Sunday, June 11, 2017

Letter To My Young Son

A Letter To My Young Son On Rules To Live By

Not my son pictured

The morning your mom came into my office and told me she was pregnant, I laughed. We had some drinks the night before, and I thought she had a slight hangover.  She then produced a home pregnancy stick that was positive.
My response was, “those things can often be wrong.”
To which, she replied, “it’s the second one I’ve taken this morning.”
See, we had planned to start a family, and just weeks after agreeing to start, you were on your way. In life it’s not up to us to decide the timing of things, life operates with its own clock.
At first, we were both unsure what to say to each other, or what to do next. We stood in the middle of the room and hugged. Talking about our feelings, we were anxious, nervous, scared, elated, sad, and happy. 

I say we were sad, and maybe I’m only speaking for myself, but the sadness was a part of the fear. Fear that I’d fail you like so many other parents, including my own. Fear that I couldn’t be the man you needed to raise you, provide for you and keep you safe. 

And some of that fear was pure selfishness. I knew that my life, our lives, were going to change, and change is a psychologically driven fear with roots in our DNA. 

It’s a funny thing about fear. 

Once we get to that point in our lives that we feared, we learn that it’s not so bad after all. Unless you’re being chased toward a pride of lions by hungry Hyenas in the African savannah. Then the fear is justified. You’re just fucked.
There were many nights I laid awake wondering what the fuck am I going to do? 

How can I do the things a dad needs to do?

Shit, I haven’t even been to Ireland or Paris yet. 

I think this over-analysing thought process is normal for expecting parents, but how do I know? 

You are my first child, and the only experience I had previous to this was watching other people with their kids, and hell, they seemed like pros compared to me. 

I couldn’t get into their mind to see their hopes, dreams, and fears. 

I was left to scramble my thoughts, like eggs that were beaten to make an omelet, only to decide that sourdough toast was a better option.
But this letter isn’t about fear, or remorse, or anything negative at all.
To the contrary, this is a letter from me, to you, about all that I hope you learn about life and your place in this world.

This is the world

This world is an amazing place filled, at times, with less amazing people. Not all people, mind you. 

There are people that don’t think, feel, act, or operate with the same appreciation for the delicacy of life that I do.
And that’s ok.
Just like having a little whiskey is ok. Or a beer, or glass of wine. 

But like these drinks, a little too much of them will give you a hangover. So understand that a little poison now and again stiffens the soul, just don’t over do it.
What I hope to show you is a world that was as beautiful as the one I experienced as a kid. 

One where the sun shines, the rain rains, the moon moons, and the stars shine. 

A world where the breeze messes up your hair before taking class pictures and nobody cares. 

Where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was the currency of the lunchroom and a candy bar was traded on the secret black market of the playground. 

Where playing and running and jumping are just what you do, like fish swimming, and not something you have to plan on your schedule to do, like going to the gym.

But make sure you shower. Nobody likes a smelly person. 

And, as my grandma used to tell me every day: “Make sure you have clean underwear on. In case the firemen have to rescue you. It’s only fair to them.” Oh, and make your bed first thing every morning.
I want you to laugh until it hurts, and I want you to sing your heart out. 

I want you to cry, and get mad. Like really pissed off, mad.

It’s ok to be happy, sad, joyful, and mad. 

These are all traits that make us human, and they’re perfectly wonderful to experience. 

But be careful with them. 

Emotions are personal, they can be as light and delicate as a butterfly’s wings, or as sharp as a razor, and you should tread lightly over other peoples.
To wit: tell the truth, play by the rules, and don't cheat. 

Help others who are less fortunate, share what you have, and don't boast. 

Don't blame others for your own errors, and don't compare what you have with what someone else has. 

Be quick to forgive and be a peacemaker, and to know that every human being has value regardless of their bank accounts, the color of their skin, their sex, or where they live. 

As your mom says, “Somebody loved them enough for them to get to where they’re at, and they love someone else as well.” So try to remember that.

