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Rule #51: The Cowardly Lion Rule
“What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk
What makes the muskrat guard his musk – COURAGE”
Cowardly Lion Wizard of Oz.
In watching the tragic events in the Ukraine over the last several weeks I have thought a lot about Courage and Evil.
The first line of the Lion’s speech in the Wizard of OZ was powerful.
” What makes a King out of a Slave- COURAGE “
Against staggering odds, the brave Citizens of the Ukraine are teaching the world what the word courage means. That they are defining by their very lives the character and purpose of facing evil no matter how frightening it appears. They know they not only face death, but nearly certain death. Yet they continue to fight with resolve and purpose. As I watch this I am humbled by their strength and character.
It also worries me when I look at our society and ask if we have the Courage as a people.
Yes, for certain we see it in the military and first responders – that willingness to charge into the fight or fire with no promise of safe return. We have well trained people willing to protect us.
But are we as a society strong enough to have courage to face what the Ukraine people are facing?
Are we teaching our children to be have Courage when needed.
In the past several generations we drifted from wanting to be dangerous to the wanting to be protected.
I get it. I’m part of that drift.
When your belly is full and your biggest immediate concern is how to get around the new Netflix security, keeping what you have seems so much more important than fighting anyone. We forget the battles our grandparents and great grandparents fought to get us to that ample table. Keeping what you have seems really important.
And instead of fighting to see your kids survive, we now what to make sure they not only have a level playing field but one sloped towards the goal. We have taught our kids to be fearful of being offended, and to expect that their rights have priority. People should not be allowed to offend them or disappoint them . That they can win a game by just showing up, and the score doesn’t really matter because we they are all winners.
When I see celebrities like Lori Loughlin cheat the system to get her child in the best schools, I worry because I have a little too much Lori in me. Whatever influence and power you have, channeling it to give your child an uneven playing field advantage seems to make a lot of sense. It feels good to have the means to move barriers to success out of the way for your kids, that their ability to win is a personal success.
But seeing the Ukraine and real adversity, I wonder if I did not do more harm than help.
Part of the ability to be dangerous is the ability to face down obstacles and at times evil and spit in the devil’s eye. Its the ability to kick the bully his ass when you need to.
In a world that is now offended by things like language usage we may have forgotten to give our kids the skills to recognize evil, and more importantly the ability to stand up to it. Besides Putin and Russia there is much evil in the world today, and the last weeks have shown us that it can not be negotiated with , or reasoned with. There will be no a class action civil rights attorney available for every grievance of their lives, we must teach our children to stand up for themselves and suck up most of the small offenses of life.
Its not that we need to make our kids dangerous thugs that are looking for a fight. But we need to help them become a little more dangerous in a dangerous world.
It is to teach our kids that falling down is part of life, and what takes courage is the ability to get up, And that when they fail they will likely be ridiculed for trying, which they need to ignore and move on. The world does not give us guidance counselors for emotional support for every fall down, often our kids need to rub some dirt on it and get back into the god damn game. Tell them stop feeling sorry for themselves, that falling is part of growing , and that they need to feel the pain to understand the victory.
I often talk in this blog and podcast about life being hard. It is fucking hard.
It is unfair, and often times the bad people win, and the bully pushes down the little guy.
But life owes them nothing. You as parents owe them nothing. This has to come from inside, because being dangerous and having courage can not be given it has to be learned.
Generally with a loving wife, 6 kids, a thriving business and a measure wealth I am consider successful. But along the way I had negative net worth twice and way displaced from 9 jobs. Life sucks often, but if you get up you can make parts of it wonderful.
I consider myself dangerous not because I can beat up the next guy, because let’s face it I can’t. But I’m dangerous because I know I can get up, that I know that the next flood is not going to drown me and the next firing won’t be my last. Dangerous means you have courage to fight life’s problems and win through attrition if not through strength.
I want my kids to learn that – that when I am gone -the ability of learning to be confident, dangerous and courageous remains. That they are ready to hit back at life when it hits them. To keep moving and never stop.
Its most important that I teach them to be able to take the hit, and maybe not work so hard at having them avoid the shots of life.
My wish is for my kids to be fighters, and seize from life its joys and smack down it obstacles.
I apologize to my listeners and readers for my disappearance. I had a personal crisis which took me away from my new podcast and 2catrule postings while I sorted out my emotions and decided how I could regroup.
