Rule 74: Winning is a deodorant

Rule 74: Winning is a deodorant

I was reading about the recent firing of Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly and found a number of sports writers were fond of the expression…”winning is a deodorant”.

As I thought about the Eagles season, and Chip’s firing I believe that if Chip had 1 more  win he would have been allowed to run the team as he wanted, for at least another year. When it came down to it, how he did it, and how much he stunk up this city and this team in the process didn’t matter. What covered up the smell of all those crappie decisions was winning…and when the winning was gone the smell became intolerable.

I’m not advocating for a Machiavellian view of the world that every “end” justifies every “mean”. But I do think why we embrace the sport of football so passionately is that  winning  is understood not only as the goal but the whole purpose of the game.  We as Americans embrace winning as a culture.

I think in the current Presidential elections the reason Donald Trump is getting so much support is that he understands that desire to ” win” is fundamental to our society. That people like to feel their leaders will do anything to keep the country winning as the world’s leader. I think the reasons Republicans are embracing his sometimes insane statements is that they are sick of losing.  Losing stinks. (personally I think he is crazy, but people miss winning)

Right now if  a convicted murderer came into Philadelphia and showed a path to having ANY Philadelphia team win they would be given a pardon for all past failings as long as they put wins on the board. As bad as the Eagles and Phillies are, the 76ers are worse… I think OJ has a job waiting for him when he is paroled as long as he can win.

There is a stink to losing that no matter how many participation trophies are given out nothing but winning can cover up. In business I am often frustrated by those who have learned to live with the smell of an almost win. They do a good job, work on a lot of projects but never get to the objectives and get a win.

Its hard not to appreciate a job well done, and  the effort made. But you run 26 miles but don’t finish the last 385 yards, no matter how you look at it you’re a good runner but not a marathoner.  Doing well matters, but winning and finishing matters a little bit more in our world.

I know this rule will upset a lot of moms and dads who want to see the world treat their children a little more compassionately or a little more kindly.  That the grim message of the rule that “winning” matters will make it world seem a little more nasty and hard.

But I am finding a lot of people struggling to understand why they are not getting promotions, raises or achieving business success. After all they show up for work, they don’t steal and they try really hard most days. Sure they aren’t driving the ball forward, but they aren’t doing any harm either. Shouldn’t this dedication and focus count for something?

In life winning matters. Getting the account, selling the car or fixing the air conditioner matters more than just giving out a good proposal or almost getting the cold air to work. Value comes from delivering a result, to achieving the win.

I think I do a disservice to my children by keeping the idea that winning matters from them, and hurt them by telling them its about having fun and enjoying themselves.  Because winning is hard, and effort is require.

I worry about our society when the focus in on not finding pathways out of minimum wage jobs at McDonald but on making these jobs more attractive. Cooking fries at McDonalds, although noble in that it is honest work, isn’t winning- its participating. Making it $15  instead of $7.50 an hour doesn’t make it winning either, it just makes it a shinier participation trophy.  The job still stinks, just pays more.

Using this job to get a better job, by doing well at it is winning. Becoming an assistant manager then a manager is winning. The people who “win” their way out of these participation roles deserve our greatest praise, they have earned their wins they were not given them. They smell the best.

Life stinks a lot of the time. As I have said repeatedly in this blog, life is hard. But life is also a wonderful gift, and although hard to achieve,  the rewards of winning are real and can bring true joy to our lives. Winning is also highly addictive, when you have tasted nothing ever smells as good .. ask any Phillies fan that can remember 1980.  Once you smell it everything else stinks.

And the stink of the Eagles is particularly pungent today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 88- Santa is real

Rule # 88- Santa is real

As we approach Christmas  I am quick to remind my children of the Hill household rule that when anyone stops believing in Santa, Santa no longer visits them. This rule has kept my teenagers from sharing there skepticism of the jolly guy with any impressionable toddler.

This year I have to face the real possibility that I am left as the only true believer in the household. That even Abby at 13 has serious doubts as to St Nicholas’ existence.

But even in the face of these non-believers I stand hard on my rule, and my belief that he exists.

