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Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Two Lions, an Elephant and a Hippo

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on January 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

On Sunday, after watching the Cowboys get pummeled by the Vikings, I decided to go for a walk.  My daughter agreed to come along in her stroller, but as usual, needed to know where we going first.  I told her that we could walk to the supermarket and pick up some treats, which was all that I needed to say to get her on board.  Although I brought my headphones with me in case she fell asleep, I never got the chance to use them.  Not only did she stay awake, but she was very chatty the whole way there and back.

Oddly enough, they have already started putting mulch in the flower beds in and around the shopping center (I’m used to seeing it done in April in New York).  The smell of freshly laid mulch is not good.  That’s the grown-up opinion.  The 3-yr old opinion is “ewww…it smells like poop…that’s so gross!” When I returned home I told my wife that my daughter was bothered by the smell of horse crap, to which the little one replied “It didn’t smell like horse crap, Daddy, it smelled like horse poop!” Good thing that I didn’t say horse s**t, I thought to myself as she corrected me.

As we got to the shopping center, my daughter pointed out the statue of the cement elephant that she sometimes sits on when we aren’t in a rush.  Approaching the supermarket, she pointed out the cement lion statue as well.  We usually don’t go any further than that, but I noticed other statues further down one day when I was out walking alone, and I knew that she’d like to see them.  She was excited to see that there was lioness to match the lion and shrieked with delight at the sight of the hippo statue as she asked me the hippo’s name.  “Henrietta,” I said (recalling the name of the hippo on one of my favorite shows as a kid – New Zoo Review).

It must have dawned on her at that moment that we were there to get dessert, not to visit the cement statue zoo.  Without missing a beat, she said “Daddy, can you hear that?”

“Can I hear what, baby?” I responded.

“The sound of the donuts and the cake in the supermarket calling…Daaaadddddy, come….. buy……me!” she replied in her sweet little voice.

Laughing out loud at her clever attempt to speed up the dessert-buying process, we entered the supermarket.  I wasn’t sure where the cakes were, but she shops regularly with my wife and offered to show me the way.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that if we were looking for vegetables, I’d be left to my own devices to find them.   I was surprised to find that the selection of cakes in Texas is only a fraction of what it is in New York supermarkets.  However, we did end up getting a King Cake (complete with the beads and everything) – something that I thought was only available in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

After paying for everything at the register, the cashier thanked me at the exact same moment that my daughter was asking me a question.  She handed me the receipt just as I was smiling and saying “yes, baby.” The cashier looked puzzled, and slightly offended at first.  She then saw the headphones around my neck and, for some reason, assumed that I was on the phone because she responded by saying “you’re talking to a woman on the phone, right?” I shook my head and smiled, not quite sure what she was talking about.  I realized as I was walking out of the store that she thought that I was calling her “baby.” Honest mistake, I suppose, but it seems to me that she should have taken the stroller into consideration before assuming that I was somehow being inappropriate with her.

On the way home, my daughter was so excited about the cake and donuts that somehow the smell of horse poop never came up in conversation.  I always enjoy these outings with my little girl, and this one was no exception.  While I’m not sure that my pursuit of health was best-served by walking to the store to buy dessert, sometimes you just have to live in the moment and enjoy it!

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Inspired by Pandora

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on January 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The middle of January is a vulnerable time for those that have decided to make changes in their lives in the New Year.  All of the holiday decorations have been taken down (for most part), and we are fully back to “the grind.” This is when the gyms start to thin out, the dieters are sneaking an extra snack here and there and any other resolutions are being challenged by the return to the (pre-holiday) daily norm.

For the first time since I made a commitment to change, I started to hit the proverbial wall.  I knew that I should go out and walk, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  This was the perfect opportunity to make an excuse about being too busy or too tired, and make promises to myself to get back on track the following day.  Without a doubt, this is what I would have done in the past.  This is usually the first step onto the slippery slope back to my old ways, so I forced myself to get out the door and start walking.