I’ve long ago realized that the definition of my life was not going be what I acquired or achieved- but the definition of my life would be found in how my children and grand children lived. How they learned to treat others.
In all these blog postings and podcasts the two consistent lessons of life are 1.Be Kind 2. Be Grateful. Everything I want to teach my children about life come down to those two themes.
As I have said from the beginning of this journey I am a flawed man. I think in the end my children will learn more from my mistakes than my successes. I have realized that the journey I am on is an imperfect one, and I have made many mistakes. Its is certain that I will make many more.
I know that my children respect and love me, but at times disagree with me. At different points in their lives they have seen me as an authoritarian, a bullshitter (I know its hard to believe), and generally the road block to their joy. My parenting approach was not to try to be loved or even liked, but to embrace the role of parent and hopefully, in the long run, find that love with my children. I knew that being a parent it was impossible to be liked when I was the keeper of resources and the dispenser of discipline. I wanted to raise good people more than I wanted to be liked.
What put me on a tightrope of emotions was I was doing this as a divorced father. This made it hard to get the consistency necessary to deliver difficult messages when needed. I fortunately had a partner in Bobbi who supported me in my actions even when she disagreed with me. It is the consistency in messaging and the consistency in love which allowed me to cross that rope with a couple of scary stumbles but no falls.
In the early heat of emotion of the divorce I saw this impact on my kids and knew I had to get them off the battle field- someone had to be an adult, they needed parents not combatants. Whenever things got bad, and bad things were said about me or to me, I kept telling myself that my kids need a parent – my kids needed me to be an adult or their lives would fall into a state of constant turmoil. Sometimes you have to suck it up and focus on what your kids need even if at the moment it makes you look terrible.
It still sucked for them. Divorce is an unstable state where the kids are rocked back and forth on an emotional boat. They need to have something to grab on to and trust, something that reaffirms that they are not alone.
When parenting its hard to see the hits you take along the way will yield results- but they do.
As I look at all six of them, ages 19-34 today, I could not be more proud of them Yes, they all have been successful academically and financially. But more importantly they are truly good people that understand those two lessons of kindness and gratitude. They are all imperfect like their father, and I see some of the flaws that I have passed down to them. But by a large margin they are winning at the game of life by being good people.
What stopped me from publishing this podcast and blog was when one of my children called me a “bad dad”. It was in regards to a discussion of actions and consequences, and a disagreement over how I was approaching a situation.
In the 34 years I have been parenting I have sought advice from books, websites, therapists and friends – and most consistently Bobbi. I never claimed to have all the answers, and always tried to respectfully listen to advice whether it was solicited or not. My Dad gave me lots of it, some I listened to and used, other I listened to and went a different way. In all this advice I was the final decision maker on how to parent- it was not a democracy.
Effective parenting looks more like a benevolent dictatorship than an open democratic exchange of ideas. A smart parent listens, a smart parent isn’t afraid to change and grow, a smart parent must always puts the interest of the child first- it is a process that stops with the adult, with the parent.
Everyone that knows me knows that both my father and I loved to negotiate. I am always open to a good deal, and finding win-win solutions. But in the end with parenting, the negotiation must end and a decision has to be made- in parenting the buck stops with the adult.
The ‘disagreement” that lead to my definition as a bad Dad was about my choices and use of consequences. As my children became teenagers and adults I had a limited number of non-physical consequences to chose from. These could be a reduction of privileges or a reduction of access to assets.
The older the kids got the more limited the choices.
When Matthew was about 5 years old he was a terror at bedtime, a true terror. I remember one night in the struggle of wills I removed first his toys, then books and moved on to covers and pillows . It was his will against mine, and as the room was left with only a bare mattress he finally blinked. As cruel as that may seem it was a defining moment- I had to make my point and could not backdown – not for my sake but for his. I had to use everything at my disposal and I almost was out of options. Thank God he blinked.
But when it comes to older kids I have use cars, credit cards, allowances and even when necessary college tuition. With four of my kids I threatened it, with two I actually withheld it.
Very few things are as important to me as seeing my kids well education. But raising kids that are kind and grateful is far more important to me than the degree they have. So when necessary I used the arrow I had available and aimed for where it would be felt.
I’m not sure how my kids will remember me- maybe as a tyrant, maybe as a saint- but neither is true. In the end all I really have tried to be is a Good Dad. Its sort of how I define my life, and when that was questioned it hurt my feelings to the point I could not continue with these messages without understanding the purpose of it. It made me question if my kids missed the point.