Yes, sure I have heard all the reasons to not believe- that he would be hundreds of years old, that he could not possibly visit all the world in one night and that reindeers flying is a physical impossibility. But I argue that there are three very good reasons not to give up belief and encourage others to believe…

First, life is hard and true happiness is challenging to hang on to for long. When I find someone that is truly happy, harming no one and helping others I generally leave that someone alone. If someone has found a way to be positive to others I think they should be praised and encouraged for their behavior and questioned very little.  If a fat old man came up to me today and handed me a present I’d ask very few questions about his existence. By all accounts Santa meets the definition of this type of person.

Second, as I’ve gotten older I have become far less certain about the world and what is true and not true. I have seen many things that I was absolutely certain of in my 20’s fall to the dust over time. When I was young I always wore a hat in the winter because I knew with certainty that a person lost 40% of their body heat from their head. Only  problem was I was absolutely wrong, at maximum its 10% that is lost. If I can be wrong about that and Aerosmith being the best band ever, I can be wrong about Santa. Nothing is absolutely certain.

Finally our world needs people with grateful hearts, people that want to give more than they take in the world. I look at the phenomenal success of Pope Frances recent visit to the US and realize that he is loved because his central message is to give to and care for the poor. I’ve never met the Pope personally but have seen him on television, the same can be said of Santa. If I can give a man with a grateful heart like the Pope the benefit of the doubt that he exists I can certainly extend the same to a man that gives to everyone each year.

We live in a cynical world full of negative people doing bad things to others. I chose to put my belief is a man who is perhaps the most positive, kind and grateful creature that ever existed. I personally hope that he lives on for another thousand years, delivering the messages of hope and joy.

And as tradition dictates as I distributed the gifts that the big guy left this year I expect each of my children to affirm their belief as well. No Santa, no gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 25 : There is Evil in the world

Rule # 25 :  There is Evil in the world

In this blog I focus on “life’s rules”  that I can share with my children in a more lasting way than just a talk. I hoped that by sharing my experiences they could find their path with less unnecessary turns or without hitting some of the big bumps in their  travels.

Occasionally I am slammed with the reality of life’s dangers and forced to find a way to give advice when the world seems to make no sense at all. I find myself at one of those moments in trying to make sense of the mass killings in Paris and San Bernardino- what lesson do I need to share to protect my children?

After thought I have come to the conclusion that they must understand there is Evil in the world and they must deal with it on their own terms.

As my children were growing up I taught them all to respect different views of the world, that there are more than one approach to a situation. I reinforced the values of tolerance, understanding and compromise- that with discussion and love every situation could be solved by finding common ground, relying on the basic good that exists in people. I believed that by teaching my children how to be kind, they would know kindness.

I may have taught them to be sitting ducks.

Unfortunately this all works well in 99.9% of situations until you are confronted by Evil. Evil is different than just someone doing something bad to someone else. People that do bad things generally know it, and feel shame and guilt for their actions. It is the shame or guilt that ultimately stops bad things being done by most rational people. Evil to me is when bad things are done but rationalized as acceptable because of some internal lie being told.

Sometimes this lie is hidden in a political belief, other times inside a religious theology and other times inside a talking cat that  tells you to kill your neighbor. Its is the lie that allows all the bad things to exist. Without the lie the bad deeds would be seen for what they are and never become evil, but hidden in that lie the evil grows and becomes more dangerous.

If you had a neighbor that told you that his Cat was telling him to kill you I hope that you would do two things. First protect yourself through avoidance, calling the police and taking defensive actions against that neighbor, and second not blame the Cat.

It gets more complicated when a bunch of people think that neighbor’s Cat is actually talking and start to agree with the neighbor and think killing you is a good idea. No matter how many people agree killing the Cat won’t help, because there are lots more Cats they can listen to. But the more people live the lie, the more difficult it will be to contain the Evil. Shooting the Cat will seem like a better and better solution as the group becomes more comfortable with doing Evil things, but it will not solve the problem.

There are three things you need to do in situations which you are comforted with Evil.

First, recognize it for what it is- Evil. It frustrates me that the current media debate as to motive on the California killings, trying to explain it away as not Evil but just a bad thing done in the name of workplace violence. A co-worker just got upset and decided to seek revenge, more mental illness than Evil they will have you believe. These people are dangerous because they are masking the lie, hiding it in layers of rationalization and self-loathing.