There’s a lifetime of wisdom, built from experience that I wish I could telepathically share with you. 

But that’d be weird for both of us, I believe. I’d be all up in your head sharing memories and emotions, and you’d be exposed to some degenerate thoughts and things unsuitable for someone as young as you. They may even get your dad in trouble with the law, so it’s probably better that we lack telepathy skills. 

Besides, the best knowledge comes from experience. We learn more by doing, and failing, then by watching.

Having said that, In light of these limitations, I’d like to share my list of 10 rules (actually 13) to live by.

10 Things Actually 13 Rules I Hope You Live Your Life By

  • Be kind. Learn to be compassionate to everyone you meet. Some are doing better than you. Others are having a harder time. But they all feel, they all hurt, love, and laugh.

  • Be respectful. Treat people with dignity and respect. You will meet people that seem like they don’t deserve it, but as I said earlier, everyone is dealing with stresses, sense of loss, and pain that you have no idea of and since they bleed the same as you, they deserve to be treated as such.

  • Listen. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Unfortunately, most people only want to hear themselves speak and don’t really care to listen. If you take a moment, and just listen to others, you’ll learn a hell of a lot.

  • Do what’s right. It’s easy to make the popular decision, to join in, but is that right?  Stand up for the person being picked on, defend what makes this life better. Most people will do what’s the popular thing to do, and they won’t understand how it negatively affects someone else. Take a stand when necessary, especially for those that can’t take a stand on their own. Simply do what’s right, especially if nobody is looking or watching you do it. It’s called character and integrity, and it’s a damn limited trait today.You’ll sleep better at night.

  • Get some sleep. Speaking of sleep, get yours. This idea that you have to work yourself to the bone is bullshit. Right now in our society, there’s a glorification of always being busy, which is shit. Yes, you need to work hard, but don’t sacrifice your health by denying sleep. It helps relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps maintain health and wellbeing.

  • Daydream. Spend some time lost in thought, watching eye floaters cruise around on your eyeballs. Thoughts will flutter into your head, great ideas will ride a bolt of lightning, and clarity, most of all, will appear from behind the fog. Most of all, daydreaming is a skill that helps you connect with the universe and everything around you and it with you.

  • Do your best. In everything you do, offer your best effort. Be satisfied with your work, not the outcomes of it.

  • Workout. Workout both your body and brain. This idea is more about your general health, but do something to exercise your body and mind every day. Play guitar, piano, tuba, whatever to make a bunch of noise. Run, swim, and lift weights to increase your heart rate and breathing. And read. Not because I got my degrees in English Literature, but because reading will spark your creativity and cognitive thinking skills. These activities will help make you fit, and aids in sleep which makes you dream, and dreaming is one of the most powerful human experiences that is in extremely short supply today.

  • Go the extra mile. If someone needs a hand, lend them both. If they need a dollar, give them $5.Generosity is a finite resource, however. Be willing to go the extra mile but don’t let people take advantage of your generosity.

  • Expect nothing, give everything. Be willing to dig in the dirt, and don’t expect people to pamper you. You’re entitled to nothing, so be prepared to do the work necessary to get what you need before you work to get what you want. Clean up after yourself first-and-foremost to make it less difficult for others later. It’s like eating vegetables. Once you eat your vegetables, you can have ice cream.Just don’t expect the world to serve up bottles after bottles of formula or whatever it is you want to drink. Sorry, this was written while you are an infant and you really seem to like formula right now.

  • Love Mom. Treat your mother with love and respect. Everyday. She’s the only one you have, and trust me, losing a relationship with your mom is something that will weigh on you like a backpack full of stones.

  • Fail, and fail again. Be willing to fail at something, every day. Make discomfort your comfort level. See, most people, your parents included, are scared to do something because they might fail. Shit, there’s a ton of things I want to do, and because I rationalize the potential loss or failure, I never get started on them. This tendency is typical of people. It’s safer not to try than possibly succeed. But you my young son, you only have one life to live, so live it. Make it the one you want, by making mistakes, by failing, you’ll learn about ways to do things right. And you’ll get shit done.

