Tidal Movements

Ebb and flow.  Pendulum.  Up and down.  Call it what you want but life is full of momentum swings and I love feeling the flow of it.  Discovering the number of swings that are moving at the same time is … adventurous.  I’m swinging up with health, love, energy while I’m swinging down with patience, calm, understanding and I’m mid-swing with research, reading, and faith.

These are not actual metrics, I wish I was that self aware.  And isn’t that the point of it all?  The complexity that we surround ourselves in keeps us moving forward or moving backwards depending on our situation and reaction to it.  Do you distress on the down swings?  Do you use the stress of the down swings to help shift your inertia (eustress)?  Do you, as I do, stop and contemplate what’s happening?  And I mean what’s happening right now.  Not the past that got you to your present.  Not the potential future…  The actual breaths that you are taking, the sounds that surround you, the people right next to you (even the e-friends that you have).

It’s in those times of

meditation

prayer

silence

rest

stillness

that we feel the movements.  That we can start to control them.  Focus them.  That we can, at the very least, feel blessed by the up swings and appreciate the down swings for what they are.

It’s the stillness and silence (even if that silence is a headset full of music or the nighttime song of the crickets) that we need more and more.  It’s that moment in the pool/ocean/bathtub/water where you are underneath the surface and feel the sound around you.

It’s always then when I know that, in my stillness, I have no control of the pendulum swings.  Oh, I can push here and there, use my inertia, etc…  But I’m not in control of those tidal movements in my life anymore than you are in yours.

I absolutely love the ride though…

Sitting or Quitting versus Doing

I wrote last time about waiting and it driving me crazy.  I’m not sure I fully understood even then what I was trying to communicate.  I have spent my entire life not finishing those books.  I’ve been sitting and thinking and not DOING.  I’ve never met anyone who would deem themselves successful without initially doing something.

So just as I’m about to stand up and really actually follow through with it.  Researching, planning, writing, getting things together…  Any delay…  Every delay.  Is difficult.

I don’t want to fall back down the hole of not having accomplished something creative that I’ve been wanting to do.  Sure, I can accomplish work related tasks and projects.  It’s my bread and butter.  And I’ve accomplished creative tasks, but not at this scale.

And this scale is the scale I’ve dreamed about since i was a kid.

I also, like this blog, do not expect to quit.  Once I start, even if it’s god-awful, I plan on working until it’s complete.

It might be god-awful initially… I’m not scared of that anymore.  I will be doing it though, rather than just consuming others.  And if I fail, I’ve learned how to modify and post edit audio tracks in Audacity.  I’ve helped my buddy become a better cook for his kids.  I’ve created something concrete that others might enjoy/participate in.  I’ve improved my self and gave myself a creative outlet…

I’ve sat too long…

Can’t Stop Learning

Just because I finished college and went back and got my Master’s doesn’t mean I’m done learning.  Honestly, the thing I learned MOST at Vanderbilt was learning HOW to learn.  I  acknowledge that my college experience was surrounded more by humanities than by mathematics and engineering (a potential mistake, but nothing I regret!).  That means that I’m familiar with Montaigne and Shakespeare, but that I also know how to research anything and everything.

Case in point, I taught high school english when I graduated.  I loved it and I loved coaching as well.  But I met my wife and I quickly realized that my wife was going to cost me more than I could make on a teacher’s salary.  (Although that is true, I freely admit that the life I wanted with her was going to cost more because of MY desire, not just her needs…)

So, with a little help, I took an 8 week course in IT and this English/Education major (with an accidental minor in classical languages) teacher became an IT worker.  Just like that I had learned a new career.  The internet has increased that opportunity a million fold.  Everything I learned in those 8 weeks are now easily found on Youtube (and deal with technologies that are well beyond what I learned).  For a person with access to the internet, and some free time and passion, it’s possible to grow outside of your comfort zones.

www.khanacademy.org is a perfect example.  For a person like me, who didn’t focus on math or economics, there are free academies that allow me to learn those subjects.  Couple that with local libraries and mentors and there is very little holding us back, except ourselves.

I’m taking this journey into podcasting and blogging because I need to keep learning.  I’m researching how to effectively use Audacity right now.  There are several videos about how to utilize it, and as I watch them I go deeper into the youtube rabbit hole of learning the product.  Will I become an audio producer?  Highly doubtful.  But I’ll make certain that the podcast sounds more professional than it would have before my focused learning.

All in all, I now know that I can’t stop learning, I’d get too bored.  I know that playing video games has gotten me very good at… video games.  Now I need to focus on growing myself in different directions.  This podcast and blogging journey (that my wife calls a ‘hobby’) has opened up a new world to learn.  Oddly, it’s a world that I’m pushing into my work world as well (you didn’t think that I could learn something not related to work and not improve how I work AT WORK, did you?).  That’s another blog post though…

Goals… Set and Do Not Forget.

People wander.  I’m referring to the nomads, the ancient jews, and the attention deficit disorder junkies.  I don’t put myself in any of those categories, so I guess I’m referring to the rest of us as well… Read all the self help books you’d like, outside of the need for a spirirtual component in your life, you’ll find that if you want to improve an aspect of yourself, set a goal and stick to it.  Full disclosure, I don’t read self help books…

Some of us were taught to set goals in schools, some were taught by their family, some just learned it themselves.  The weight that goal setting is given in education (at least in the US public schools today) is not nearly enough.  There are examples of it… Task lists, weekly assignments and due dates.  But emphasizing the act of goal setting and completion and how to achieve them, not so much.

