a section of the manual talking about the need to monitor around you and not rely on your mirrors. I realized that with my glasses, I would be twisting and turning my head all of the time because of my lack of peripheral vision (contacts tend to have a high frequency of irritating my eyes so I can’t rely upon them day in and day out).

That was it, I knew what I needed to prioritize – something even scarier. Motorcycles will have to wait until 2013; I’m getting Lasik this year.

I’ve always been a visual person. Music is great, but for me it’s about putting me in an emotional mood, it’s not something I can’t live without like movies and the next bleeding edge video game. I was a designer for a number of years and in my current job I spend a lot of time making things look visually stunning to capture attention. Losing my eyesight would be devastating to who I am.

In about an hour and a half though, I’m confronting that fear. I’m not a gambler – I’ve never driven drunk, I didn’t gamble in Vegas, and I don’t even participate in office pools. But I’m putting one of the things that I value most on the line for the chance to not be beholden to glasses or contacts.

Time to get ready to cross this off my bucket list. I’m not nervous yet but I suspect that it’s not that far off. *fingers crossed*

Special Note of Thanks: Thank you to my wonderful co-workers, Michele and Shannon, for pushing me to set up the pre-screening appointment and convincing me that I will be fine.

Creative Commons License JR F via Compfight

My Worst Day

Down in a holeIn my last post I discussed my most embarrassing moment, so for this post, I’m delving deeper into the worst day of my life. [Don’t worry, I will swing back to my usual cheerful self in the next post, this one is just time sensitive.]

The season was spring of 1994 and I was finishing up my pre-student teaching coursework. The big event of the season was Kurt Cobain’s suicide which had many of my peers up in arms about “the tragic loss of an icon.” Personally, I was more into Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. I looked at it this way – here was a guy who to me had pretty much everything: wife, kid, and success in a field he was passionate about. How screwed up do you have to be to throw that away?

I was no stranger to dark thoughts, or needles for that matter, having been a medical guinea pig. There were no “it gets better” videos for boys who struggled with asthma and hypopituitarism. I had always been less physically mature than my peers, having just entered puberty at the age of 25, and my social maturity was also skewed – a modern day Peter Pan.  I had never truly fit in, aside from gamers, English majors with similar genre interests, techies, and the student newspaper staff (given my fascination with superheroes, you had to expect I did the mild-mannered reporter stint, right?). I had looked into that void numerous times, often under the influence of Hamlet and vodka, but I always found some semblance of hope.

So when I got together late that month for our combined birthday week with my former A&E editor, Mike Champlin, I was ready to let loose and celebrate. While we waited for our third amigo to join us, we started buying each other drinks. I had my obligatory fruity drink followed by a long island and I was comfortably numb through the first set of the local band Blue Velveeta, before they went “plugged” for their second set in deference to the MTV phenomenon.

Our third amigo never showed up but I didn’t seem to care for the rest of the night. My attempt at moshing devolved into slam dancing to amped versions of Tori Amos and folk songs. I got home after bar close and insisted that one of my roommates make me hashbrowns while I proceeded to unburden myself with pretty much everything I had consumed in the last 6 hours.

I assume I made it back to my bed or was carried, but I got up the next morning feeling like the grave. I had luckily developed some semblance of responsibility after hitting puberty as I made the long walk up the hill to the university as the previous month I had been elected to the presidency of our campus gamers society.

I don’t remember much of that day. The next thing that I can solidly remember is sitting in an alcove in the kitchen either that night or the next being told by Mike that the reason Tom had been unable to make it was he had an aneurysm that night and had been rushed to the hospital. He was in Rochester and was in bad condition, but there was hope. I was in disbelief. He had been so full of life, always witty and smiling. I thought back to the night we spent drinking at Mike’s place talking about all things geeky and literary. We took turns filling a mutual friend’s answering machine with fake telemarketers whose inquiries eventually turned to “animal husbandry” as it was a phrase that raised that friend’s hackles.