But after reflection I see they aren’t missing it. They may not agree with all my postings, but they listen respectfully and use what they feel is useful. I’m good with that approach, it is what I did with my Dad.
Yes I was deeply hurt but the comment, and yes the aftermath of me telling them to” fuck off” when the comment wasn’t retracted has had the disappoint consequence of isolated from them. I regret my anger and language, but remain steadfast in that my definition of being a “Good Dad” does not require me to be liked. But it does require me to be an adult. And as an adult I am going to do what I believe is right and in the interest of my child no matter what vote is against me.
The lesson in this rule is one of parenting. What parenting truly means.
If you are going to raise good people ( the ultimate goal of good parenting) you must be willing to risk everything. Your time, your fortune and your pride – nothing is more important than the mission of raising good people.
You will face a time when your kids hate you. Maybe that will happen when they are 5 , maybe when they are 50 but it is not only possible, it will happen. Being the adult in the room is the one that says no to ice cream, no to cars and sometimes no to college.
If you have kids you have an obligation to them, and the world, to raise the best human beings possible. You are the last barrier to the world, the last chance to give clear lessons and consequences, even if it means you need to be called a Bad Dad. In the end its the only way you can truly be a “Good Dad”.
Part of becoming an adult and finding happiness is a process of trying to find your own true meaning of Christmas. We are all in our own version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” trying to sort through our lives and be a little less Scrooge and a little more Fezziwig. The quest at its foundation is a search for hope.
The whole foundation of Christmas is to celebrate the arrival of the savior of mankind who is offering us hope for salvation and purpose.
One of my favorite movie scenes of perhaps the second greatest Christmas movie of all time ” A wonderful life” is when the Senior Angel is speaking the the angel in training Clarence.
“Senior Angel : A man down on Earth needs our help.
Clarence : Splendid. Is he sick?
Senior Angel : No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
I think many times in life that is danger we face- the danger of discouragement. A life without hope.
In 2021 we have the challenges of a Virus that has changed our lives, and in a way robbed us of hope. We have all become somewhat discouraged.
Discouraged not from incompetent leaders or scientists, although they have contributed they are not the cause of our discouragement- they were there before the virus and will be here after. The cause is that we have lost hope, we have lost our way, many of us are planning for a future that will be less bright- and simply worse.
Adding to that we are beginning to see each other as enemy’s without salivation. To see people as either as too stupid or too evil to have worth because you disagree with their politics or medical treatments. When you don’t believe we have been promised salvation- hope disappears and our discouragement makes enemies out of friends.
When I think of Christmas and the birth of Jesus I really focus on what his birth meant and why after more than 2 millennium we continue to debate not only his existence by his purpose. I think what makes the Christmas story sustainable isn’t Santa Clause but the idea that we have been promised eternal hope.
Christmas is a time to reflect on the promise of Christ’s birth, the promise to all of us that we have the opportunity to better ourselves by how we treat one another. That the gift of Christmas is the birth of Hope through the birth of a Savor.
I know as I write this many of my readers and children question the existence or purpose of Jesus and God generally. But even if you don’t believe, you can celebrate what Christmas represents – that tomorrow offers a brighter future for everyone, no matter their past choices and mistakes. That Christmas is the the promise of hope in our lives.
So no matter how you choice to celebrate it, I want to wish you a lifetime of hope and the Merriest of Christmases.
Rule #59- Out by 9
I had the chance this week to visit Pennsylvania and my family that lives there. Rachel, Andrew and Ashleigh are all doing awesome, and my granddaughters become more adorable by the day. I am truly blessed.
I’m not one that believes that you have to physically be at the grave of someone to remember them. Rather I think you remember people by actions, and in particularly the way you treat others and the lessons that you learn from the loved ones.
But I was in town and stopped by my parents graves. When I did so it was surprisingly emotional even though its been more than 7 years for my dad and more than 21 years for my mom. I miss them and just taking the time to focus on that was hard, they were both gone too soon. I let myself pretend that their passing didn’t impact me, but that’s a lie.
My emotions range from sorrow to anger to catholic guilt. You know that good old fashion regret sort of guilt where you run through your every mistake in your mind praying that the next replay will have a better outcome. I am a very flawed man, and sadly a flawed son. Neither of them ever made me feel that way ,but I know now that I could have been a better son. I regret much.