But Evil is not hard to find. Its obvious and sloppy. Someone building bombs in their home, stockpiling weapons and ammo want one thing – to hurt many people. People pushing the lie will want you to not think of this as Evil, but to explain and rationalize it as good people’s fault. They will tell you we were not accepting enough, our gun controls not strong enough and our mental health systems not responsive- everything will be our fault or the fault of another group. Someone protecting  lie will want the conversation to move away from evil- on to any other issue that will distract us from seeing the Evil. It is important that you recognize the lie, and you understand that when you see 14 people murdered in cold blood that the thing to blame is the people that did it and the people that are pushing the lie that rationalized it.

After you identify the lie you need to protect yourself from it, and the Evil. The same avoidance, calling the police and taking defensive actions are key.  I’m not encouraging you to buy guns, but I am encouraging you to take action to protect yourself anyway you feel is appropriate. Evil has the lie driving, it will not stop, you have to be prepared to defend yourself.

Finally call the lie for what it is – a lie.  When others say the Cat is talking to them, tell them it is not and warn others that the lie exists. People in their hearts know when something is wrong, focusing on the Bad things and the Lies that allow them is the only way others can help you stop it. Knowing that no lie can support these actions is the only thing that can restore the truth.

And remember never to trust anything a cat tell you- the are liars and evil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

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Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

I recently was on a red eye flight from San Diego to Chicago on my way back home to Pennsylvania. I was expecting a nice quiet flight after what had been a long couple days of meetings. I was in first class so I knew I would have the opportunity to stretch-out in the big comfy seat, put on an inflight movie and fall to sleep.

While I waited for the flight to board I noticed a young woman alone,traveling with a very young baby girl. I thought,

” that’s weird to be traveling this late, I feel sorry for the  coach passengers that have to sit beside her”.

I was smug I my certainty that the burden would  fall the coach passengers while I slept soundly in my  row 2 seat after sipping my nite cap.

Boarding with the other first class passengers I waited for the window seat passenger to arrive, and watch in horror that the woman with the baby was going to be my seatmate for the 4 1/2 hr flight.  I was upset.

But then a saw it…the glares and scows of the people in the cabin with me, looking at this woman in that same..” what the hell” stare. And I realize this was not a burden or bad thing, it was a gift from God.

How often do we get given the opportunity to be kind to someone in need, to be a protector of someone who is vulnerable. I decided at that moment not to be the asshole but to embrace the experience and put myself not only in the place of that mother but that baby. A baby who was tried and scared, and likely did not want to be sitting next to a 55 year old fat man who she did not know. It must have been terrifying for her.

I told the woman I had 6 kids and to relax and nothing would bother me. She seemed releaved.

Each time the baby fussed and cried I tried not to react at all, but just offer help. I saw the light from the backseat video monitor was keeping her up, and turned it off. I was placed there for a reason, my purpose was to make this trip a little less uncomfortable and a little less stressful for that baby.

I think life gives us opportunities to be the ‘good guy”, the champion of others and we pass them by not realizing that the gift is to us not to the person we are helping.  By helping we do very little for that person and get back a great deal more for your soul.   You are given the gift of purpose.

Don’t get me wrong I’m like everyone else an asshole at heart.  If I had not by fate or happenstance been seated next to this mother and child, I would have likely been one of those people glaring and complaining in a hush to my seatmate. Basically we get lots more chances to be assholes than to be champions. I miss most of my opportunities while I’m in a rush to get somewhere else.

Crying babies are one of those things that can not be ignored. They won’t go away  no matter how many distasteful looks they are given.  When you hear one don’t think of it as  a problem but as a reminder that we have a common purpose on this earth, to help each other survive.

I think that there are fewer champions in the world because many of the people in distress are taught to keep their problems to themselves. I think the champions are out there, but they have lost the ability to hear the cries of the damsels in distress and forgotten how to help. Babies crying on a plane helps wake up those hidden instincts.

I also like the fact that the Babies will not be able to thank you or remember any kindness. We don’t expect it of course, but I think they remind us through their inability to respond that its about us defining who we are and not them thanking us. Its the baby who is giving the gift, we are the one’s who should be grateful.

