Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Flipping the Switch

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 9, 2010 at 9:08 am

After a great weekend, I was looking forward to the week ahead.  When the alarm clock went off on Monday, I woke up feeling a little under the weather.  It was dark, cold and rainy…not exactly the ideal mood-setting backdrop.  But there were things that needed to get done, and there was no time for excuses or self-pity.

By the time that I reached my first destination (a retail store) the rain had stopped.  Even if it were still raining, I would have still found it difficult to understand why a woman decided to block traffic in both directions while waiting for someone to pull out of a spot very close to the store.  It’s not like we were in a mall parking lot around the holidays when parking spaces are scarce.  The parking lot was virtually empty, and she could have parked about five spaces further very easily.  Eventually, she saw that people were getting annoyed, and reluctantly allowed us to pass.  I thought to myself… “It’s no surprise that there is an obesity problem in this country when people would rather inconvenience others than walk a few extra feet.”

When I returned home, I was having technology issues.  As much as I love how far technology has come, I often think that a return to simpler times wouldn’t be so bad.  Aside from the expense of keeping pace with the latest technology, it has become so entwined in our lives that it makes it difficult to be productive when things malfunction.  However, I did my best to “plug away” in spite of the technological difficulties that I was experiencing.

My frustrating day had me on edge as I left to go and pick my son up at school.  As I approached him while he was waiting outside with his class, my first words were not “hello” or “how was your day?”…I lead with “where is your jacket?” When he told me that it was stuffed into his backpack, I got annoyed and lectured him.  I kept pressing trying to find out why (in 40-degree weather) he was the only kid in his class not wearing a jacket.  Instead of stating my case and dropping it, I kept pushing for a response that I was never going to get.  In retrospect, this was most likely because I was not having a great day.

Something had to give.  I realized that I needed to take a step back and evaluate my day as a whole.  There were things on my mind that I needed to sort through.  So I decided to get out and go for my daily walk.  It was cold and dreary; the skies were a depressing shade of gray.  But after listening to a few good songs on my headphones, my mood started to change.  Suddenly, the crisp, cool air started to feel refreshing as it cleared my head.  I didn’t even mind the fact that I felt the cold biting at my fingertips.

By the time that I walked back in the door, I had “flipped the switch” to a much more positive mindset and better mood.  I pulled my son aside and apologized for overreacting about his jacket, gave him a hug, and told him that I loved him.  As he hugged back, he apologized for not wearing his jacket.  Before long, my daughter’s antics had us all laughing and having fun.  When I finished up the work that I needed to get done, I ended the day by losing to my son at Madden 2010 on Wii (despite my best effort to win).

As I progress on my journey in pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness,” I am learning how to stop bad days from spiraling down and bringing my family with me.  It isn’t always easy, but yesterday proved that I have the power to “flip the switch” and turn the day around.

It Was a “Super” Night!

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 8, 2010 at 9:03 am

Whether you are a football fan or not, the Super Bowl is a time for celebration.  It is the one day of the year when people stay tuned to one channel without flipping around, as the commercials have become nearly as important as the game itself.  Although it is not a holiday, it might as well be, as people get together for large gatherings.

So, why was it a “Super” night for me?  Was it a big party? Was it winning money?  Was it seeing my favorite team win?  The answer to all of these questions is “no.” Although I was rooting for the Saints (as the rest of the nation seemingly was outside of Indianapolis), I am not a lifelong Saints fan.  I didn’t buy so much as one box in an office pool.  It would have been kind of silly anyway since I work from home, and I would have just been winning back my own money.  And we didn’t attend a big Super Bowl party.  It was a party of four in our living room, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

My daughter was excited about the snacks and food (understandable for a 3-yr old).  At the onset of the game, she proclaimed…“The blue team sucks!  I like the team wearing white!” We all got a good laugh at the salty language being bandied about by the kid who seems to be “the life of the party” even when no celebration is going on.  My son also liked the snacks and food, but he was more excited to watch the game.

