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Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Finding the Right Mix

In Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on March 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

The “work/life balance” is something that most people strive for, but don’t easily achieve.  Time management tends to be the major stumbling block.  Often times, I find myself wishing for more hours in the day (as many others do).  Unfortunately, the one thing that technology cannot create is time.  In fact, technology seems to have made our lives busier than ever.

As the years go by, it has become easier to give up things that I no longer enjoy the way that I once did.  It may be (in part) because life with children is busier than the single life, but I think that the main reason for the change is that I have learned to place a higher value on my time.

This past weekend, I was discussing fantasy football with my son’s football coach.  Although I no longer play, there was a time when I spent several hours each week focused on running a league and my own team.  Once I got married and had kids, I had much less time to dedicate to fantasy football, so I decided to quit.  Aside from the time commitment, I was also tired of dealing with the issues that came up on a regular basis.  It was strange at first, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I made the right decision.  For the first time in many years, I was able to just enjoy watching football without worrying about which players were scoring.  What I thought was going to be a difficult adjustment, turned out to be a very easy transition.

I no longer continue to watch a television series because of a desire to see how the story ends.  I know that many people love the show “Lost,” but I gave up a few seasons ago when it started to feel like a movie that was never going end.   It wasn’t an easy decision at the time, but I haven’t regretted it at all.  The same holds true for other television shows and movies as well.  If something no longer grabs my attention, I simply move on and don’t look back.

Social networking has been a big part of my life since the summer of 2007.  I enjoy it on both a personal and business level, but sometimes I just need a break from it.  For the past week, I have not been on Facebook, other than to reply to an e-mail or two.  No new status updates and no reading updates of friends.  It was strange at first, but as the days went by, I started to appreciate the break.  I will return at some point, but when I do, I will not spend nearly as much time on Facebook as I did in the past.  To some degree, the novelty has worn off a bit for me.  However, the main reason is because I need to find the right mix of how I spend my time to get the most out of each day.

March has been a particularly difficult month on a personal level (as I expected that it would be).  The anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, the anniversary of our family dog’s passing and my father’s birthday all played a part.  Other unexpected issues did as well.  When I take a look back on the month and write about it (as I have done in January and February), I know that March will fall well short of my expectations.  Some good things happened, but not nearly enough to make up for the other “bumps in the road.” And though I have learned not to wish the days away, I am looking forward to April, and the opportunity to get my pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness” back on track.  It all begins with finding the right mix.

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Too Hard to Let Go

In Family on March 22, 2010 at 8:06 am

In the summer of 2008, we started to notice traces of blood on the carpet where our dog would lay.  We kept checking his paws for cuts, but couldn’t find any.  At some point, we noticed a small bump on his nose.  I’m not sure how or when we figured it out, but the blood was not coming from his paws at all.  It was coming from his nose.  We had no idea what it was, but we thought that the vet would be able to give him something to clear it up.  After taking an x-ray, they determined that it was a tumor, which is apparently not that uncommon for German Shepherds.  The only option we were given was surgery to remove the tumor.  Aside from the fact that it was very risky (with no guarantees of success), the overall treatment would have cost at least $5000, so we were left with no real options.

The tumor continued to grow, and the nosebleeds got worse.  In only a few months, the dog that would spend all day chasing birds and squirrels up and down the hill in our backyard, started to become lethargic.  He would give chase once in a while, but most of his days were spent lying in the sun on the grass, or on the covered cement patio.  On Thanksgiving Day, we feared the worst, as we couldn’t find him in any of his usual spots.  He had nestled himself into a corner covered by bushes, and didn’t come out when called.  Eventually he emerged from the bushes, but we knew that things had taken a turn for the worse.

By January of last year, the nosebleeds became so bad that we started contemplating what to do.  Our dog no longer had the run of the house.  We had to confine him to the rooms without carpet, and had to block the stairs because he no longer had the strength to get up and down them.  He would spend time outside, but no longer was able to do so for long periods of time when it was cold.  All the while, the tumor continued to grow so large that his vision was impaired.

March of 2009 was a very difficult time.  My grandmother had passed away in the beginning of the month (see post entitled “A Year Ago Today”), and we had decided that we would be relocating to Texas once the school year ended.  None of this was easy on us, but it was hardest on our son, who was six years old at the time.  First he had to deal with the loss of his great grandmother, and then he found out that he was going to be leaving his home and his friends to move to another part of the country.  He also knew that things were not good for our dog who was fading fast.

When he got home from school on a Friday, we had to sit him down and tell him that we were going to have to put our dog to sleep.  We explained that he wasn’t happy anymore because he couldn’t do the things that he loved to do.  He was very sad, but he seemed to understand that it was what needed to be done, and that we were only doing it for our dog’s sake.  The appointment that we dreaded was made for Monday.  We had held out hope that he would go on his own, but he was hanging on (albeit by a narrow margin).