Not looking the act for what we can get out of it, but understanding how an act can defined us is key. Babies are easy…but learning that skill and applying to be people you work with, live with or maybe just know from some social forum is the real skill. We can change the people lives we help at those moments, but we change ourselves a great deal more.

Look for the crying babies….and thank them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

“Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen.”- Karl Marx

“From each according to their ability, to each according to need”

I have a confession I am a communist.

At least at home I am a communist when it comes to raising the kids. I have little tolerance for making sure everyone gets the same slice of the pie in our family, I focus on what each of us can contribute and what  each of us needs. The fairness of the system is that the central government ( Bobbi and I) can focus on the issues of the family and not focus on who is not getting their ‘fair share’.

I asked Stephen once when I was worried about being “fair” to him and concerned that other kids in our family were being spoiled at his determent. His insightful response was ..” face it dad we are all spoiled”.  Very wise and very right.

Our family does not live in a world of scarce resources and everyone will get more than they truly need. We live in a world were needs tend to situational and vary greatly from child to child based on the circumstance of the moment. Its not a question of who gets enough to eat, its question of how the excess resources of the family are allocated.

But every once in awhile my capitalist heart bleeds ( green of course) and I worry about fairness of the situation. Effort doesn’t always match rewards and I think the disconnect sometimes feels unfair to me.

Yesterday the boys, who obviously have way too much free time, pointed out to me on by word count analysis Rachel had far less mentions in this blog than the other children. The mean number of mentions was 15, but Rachel had only 3.  I had to stop and ask myself had the central government of our family failed? Is some thing not working?

I have been blessed with 6 wonderful children. 3 of whom if left in a house alone with a fork we would come home to seeing the fork unmoved, and them involved with some productive ( or at least not destructive) activity.  3 of which if left with the same fork would have stuck it into at least one wall socket and been shocked at least two times. All the same family, but very different responses to the environment. Rachel falls into the first category.

She is a very easy child. Homework done, room clean, and rolls with virtually every obstacle facing her in life with a quiet dignity and resourcefulness that is all to rare in this world. She even deals with the indignities of being the oldest girl with 4 older brothers who pride themselves on ways to torture and tease her.  Whether its calling her names or making fun of her school work she handles her brothers with the skill of a lion tamer. All of her brothers know whether its a witty response to  an insult or a left upper cut Rachel can handle them both physically and mentally. She can keep them all in line.

The problem with a child that is consistently on the honor roll and so positive about tasks is they can get lost. Their voices can be muffled by the brashness of brothers or the needs of a younger sister.

I think that’s the way it is in life. Many of the most remarkable people in our lives go unnoticed because they do what they need to do so well. I know in business it is the quiet professionalism of a few that keeps our company moving- and sadly they often go unnoticed because everything works so well.

As a Rule in our family, and in life we have to keep in mind the Rachel’s Rule- find those people in life doing the right things and praise and recognize them. It is those people that make life easy and fun. We have a duty to them to give them a voice and teach them they to deserve to be heard.

I’m not ready to abandon the central government control yet, but I think that keeping people like Rachel in mind in the chaos of our world will point us all in the right direction.
Regardless if you are fork in the socket person or not recognizing the people of your life that make it easier for all of us is an important rule to follow.

And Matthew, I have not abandoned my Rand Paul ultra capitalist leanings, but I do acknowledge that a little bit of communism from time to time isn’t a bad idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule #84: There are always boulders

Rule #84: There are always boulders

Every parent has this speech they give their kids which makes the parent feel wise and helpful. It goes something like this..

“If in life you follow your passions and use the gifts that God have given you, you will find happiness. If you work at something you love it won’t feel like work.”

Very wise and insightful, but unfortunately complete bullshit.

Every path we take is filled with obstacles, boulders that block our trip. There are not straight paths, and no paths that are without obstacles that need to be either climbed or walked around. We don’t teach or children the two most important truths about their future- life is hard and sooner or later our passions involve work. Kids struggle when it gets hard. Completely shocked that following their dreams did not result in the skipping down the yellow brick road to Emerald City experience they expected. They think where the hell did these witches and damn flying monkeys come from? We were having so much fun singing with the munchkins and now its all hard…let’s get off this road now!

I see it with kids all the time…. they love the Cello until they get sick of practicing, they love basketball until have run 2 miles everyday and get up every morning at 6 am, they love science until they fail their first bio exam. It all gets hard eventually and the  kids will hate it.