This is the first Super Bowl where my son was really captivated by the game, and paid attention to every play.  As the Saints started to take charge, he moved closer to me so that he didn’t have to keep getting up from the other couch to give me “high fives” and “fist bumps” to celebrate good plays.  By the time that the third quarter rolled around, my daughter went to bed and my wife fell asleep on the couch.  From that point on, it was all about the game for my son and me.

We watched a record being broken by the Saints kicker, Garrett Hartley (who went to school in Southlake, TX – a nearby town).  We watched the Saints march up and down the field, due in large part to the play of Drew Brees (a Dallas, TX native who would be named MVP).  While we are not from Texas, we are living here now, and it was fun to see the local boys shining on the brightest stage that there is in sports.

In the fourth quarter, when a Peyton Manning pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, I knew that the game was over.  It just seemed all year long that the Saints were a team of destiny.  Even though the city has come a long way since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, you couldn’t help but root for them to finally get the chance to celebrate their beloved Saints.  It’s hard to imagine now, but there was talk at one point of the Saints leaving New Orleans.  They truly were the ultimate underdog.

Overall, this Super Bowl “lived up to the hype” as they say.  It was a great game.  And though the Saints ended up winning by two touchdowns, the game was closer than the score would indicate.  Beyond the game itself, the underlying human interest stories made things even more compelling.  There were players on both teams with close ties to Haiti.  I would guess that a significant amount of money was raised as the donation information was displayed during the game.  Seeing how far the city of New Orleans has come from their own natural disaster shows just how strong the human spirit is, and how resilient people can be.  The lessons that can be learned from this game were (in some ways) more important than the game itself.

If I had to pick one thing that made it a “Super” night for me, it would be the bonding with my son, which is why I am glad that he was right next to me as we witnessed the greatest, most memorable Super Bowl image that I have ever seen.  Many people will remember the amazing play of Drew Brees when looking back on Super Bowl XLIV.  I will remember a teary-eyed Drew Brees holding his baby boy in his arms, wearing a set of enormous headphones to protect his ears from the noise, and a replica of his dad’s jersey.  As he was being interviewed while holding his son, you could tell that it was the moment that he cherished the most.

As time passes, this game will blend in with Super Bowls of the past.  What I will always remember about this Super Bowl is the father-son bonding and the lasting image of Drew Brees celebrating with his son.

It Was a Good Day

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

The skies were gray and a chill was in the air as I awoke yesterday morning.  It was the kind of day that makes you want to just stay in bed and relax.  Most Saturday mornings, there isn’t much to be done, but yesterday was not one of them.  My son had to get to his creative writing competition (he was one of three finalists representing his school).  Once the competition ended, it was time for the long-awaited grass drills for the upcoming spring football season, where the coaches evaluate each kid before the draft.

As we arrived at the writing competition, my son seemed a little nervous and withdrawn.  We made our way through the throngs of people to his school’s table where he met up with one of his friends.  The two boys made up games with balled-up candy wrappers and empty drink bottles, and suddenly, my son no longer seemed nervous.  When they called his group, he gave me a big hug and said goodbye.  I wished him luck and told him that I loved him and that I was proud of him.  I also told him to just have fun like he did in class, and not to focus on the competition.

When he finally returned, I asked him how he did.  He told me that he did ok, but that he was nervous while writing.  I told him once again that I was proud of him for making it to the finals, regardless of the outcome.  Since the competition ran long, we had very little time to get home and get him ready for his football grass drills.

We got to the football field just in time, and got him weighed and measured.  I was surprised to see how much he had grown in such a short amount of time.  I suppose that it’s always hard to tell when you see someone every day.  He joined the group of kids and waited for his turn to be tested.  Although he hadn’t participated in these evaluations before, he didn’t seem nervous at all.  I would imagine that this was because he has already played three seasons of football, and knew that there was nothing that they could throw at him that he couldn’t handle.

As he took the field, I saw a sense of confidence in him that I don’t think I ever saw before on the football field.  He ran hard in his 30-yard dash, and finished with a faster time than I expected.  When it came time to run the course in and out of cones, I was a bit nervous for him, because I knew that he sometimes would get confused by this in practice.  I was happy to see him run it with no mistakes.  He was one of the only kids that caught the ball at the end of the course, and he finished by tackling the blocking dummy with perfect form.