My son spent time with our dog on Saturday, and then on Sunday, before going to a friend’s birthday party, he went outside and threw the ball to him.  Although he could only bring it back two times, at a very slow pace, he was still connecting with us.  I went inside and told my wife that we had to cancel the appointment.  I didn’t have the heart to put our dog to sleep, even though I knew that it was the right thing to do.  My wife reluctantly agreed to my decision, which was based purely on emotion and not at all on logic.

I took my son to his friend’s birthday party.  He was able to really enjoy himself knowing that we were not going to be putting our dog to sleep the next day.

When we got home, I looked out the kitchen window and saw my dog lying very still in the grass.  My wife said that he did that while my son and I were out, but he eventually lifted his head slowly and looked up.  I went outside and got down on my knees to check on him.  He was gone.  I went in and got the family so that we could say our goodbyes.  It was one of the saddest moments of my life.  The only solace that I got was that he died in the place that he loved best in the world.

He lived exactly 12.5 years to the day.  My wife and I got him when he was just a puppy (before we even got engaged).  He moved from place to place with us, but he was not destined to make the move to Texas.  Out of all of the places that we lived, our last place was his favorite.  He would spend nearly every waking hour running up and down that hill.  At times, we would bring him in to eat, drink and hang out, but it wouldn’t be long before he was scratching at the back door to go back outside.

Today is a painful reminder of his loss as it is the one-year anniversary of his passing.  My son has told us that he never wants another dog again because that was his dog and he can’t be replaced.  I agree, and so does my wife.  My little one can’t really grasp that he’s gone, and still asks about him from time to time as if he is still running around outside waiting to come in later on.  If only that were true.

So today, I pay tribute to our beloved dog.  Wherever you are pal, just know that you may be gone, but you are not forgotten by any of us.  And though you may not be with us anymore, you will always be our dog!

Capturing the Moments

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on March 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

Growing up, I never owned a camera of my own.  Although, I can’t remember when I finally bought one, I do know that it was several years after my college graduation.  A sign of the times, I suppose.  Back then, pictures were usually taken by grown-ups or girls our age.  None of the guys (that I can recall) ever carried a camera around.  Perhaps it is because cameras were bulky back then, and we had no place to carry them, or perhaps it is because the girls were more sentimental.  My guess is that it is probably a combination of both.  Of course, before digital cameras, there was also the inconvenience of having to buy film and then wait for it to be developed.

I never realized how nostalgic I would become later on in life.  But that’s the thing about nostalgia…it doesn’t hit you when you are living in the moment, only later on when you reflect back on times in your life.  If I would have known back then what I know now, I probably would have found a way to have a camera around more often.  Another case of “hindsight being 20/20.” Thankfully, others had enough foresight to capture the moments as they were happening.  Although, in all honesty, I am just as thankful that many of the pictures weren’t taken on digital cameras.  If they were, there would surely be embarrassing photos of me (in what I like to call “the fashion disaster years”) all over Facebook.  Even if they do end up out there at some point, I’m sure that I’ll be able to look past the embarrassment and appreciate the nostalgia of it all.

Ironically, nowadays, I almost never leave home without a camera because it is a part of the modern-day appendage…the smartphone.  Because of today’s technology, I have captured moments that I never would have dreamed of if I had to rely upon a bulky camera requiring film.  Although the photos already tend to have somewhat of the weathered look of older developed photos, at least I will be able to look back on them someday and relive a moment in time.  Of course, being a father of two children, there are many moments being captured on a high-quality camera as well.

This past week, my son was on spring break.  Since this is the last vacation time that he has before school lets out, we took the opportunity to do some fun things as a family.  It started with a trip to the Dallas Aquarium on Thursday, the Fort Worth Zoo on Friday and ended with the final hockey game of the regular season for the Texas Brahmas last night.

As we were walking through the crowded aquarium, my son was in awe of so many of the things that he saw.  I did my best to capture each moment with the camera.  As I was taking the pictures, it dawned on me that I experience things differently as a parent than I did when I was a kid.  I used to just live in the moment, never thinking that I may want to relive it through photos later on.  That is no longer the case.  While I do live in the moment and enjoy myself, I am also doing my best to capture it on film or video so that we can look back on it together as a family some day.

The spontaneous moments of day-to-day life are sometimes captured with the high quality camera, but more often than not, if they are captured at all, it is with the smartphone camera.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to capture virtually every family outing moment.  Part of me wants the kids to be able to remember what we did long after memory of the moment is faded by the passage of time.  But I think that it is more likely because I see that they are growing up so fast, and I want to do whatever I can to freeze the moments in time that go by so quickly.