The challenge is to know what to do when our kids start encountering the boulders in life. This is hard for the parent because they want their kids to be the best at everything.

I have found there is a 3 steps process to determining what to do.

Step 1:  Healthy or Unhealthy

Not every boulder is place in our path because it is a challenge, sometimes it is a warning. I imagine that when little Walter White discovered his love of chemistry with the Jr chemistry set his parents did not realize that his path would lead to the meth labs, but I’m sure there were clear boulders that could have changed his path.

I see this a lot in football where concussions, ACL tears and broken bones are sending messages to kids that this sport may not healthy. Sometimes the wrong advice to kids is “rub some dirt on it and get back in”, sometimes the advice should be to consider a different path.  I’ve down this myself when Collin broke his collar bone ( and I didn’t realize it) and I told him to stop being a baby and in there and play the game. – not one of my finer moments.

This is extremely hard for parents of the 99% of kids that have almost enough talent to be great at something and they encounter a physical obstacle to success. It isn’t just the kid’s dream that hits that limit, its the parents. It hard to know when the right advice is to choose a different path. But in sports sometime the healthy thing is to walk away. Sometimes the best advice is to go back to munchkin-land and find a different path. This is where parents need to be as honest with themselves as they are with their children.

Step 2: Teach hiking and rock climbing skills

When you kid comes and says they want to give us track because it isn’t fun anymore you are filled with two emotions…one of relief that you can finally sleep in on a Saturday and one of complete disappointment. As a parent you have invested thousands of hours and dollars in this passion and now they want to give it up because its not fun?? what the hell?

The response needs to be to determine if this is a real change in heart, or if is just them encountering an boulder. This requires we listen, and  listen again, as parents to the whys. We have to determine if this is a real change in desire or if its just a boulder and things are getting hard.

We have to teach our kids techniques to get over boulders such as pacing and chunking activities. We have to teach our kids ways of hiking around boulders like giving up travel sports or adding a different activity to there lives. We need to show them the way around the problems, and that all the problems are small if  they are put into their right perspective.

Step# 3: Do nothing

I learned his lesson from a friend and business partner, Mike Miles as we were contemplating options to take in dealing with a business problem. He said to me ..”remember we can do nothing and just let it determine its own outcome”. Being a type A personality this shocked me at first, but he was right sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

I’ve seen my kids make terrible decisions, but not one’s that were dangerous to them or harmful to others, just bad decisions.  I’ve come to the conclusion the role of a parent is that of a lifeguard, sitting close, but not in the water and not blowing the whistle everytime a wave comes that look too big.  Once you accept that just being in the water is a risk, the pressure starts to ease.

A kid quitting a sport or wanting to get a tattoo ( when they are 21- Collin please note the age) may be a terrible decision, but they will have to learn like Johnny did that “Winona Forever” in your 20’s can become “Wino Forever” in your 40’s.  Bad decisions are part of the learning process, a parent’s role is not to avoid these bad decisions, but to assure they are survivable.

So how important is you son or daughter’s decision to quit football or cheerleading to their lives? Will they be doomed to mediocre relationships, dead-end jobs  and lifelong weight issues? With the passage of time you will find how truly meaningless these actions were to their lives. Its not what they do, its how they do it and being involved with life is much more important than anything else.

Honestly the worse thing they have going for them is the genes we gave them. And I would like to publicly apologize for the complete lack of sports aptitude I forced my children to inherit. I’m sorry but it was pretty certain that the NFL or NBA were out of reach from a genic perspective…you really didn’t have a chance.

The boulders are going to be there, some of them they will be able to avoid or climb, some will make them change directions. But parents can do very little to make them go away.

My advice to the parents is that the most important thing we do is listen, listen to what is being said and not being said. It’s the most important moments in your lives with your children, not because they will stay in or out of a sport- it is the moment that you tell them that they are important, loved and are being heard.  When a child realizes that they have the power to change their own life everything becomes possible.

 

 

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Rule 52: Write Letters

Rule 52: Write Letters

I watch my kids and realize that the way they communicate with one another has become a world of sound bites. Text, instagram, and twitter have become the preferred forms of communication with telephone calls being used for only the most serious of issues.   It feels like if you can’t communicate it 140 characters the feeling isn’t worth having.