After the phone call I watched Vampire Hunter D. It was the last thing that Tom had given me. Tom had accumulated the most extensive collection of horror films in southern Minnesota. Vampire Hunter D had been my favorite of the bunch and had turned me onto anime as an art form. (Full movie – beware, it’s early 80s anime)

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him or not, but as I didn’t have a car, it was going to be a bus ride up to Minneapolis and back down to Rochester and a night’s stay which I really couldn’t afford. I was also unsure of whether I wanted to see him like that – if it would forever cloud my memory. We had some hope for a recovery and I believed that it would happen.

While I vacillated, the unthinkable happened. I got another call from Mike a week later informing me that Tom had passed away. I was shocked. I had never had anyone so close to me die. A few years earlier a guy who I had hung out with a couple of times in the literary circle had been killed in a motorcycle accident, but this was my inner circle. On Halloween 1990 after putting the newspaper to bed, Tom and I had pulled a Dead Poets’ stunt and snuck into a graveyard to tell ghost stories and recite poetry by candle light (in thematic fashion, it was a black candle I had purchased while on assignment at Renaissance Festival).

Tom’s parents respected what Tom’s wish would have been and held the funeral on Friday the 13 of May. They celebrated his life by bringing in memorabilia from his collection including a large model of the NCC-1701-D. I recognized a number of former Reporter staff there and numerous Free Press staff members at the funeral and we chatted briefly afterwards. We wound up getting together afterwards at the Reporter office to reminisce about Tom and common memories. I had thought of potentially going to the late matinee of The Crow which I knew Tom would have enjoyed, but it felt better to be with his peers.

I then headed home to change out of the black shirt and tie in preparation for a gathering at Mike’s. Shortly after I arrived home, I got the call from my parents. My grandmother (the grandparent I had always been closest too) had a stroke and was in a hospital in Rochester. I wound up crying, it was far too much in too short of a time frame.

I was late to the party, but I showed up and my friends helped console me. I didn’t stay very late as I wanted to get home to be by the phone in case there was another call. As crushed as I already was, I wasn’t optimistic and I was worried that I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye like with Tom.

Luckily, my grandmother pulled through with partial paralysis on the right side of her body which meant she wound up listening more than contributing during chats with my aunts about grammar. She was with us for a few more years, and the tears would come back at her funeral during the grandchildren’s eulogies (I spoke about how she inspired me and recited Sonnet 29 from memory as she had turned me on to Shakespeare).

I’ve had a lot of bad days in my life that I haven’t written about, but none have matched May 13, 1994 in terms of initial and enduring emotional impact. I’d never known death that intimately before.

ParanoidMonk via Compfight

Shakespeare’s Sonnet #29

This timeless classic helped me to keep my eye off the abyss in times like those. In true Shakespearean style, it builds through the first and second quatrains, exposing the narrator’s darkest thoughts – feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and self-loathing. Then in the third quatrain it turns as the narrator considers his loved one and the clouds metaphorically part. The ending couplet completes the swing from depression to joy.

My Most Embarrassing Moment

Headlight Morning GlowThere are times in our lives that we all wish we could do over. That one embarrassing moment that pops into my head at the most inopportune times took place in the wee hours of the morning on a long trip home from Texas.

It was March 30th, 1998. You might think I would remember the date with accuracy because of my paternal grandfather’s funeral that weekend. There are pictures in my head of that day that will stick with me: the Texas countryside in its purple and green splendor instead of the dry husk as I normally saw in the late summer, the creepy guys in robes at the service who were probably free masons or their ilk, my grandfather’s assistant waiting behind the church because he lived in an area where some traditions had not yet entered the modern era, and taking a photo with my cousins, suddenly aware that with the passing of both grandparents, we were now the second generation.

It was a sobering experience and a lot to process. I would never again be asked to “come over here and pull my finger” just as there were no more lazy mornings out on the lake in his fishing boat. Long gone were the days when we would try to pull out our baby teeth in Texas because the Texas Tooth Fairy paid double.

