fear

There are no cats in America?

Our futures are like this – devoid of risk or threat, far sunnier than our ravaged pasts. We can place our hopes there, safely, for we know that in the future all will be right.

The sad fact is that there are cats in America, and in our futures. All the singing in the world won’t get rid of them or change the fact that tough challenges lay ahead, wherever we are going.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t go there because of the cats – we should. But probably with both eyes open, and a little wary of the streets actually being paved with cheese.

What are your cats? Where are you going? What’s the plan? What are you overlooking through overly optimistic eyes?

We All Have Zombies…

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I don’t usually watch things with zombies. They’ve never been a draw for me, but this past week I decided to try out The Walking Dead on Netflix. God Damn it.

Zombies, on their own, are quite simply, crap. I Couldn’t care less about walking corpses or anything with gore. Not that I scare easily, but I tend to find the whole exercise boring. After all, i’m surrounded by figurative zombies every day: though with an admittedly lower penchant for wearing my viscera like so much KISS makeup. 

After all, i’m surrounded by figurative zombies every day: though those have an admittedly lower penchant for wearing my viscera like so much KISS makeup. 

No, the real endgame here for me has been the relentless feeling of near hopelessness which plagues (puns!) the lot outside Atlanta. Particularly, the lead of “Rick Grimes” who is charged with taking care of not just his family (son and wife) but also the entire group of survivors as their leader.  

I feel you Rick, I really do.

I’ve got a family and a team of people – in fact, two of them. While we’re not overrun with the un-dead, it can often feel that way. How the hell do we get out of this? How do I find enough time for all the responsibilities? How do you seek, not just to survive, but to thrive and grow in the midst of so much uncertainty? 

Maybe that’s why I can’t stop watching it lately, or why I started in the first place. I want to know that someone else is going through something similar, and I want to put my feet up and watch this guy do it for a while and see how he fares. Or maybe it’s that zombies are the “insert pain in the ass/existential threat” we all fear? 

Life, when you want to do something, can have a funny habit of piling on. Want to get out of your comfort zone and do something for the benefit of your group? Zombies will show up. Want to take a rest for a moment and count your blessings? Zombies. Love someone more than anything? Zombies probably are heading that way, however slowly. And they always move slowly – just enough for one to internally debate the consequences of their arrival. 

I’m sure they’ve always been there, each generation with their own zombies, and many of them the same as the ones we fear now. I’d like to think we don’t necessarily suffer from more of them, but rather we give them more windows to break through. Instead of barricading our homes, we’re letting them through the open window of our phones. 

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I’m not hopeless – not even close. And by all accounts, that’s the most scared a person can get. When you have nothing, you fear nothing – have it all and you have all to lose. Tell me that doesn’t describe our America today.

And by stuff, I really mean people. I have the most loving and amazing family and friends. I have a team of people I get to work with which is just phenomenal top to bottom. The thought of losing any of them is just… exhausting. But each day I wake up and want to do it again, because that’s what love makes us do. 

I don’t know, forget the moaning and wearing of intestines as french braids, I’m more concerned with the relevant allegory of the whole thing. The notion that I’m Rick, doing his best to protect his family and his team, against such overwhelming odds with such small arms is just too familiar to be left alone.

What are your zombies? What do you quietly fret over and wish to god you could protect once and for all? Or do you really just like watching the dyed corn syrup pour out of punctured zombie skull? Because that’s cool too. 

What’s Your Joy?

Irreverence, Passion, Art, Poetry, Stories, Movies, Debate, LOVE, smelling my son’s hair when he hugs me goodbye in the morning, seeing my wife smile, closing a deal – a BIG deal. Leading. Seeing my team decimate anything in their way.

Facing Fear. Not conquering it so much – but just facing it. Holding my breath the whole time. Innovation. Making something incrementally better. A good tomato cream sauce. Pop Art. Jeanelle’s photos. Kaleel’s brisket rub. Hiser’s Jedi-mind stuff. Marshall’s heart. Tara’s ever-presence. Tracy’s Stories.

Shifting into fourth and really letting the engine have it. The surge of an RPM gauge as you pass some Tuesday Greg on his way to get his hair cut. Getting my hair cut. Drinking coffee like it comes in a red solo cup at a frat party because you know it’s powering exceptional stuff today.

I think this is mostly right - perhaps learning how to do a thing right is also Joy.

I think this is mostly right – perhaps learning how to do a thing right is also Joy.

Learning something new for the first time. Did you know that WD-40 stands for “Water displacement – 1940” because I do. Metrics. Pouring over towers of data and making it stand up and tell a story. Cutting through BS because “aint nobody got time for that” Memes (Thanks Richard Dawkins)

Having great friends that push you. Pushing yourself to be something better and achieving it. Being the type of person you want to see others be – even if it’s not all the time. Caring. The one pistachio that’s really easy to pop open. The parking space that opens at ikea as you make your first approach.