My way of making penance with them and God is to remember their lessons. A lot of this Blog and Podcast is a way of passing on the lessons I learned from them to my kids and grandkids. My hope that Aubrey and Hailey will read or listen to these postings and share the thoughts with their kids. In a real way I hope that this become real remembrance of my parents, who they did not get a chance to meet. My Mom would have adored them, and I feel that she does now in her own way.
As I sat by the grave I thought about one of the lessons my dad taught me, its how he kept sane after my Mom passed so early in 2000 at the age of 64. Being alone was hard- they has done most things as a couple. Parties, dinners and travel continued as a couple long past when it should have because of both those wills to fight against the robber of Alzheimer. It stole so much from them both but they raged against it till the end.
After she passed my Dad was sort of lost, he would sit in a darkened room with the cat she loved and he tolerated and sort of zone out. It was only through the gift of friends that they had both made that he started functioning again, first going out to dinner and then events.
I had the chance to ask him how he did it, how he got through it all.
He told me that the secret wasn’t hard, it just to get out of the house every day by no later than 9 am.
He said that getting old and being alone its easy to feel sorry for yourself. He told me that “the walls whisper to you” they tell you that your back hurts and that you are feeling bad. The house sort of consumes your spirit and the aloneness is like a dangerous drug that appears more normal the more you take it.
During the Holiday season that aloneness can turn to self pity and bitterness, blaming the world for what its taken from you. You can feel forgotten and you will start to give up.
My Dad’s secret lesson for the next 14 years of his life was to get out of bed, and go somewhere. Sometimes is was the mall to walk – he loved walking past the Victoria Secrets Store. Sometimes it was a movie or breakfast with old work buddies. But he got out.
That process of ” getting out by 9″ had him rejoin things like the School Board that he had given up when Mom was the sickest. He found passion in the community choir although he had the same musical talent I had, none. He used these times out of the house to reconnect with the world, and through it found purpose and happiness.
As I think about how simple the rule of ” out by 9″ is I realize how these simple lessons can be applied to so much. It isn’t just when you are old and alone – it when you are feeling depressed and overwhelmed by life at 40. The process of getting out forces us from ourselves and makes us engage.
As I approach 62 I realize that the quirkiness of Dad had hidden wisdom that I was either too business or to arrogant to embrace when given. But eventually even the blindest of squirrels finds the nut and learns to survive.
So kids if you ever get the chance to visit your grandparents graves or perhaps mine if I ever die, I ask that you do not reflect on the sadness but on the lessons. The simple lessons of life like “getting out by 9”.
It can make all the difference.
Rule #39 : Live a life of Abundance
A good friend and long term mentor Mike Miles dropped me note today, catching up on each others adventures. Good friends will become more important as you get older, they are the glue that keeps you together when the world is pulling you a part. They should be cherished .
He mention in our correspondence that he was moving away from a life of scarcity. It was an interesting phrase that had a lot of value tied to it. That made me think, what do you move to and why?
Scarcity is what we are taught early in life, to accumulate and prepare. To not waste. To be the prudent ant and not the grasshopper fiddling away the summer. Its about building wealth, security and stability. Scarcity is making good long term choices and being ready for what the world throws at you.
In a Gordon Gekko view, scarcity teaches us that Greed is Good. That the world is effectively one large pie, and the slice of your pie leaves less for others. So if you don’t get yours someone else will. Its the voice that tells us to horde toilet paper and grab the big piece of chicken off the plate first. It keeps us safe but makes us small.
Small, in that viewing the world as being filled with people trying to get your share, makes you limit you friends and connections with the world. As you build your tower of success you get further and further away from people with whom you can enjoy the successes.
Small in that every interaction with people comes down to an equation of net sum gain. We are only winning when others are losing. Its a small view that tells us that everything has an hidden motive and that people only do things which result in benefit to themselves. It focuses more on protection from harm than enjoying the abundance of life.
This fear is real and grounded in fact. Lots of people live their lives to take advantage of other people.
Bobbi was coming out of Target the other day and saw a man playing a violin with his small child next to him He was playing beautiful Christmas songs. She was touched and dropped a $20 in his tip jar.
She called her friend to tell her about it. She learned then it was a scam, and it was recorded music, and that a group was going around tricking people into tipping them. The more she investigated the more wide spread this scam seem to be. It was disappointing.
But this will not take Bobbi’s Christmas spirit, and she will be likely scammed by many others. Bobbi’s act of generosity was not because she wanted something, it was just to share the Christmas joy she felt. That $20 did not lose its impact on her happiness, rather she felt sorry for them having to make a living that way.