I urge you to re-discover another form of communication, a letter. Some of the most interesting things I have learned about life have come from reading the letters of others.

Any true romantic has to read the letters between Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning, they defined the art of the love letter..

And now listen to me in turn.
You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me – my heart was full when you
came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything

Love Letter from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning
(10 January 1846)

Now that’s communication that will last, and defines you far more than the text…” u r hot” does. The letter helps you stop, and think about your feelings and find the words that capture the moment- it requires both effort and caring. Just the joy of of opening a hand addressed envelope, and anticipation of reading someone’s thoughts is wonderful to feel.

We named Abigail after Abigail Adams because of her letters to John. If you have never read them I encourage you to, she was a remarkable woman who lived in extraordinary times yet found time to express deep love for her husband.

My Dearest Friend,

…should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart…”

That lady knew how to turn a phrase. I’m sure John was knocked off his heels when he read that letter. I also found it so cool that although John addressed his letters with things like “Dear Adorable” she always used “My dearest friend”, which I find amazingly romantic and sweet. Even after all the years since she wrote them they allow the reader to instantly feel the emotion at the time it was first written, and first read. It lasts.

I started thinking about letters today because of the anniversary of my Mom’s passing 15 years ago. And one of the things, among many others, that I regret is that I never took the time to write her a letter.  Oh. I’m sure I gave her cards with short notes in them, but I never took the time to sit down and really write her a letter of my thoughts about her, and how she impacted my world. So today I started to write a long overdue letter to her and intend to address it to myself, mail it and keep it sealed. ( you can open it after I’m not longer here… so in about 60 years)

I decided not to share that letter because letters are not like blog postings. Letters are extremely inmate. They express emotions is a raw way that the shotgun blasts of the internet would do an injustice to the words. I think they need to be private, and shared in the same format they were intending- one on one- a personal experience.

Also my Mom was not a very tech savvy person, and even with divine intervention she would be challenged to open the blog. And I’m sure Dad would not be much help as he struggles to find channel 8 on the cable TV of heaven.

She’s was a pen and paper type of person and I think I need to honor her as such and stay with that format.  But as a teaser to that future reading of the letter I do use Abigail’s opening of “my dearest friend”.

With Mother’s day approaching I can think of no kinder way of expressing your love and gratitude to a Mom than a thoughtful letter. Try to do it while they are still here, trust me it is a lot easier to write it then.

I do miss you my dearest friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 27a D is for Done

Rule # 27a  D is for Done

A couple of my kids have been struggling with personal trials as well as academic ones. It has not been an easy couple of months, and at times like this I miss talking to my Dad for perspective. My Dad lead a remarkable life, and although he wasn’t much for fatherly talks , neither Donna nor I got many of those, he generally had a story or two for a situation. And on some special occasions the stories would actually be true. I miss those stories.

I encourage you to re-read the Eulogy given by Andreas Wagner pastor of  St Peters Lutheran Church North Wales ( rule 27). In the year since it was delivered I re-read it a number of times and have found comfort in Pastor Wagner’s discussion of “grace”.  His words gave me perspective on my life and my Dad’s.

Grace of God is at the same time the most complicated and simplest thing to understand. My Dad had the grace of God, but I don’t think he really understood it. He was just too damn busy.

I watch my son Stephen earn over 190 credits in Math and Physics with a 3.4 and struggle with the last two courses and feel overwhelmed. I watch my son Andrew work two jobs  (along with Ashleigh) and push so hard for a new home, and wedding through so much effort. All things which I am proud of them for having accomplished…but

I wonder if I ever gave the lesson of  God’s grace to them. That simple truth was that although their achievements are great, the love I have for them is unconditional as is the love from God.

I wonder in my effort to encourage strong, hard working kids I forgot to teach them that embracing God’s grace is the end goal, not the goal of getting to the finish line. The example of building the businesses I have started, and working the way I have may have given them the impression that that’s what life’s goals should be.

For perspective..

I failed Biology in my freshman year at Penn State, at which time that felt like it was the end of my life.  I was going to have to become  ditch digger for the rest of my life and live in poverty. The failure defined me, because I let it define me. I didn’t understand what depression was back then ( remember this was years before Dr. Phil) but I think that is what I was going through.