  • Leave things better than you found them. Make people's lives better by how you treat them and interact with them. Try to make this a better world and not just yourself. There’re enough selfish clowns out there as it is, so why be part of that herd?
That’s about it.

If you can live your life by at least a few of these rules, you’ll live a happy, full life, one that makes other people's lives better as well. You won’t be able to master all of these traits, but if you can get a couple down just right, you’ve done a heckuva job.

Oh, and be happy.

Smile every day just like you do now.

Still, not my son

Even now, when you’re toothless and goofy, smiling makes you have a better day and those around you have a better one also. It’s amazing how a smile can transform your mood and that of the people around you. 

If you’re having difficulties smiling, find someone who makes you smile. 

Like you do for me, or your mom does for me when I’m in my “serious mood.”

In final, it all comes down to the one simple truth: Treat people the way you want them to treat you.

Good luck and I love you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Story Hour

It started with the parades and the marching bands before becoming a familiar and popular TV show. One that generated millions of viewers and followers. It was one that people watched during dinner; they streamed it at work, and spoke about it online.

It was as real as reality could be.

So why, then, was Gerry unhappy?

He was the number one celebrity in a celebrity driven society. He was ubiquitous, like air, and felt like he could float like lithium on water. Or more accurately, he felt that he could jump into a pool of water and explode on contact like caesium, that every thing he did had an oversized reaction by his fans.

 He had everything, and everybody, watching his every move, mimicking every tic and mannerism, they even recited his catch phrase "Domo Sorry-Gato" at every chance in solidarity to his inane characterisms.

So why, then, was Gerry so unhappy?

There were whole cottage industries dedicated to his celebrity. TMZ followed him around like mosquitos in Florida and even Facebook streamed his every public act for everyone to see.

He had all the money he could ever need; in fact, he had more money than anyone in history would ever need. He bought cars, planes, islands. With his wealth he "diversified" into other investments in his portfolio, being an angel investor in tech to investing heavily in startups specializing in advanced tech. He even bought, through legal and paralegal means his own countries. He didn't buy countries outright, he just spent enough money on elections that he was able to influence the outcomes to meet his particular tastes and desires.

To wit, Gerry, born Gerald P Wolt had everything, was everything. But he was unhappy.

At 5 years old Gerry began performing for friends and family, dancing The Charleston, quickly followed by a quick tip of the hat, and wiggle of an imaginary cigar. Quickly he learned that he could make those people around him happy, but more importantly, he learned that his dancing would get him anything he wanted. It was a quick lesson and one he understood even at such a young age.

As he got older, Gerry realized that if he smiled a certain way, he'd get the obvious cheers and accolades, but if he tweaked that smile just ever-so-slightly, he could elicit a kind of euphoria from his fans. It was as if the parts of their brain that held individuality, conscious thought, reason, and rationale all got lobotomized and all that was left was the limbic lobe, the part of the brain that controlled happiness. In other words, Gerry learned at a very delicate age that by making others laugh, he could control them. Like the fungi Ophiocordyceps that controls the carcass of the invaded ant, Gerry could invade his audience through his performance and make them servile to his wants and whims.

So why, then, was Gerry so unhappy?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Do What's Right

Just Do What's Right

"Always Do Right.

This Will Gratify Some People And Astonish The Rest"

Self Improvement begins with the self.
It's the first time in about a year you've had a chance to eat out at a restaurant.

Money's tight, and it's difficult to get everyone together at the same time.

While you're sitting at dinner with your friends, you realize that it's 5 days away from payday. Perhaps you're having a beer, or a glass of wine, while your table is having appetizers. You see in your head the price of your dinner bill skyrocket, and you're not sure it was a good idea to eat here.