There will always be a scam artist or dishonest person thinking they are getting the best of you when you are feeling sentimental or kind. But to try to protect yourself from them takes more from yourself then that the loss of the $20, it makes you live your life in a very small way. Bobbi remained her abundant self.
One of my business partner Greg’s favorite stories was when he was in New York rushing to a restaurant for a meeting with an important client. He was approached by pan handler pleading his own ” fake violin” case for money. Greg reached in his pocket and only had a $100… he thought for a moment and said what the hell… gave it to him. The man was overwhelmed and kept thanking him all the way to when he went inside the restaurant.
The dinner went well and he left the restaurant with the clients in a good mood. As they walked to the cab, that same pan handler screamed across the street… ” That’s him .. the greatest man in New York, The most generous man in New York” . Greg smiled, and the clients left with the impression that they were with the King of New York. Some time abundance comes to you in strange ways.
Being Abundant is about living life in an open large way. It is looking to impact people with our time, energy and money that is about the joy of the moment and not the the result of the exchange. Its living life in fear of not connecting rather than in fear of losing. For in being closed off and scared of being cheated we cheat ourselves out of joy.
One of the greatest secrets to a successful life is that when things look overwhelming in your own life, and you feel helpless – the solution is to find someone to help. Its is only through an open abundant life that we can find our own pathway through challenges. Abundance grows joy in the world while scarcity steals it from us.
Life is often very hard and some people become bitter and evil because of this hardness. But the more open and abundant you live your life the smaller these people’s world will become.
Living a generous open life of abundance will greatly increase your chance of loss, but it exponentially increases your chance of gain. When we focus on others we become much larger.
Rule #123: VEGAS Baby
I have recently returned from a Thanksgiving trip to Vegas with my family. I have been to sin city many times over the years but its only been on my most recent trips have I gained prospective on the city and its role in my life.
I like Vegas a lot. Its basically an adult play group catering to virtually every vice a man could dream up. Its a Disney World of E-ticket rides ( dating myself a little with that reference- google that one kids) where gambling is mixed with roller coasters and strip clubs. What always attracted me to NYC and Vegas was the 24 hour lifestyle, Anywhere you can get good Chinese food a 3 am has it charms.
But what I realize now after about 30 visits is that Vegas is a life lesson. It is a experiment in what is possible in our life and like life what you get out of Vegas is from a mixture of self restraint and risk taking. Vegas offers all of what life offers but in a convenience of a one town shopping experience. Because its all there- sex, drugs, gambling, entertainment, food and drink its impossible to imbibe in all of it and stay alive. You must make choices.
Vegas requires a personal philosophy and a plan. Like life it can be enjoyed by yourself, with a significant other or in a group- you choose. And since Vegas has the ability to consume the wealth of billionaires you have to budget your time, energy and money to successfully survive it. Vegas isn’t a place it a state of mind.
Since experiences are all so abundant and assessable it is important not to try to live there or stay too long , or you will be consumed by the limitedness of it all. I’ve considered buying a property in Vegas, but quickly realized that lacked the personal discipline to drive by the casinos without wandering through them too often. I admire those that can do it, I’m just not one of them. Vegas to me is and will remain a 4 night town- the perfect lost long weekend. 3 nights give you too little time to embrace it, 5 nights begins to corrupt your soul and your bank account.
People make the mistake of using Vegas as the place for bachelor or bachelorette parties – what you should be doing is taking your significant other there for 4 nights. By the end of that 4 nights you will truly know who you are marrying.
If they are an alcoholic, or drug or sex addict you will find that out within 48 hours. Trust me you will know if they have problems with these vices pretty darn quick.
The subtler observations will come over the 4 days. Do they choose things that you both can enjoy, are they capable of managing money, and can they plan activities. It will show you quickly what type of life partner they will be, and reveal their personal priorities in life.
The big reveals will come when you are exhausted and had to stand in lines, go to the ATM more than you wanted or dealing with hangovers. The moment when Vegas wears you down and pulls your arm behind you back and makes you scream uncle will be a telling time. It will show character- do they rise to the occasion and remain attentive and loving under pressure. If you still like and love each other after 80 hrs in Vegas your relationship will last.
Vegas is life in a pressure cooker with all the distractions and challenges life will throw at you supercharged into a few hours. You will either cook into a nice meal, or explode. It has the opportunity to define character.