As usual, I grabbed my Blackberry, a pair of headphones and I was off.  It has become a part of my daily routine that is essential for me to get out the door.  I tried walking once without the music, and I was back in the house within 10 minutes.  Most people that I know use an iPod or some other digital device to listen to music while exercising.  I confess that I have never owned an iPod, and have no intention of getting one.

I have found that using Pandora (online radio) is far better than anything else that I’ve ever tried.  For those of you that are not familiar with Pandora, I strongly suggest that you check it out.  Through Pandora, you can set up a free account which will allow you to create up to 100 stations of your own.  I’ve personally chosen to create stations using bands that I like, but you can also choose songs.  Pandora will play the band that you’ve chosen, in addition to similar sounding music.  If you don’t like a song, you can either change the station or skip to the next song.  Pandora’s free account allows you to skip six songs per hour, per station, so if you create enough stations, it is virtually impossible to run out of skips.

Getting back to the day where had to push myself to get out the door to go for a walk…

I chose to start out with my Triumph station (an underrated, Canadian trio whose popularity peaked in the 80’s).  What I expected was to hear songs that I like.  What I got was a message from Pandora letting me know that she is going to be there to give me the kick in the ass that I need on days where I’m not feeling motivated (as evidenced by the song selections).

The first song – “Never Surrender” by Triumph

The second song – “Finish What Ya Started” by Van Halen

The third song – “Never Say Never” by Triumph

By the time that third song was over, I started to wonder if Pandora is:

  1. One of the coolest combinations of music and technology ever invented
  2. The ultimate motivational tool
  3. An evil, mind-controlling device
  4. All of the above

I guess it’s possible that the song choices were just random coincidence, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story now…would it?  Whatever it was, I’m just thankful to have Pandora by my side!

Divine Intervention?

In Family, Life Lessons on January 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

The weather forecast called for a major snowstorm to blanket New York on a winter Sunday in 2009.  My wife and I had plans to go upstate with the kids to surprise her mother for her birthday.  Nothing fancy.  Just the extended family getting together in an Italian restaurant in a small town in the Catskills for lunch.  Our plan was to spend the night and return the next day as we always did whenever we visited my in-laws.

The date was January 17, 2009 – exactly one year ago today.  It was a Saturday.  We needed to be back before Monday for work and school, and didn’t want to take the chance of getting “snowed in” upstate, so we decided to make the trip up and back in the same day.

The day also happened to be my grandmother’s 96th birthday, and my extended family was getting together at her apartment in Manhattan to celebrate.  We had never missed any of her previous birthday celebrations, and I was feeling guilty that we were going to be the only ones not to make it to last year’s gathering.  Everyone understood because we had a legitimate reason not to be there, being that my mother-in-law was celebrating a milestone birthday of her own.

When we decided that we were going to return home on the same day, I asked my wife if we could leave right after lunch and stop by my grandmother’s apartment on the way back to Long Island.  It was going to be a lot of time spent in the car with kids that may as well have coined the phrase “are we there yet?”, but my wife and I both agreed that it was the right thing to do.  Since we didn’t know when we would leave the Catskills (or arrive in Manhattan), we decided to make our appearance a surprise to everyone except my brother, because someone had to let us into her apartment building.

Traffic going into Manhattan on a Saturday evening is always bad, but it took a particularly long time for us to get to my grandmother’s apartment, as all of the roads were heavily congested.  When we finally arrived, we were all road-weary, exhausted and more than ready to get out of the car.  My brother met us downstairs and came back with a surprise that made my grandmother very happy – her whole family was together after all.   It is the greatest gift that we could have given to her, and it is something that I’ll never forget.

We didn’t know it then, but it was the last birthday celebration that she would ever have.  In early March, I got the call from my brother that I always knew I could get at any time, but held out hope that it wouldn’t come for a while longer.  My grandmother was gone!  In her lifetime, she had her share of ailments, previous hospital stays and had given us scares on more than one occasion.  But somehow, some way, she always managed to pull through even when the odds seemed stacked against her.  Thankfully, it happened quickly, with no suffering, in the place that she called “home” for most of her adult life.