Good design. Thoughtfulness. Being present. Winning – but not at the expense of others. Knowing nothing else beats human effort. 80’s movies, namely “Red Dawn.” Tumblr. SNL. Making something out of nothing – or even better – something better out of something OK  Quotes. George C. Howell speaking as “Patton”

Making a sale. Looking at things sideways. Changing my mind in the face of superior information – and doing so without apology. Grammar. Teams. Exceptional oratory. A superior cut of meat, grilled to perfection. The feel of a crisp paper in the morning and the occasional cigar.

Belly laughs. The deep look of immediate recognition from an awkward puppy. A handful of darts, a blank slate, and a pitcher of beer with good friends. When my wife makes up words by combining two words and doesn’t even realize it – cutest thing in the world. A freshly starched shirt in the morning. A clean polo on the weekends. The unexpected summer breeze in late July. Making breakfast with my boys while they stand on chairs the moved into place.

I could do this all week…

Care to try your hand? What’s your joy? What do you believe in, virulently. What would you rest back and with a wide expressive spreading of hands say “Ohhhhhhh, this is amazing!”

Name it now, please.

Your Silence Isn’t Helping Anyone…

Your silence isn’t helping anyone. Least of all you.

Sure, it fits with all the things you’ve been told. That it’s better to “fly under the radar” and to “live to fight another battle.” The problem is you aren’t looking for any battles. And you definitely aren’t looking to live another day – because you’re not doing any living right now. At least not the kind that matters.

I’m not talking about rock climbing and cliff diving and all the risky things one does with one’s life that might provide a rare dose of adrenaline. I’m talking about the day-to-day living that would do a lot to make you happier and more successful. It’s easy to be daring when jumping out of a plane with a trained instructor strapped to your posterior, but another thing altogether to open your mouth at the next meeting and say the unpopular thing that needs to be said.

Forgive me, I’ve been reading/listening to an insane amount of Seth Godin lately, and like all good philosopher poets (we’re calling a “marketing guru” this now? – I am) they have their ONE. BIG. THING. And Godin’s is seductively simple: Make Art. Cause a ruckus. Be bold. Sure, there’s a lot more, but this is the overarching summary in my eyes. And it’s a summation that rings big ass church bells in my noggin.

As a business leader and overall fan of the human condition, I’m constantly motivated by learning what motivates people – or as I’m finding out – what holds them back. My current project is leading a team of 40+ in the daily operations of an off-campus Student Housing community near UCF. It’s exhilarating and every bit a seething mass of awesomeness. At the same time, a big part of my role is as teacher to a number of them whom are still in college and finding their way in the world. This is the messiest part, and also my favorite.

On certain days (read: the best days) I pontificate a lot. My passion gets to run free and I become a whirling dervish of know-how. I try to start with underlying principles and work up from there to the more concrete issue at hand. If you don’t know the “why” you won’t care about the “how”, I always think.

With that in mind, and a good dose of Godin in my ears, I’ve come to believe the biggest restraining force working on anyone is the fear of being wrong. No one likes it and frankly, we’re not taught how to deal with it and accept it. In fact, we’re taught to avoid the whole possibility entirely:

  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Everyone has their own opinion
  • Who are you to say?
  • There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it. (Never is!)
  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. (this is my favorite)

It’s all part of the same thing. Sit down. Stay quiet. Hide your art. Hide your knowledge. Hide your passion. No one can crap all over your dream if you don’t actually do anything to make it concrete. This extends past dreams to mere notions of “wouldn’t this be cool…” so we don’t dare do anything we’re not explicitly told to.

It sucks. And I’ve known this for as long as I can remember. I’m done with it.

I’ve had a great career thus far and I owe it entirely to my inability to shut my pie hole. I say the wrong things at the wrong times. I break rules and conventions when they don’t suit the mission and act as obstacles to our goals. I don’t do this recklessly, but do you realize how many rules exist because some idiot not following it could do real damage?

And failure has been a big part of it. I’ve screwed up royally for sure. Mostly, I’ve finished with far more success than not, and in failing, have cleared a new path of others who could benefit from my failure. It gets seen, it gets celebrated. “Whoops, I did something stupid guys – but this is why I did it.”

So speak up. Stand up. Be counted on. Be a part of whatever it is you’re already a part of instead of just dipping in your seat to avoid getting called on. Guess what? They know you’re there and they know you’ve got nothing to say. Isn’t that way worse than being thought stupid?

Prepare. Learn. Think. And sit up straight next time, lean forward and open that mouth god gave you. Your living doesn’t happen on the weekends or in a mountain – it happens wherever you are, everyday.

Worst case? They fire you for looking/thinking/saying something stupid. You move on, get a new gig, and you are in a better place for it. And most importantly you’ve learned something.

Your silence? No one wants that. Unless a movie is on. Then by all means shut up.