The true reason I remember the date is because a tornado had just cut a swath through the heart of south central Minnesota the afternoon prior, doing over $235 million in property damage. I had no idea if my home, office, co-workers, students, or friends were still in one piece. We had seen reports on CNN before we started back, but we did not have wireless Internet like we have today so I was completely in the dark on what was going on.

Somehow in the midst of all this chaos, I was able to sleep as my brother Andy drove the first leg of the trip home. We’d packed all 4 sons and both parents into Mom’s minivan and Dad’s car. The halfway point was in Missouri on an off ramp in a commercial/industrial park, so no convenience stores for about 20 miles either way. Andy got out to stretch his legs and woke me up. I was a bit groggy. It sounded like he said was getting in the van to sleep so I slid over into the driver’s seat and waited for the minivan to take off.

Embarrassing MomentI followed them back over the highway and down the on ramp. They swerved suddenly and then gunned it. I wondered what the commotion was about when my headlights illuminated my brother in the middle of the road with a crazed look on his face. I slammed on the brakes and let him in. As we drove to catch up with my parents he let me in on his harrowing dash down the embankment, over a fence, across 2 lanes of highway and the median, just in time to avoid getting hit by my parents and catch up with me.

My mind started going through all of the possible scenarios given the distance to civilization, the fact that we were in the middle of Missouri in March. I felt so small and so stupid. I didn’t have to worry about keeping myself awake for a couple hours. From the point where we stopped for munchies and gas and explained it to my parents and brothers to somewhere just south of Minnesota, I don’t remember anything – it was just moment after moment of beating myself up mentally while maintaining distance from the minivan’s rear bumper.

The story comes up in conversation now and again. Some times as a joke, but some times I think he remembers the panic and then it’s not so funny. If there is any saving grace to the incident, it’s that the embarrassment eclipses what I felt when I accidentally flashed the girls in my 1st grade class, which up until that point had been my most embarrassing moment.

Photo Credit: Sean McGrath via Compfight

Creative Commons LicensePhoto Credit: jayRaz via Compfight

Exploring My Personal “Why?” and Heroism

Phong Nha Cave, VietnamDo you ever spend time considering the why you do what you do? Do you look for the kernel from which the bulk of your actions spring?

On Saturday April 7th, I attended Minnebar, a techie conference held at the Best Buy campus. My goal had been to learn more about the latest best practices which I could take back to my workplace for implementation. My biggest takeaway though was an epiphany about myself

The first session, I attended what was effectively a round table on mobile app best practices with the best and brightest jumping in to provide insights into all aspects of the mobile app pipeline. I’ll admit, I got bored early on and based on the overcrowding, a bit uncomfortable. I decided to scrap my second class in that track and instead go to the branding option in the theater where there would likely be more open space and very comfortable seating.

The discussion focused on self-branding and how to line up your personal goals with your business goals. It was the standard exercise of looking at what you wanted to do as a kid and how you can do that as an adult, but this time you had to discuss it with those around you.

I once had a boss ask me about my personal brand and I blithely answered “Green Lantern.” I then proceeded to note that I was inspired/fueled by heroism, had a lot of raw willpower to overcome obstacles, was creative, and valued being able to be a utility player/renaissance man. That pitch didn’t go over so well and I thought about it when I considered announcing to complete strangers that as a kid I wanted to grow up to be a superhero. I decided to drop the “super” from my pitch. I then analyzed that against what I had already thought about with regards to careers and the like, and it suddenly all fit. I felt bad for my associates as I tuned them out after the initial start up conversation because I wanted to test my new hypothesis further. I started plugging in choices I made in the past and trying to decide whether they fit the new model.

Romantic HeroismFor example, when I was in my teens I wanted to be an attorney or a politician because I thought of those jobs as heroic. As they began to lose their shine in college, I considered English teacher (“Oh, Captain, my Captain!” anyone?). When I did my student teaching, the teachers turned to me for all of their technology questions and so I signed up for a Master’s program in Educational Technology. When I didn’t find a teaching job, right away after finishing the bulk of my curriculum, I switched out to web designer as it had been an outlet for my creativity. I then spent a weekend a month and 6 weeks each summer working with Upward Bound. The rest of my free time I spent trying to make the world a better place with the Junior Chamber or exploring heroism in computer games.