She was blessed to have a long life.  She got to see all of her children get married and have kids.  She got to see five of her grandchildren get married.  She got to be a part of the lives of seven great-grandchildren, who still hold a special place in their hearts for “Bubby.”  We were blessed to have her in our lives for so long, although we wish that it could have been even longer.

Naturally-occurring, weather-related events are said to be “Acts of God,” although the term is generally associated with some form of disaster or destruction.  In this case, I can’t help but wonder if the threat of the snowstorm (that never materialized), was some sort of divine intervention to make sure that I did whatever was necessary to be there to celebrate the final birthday with the woman that was adored by everyone who ever met her.   Was this nothing more than granting her one final birthday wish – giving her the one thing that meant the most to her in this world (having her whole family together)? I’d like to think so.

I would also like to think that she is celebrating her birthday today with those that she had to say goodbye to while she was still with us, in-particular, my father , who cherished his relationship with the woman he lovingly referred to as “Shvig” (short for shviger, which means “mother-in-law” in Yiddush).

Regardless of whether the snow storm that never came in January of 2009 was divine intervention or random chance, the fact of the matter is that it is something that I am truly thankful for, and will always remember.  As difficult as today is, it would have been that much worse if I had not been there to celebrate my grandmother’s final birthday with her.

INTENSITY!

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Frenzied crowd…electric atmosphere…cowbells…air horns…a chill in the air…the puck drops…13 seconds…a punch to the jaw…the enforcer sets the tone…penalty…20 seconds…power play goal!

Sound like a description to an NHL playoff game?  It’s not.  Just a regular season game in the CHL (Central Hockey League), where the players make a lot less money, but play with a lot more intensity as they feed off of the energy of the crowd.  Last night’s game was a sellout for the defending league champion Texas Brahmas (total attendance – 2369 people).  Not just any people.  Diehard, passionate, screaming fans!  A huge contrast from the NHL, where tickets are so expensive that many season ticket holders are corporations, and many people attending the games are corporate clients – not fans who cheer with primal intensity.

The enforcer returns…mayhem ensues…fists of rage extract a pound flesh…a blood-soaked neck…the crowd is electrified!

The players in this league play each game like it is their last.  The young players are scratching and clawing to get their shot in the NHL.  The older players, like the Brahmas newly-acquired enforcer, Nathan Perrot, play for the love of the game, not just the money (Perrot has spent about a third of his 14-year professional hockey career in the NHL).  The crowd energizes the players.  The players energize the crowd by sacrificing their bodies with reckless abandon and sheer determination.  There are no dull moments in the game.  The pace is fast.  The timeouts are few and far between.  The action is pure.

Last week, my son and I went to see the Islanders play against the Dallas Stars.  We’ve been going ever since he was three years old.  It’s our tradition – our bond.  We traveled further to see the game.  We paid more for everything (tickets, parking, food, drink).  The Islanders lost, but that wasn’t the most disappointing part of the game.  The quiet crowd was.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could have easily read a book during the game with very little disturbance.  More money, more people, more prestige, a gigantic arena and a fraction of the excitement that we felt at the Brahmas game.

A power play goal for the home team…tie score…another power play goal…Brahmas lead….another goal…the lead grows…the final period starts…another Brahmas goal…the game seems out of reach!

When the Brahmas took a 3-goal lead early in the final period, it seemed like a sure victory.  The visitors hadn’t scored since the first minute of the game.  But this is a game of intensity.  There was no quit in the visiting team when they got down.

A controversial goal…the lead shrinks…another goal for the visitors…the game is within reach…the play of both teams intensifies!

With a 1-goal lead, the visitors had hope.  The Brahmas had cause for concern, but they kept battling as the momentum shifted away from them.  Sitting in the second row, we were experiencing it all.  The pucks hitting the boards in front of us so hard that we could feel the vibrations.  The pucks hitting the plexiglass in front of our eyes made us blink and flinch involuntarily.  When the players were checked into the boards in front of us, it felt like they would come through the glass and land in our laps, causing us to instinctually retreat in our seats.  Both teams were hungry for the victory.