The drills were much more limited than we expected.  My son was actually disappointed that he didn’t get to do more.  I told him that I was proud of the way that he ran his drills, and that I was sure that he would be drafted fairly high for his position (based on his performance and the level of competition). He confided in me afterwards that he was concerned that he would make a mistake during the last drill, but he was happy with himself that he figured it out and performed well.

Feeling a little disappointed that the football drills were so short, my son asked if the two of us could go to a field and play for a while.  I told him that we could after going home first to spend some time with my wife and daughter.  When we walked in the door, my little one was so happy to see us.  She wanted to know if her big brother won his game.  We told her that it was just practice, but I don’t think that she understood (or cared to understand for that matter).

My daughter was running around in her “big- girl” underwear when we got home – a welcome sight, but one that gives me cause for concern around the furniture.  Before yesterday, she had gone on the potty a few times, but only with a bit of coercion.  All of a sudden, things just clicked yesterday.  She told us that she had to go, ran to the potty and did it on her own.  We were all very proud.  I think that she liked the attention, and proceeded to do it two more times later in the day.  She’s not there yet, but at least we now see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Shortly after the first potty success, the call came letting us know that my son didn’t place in the competition, but that he would be getting a participation ribbon.  A little dejected at first, he quickly got over it as I grabbed the football and told him that it was time for us to go play.  We walked to the field so that I could get in my daily exercise, all the while joking and throwing the football around.

It surprised me to see how well he was throwing and catching the regulation-size ball (something that he had struggled with in the past).  We played for a long time, calling plays and having fun with just the two of us.  It was the kind of day that I think he may remember for a long time to come.  It reminded me of the days with my dad.

By the time that we arrived back home, it had been a very full day.  We were both exhausted.  I intended to write about it yesterday, but I was too tired.  When I woke up this morning I realized something.  In the midst of all of the progress that I was seeing in my kids, I basically avoided Facebook and my blog for an entire day.  I didn’t even bring my phone with me to go and play football.  While it left me feeling a little disconnected, I have to say that it was also kind of liberating.  It allowed me to be in the moment entirely (which is something that I think is tough to do in today’s connected world).

It was a good day yesterday for a number of reasons.  Ironically, on my “disconnected” day, I connected with my son on a much deeper level.  I saw his progress, and recognized how fast he is growing up.  It made me realize that times like these don’t last forever, and I need to take advantage of them now!

Is Life a Highway or a Long and Winding Road?

In Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

In 1991, Tom Cochrane sang “Life is a highway…I want to ride it all night long.” Life in general may be a highway, but for those in sales, life tends to be more of a “long and winding road,” full of twists and turns.  The life of a salesperson can be exciting one moment, and harrowing the next.  When things are good, living on commission can be exhilarating.  When things are slow, the thought of a regular paycheck suddenly becomes very appealing.   Unfortunately, we can’t have the best of both worlds.

Success seems to breed more success, and failure seems to snowball.  It is all about momentum.  In sales, momentum can shift rapidly and without warning.  It really depends on the product or service being sold.  Product and service sales are more predictable when they are always in need, and not directly correlated to fluctuations in price.

Some products and services have cyclical peaks and valleys, but they are somewhat predictable, and can be handled with proper planning.  However, products and services that are not unique, and are more price-sensitive, can leave a salesperson feeling like “Midas” one day (where everything they touch turns to gold) or “Medusa” the next (turning people to stone with a mere glance).

It can be very frustrating when you are selling the same product or service with great success one week, and with little to no success the following week (while using the exact same methods).  Salespeople can easily get caught up in the wild fluctuations and give themselves too much credit when things are going well, and too much blame when things slow down.  But the bottom line is that sales really is a “numbers game.”