A young couple at the table next to you is in the process of paying their bill before they leave. As they get up, they walk away from their table as to leave the restaurant.

A moment or two passes, and you can see that under the table is some money sitting on the floor.

You get up and see it's two $100 bills.

What do you do?

Do you chase after the couple to return the money? Which way did they go?

Do you flag down the restaurant staff? Are you sure they would even know who's money it is?

When things are difficult, the path we choose is the result of weighing the options and deciding the best way forward.

It can be a choice between taking the longer, more arduous path versus doing what's simple, easy and fun.

It can be a choice of doing what's right and what's easy.

Too often it seems that what we want is in direct competition with what we need. That shouldn't be the case and it shouldn't be the result of a bifurcated trial.

Every day we're presented with two options. The path we choose leads to another set of binary choices that lead so on ad infinitum.

It becomes an infinite loop that perpetuates itself forever.

Just do what's right.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Journey Worth Discovering - Why Getting Lost Is Your Best Path Forward

When Lost In The Forest, Hug A Tree

Just Make Sure You Get Lost First

This blog is many things. In part storytelling and in part instructional. I've written in the past about how to write and publish Amazon Kindle books using basic strategies on using Amazon's Kindle publishing. It's easy to upload and publish, but there is a whole slew of other things I'd like to write about on this blog.

This is a post about finding your way by getting lost first. 

As a teen, I spent a lot of time outdoors and growing up in Southern California affords quick access to many places.  Any point on the map, from the ocean to the mountains and deserts are but a short drive. 

In a matter of hours, you can go hike the forest, swim in a pond beneath ice-cold waterfalls, pack up the car, drive to the beach and catch a sunset surf-sesh. 

With family, we explored amazing wilderness parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, as well as all points between. 

Often with my friends and their family, I'd spend a good portion of my early teen years hiking the John Muir Trail, the Cascade Mountains, Mount Whitney, among many other places. 

There were so many memories and lessons learned along the way.  To a great part, I'm sure it's part of who I've become. 

But one particular adventure above all that really formed my belief in teamwork and self-discovery. 

At 5:00 am, a group of 20 of us, me, my friends and their dads set off for a weeklong hiking trip through the Sierra's.

The day before we each went over our pack list, divvied up the food, water purification tablets, cooking equipment, tents, anything we could carry and need, with the dads taking the heavier items while we took the tents and our own bags, and together we all packed our gear.

We revisited our itinerary with everyone having a map and outline of where we'd be and when. One of the families staying behind was our emergency contact, with the day-by-day plan of our hike just in case something went wrong.  

Just in case. 

The Best Path Is Sometimes Unclear

There are more ways to read than just amazon kindle books.
The Best Path Isn't Always Planned
Once we loaded up our gear, we divided ourselves into the cars and trucks of our little convoy.  The dads drove themselves, sometimes without their own son in their car.  As kids, we divided ourselves by our friends and by our expected diversions.  

Some chose to ride together by what they planned to read, this was a time before Amazon Kindle books were even created, so it was real, hard bound books. Some of the boys chose their cars by the games they would play; others chose their rides not by what they wanted to do, rather, some chose who they'd ride with by who they wanted to avoid being stuck in a car for a few hours. 

As soon as everyone was settled in, our little convoy drove for a couple of hours to our base-camp, all of us watching the claustrophobic city open up to the broad horizons that stretched toward the surging mountains. It was summer, and we had turned our backs on the cluster and confinement of the city for a week of unfettered exploration. I dozed off a few different times along the way, 5 am being awful early. 

Once we pulled into the base camp, we parked the cars and stretched our legs a bit.  Some went off to shit in the woods, others merely to take a piss.  The plan was to set camp, stay for the night, then begin our 50-mile circular trek back to this particular spot.