The clock winding down…second-by-second…a palpable tension…a chance for the visitors…the defenseman sacrifices his body…a loose puck…a Brahma dives face first to poke it away…an unlikely penalty as seconds remained…extra skaters for the visitors…the lead hangs by a thread…seconds feel like minutes…another diving stop…time runs out…VICTORY AT LAST!

Life lessons are everywhere if you are open to learning them.  As I continue on my self-improvement journey, I will aim do so with the intensity that I experienced at a minor league hockey game – where complacency is simply not an option!

For Love or Money?

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 15, 2010 at 7:37 am

While driving my son to school, my daughter (3-yrs old) started asking me what she can be when she grows up.  Some of her dream career choices included:  doctor, ladybug, bumble bee and finally, fireman.  Unless wearing Halloween costumes becomes a viable career in the future, I’m guessing that some of her choices probably aren’t going to be legitimate options, but I digress.  She seemed most excited about becoming a fireman and having her “big brudder (brother)” do the same, so that they can have fire truck races.

As a kid, you have the luxury of dreaming big and changing your mind whenever you please.  Eventually, that luxury disappears and a career path must be chosen.  This doesn’t mean that the first path has to be the only path, but changing gets harder as you get older unless you are willing to start at the bottom again.  In my experience, people don’t tend to end up doing a job that they dreamed about all of their lives.  Even those that end up in their desired field usually learn early on that reality rarely lives up to an outsider’s starry-eyed perceptions of what it’s like once you’re on the inside.  When it comes down to it, work is work – in every industry – at every company.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to make a living doing what we love.  But the ideal world bears very little resemblance to the real world.  In the real world, people need to make a living.  Often times that means doing what we can, not necessarily doing what we love, although there are those that “find their calling” and get to do both.  Those are the lucky ones!  And they are more the exception than the rule.

Ever since I launched Waldo 2010, people have been contacting me and giving me their feedback.  So far, it’s all been positive (which I appreciate very much).  A number of people have told me that they think that “I’ve missed my calling, and that I should have been a writer.” I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I’m glad that my writing is making a connection with people, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve missed my calling.

The truth is, I didn’t know how much I enjoyed writing until I started writing a real estate blog in the summer of 2007.  Eventually, my writing deviated from real estate topics into my personal life, and it gave me great satisfaction.  Of course, there was also instant recognition, as commenting on each other’s blogs was the easiest way to network with agents around the country and build relationships.  When you launch a new blog outside of a social network, the comments are usually few and far between, and the traffic is sporadic at best, so it takes focus and discipline to keep posting new material on a regular basis.

You may be wondering then, what motivates me to keep writing now that the initial buzz has faded, and there is certainly no payday coming from this in the near future.  Had I found “my calling” when I was younger, perhaps I would be writing for a living now.  Maybe someday I will be fortunate enough to write for a living.  Stranger things have happened.  But for now, I’m very happy with the way that things are progressing.

For the first time in my life, I feel that I am finding the right balance between doing what I love and doing what I need to do to survive.  I am passionate about all of the projects that I am working on, especially Waldo 2010 (for a number of reasons):

ACCOUNTABILITY – Without this blog, it would be very easy for me to make excuses not to exercise, eat properly, keep projects on the right track and move towards achieving my overall goals in my pursuit of “happyness.”

CONNECTIVITY – Sharing my personal self-improvement journey with others has afforded me the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level than typical social networking mediums (such as Facebook) allow.  I’m amazed (and very grateful) that others are sharing their personal stories when they comment on my blog.

INSPIRATION – Because I feel an obligation to create fresh content for this blog, I have a heightened sense of awareness and purpose in my day-to-day life.  Everything that I feel or experience has the potential to be turned into something positive that I can share with others.

DISCIPLINE – By committing to this blog, I am also committing to living a healthier lifestyle and making the most of each business opportunity.