Finally Vegas teach you one of the most important lessons – life isn’t about winning its about surviving an enjoying the moment. Life is hard, and often the result unexpected despite the best system applied against the house. The house always wins.
The lesson is that is about the ability to find joy in the moment- the show, the dinner or even losing at the craps table- joy is there if you value the experience more than the win. In life no one gets out alive in the long term, and in Vegas no one wins in the long term. Its who you are with and how you play the will determine your joy.
Be safe, be smart and visit Vegas.
Rule#98: Always Brine the Bird
Life is complicated and hard. And some of the things I say in this blog are meant to simplify and focus your choices in life. I try my best to be profound, but with the passage of time, when I’m long gone, you might find them to be the ramblings of a delusional old man.
There are sprinkled in these life rules for my kids some absolutes- things that I am certain of beyond a doubt . This is one of them … Always Brine your Bird.
As a young man I wasn’t sure I’d ever get married. I certainly wasn’t thinking I would one day be the father of 6 kids. Life as it often does, sort of happened to me, and I went with the flow of where I felt I was being guided by the universe.
So along the way I had to learn life skills, survival cooking was one of them. I learned how to cook for my family, and actually found that I really enjoyed it. But like a hack comedian I like playing to a big room – the more people the better I think I cook.
Turkey is one of those foods that screams groups and family. Nobody thinks at 5 pm on a Tuesday , ” Boy I’d like to cook a turkey for us to eat while watching the new season of Yellowstone”. You think about turkey when you are going to have “company”.
Company requires prep. You have to clean the bathrooms, pick up the clutter and think about a meal that every one will need to wear their stretchy pants. Turkey is one of those foods that immediately comes to mind.
Turkey is warm, plentiful and if done right juicy. It is perfect because people can bring there own sides to help add to the feast. In fact my turkey dressing has been known to cure cancer.
But Turkey is always center stage. And if you are having a bunch of your friends over for a meal that bird better dance, or the whole meal will end with people stopping by the Taco Bell drive through on the way home. Its critical that you do it right.
No matter which brand bird you choose, fresh or frozen the most critical step is in the prep. Specifically the brine. You MUST brine the bird, even if its only for 4 hours- but 24 is ideal.
Turkey as with all poultry can be pretty bland and tasteless. It can also become terribly dried out in the cooking process ( if possible I recommend smoked).
As all things in life .. your relationships, your work and your family it is the prep time that matters. Life can be pretty bland and boring if you are not thinking of things to spice things up. We have to take what we are given in life and add the spices to make it fun and exciting. This is especially true when it comes to turkeys. It also works with wives and foot rubs. But that is another rule…
So for a Brine recommend a citrus brine…
- 1 cup Sea Salt
- 1 Lemon , cut into Wedges
- 1 Orange , cut into wedges
- 1 medium onion , cut into wedges
- 3 cloves of garlic ( because the soul is made of garlic)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon if dried thyme
- 1 1/2 gallons of water
- 1 cup of bourbon ( because, why the hell not)
- 1/2 cup of sugar
I always use a completed defrost bird, and after mixing the ingredients together submerge the bird in a bucket- adding about 1/2 a cup of ice before refrigerating.
You can’t rush prep in life. Time is the secret ingredients to a good sex life, successful business and good turkey- take you time. Too much and your wife falls asleep, too little and everyone is disappointed. Time matters.
At least 4 hr, but no more than 24 remove the bird and pat it dry. You can then add your own special dry spices before cooking. Finding your unique signature to your bird is part of the fun and magic of cooking. I like using fresh rosemary and dried thyme- coating the bird a mixture of mayo and butter. Yes, I said mayo- don’t judge until you try it. It is ideal for smoking a bird and helps with a prefect browning.
Lastly cooking a turkey requires carving and presentation. This is a prefect time for reflection. Reflection on the gift of friends and family, the joy of sharing a meal with those you love and the blessing of being together.
Rule #279 : Life is complicated ( the life time channel rule)
As the holiday season approaches I am seeing the warnings for one of the most dangerous times of the year- lifetime holiday movie season.
I was sort of happy that Lori Loughlin went to jail . Not because she did anything worthy of it with the pay for college scandal, but because of the damage to people’s lives she has done by making all those Lifetime Channel movies. Each story starting with all too nice of people facing conflict and finding inner strength and truth, which leads them on a path of happiness and joy. In the perfect 2 hr format ( with commercials) all issues come to a head, the bad guys lose, the good guys triumph and love saves us all.