In the perspective gained over the last 36 years since getting that F I realize that God had a plan for me and that plan included that F. I was being lead somewhere and the lesson learned from that failure taught me more about life than any C every did. Sure it felt awful while it was happening, but what I didn’t fully understand was that all of it…the A’s and the F’s , the failures and the successes, the money earned and lost …all of it meant really nothing. What mattered was the love of God and the  comfort of knowing I was living my life in his plan.

I miss my Dad and Mom everyday, this week is the 15th anniversary of the passing of my Mom. As I reflect in their lives I know that they loved me, and they were loved by God…and all the other things they did or did not do mattered about as much as that F in biology did in my life. Trust me, everyone reading this should be grateful I never was encouraged to be in any medical field- that F saved lives.

What makes a difference isn’t the money or grades, what makes a difference is the love of each other and the love, the grace from God.

I know you kids question the existence of God, and I know that this talk of unconditional love may sound strange from a man that helped set high expectations for each of you. But if all you understand is that I am most proud of you because of how you live your lives and not of what you accomplish, that is all you need to understand now. The rest will make sense later, with or without a belief in an All Mighty.

So as you work on that next final or wait on another table to save money, stop for a moment and recognize who loves you and embrace the grace. It isn’t the grade of some sad little college professor that defines us.. it is that grace shown in my love of you and the love from God. And with certainty I can tell you are both worthy of that grace and blessed with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule #34: Be present

Rule #34:  Be present

We live in a world where we rarely experience anything while its happening. Through the miracles of technology we can multitask virtually every moment of our lives. We have  the ability through i phones, i pads, net-books and notebooks to be in two places (at least mentally) at the same time. We don’t have to choose between answering office emails and watching our daughter’s soccer game, we can do both!

When I was a kid I didn’t have much of this technology, but do remember getting our first color television when I was 9 and the distraction it was to our lives. We now could sit as a family and watch TV, interacting first with what we were watching and second with the people in the room. Watching Hogan’s Heros in color may not sound cool, but it was way cool to a 9 year old in 1969.

I’m not saying my generation was any better, we embraced every new technology from the remote controls to the microwaves with the same passion as today’s latest i phone release. Technology is sexy. And its hard for any of us not to want the next better thing in the market. Cool is sexy.

I can tell you I have googled the new apple watch a dozen times, and stopped just short of pushing the buy button.

The problem isn’t the technology the problem is lack of focus.

The technology is addictive and it is easy fall into its trap. I had to struggle to think about when I really focus.

I enjoy riding motorcycles because it requires complete attention to the task at hand. You can’t text and drive ( although I’m sure some idiot has done it) , eat a quarter pounder or argue with your kids – the function of riding a motorcycle is almost hypnotic in its intensity of focus. 1-2-3  and your focusing on the experience to the exclusion of all else, or you die.

I think we need to find those hypnotic moments in our lives to really focus on what we are doing and who we are with at the moment.  Rarely do we have someone saying “1-2-3  taking you deeper, deeper…focus only on me”. But if we did wouldn’t be wonderful to be present completely with the person you are with…not worrying about what is happening with someone else, somewhere else but to experience that moment with with that one person.

As I have gotten older I have realized that when I am hypnotically focused on the moment I am in I have the best memories and experience. When Abby came home the other day after making the talent show at school ( go Abby!) and I took here upstairs, turned off the TV, put down the i pad and just looked at her as I asked her to tell me the whole story…I was entranced in the moment. The whole experience was important…her tone, her expressions, her word choices, her joy. I wasn’t experiencing a Facebook post, I was experiencing Abby. She was my hypnotist and I was her willing subject…it was wonderful.

I think the superficial interaction of Facebook posts and texts have given us the impression that we can check off interactions through these surface interactions and never really need to become fully engaged in anything. My 12 year old hypnotist Abby has taught me different. There is something better out there, something worth spending time understanding and experiencing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not burning my ipad or iphone…they are fixtures of my being and I am far too addicted to give them up completely.

But I think we all need to be aware of the opportunity to be hypnotized by the moments we are living , entranced by the absolute attention given to another person.