Writing may very well be “my calling.” Only time will tell if this is the case.  I’m not worried about missing my calling because there is no expiration date on dreams.  After all, Colonel Sanders founded KFC at the age of 66 after realizing that he couldn’t possibly live on the $100 that Social Security was providing on a weekly basis (considering that he was otherwise penniless).

For the time being, I’m happy that long-envisioned projects are starting to gain traction, new opportunities are presenting themselves and I am doing something that I love with this blog.  I still have to do what I can to make ends meet, but I do feel that I am finally on the path to the life that I want to live, not the life that I feel that I have to live because of circumstances.

Life is Beautiful

In Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 14, 2010 at 6:17 am

“There’s nothing like a funeral to make you feel alive…just open your eyes…and see that life is beautiful” (lyrics from the song “Life is Beautiful” by Sixx: A.M.). As morbid as this sentiment may be, it is also true.  It is human nature to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  It is also human nature to blow little annoyances out of proportion, until tragedy strikes and we are reminded that there are others in the world that would gladly trade places with us.  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  Even though I have made a conscious decision to change my mindset, I realize that I am merely a work-in-progress.

My day started out dealing with some difficult people in business-related matters.  Later in the day, my wife got a speeding ticket for going 28 in a 20 inside of a school zone.  I was annoyed that the cop who gave her the ticket was being very friendly, making small-talk, and touting the fact that our current town was voted in the top places to live by Money magazine (after he found out that she just moved here from New York).  I thought that a friendlier gesture would have been to let her off with a warning.   On top of all of this, an ongoing issue with a long-time friend was brought to the forefront once again.

None of these things that happened yesterday were earth-shattering.  They were just little annoyances that were exaggerated by the fact that they were all happening at the same time – creating a “snowball” effect.  Days like yesterday happen without making a lasting impact on anyone’s life.  Someone recently told me about a litmus test to use to evaluate how bad something really is in the larger scheme of things – ask yourself how you will feel about what happened five years from now.  Will you even remember it?  In my case, probably not, but the same cannot be said for everyone’s day yesterday.

While I was dealing with some minor annoyances, 1800 miles away an entire country was having a day that will be remembered for many years to come.  It is estimated that one third of the population of Haiti is in need of emergency relief, and as many as 500,000 lives may have been lost (although it is too early to say for sure).  For the people of Haiti, and those with close ties to the country, I imagine that yesterday will be remembered the same way that Americans remember 9/11.  Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere before yesterday’s earthquake.  It’s hard to imagine what will become of the country in the wake of this tragic disaster.

In retrospect, my day wasn’t really bad at all.  I will not remember anything that happened yesterday five years from now.  In all honesty, I probably won’t remember what happened yesterday five months from now.

Sometimes it takes a shocking turn-of-events to put our own lives in perspective and realize that “Life is Beautiful.”

Modern Day MacGyver

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 13, 2010 at 10:49 am

When my wife and I decided to relocate to Texas, we figured that it would be safe to leave behind our snow shovels, ice melt and most everything else that you typically need for a New York winter.  Little did we know that our first Texas winter would feature record-breaking cold temperatures.  It never dawned on either one of us that our cars would need to be defrosted, much less need the ice scraped off of them before driving in the morning.  In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to keep more than one of the multitude of ice scrapers that we owned in New York, but we only kept one.

My wife leaves for work early in the morning, so naturally, we keep our only ice scraper in her car.  Most mornings it is not needed, even when it is very cold out.  Yesterday, I needed to clear the windows on our other car to take my son to school.  As usual, we were pressed for time, and couldn’t wait for the windows to defrost on their own, so I had to improvise.

Last week, when my niece was in town, we all went out to a club (a rare occurrence for us nowadays). On the way to the club, my wife realized that she forgot to put on deodorant.  Rather than return home, we just stopped at a supermarket to buy her a new one.  For some reason, antiperspirants now come with a plastic cover on them underneath the cap.  Luckily for me, my wife left the cover in the cup holder, because it was the only piece of hard plastic that I had to scrape the windows.