Making sales calls is easy when things are going well.  Confidence builds, and you believe that the person on the other end of the line is going to say “yes.” The real challenge is to keep plugging away when it seems that the word “yes” has suddenly disappeared from every prospect’s vocabulary in one fell swoop.  At times like these, many salespeople find themselves clamoring for the “Glengarry leads.” However, the real solution lies within, not in the leads.

For many years, while commuting by train to and from New York City, I read self-help books.  One of the most common themes amongst successful people was creating multiple streams of income.  It always seemed like a good idea, but the thought of creating other streams of income (while working and commuting) was daunting.  To some degree it still is, but in today’s economy, I realize that this approach is the best path to financial stability and peace of mind.

My pursuit of wealth and “happyness” has allowed me to put the “Medusa” days in proper perspective, knowing full well that the “Midas” days are just around the bend.  While I am not immune to the frustrations of the “long and winding road,” I have my sights set on the highway, and when I get there, I plan on riding it “all night long!”

The only question that remains is…how many people want to come along for the ride?

Take the Long Way Home

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Sometimes, the moments in life that seem very insignificant at the time, in retrospect, turn out to be very memorable.  My kids never got the chance to meet my dad, so the only way that they can get to know him is through the stories that I share with them.  Often times, I find myself telling them about the little things that made my dad who he was, rather than the milestone moments that are easily remembered.

While driving in the car with my son a few days ago, the song “Take the Long Way Home” by Supertramp came on the radio.  It took me back to a time over 30 years ago when I heard it on the car radio with my dad.  On that afternoon, it was our turn in the carpool, and we were dropping off some neighborhood kids on our way home.  When the song came on the radio, I said “I love this song”… “Take the Long Way Home.” Understandably, he thought that I meant that I wanted him to drive home the long way because I wanted to hear the song that I loved.  We had a good laugh that day, and my son and I shared the same laugh this week.  The next time that he hears the song, I have no doubt that he’ll think about Poppy and smile.

Lately, I’ve found myself actually taking the long way home while out walking in my pursuit of health.  I used to take the shortest route possible, but now I look for ways to make my walk last longer so that I can get the most out of it.  Although I do this to get more exercise, I have to admit that the first time that I did it there was a song playing on Pandora that I wanted to listen to because I hadn’t heard it in a long time.  I believe that it was “November Rain” (a 9-minute song) by Guns N Roses.  Although, it would have been better for this story if the song was actually “Take the Long Way Home.”

Some days, I am tempted to take the shortest route home, but I force myself to stretch out the walk as much as possible.  Yesterday was a perfect example.  Just as I left the house to start walking, it began to rain.  As the walk progressed, the rain grew more intense.  Although it never got to a point where it would have been absurd to be out walking, I could have very easily justified cutting the walk short because of the rain.  But I didn’t because of my change in mindset.

This is a lesson that I can carry forward to other aspects my life as well.  There are times when I want to just get to where I am going as fast as I can, so I look for shortcuts.  However, some things can’t be rushed, and other things shouldn’t be rushed.  It is said that life is a journey…not a destination.  I believe this to be true.  So, the next time that I think about taking a shortcut in life, I will think about my dad, and “Take the Long Way Home” instead!

When Things Finally “Click”

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

There are moments in life when things seem uncertain, uncomfortable or confusing, causing us to feel frustrated or anxious.  Our desire for instant gratification only exacerbates these moments, which usually have to do with some kind of change.  Although change is inevitable and continuous, many of us still seem to resist it as much as possible, regardless of our age or personal situation.

My daughter is three-and-a-half years old, and has almost no desire to go on the potty.  Although she likes to wear “big girl” underwear, when the moment of truth arrives, she wants us to put a diaper on her.  Try as we might, my daughter is resisting the change despite the bribes and rewards that we are using to entice her.  And while it seems that this process is going to last forever, we both know that it won’t.  We went through something similar with my son, and then one day, it just “clicked.” He was virtually potty trained overnight.

Kids start playing organized sports at a much younger age than I did when I was young.  Some kids just have a natural ability that shows up right away.  Others need more nurturing to help them reach the comfort level that allows them to play to their full potential.  Having coached my son in some capacity since he was five years old, I have witnessed this first-hand.