People see these movies and try to live Martha Stewart existences with perfectly folded napkins and that gorgeous Christmas tree.
But life is like the real Martha Stewart who used insider information to cheat other investors, a convicted felon, twice divorced who now makes money taking edibles with Snoop Dog. By all measures she should be losing, but has over 400M in net worth and lives a life of luxury. WTF? where is the justice of the Lifetime story, where is the fairness- why are the bad guys winning?
I’m sure people look at my life and see a man that has made a life motto out of ” Michelob Ultra and bad choices” and think the same thing. Yes I truly try to make “good choices” and be a good person, but I fail a lot. Sometimes consequences impact me, and sometimes I still win despite picking the wrong door. The Karma and consequences of actions sometimes doesn’t all add up to results. Look at Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods- how can these guys be successful after doing terrible things?
Well life is complicated.
I’ve learn the lesson that sometimes things don’t go the way Lori Loughlin promised, not even for Lori.
In my nearly 62 years I have been shocked when I open the door to bedrooms and peak under the covers to see what is going on in people’s lives. You see it all- infidelity, drug use, alcoholism, spousal abuse, internet porn addiction and sometimes complete secret lives. I have been to now 4 funerals that became venues for secret families to discover each other…now that’s a lifetime movie that would get some ratings. I think the success of the books like 50 shades of Gray and the consent adding of letters to the LGBTQIA+ world has opened up the understanding that the world is much more complicated than we all thought.
How you survive the “good things happening to bad people” phenomenon is to focus not so much on people’s personal live but on how they treat you and others.
You must demand a level of respect and kindness from others. No matter what anyone has going on in their lives and which sugar baby is wearing the catholic school girl outfit for them, we should demand to be treated with kindness and respect. I have ended a number of relationships because a person shares their stories of sexual infidelity with me, I find including me in those discussion both disrespectful to the the person they are cheating on and to me by asking me to accept the actions. If you feel a need to get naked and be fed Oreos by prostitutes enjoy it, just don’t include me in the discussion.
You have to develop your own moral lines for a world that is filled with immortality. For me that line is when someone else is in danger, being abused or being left neglected and needs help. Things like spousal, child and elder abuse are the lines which for me that demands immediate action.
Look less for the right things but the healthy things for you and your family.
I focus on behavior. What are they doing to others- are they providing care, and they dealing with long term issues of finances and needs. When I divorced I immediately said child support and spousal support are not an issue, and lets divide all the assets quickly and fairly. I think I stood up for my responsibilities and made sure my kids all went to college and were engaged in my life. Does this make me a good person – Hell no. Does this make me right in anything I did or did not do in the marriage- HELL NO. I was not, and am not a perfect person, personally I struggle just trying to be a good person. But actions matter- and the pathway to decent life starts with the right actions.
As you navigate this world and encounter the unfairness I recommend you focus not on the fallibility of man, because it will consume and anger you. I recommend you focus ordinary men doing extraordinary things. Asking them not to give up the Oreos but to make sure the finances are set up for their families, that they take there responsibilities to heart be their with the support their families count on in their lives. It being there that matters- showing up after failing is far more lifetime worthy than just showing up.
Lifetime movies are not real.
Doing the healthy thing is very real, and can make all the difference.
Rule # 32: 15 minutes
I have been modestly successful in business starting a dozen companies and selling them from time to time. I get asked what the secret to success is a lot, and find my kids are always looking for the magic formula that will jump start them in the right path. I wish I could say there was an investment or course that would give them an advantage, but truthfully the answer is less challenging than that.. it comes down to 15 minutes.
In my first ” real” full-time job at Harleysville Insurance I noticed virtually everyone showed up about on-time at 8:30 am and that the same people generally left within minutes of when work ended at 5 pm. Yes there were a few people that came in very early or stayed very late, but 99% of the people were gone by 5:15 each day.
I also realized that the vast majority of the executives were there a little later or a little earlier- but it wasn’t like they were there till 9 pm at night… it was just a little more than the masses were doing. So I decided that I would never just get up and leave but wait till I was done what I was doing and organize my desk for the next day. That extra couple minutes at beginning and end of the day allowed me the advantage I needed to compete better at my job. It also drew attention from my bosses, they noticed me.
Of course I wasn’t subtle about getting noticed, often stopping at Dunkin prior to coming in, and grabbing 2 coffees rather than one. Nothing builds relationships like stopping by and asking if a boss would like your extra coffee or bear claw. Its the 15 minutes, the coffee, the time, the little differences that matter.