As I scraped off the car with my newly-created, inch-long, oval ice scraper, I was thinking that we probably could have squeezed that second ice scraper into the overstuffed minivan that we drove down to Texas in from New York.  I was also thinking that this would work better if I were taller, as I was only able to make circles on each side of the windshield, leaving the middle still frozen as I drove my son to school.

While I wish that we had brought another ice scraper with us from New York, at least I learned a valuable lesson from this experience…if you want to do the best possible job – you should make sure that you have the proper tools to do so. And, if you’re going to leave your ice scraper in New York, it’s a good idea to have your wife leave home without deodorant one night so that you too can be a “Modern Day MacGyver!”

Breakthrough Moments (Part 2 of 2)

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 12, 2010 at 6:45 am

(This is the second post in a 2-part series)

If you truly believe that success is going to happen, a breakthrough moment will eventually occur, although the timing of it cannot be guaranteed. Case in point:  the Dallas Cowboys.  Whether you love or hate the Cowboys (or even if you’re not a football fan), the lessons learned from this story can be applied to anyone’s life.

After a string of success in the early 90’s, the Cowboys started to falter (much to the delight of the throngs of Cowboy-haters around the country). The last playoff game that they won was against the Vikings in December of 1996.  It is remarkable that a storied franchise with a winning history could go through nearly a decade-and-a-half without winning at least one playoff game, but it happened.

In 2006, their chance to end the playoff drought slipped away (both literally and figuratively) as Tony Romo bobbled the ball, on what would have been a fairly easy, game-winning field goal attempt.  Any doubts that already existed were intensified by this unlikely turn of events.  As a devastated Tony Romo walked off of the field, many wondered if he would ever be able to regain his confidence and reach his potential.

When the season ended, the Cowboys parted ways with Bill Parcells (one of the most respected, successful coaches in the game). He was replaced by Wade Phillips (a winning coach that had never won a playoff game). In his first season with the Cowboys, Phillips coached the team to a 13-3 record – making them the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  However, the heavily-favored Cowboys lost to the Giants in their first playoff game – a crushing turn-of-events that continued to reinforce the doubt that plagued Romo, Phillips and the Cowboys.

The following year, the Cowboys had a chance to return to the playoffs by winning their last game of the season against the Eagles (who also needed a win to qualify for the playoffs). No one expected that the Cowboys would have an easy time beating the Eagles in Philadelphia, but most thought that they would at least be competitive.  As the Cowboys walked off the field, demoralized from a shocking 44-6 thrashing at the hands of their most bitter rivals, doubt had reached an all-time high.  Most people thought that Wade Phillips would be fired and that Tony Romo couldn’t win the “big game.”

This season, Phillips returned as the head coach and Romo returned as the starting quarterback.  The Cowboys struggled early, and then went on a winning streak, leaving them in first place going into December.  However, December and January have not been kind to the Cowboys in recent years.  When they lost their first two games in December, everyone, including the most die-hard Cowboy fans, believed that history was about to repeat itself one more time.

Their next opponent was the Saints, who had already won their first 13 games of the season.  Adding to the challenge was the fact that the game was being played in New Orleans at the Superdome (a stadium known for crowd noise that hampers the visiting team’s ability to communicate with each other).  To make matters worse, there was a chance that they would be playing the game without their best defensive player, DeMarcus Ware, who was carted off the field six days earlier in a neck brace.  No one gave the Cowboys a chance to win the game against the Saints.  Most thought that they would miss the playoffs all together.  But then it happened!  The first breakthrough moment!

The Cowboys came into the Superdome and beat the Saints, ending New Orleans’ undefeated season.  The next week, they shut out their long-time rivals, the Washington Redskins.  Suddenly their playoff hopes were alive again.  After the Giants lost, the Cowboys clinched a playoff spot, with a chance to win the division.  All they had to do was beat the same Philadelphia Eagle team that eliminated them last year in embarrassing fashion (almost the same scenario as last year). The only differences being that the game was being played in Dallas, not Philadelphia, and for the division title instead of a playoff spot.