During my son’s first season of football, he tried hard in practice, but when it was time for the games, he just seemed lost.  Nothing that I said or did seemed to make things any better.  But he loved playing, so we just dealt with the growing pains and hoped that things would turn around.  In his second season, he seemed to regress as the practices started.  But then one day, it just “clicked.” He started making more plays and being in the right place at the right time.  By the end of the season, he had shown great improvement, and was one of the starters on a winning team.

When we arrived in Texas, he once again had to start over, but this time he was doing it as one of the youngest in the league in the heart of football country.  He tried hard in practice, but once again, started to look lost at times during the games.  We actually got to the point where we told him that football might not be the best sport for him.  Even though he said that he loved playing, he had a lost look about him that started to carry over to the practice field.  It was never about him being the best on the team.  All I wanted was for him to do his best.  After learning some new techniques from his uncle, once again, things finally “clicked,” and he began to show vast improvement.

One of my favorite things to do is to watch sports on television.  While my son enjoyed going to see sporting events live, his attention span for watching the games on TV with me was limited at best.  It frustrated me, but there wasn’t much that I could do about it.  Because I enjoy going to sporting events with him, I didn’t allow his lack of attention for watching games on TV dissuade me from bringing him to various games.

Before moving to Texas, I had never attended a college football game, but always wanted to do so.  My son and I went to the TCU season finale, where TCU capped off an undefeated regular season.  It was a great atmosphere, and my son was really into the game.  I think that participating in all of the TCU rituals during the game somehow gave him a greater connection to the game than he ever had before.

After attending the TCU game, my son started paying attention to the games on TV.  It was as if everything “clicked” for him at the stadium that day.  He already appreciated sports, but he seemed to become a true fan that day.  By the time that the BCS Championship Game rolled around, my son paid attention to every play in the game, and cheered for his chosen team to win.

In recent weeks, I’ve seen him watching sports news on his own, and he is now able to name players on many different teams.  It is like all of the years of sports influence that he’s had since birth finally sunk in.  The best part is that it gives us yet another bond between us.  I enjoy watching the games much more with him than I do when I’m watching alone.  This is not only true of live sporting events, or sporting events on TV, but also movies that feature a sports theme, such as “The Blindside” which we saw together yesterday.

I came to the realization during the movie that things have really started to “click” when it comes to my son and sports.  At 7-years old, he not only knew who Nick Saban was, but he also knew that he was the current Alabama coach, even though the movie is set at a time when he was coaching LSU.

We tend to see the “click” in our children because we are amazed when they know things, or learn things, that weren’t expected by us.  Adults also experience moments when things finally “click.” Sometimes it is referred to as an “ah-ha” moment, and other times it is just a feeling that things are starting to fall into place, or a comfort level is finally being reached.  It could be getting over the learning curve of something new (job, city, technology, etc.), or something much larger like a life-changing epiphany.

On my journey in pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness” I have already experienced several moments where things finally seemed to “click.” I’m not sure if this is due to my change in mindset, or if my sense of awareness has heightened because I am writing about my progress.  Either way, I am happy that things are starting to “click!”

Walking with Purpose

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on February 2, 2010 at 9:44 am

Frigid temperatures have blanketed much of the country this winter.  Even parts of the country that are usually fairly mild have watched the thermometer dip below freezing.  As a New Yorker living in Texas, the cold just feels like home, and has not bothered me at all.  Truth be told – I like it!

The temptation for many when it is cold outside is to stay inside as much as possible.  In the places where the wind chill makes it painful to be outside, this makes perfect sense.  However, in Texas, the coldest days are in the 20’s and 30’s (for the most part), so there is no reason not to get outside and walk.

A few nights ago, we had a bad rain storm, so I was forced to do my walking inside on a treadmill.  My in-laws were here, so my wife and I actually went to the gym together for the first time since moving to Texas.  We both love to watch TV, and the gym has a big screen right in front of the treadmills.  The gym in our complex is usually fairly empty (so my wife tells me), and we were the only ones there, so we were able to watch whatever we wanted on TV.  Sounds good, right?  Wrong!