1..2..3…melting,melting…snap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule 26:Embrace Your Guilt

Rule 26:Embrace Your Guilt
I don’t believe in guilt: I believe in living on impulse s long as you never intentionally hurt another person. And Don’t judge people in your life. I think you should live completely free.”
Angeline Jolie Pitt
Mrs. Pitt is an idiot.
Yes she is hot, in a creepy Tomb Raider sort of way, but still an idiot.
There has developed in our culture ever since the baby boomers starting having babies a driving force to validate our actions. Things like premarital sex, drug use, divorce, pornography  and adultery were are considered bad things that brought a sense of guilt when we did them. Now since so much of our collective experience include these things we have as a society decided not only to try to decriminalize them, but the remove any guilt about these actions from our lives.
Its been a quick process of developing a “I’m OK , you’re OK” view to the world, trying to remove the sense of guilt from the mistakes or misjudgements we make in our lives. We say to ourselves that over 50 percent of our marriages fail, so why should we be beating ourselves up when we stray from our marriages and fail.  The feeling of failure sucks, so why not just agree that we didn’t fail and move on… Life’s too short to be beating ourselves up all the time for common mistakes. Forget about it , move on.
A thought to which I call …”bullshit” on
When we are born we learn the things that are healthy and unhealthy for our existence in three ways. First we learn quickly that if we put a fork into an electric socket we get shocked, so we don’t do it again – we learn from our first hand experience.
Second we learn from our parents, they tell us not to put the fork in the electric socket and we listen without having to experience the shock ourselves. Often we listen because we are being yelled at or ( God forbid I say it) spanked. but we listen.
Yes my father and mother spanked me when I was little and I am likely emotional traumatized from it , but I did not stick many forks in electric  sockets because of it. I also likely survived the 60’s and 70’s because of it. I wasn’t never beaten in  an NFL player’s child sort of way, but if I was doing something dangerous or incredibility stupid I did get a whack on the bottom and told not to do it again. And surprisingly I didn’t do it again.
I like most other baby boomers stopped the spanks with my kids for all but the most dangerous activities , like running out in traffic or playing with the stove. I’m not sure if the decline in physical punishments is an entirely good thing, but as a whole I think the reduction was necessary, but its elimination may not have been.  Even so I think my kids fear my anger and disappointment- and I think that fear is a good thing. Its an important part of parenting.
The third way we learn is from people we interact with- the society as a whole. We learn from our churches, television, music, books and now the internet. We learn from our schoolyard friends, co-workers and facebook likes what is acceptable and what isn’t.
We use to learn that adultery was bad because we heard the message consistently delivered to us in all ways. Now the messages are jumbled, we have musics proclaiming it and sites like Ashley Madison  ( Bobbi I just heard about it from the news…really) selling it- its becoming “normal” and “accepted”.
This same process of normalizing all the things we use to feel guilt about is what I believe risks us to becoming a society running around with forks looking for electric sockets to stick them into.
I am a flawed man. A man that makes mistakes constantly, missing the stop signs in life and making error in everything, everyday. Much of what I do wrong I feel guilt for, and that guilt helps me to stop doing unhealthy things again.
The path we are on to eliminate guilt is not the right one. Just telling ourselves that things like adultery and drug use are things we should not feel guilt about is not going to make these activities healthier. It just lets us accept the lie.
Whenever I punished or inflicted guilt on my kids, I had in mind that I needed to show them the pathway away from the guilt. I needed to give them a way out of hell.
The expression I love is “ to err is human to recover divine“.
Everyone of us, if we are living full life, will make thousands and thousands of mistakes for which we should feel some degree of guilt. And this is a good thing…
When you divorce your spouse, you can recover by faithfully paying your child support, and being completely present in you kids lives. It won’t make the guilt go away, but the guilt will help guide you to be a better person, a healthier person.
Trust me I know a lot about this one.
If you hurt someone by being unkind or cruel, embrace the guilt you should be feeling and do something to correct the situation. Don’t eliminate the guilt- you use the guilt to guide your actions to move positive things. Your guilt can make the world a better place.
Mrs. Pitt’s view of the world sounds like it would be wonderful… you love me , I love you and we both adopt 20 kids. But in reality the world needs this guilt to keep us from hurting others and hurting ourselves. It may not be as intellectually enlightened as her view, but it works.
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