Even though the game was being played in Dallas, many thought that the Eagles would win because of their recent play and the Cowboys history.  The Eagles had won 6 straight games heading into the season finale against Dallas.  The Cowboys, on the other hand, were still battling their December / January demons, having lost an inexplicable nine-straight season finales.  As the game came to a close, the Cowboys had shut out the same Eagles team that had decimated them in the same situation a year before.  It was the first time in the history of the franchise that they shut out their opponent on consecutive weeks.

The victory against the Eagles meant that they would have a playoff game at home the following week against the same Eagles team that they had just dominated.  Having beaten them earlier in the year in Philadelphia, the Cowboys would need to beat their division rivals three times in one season if they were to get the final monkey off of their backs, and quite possibly, save their head coach’s job.

The naysayers and prognosticators flooded the airwaves with their predictions that the Cowboys would lose.  They pointed to statistics to validate their points.  Andy Reid (the head coach of the Eagles) had never lost a first-round playoff game.  Wade Phillips had never won a playoff game.  Donovan McNabb (the Eagles quarterback) had won several playoff games.  Tony Romo was still looking for his first playoff victory.

Was it really possible for the Cowboys exorcise their playoff demons by beating the same team in back-to-back weeks?  Could this be the year for Tony Romo to get his first playoff victory after playing poorly in his two previous playoff appearances?  Could Wade Phillips inspire his team to perform the way that they had in the previous three games, giving him a chance to claim his first playoff victory after several seasons as an NFL head coach?  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding – YES!

The Cowboys, once again, dominated the Eagles just as they had six days earlier.  Another breakthrough moment for the team that was left for dead just one month earlier!  Had Wade Phillips, Tony Romo and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys bought into all of the negativity based on past failures, they most likely would have failed.  Tony Romo would still be known as the quarterback that couldn’t win “the big one.” Wade Phillips would probably have been fired as the head coach, quite possibly never getting the chance to win a playoff game again.

Breakthrough moments can (and will) happen when you believe in yourself, in spite of the doubts and negativity that exists in others.  Success is created from within, and cannot be stopped by the pessimism of those that don’t believe in what you are doing.   As the legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, once said…“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

Breakthrough Moments

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on January 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are inspired to do something.  Often times, however, someone else is there to rain on their parade by doubting them.  When you’re a kid, the world is your oyster, but for some reason, cynicism tends to creep in as we grow older.  Of all of the four-letter words that we learn as we grow up, I believe that the one that is most destructive is the word – “can’t.” We would all be better off if we spent our time encouraging others (as we do with children) rather than trying to tear them down with negativity.

As a parent of young children, it is pretty common to hear the words…“When I grow up I want to be a …” No matter what the answer is at the end of the sentence, my response is always positive and encouraging, telling them that they can be whatever they want to be if they put their mind to it.  Is it always realistic?  Of course not, but that doesn’t mean that children should be discouraged.

For example, my son’s favorite sport is football.  He talks about wanting to play in the NFL someday.  While it is possible, it isn’t very likely.  When you factor in his genetics, he’s probably as likely to become a real-life superhero as he is an NFL player, but I don’t tell him that he can’t make his dream come true.  It would serve no purpose other than to discourage him from trying to be his best.  As we grow up, we are not afforded the same luxury.  People feel free to openly express their doubt in the hopes and dreams of others, even when their opinions were never solicited in the first place.

We have two choices as we pursue our hopes and dreams.  We can dream big and be undeterred by the negativity of others, or we can allow our dreams to fade away by letting fear and the doubt of others dictate our actions.  Personally, I’ve made the choice to dream big.  I am willing to use the inevitable setbacks that will occur as a valuable learning tool to help me to reach my goals.  I am NOT willing to let the doubt and negativity of others stop me from pursuing my dreams.