Despite the fact that I was getting to spend alone time with my wife while watching TV, I couldn’t wait to get back home.  I know that many people swear by treadmills, but I find them tedious.  Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours to me.  I couldn’t help but sing “Unchained Melody” to myself as I stared at the obnoxious red clock…“and time goes by so slowly.” I already knew this, but it was reinforced that the treadmill is not for me!

The next day, the rain stopped, but the weather was freezing.  It didn’t matter.  I couldn’t wait to get out the door and walk outside.  For some reason, my feet were hurting that day.  I pushed as hard as I could, but was forced to cut my walk a little short.  However, before returning home, I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some things for my wife.  With two heavy bags of groceries, pain in my feet and music pumping through my headphones, I made my way back home.  And I found it more enjoyable than walking on the treadmill.

During that painful walk, I learned a few things about myself.  First of all, music inspires me to walk – watching TV doesn’t.  This feeling is summed up best by the lyrics to “Hold On” by Triumph…“music holds the secret, to know it can make you whole…it’s not just a game of notes, it’s the sound inside your soul…the magic of the melody, runs through you like a stream…the notes that play flow through your head like a dream…”

More importantly, I learned that I need to “walk with purpose.” Sometimes I have a destination in mind when I set out on my walk, and sometimes I explore different paths just to see where they lead.  The thing about walking on a treadmill is that it doesn’t help you get to a destination, and there is only one path that you can choose – walking in place.

The repetitiveness of the treadmill may be what I find to be so tedious.  Or perhaps, I look at my walks as a metaphor for my life.  Walking on a treadmill limits where you can go.  At best, you are left standing exactly where you started.  In a worst-case-scenario, you fall off and end up going backwards.  “Walking with purpose,” however, takes me places and affords me the opportunity to explore paths that I didn’t even know existed!

The “New Normal”

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on February 1, 2010 at 8:37 pm

On New Year’s Day, I picked up my niece from the airport.  It was the first time since leaving New York that we got the chance to spend time with any of the family that we left behind.  As my niece’s visit was ending, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were arriving for an extended visit.  Since their trip was planned before we moved, we knew that the kids would get to spend time with their grandparents around the holidays, which somehow made things easier.

This morning, before starting out on their journey back to New York, my in-laws came by to say goodbye.  It was almost as hard as when we said our goodbyes over the summer.  My son bravely choked back the tears until the door closed, and then he broke down, as did my wife.  The guilt feelings that I had for moving the family to Texas came rushing back and hit me like a ton of bricks.  Thankfully, my 3-yr old daughter has no concept of time, so she did her best to make us all laugh, as she flailed a toy sword around wildly.  “Don’t worry” she said, “I’ll cheer you up!”

Her antics definitely lightened the mood for all of us.  Still, I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that this was the beginning our “new normal.” There are no more visits planned for the immediate future from any of the family that we left behind, and we have no plans to visit New York until sometime this summer.  Even though we have been here since mid-August, in some ways, my in-laws’ departure served as a stark reminder that we live far away from most of our friends and family now.

Every day, people have to deal with their own version of a “new normal,” so we are certainly not unique.  The passing of loved ones, the loss of a job or home and virtually every other life-altering event creates a “new normal.” The only question that remains is seeing how we adapt to ours.

Some days are obviously easier than others.  In fact, most days are so busy that there isn’t much time to think about what we’ve left behind.  But other days, it is difficult to be so far away from home (holidays, birthdays and other special occasions for example). The traditions that we had established over the course of many years are now changing.

Perhaps if we had relocated to an area that was within realistic driving distance, we wouldn’t feel this sense of disconnection that we do now.  It’s not like we can easily jump in a car and drive for 28 hours to get back home, nor is it financially practical to book a flight for a family of four to visit New York.  While we are all looking forward to visiting New York, I realize that we cannot spend our time focused on the future at the expense of the present.

We don’t know exactly what our future holds.  I imagine that we will see in the coming months if our “new normal” suits us or not.  For now, we just have to do our best to adapt and live each day to the fullest.

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