And that’s what I am trying to do here now.  I’ve set so many life goals in my past.  Write novels, become a teacher, visit all 50 US states, etc.  Some I’ve met and some I haven’t.  The ones I’ve met have two things in common compared to the ones I haven’t acheived.

They are specific.

There is an end date.

“Write a novel” is ridiculously generic with no end date.  I had no real direction.  I have started many novels (I’m actually surprised at how many I’ve started) and finished none.  I have had no end date, I have had no specific reason to finish them.  I haven’t been driven to work on them during those days (that inevitably come) where working on a novel is not only drudgery but drudgery that prevents me from enjoying pleasure in other activities.

But I’m done with a flag football coaching book…  I await the illustrations from a local artist to complete and publish it.  If those don’t come by my end date, I will publish it without them.  The difference between this book on coaching and the “novels” is the specificity and the timeline.

I’ve coached youth sports for over 20 years.  I decided that I should write a book about how to do it effectively not just for the sport in general but how to interact with the parents and players and other coaches and refs.  It was a detailed and specific concept.  One that, once I started filling in the details, started to complete itself.

I also have a deadline that I created for myself.  One that is still looming.  I want it to be published prior to the spring flag football season…  So I need to have it completed (fully completed) in August.  And magically I have a reason to work on it even when I’d rather be focusing on listening to a podcast in a hammock…

The same applies to this blog.  This is my journey to podcasting and monetizing that podcast/blog.  I have a specific goal, create a podcast, create a book about the process of creating it (this blog), and monetize both.  The monetization of the blog into a book is self explanatory.  The monetization of the podcast is something that I’m still determining the best approach.  And I have created a date to have accomplished the first two.  Podcast will be starting in or before July.  It will be about teaching a single Dad how to cook for himself and his children (incidentally, I plan on writing a book about THAT too, but I’ve not set that goal yet).  The podcast “journey” book will come after that but by no later than November…

I have specifics and an end date, I will make them happen.  And they will not be perfect!  I don’t expect them to be.  Every writer, every podcaster, every creator knows that their creation could be better.  But if I was seeking perfection I would never finish anything…

And one other thing, there can’t be any other things.  The third and possibly most important aspect of setting goals, at least for me, is to not set too many.  Sure, there can be the vague no time goals that don’t have specifics, but those are dreams, not goals.  I’m not going to stop dreaming.  But I’m also not going to set other goals until I’m done and am living within THESE goals.  If I do then I might have to sacrifice these goals in order to meet the next and I will never have accomplished/finished anything.  A goal without a plan is just a dream…

On a side note, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states, two more to go!

Karma and Four Square

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I spend Sunday afternoon and night with family.  We lunch at my in-laws and dinner at Mom and Dad’s.  It’s at my parents’ house that I get to watch and interact with nephews and neices that are always energized.  I’ve watched them grow up together and always have each other to spend time with on Sunday nights.  They will always and forever remember those weekly family reunions.

This Sunday was a little quieter with only one of my four siblings present (although we had two familes of children running around).  It was no less energetic, but was a touch quieter.  As the adults continued to eat dinner though, I watched my 13 year old interact with my youngest nephew (who loves me the most…).  My son was the perfect goofy complement to his little cousin, Cooper.  They were laughing and sharing, and it was nice watching my son interacting in that compassionate way that I love so much.

Then they moved on to the next activity and the moment was gone, replaced with board games and loud play.  Until after the adults were done being boring and talking and we all went out and played four square.

That’s when the extra time that Mack had spent with his cousin offhandedly was rewarded.  Full disclosure, we play a modified version of foursquare especially for the young ones who can catch the ball and throw it into another square.  Everytime Cooper caught the ball he made a grand show of which square he was going to throw it into.  And every time, he would yell, “MACK!” and throw it to his older cousin who had given him a little bit of interest…

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Although this is a fresh example of this, it’s something I’ve seen often, especially when I was teaching High school.  People desire interaction.  People desire attention, and want you to simply show interest in them.  When you do, it changes the way they interact with you.  Sometimes, it impacts their whole day.

It’s not just the large interactions either.  Mack spent very little effort while playing with Cooper.  I’ve enjoyed noticing things about people’s clothes that make them stand out.  “Wow, I really like your shoes…” in passing, can make that person feel like they are special, make them feel like they are standing out in a sea of people.  Take that concept and bring it to interactions with people you work with, people you care about or support.  That’s when you’ll see people sticking up for you when things don’t necessarily go your way.  I make a point of protecting people who are positive towards me and show interest in my family, my life…  Others will do the same for you if you express interest in theirs…

And the best part of it all…  Once you start doing that on a surface level, you actually start to find that all people are interesting on a deeper level.  Empathy grows only when you learn what others are dealing with.  You’ll never know that unless you express interest.  So even if you start out selfishly, to get people to express more interest in you…  You might find that you grow more selfless as you start learning about the lives of others…

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