The morning came a little too quick. Anyone who's slept outside on the cold earth knows the stiffness that comes with sleeping on dirt.  Even as a teenager it takes you a while to warm up, to stretch out the night stiffness that settles in.  The air is refreshing and recuperative, but there's something to be said for the beauty of sleeping in bed.

After a short breakfast, we broke camp and set out on the first leg of our itinerary. The terrain was rough, there were periods of where the trail had degraded to mere gravel.  Footing could be slippery, especially on slopes that didn't have switchbacks.

Camping in a time before amazon kindle books were available.
Photo Credit

We walked in the buddy system; each of us partnered with another teen, and you walked at whatever pace the slowest could muster.  Typically you chose to match speed with speed, but there was some partners content on drifting back.

The kids led the way, the dads trailing.  We all had a rule that if the last dad caught up, you had to clean the "latrine" at base camp.  So we hiked with momentum and a purpose.

About mid-day, the clouds rolled in, and the sky turned gray.  The change in the air was noticeable. When we had been able to be shirtless, now we were digging for our long-sleeves, and wondering about where we each had packed our rain parkas.

At once, the rain began.  Followed closely by lighting, the kind of lightning you hear during one of those storms that shake the house and scare the dog but never actually see.

Great amazon kindle books about lightning.
Photo Credit
It wasn't long before the lightning struck a boulder not too far from where we were walking.  The shrapnel shot out, piercing what skin we had exposed from out of our parkas, pants, and packs. It sounded as if the thunder was a 12 gauge shot that went off next to your head.  It boomed around your brain, shaking the snot out of your sinuses and down your throat.

This wasn't the first time we were camping and hiking through horrible weather. The difference this time was that with the rain and lightning, we had lost the trail. We were wandering off course, and because of the lightning, we were running further off our path than we had planned. We had set out that morning to make our way to Purple Lake, but now we were surely lost. It wasn't long that we found a lake, and to this day I'm not certain it was Purple Lake, but it would suffice for the time being. 
That's because avid hikers know that if you lose your way in the forest, you want to stay in one spot so the search team can find you. 
And in short order, the dads were able to find our location and meet up with us, where we set camp and stayed through the night. 
The point of this discussion is that by writing your thoughts and publishing them, you have ZERO control over how they'll be received.  And publishing on any platform, whether a blog like this or using Amazon Kindle books as a platform for your story, you have ZERO control over how it'll be received. 

It's like planning a hike only to take the deer trail instead of the well-trodden footpath. 

As the writer, all I can do is to try and make the message as coherent as possible, one that I want to share and one that is hopefully read. Planning is essential, but often we get more out of losing our way, of walking down the deer trail than the road heavily traveled. 

It's often what we can't control that get in our way, and what leads to great discovery.  

Stumble a little through the underbrush, explore new things and find out that the path you first began has now led you down a whole new road. 

It's a journey worth discovering. 

If you're interested in reading about ways you can self-publish your own Amazon Kindle Books, or are interested in habit formation, you can check out those articles here and read a productivity and habit post here. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Cuckoo Bird and The Turtle

The Delusions We Believe

Just because we believe something, doesn't make it true.

Just because we feel, doesn't mean it matters.

That's one of the biggest issues we face today. There are too many ways to get an opinion or feeling out to an audience that thinks that because we have a bigger megaphone, our views are correct. Not true.

Just because you can self publish your own book, doesn't mean that A) you should, and B) it's a worthwhile subject.

The question we have to ask ourselves then, is there proof for what I think and feel, that it may matter to someone else?

Because if we feel something, but we're in the minority, is it valid?

If we examine it from a minority versus majority perspective, then yes. There's validity in being the outspoken voice. The creaky gear gets the grease as they say.

But if we are in such a minority as to be unreal, well then, we're just cuckoo.

The turtle knows the trajectory is a long slog. It's not about broadcasting every hour with what is, and what isn't, popular.

It's about researching, and testing, what's important to your point of view.

What path do you choose moving forward? Do you self publish your own book without testing ideas, or do you publish only after extensive planning?