Pursuing big dreams in the face of fear and doubt is not easy.  It takes work to keep picking yourself back up again after each setback.  As Winston Churchill said – “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” If you truly believe that success is going to happen, a breakthrough moment will eventually occur, although the timing of it cannot be guaranteed.

In part 2 of this post tomorrow, I will share a true story about the timing of Breakthrough Moments…

A Slice of Home

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on January 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

When my wife and I decided to relocate to Texas, we knew that there would be things that we would miss.  Prior to our relocation, we had spent our entire lives living in New York.  Even though we’ve been here since the summer, we still refer to New York as “home,” and anything having to do with Texas as “theirs” not “ours.” This feeling is best described as being on permanent vacation.  Like any other vacation, no matter how much fun you’re having, at some point you start to miss the comforts of home.

Traveling with a family of four from Texas to New York is not easy, and the cost can add up quickly.  It makes the most sense to drive back to visit, but it’s hard to justify a 28-hour drive unless it is possible to spend at least a few weeks there.  Thankfully, this week has brought us a “slice of home” from New York.

On New Year’s Day, my niece arrived for a visit to spend a week with the family that she misses (even though she is away at school, and wouldn’t have seen us very much since the move anyway).  Needless to say, we were all glad to see her.  Although it would have been nice if she could have brought us an actual slice of home (NY pizza), something better arrived with her – a cold front that hasn’t been felt in this part of Texas in over a decade.  While others are complaining, I’m embracing the cold like an old friend that I haven’t seen in a long time.

A few days ago, my wife’s parents arrived for an extended visit.  I actually videotaped the moment of the kids running into their arms to hug them.  Even though they lived a few hours away from us when we were in New York, and we didn’t see them all of the time, just knowing that we could if we wanted to somehow made them feel close-by.  My son has been longing to see Grandma and Grandpa, but he understood why we couldn’t.  My daughter, however, is too young to grasp the fact that we’re too far away to just go visit for a day.  Thankfully, they’ll get to see them every day for the next few weeks.

On the same day that my in-laws arrived, so did the New York Islanders to play against the Dallas Stars.  My son and I have been going to Islanders games ever since he was three.  I feared that this tradition was going to be lost this year since we weren’t planning on visiting New York until after hockey season ended.  I was thrilled to see that they were coming to Dallas, and bought tickets as soon as they were available.

My son and I put on our Islanders gear, bundled up, and ventured out to the game.  The fact that we had record-breaking low temperatures that day (12 degrees), made it feel like home for me, even though we were going to see the Islanders as visitors for the first time.  We arrived very early to the game.  I had no idea how to time our trip with traffic, so I erred on the side of caution, and left 2 hours before game time.

Upon our arrival at the American Airlines Center, we instantly saw the difference between new and old, as the Nassau Coliseum is the oldest arena in the NHL, and this one was built recently.  It was similar to the feeling that we had when we went to Citi Field for the first time after years of going to Shea Stadium together.

We decided to take a quick look inside before going to our seats.  Luckily for us, it was so early that no one was checking tickets.  The first people that we saw looking out onto the ice were Islanders fans.  We spoke to them, and found out that they were from Long Island too.  It wasn’t long before other Islanders fans from Long Island started congregating in the area.  We all discussed what it was like to live away from New York, and all agreed that there’s no other place like it.  After waiting impatiently (as New Yorkers are wont to do), the Islanders finally emerged for warm-ups.  It wasn’t like being at Nassau Coliseum, but my son and I loved seeing all of the players from such a close vantage point.  Before long, the crowd started filing in.  We said goodbye to our fellow New Yorkers, and headed for our seats.

I held my son’s hand as we made our way through the crowd, all the while singing over and over in my head, the Bon Jovi song, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,”…“with every step I take, I know that I’m not alone – you take the home from the boy, but not the boy from his home…it doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter where you go – if it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road – take it in, take it with you when you go…who says you can’t go home!”

By the time February rolls around, most of the cold weather will probably be gone, and my in-laws will return to New York.  We won’t be experiencing New York first-hand until summer, but for now, I’m glad that we’re at least getting to experience “a slice of home.”

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