As I began to accumulate outliers that didn’t fit the overall scheme, I realized I needed to adjust the model to be more inclusive. I began to see that a large part of my life wasn’t just wrapped around accomplishing heroic ideals, as a man I had certain romantic goals for myself. I found myself equally inspired by Batman and Lloyd Dobler, so I altered it to “romantic hero” and the vast majority of my choices fit. But that’s really the subject of a whole new post as it gets a bit deep and personal.

In retrospect, a lot of what I write about in this blog comes from that root motivation – whether it’s exploring my literary heroes or getting in touch with my courage and confidence through ValleyScare or a ropes course. I’ve decided for the next year, I’m going to re-tune this blog  to delve deeper into heroism and my opinions on it. I’ve got an idea on a monthly feature with interviews of real life heroes from the non-profit sphere, but we’ll have to see how the first one fleshes out.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: discopalace via Compfight

Life Ain’t Easy…

Johnny CashNo post yesterday, but I did my 3 positive-minded exercises. Of course my 10 minutes of exercise was moving around tables and chairs for the Needy/Nerdy Mixer for the Overnight Website Challenge. It was a fun event, meeting all of the non-profits and seeing the passion in their eyes for their respective causes.

For today’s post I’m going to try and find that same passion by taking the time to reflect on three things I’m thankful for:

  1. I’m thankful that I was born in Minnesota in the current era. I truly enjoy interacting with most of the people in this state and I’m still alive and have solid quality of life thanks to the ready access to modern medicine (specifically the world renowned Mayo Clinic).
  2. I am thankful that  I have a job in a recovering economy. There are a lot of people out there struggling to get by and I’m hoping that this is the year that we see unemployment drop back down.
  3. I am thankful for Johnny Cash’s sense of humor. This morning I was a little grumpy that my triceps were still sore from the torture I inflicted on them at the gym on Wednesday, but 20 minutes in a car listening to “Boy Named Sue”, “Delia”, and “One Piece at a Time” cured me of the blues. The radio had only offered me over-played Adele and some boring talking heads, but Johnny delivered like he always does.

I challenge you to play the video below and not “come away with a different point of view.”

Let the Sunshine in!

Spring FlowersIt’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – temps around 70 degrees in what is technically still winter. Great day to harvest some vitamin D and think happy thoughts.

But somehow we don’t always find ourselves thinking happy thoughts. For me, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and of course the oft-dreaded birthday are times when reflections on what might have been or “if only” musings creep into my skull and sour me on what bounties I have accumulated in my life. With another milestone hovering just a month and a half away, I’ve decided to try and inoculate myself against the annual fear and loathing.

This morning I was up at 4, thanks to the fact that I had to get up at 4 the day before and I had reset my body’s clock accordingly. As I was perusing my morning RSS feeds, I happened across one from the Harvard Business Review on the power of positive thinking. They actually went so far as to prescribe choosing one of the following every day for three weeks as a balm against negativity:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

[Source: Positive Intelligence, Harvard Business Review]

Not willing to rely on just one potential cure, I’ve decided to do at least 3 per day for the next three weeks. So I started the day off with 40 minutes of exercise, told a co-worker how her passion for exercise makes it seem effortless which inspires me to want to push myself, and I’m now spending about 15 minutes describing in this my online journal the most meaningful experience of my day – committing to a positive attitude.

I haven’t admitted it but Newvember was a failure. I got 2 weeks into it and a buddy of mine started ridiculing it on Facebook and then I woke up sick for about a week and everything just derailed from that point on – no focus and no motivation. I’m hoping that my commitment this time will pull me through, but I’d love to hear some reinforcement from others who have committed themselves to a rosier outlook on life.