Tom Brady’s 600+ wins make him the GOAT of the game and possibly of all sports. Yes, he did sell his soul to the devil for the wins and Gisele- that’s a given. But as much as I loathed this guy in the past I see a lot of the 15 minute rule in him. During Covid he was training in the off season, he has a consistency about showing up and making a marginally greater effort than others.
This guy doesn’t run fast, have the best arm or the agility of most modern quarterbacks. He just puts in the extra 15 minutes in his game, he shows others that he is committed to the game, the team and the win. The team respects him.
I still hate him but I too have learned to respect him.
And I guess that’s what the 15 minute rule is about. Doing what is necessary to earn the respect of those you work with. The marginal differences, the few extra minutes with your head in the game makes all the difference.
This rule fits work easily, but it fits your personal relationships even more clearly. The thing that your family wants from you most is you. Your undivided ,focused attention. If you give of 15 minutes of focused engagement with your partner and separately your kids each day your life will change dramatically.
Your family will respect you for being there that 15 minutes. Its easy to think the engagement is too big, and that you are already feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands – but that extra small bit of focused time earns respect. And after you have their respect all things are possible. Without it even the big wins will feel empty and meaningless.
Rule # 42: Ask for Help
One of the things I have noticed in developing this list of “life rules” is that the most important rules are the simplest. They sort of cut through the BS of life with a clarity that is self evident. This is one of those rules.
In the past week 4 of my 6 children have come to Bobbi and I for some sort of help. That might make you think that our family is in crisis or failing – but it is actually an indication of the strong health of the family. Failure would be family suffering alone, and spiraling into bigger problems.
In the United States the culture of “rugged individualism” is glorified. Its the “pull yourself up your bootstraps”, “put on our big girl panties”, ” Yippi-Ki-YA Mother-fucker” philosophy that is reinforced as 100% American, that gets us headed down the wrong road.
Don’t get me wrong I am not becoming a ” it take a Village” liberal, all I am saying is that sometimes Tony needs to see a shrink. You can’t do it all alone.
And there is the root of the whole thing… we are not alone.
Since we were all swinging monkeys in trees we were social animals. Animals that require the interaction with others to both survive and thrive- we were not made to be the John Waynes or John McClains of the Animal kingdom – we were meant to interact with each other. It is only through interaction that we learn and grow.
As a father the scariest thing we face is that our children will feel lost and alone. The fear that my kids will not realize how wonderful they are and how great life can be is my greatest fatherly fear.
Before each kid left for college I gave them all the same lecture. The snowball effect talk.
I told them that when they go to college they will be faced with thousands of new distractions from relationships with roommates, to college parties, to new sexual interactions. It will all come hurdled at them at 100 mph when they least expect it. It will be a blizzard of distractions pulling them in every direction, and burying them in a bank of despair.
I tell them, it isn’t a question of if this will happen, but when it will happen. It may happen when you fail you first biology exam ( that’s how it happened to me) or when you realize that you are four weeks behind on a project that is due in two days. But that storm is a coming…
I tell them to remember at those times…. ASK FOR HELP. Don’t let the snowballs start rolling, because the longer they turn in those freshly packed layers the larger they will get. Eventually they will run you over.
I tell them that to know this before you even walk on campus. Start thinking about who you they will call and how they will ask for help. Learning that skill of asking for help will be the only way they will survive the blizzard. Know the campus tutor lines, the mental health crisis lines and all the other sources of help.
And don’t be ashamed of failure, be focused on the recovery.
To Err is human to recover Devine. You can’t avoid the weather, it comes to all of us eventually, but you can prepare and recover.
When Mr. Rogers was a child he tried to understand terrible things happening in the news. To understand why these things were happening to him and the world.
His mother told him ” Look for the helpers, you will always find people that are helping”.
I take that just a little further in that you need to ask these people for help.
As JK Rowling points out in the Deathly Hollows … “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” Dumbledore was one wise dude.
The proudest moments in my life are coming now when I see my children helping each other. I see them sharing their problems and secrets with each other, and rallying to the aid of a sibling when needed. I see that they have truly know that Help will be given to those that ask.
Life is hard as it is wonderful. Sometimes its fucking hard. Sometimes the snow seems like it will never stop and that snowball will crush us.
But it always stop. Look for the helpers, particularly your brothers and sisters, because help will always be given.
You just need to ask.