Experiencing certain moments through a lens is a bit of a sacrifice, but capturing them is priceless because I get to relive them again and again with my family.  The smiles on their faces as they look at the pictures and say “remember when” makes capturing the moments all worthwhile!

Freewill

In Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on March 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

The world is filled with choices, and yet we seem to find reason to complain that there aren’t enough of them.  How often do we go food shopping, only to look in the refrigerator later in the day and say that there is nothing to eat?  We pay an obscene amount of money for cable or satellite television so that we can have more choices of shows to watch, and yet, I often find myself scrolling through the guide saying that there is nothing on TV.  My kids have a room full of toys (and each other), but it is not uncommon to hear complaints about being bored, and having nothing to do.

It seems to me that, as a society, we have conditioned ourselves to never be satisfied with what we have.  I’ve witnessed first-hand (in business and in my personal life), people criticizing things that don’t appeal to them rather than trying to find something that does grab their attention.

For example, while working in real estate, I spent more time than I care to admit to with some “buyers” who were looking for their first home.  I put the word “buyers” in quotes, because qualifying as actual buyers requires making a purchase.  Each time I went out with them, I thought…today is going to be the day that they find something.  Each time I came home, I would vent to my wife about them.  Not because they didn’t find something.  I understood that they had specific wants and needs.  What bothered me is that they would pick apart each house in great detail, even though they had no intention of making an offer.  A lot of time and energy could have been saved by just moving on to the next house.

Ultimately, these “buyers” did some things during the course of negotiations that I found to be underhanded.  Not only did they show no respect for the significant amount of work that I had done, but they also had no qualms about wasting the time of other professionals that I had recommended to them.  Their actions during the negotiations were “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” When I finally decided to stop working with them, it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  There was no way to get back the wasted time that I had spent with them, but at least I wouldn’t be wasting any more time with them going forward.  It taught me a valuable lesson that I carry with me to this day…time is valuable, don’t waste it doing things that you don’t want to do or with people who you don’t want to be around. We are blessed, as Americans, to have freewill, so why not take advantage of it?

When I started writing this blog, I received a lot of positive feedback.  People shared some very personal stories of their own, and I felt like positive things were happening.  Of course, new things always tend to be exciting until the bloom starts to fade from the rose.  If this were a money-making venture, it would be necessary to do anything possible to keep the excitement at a high level to continue to build an audience that could be monetized.  But it isn’t.  I have my reasons for writing this blog, but profiting from it directly is not one of them.  If it was, it would be much more aesthetically pleasing and feature strategically placed advertising.

No one is forced to read this blog.  There are people that receive each post via e-mail, but they have chosen to do so of their own freewill, and can elect to stop the e-mails at any time.  Otherwise, the only people that are reading are those that take the time and effort to do so.  Since I write about a variety of topics, it is highly unlikely that everyone will feel a connection to every post.  We all have our own interests, and different life experiences, so it is understandable that some people will be drawn to certain posts that don’t appeal to others.  It is quite possible that there will be certain posts that don’t appeal to anyone, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a reason for writing them.  Everything that is written for this blog is done so for a specific reason that may (at times) only be apparent to me.

I’ve had people question me recently about why I speak about my projects in vague terms.  I’ve had others tell me that they aren’t always interested in what I have to say, or in how I am saying it.  Suffice it to say that this blog is serving a purpose for me, and helping me to achieve my goals.  Sometimes I may share them, other times I may not.  While I do hope that people get something out of my blog, the fact of the matter is that I would still be writing it even if no one was reading it.

Some people may have been interested in my blog when it first started, but no longer find it appealing.  That’s fine with me.  I know the feeling.  There are television shows that I used to watch that I no longer enjoy.  The same holds true for magazines, music, talk shows and more.  When I no longer am interested in something, I just move on to the next thing.  As I mentioned earlier, I learned a valuable lesson about time while working in real estate, so now I spend mine how I choose.  In the astute words of Rush (one of my favorite bands)“I will choose a path that’s clear…I will choose FREEWILL!”

Dear Dad…

In Family on March 13, 2010 at 4:08 am

I can’t believe how long it has been since we got to celebrate one of your birthdays with you here.  Time is really flying by.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you at least once, but usually much more.  Whenever I get the chance, I slip in a story about Poppy to the kids.  I try to do it with the laughter and fun that you would have, but inside it still feels very bittersweet….knowing that the kids’ only memories of you were not experienced by them… but told by me.

When you used to talk about retiring and moving to a warmer place, I always hoped that you would change your mind once you became a grandfather.  Even though you only got to be here with a grandchild for a month before you left us, it was easy to see the pride and love that you felt as you held that baby girl in your arms.  She’s the luckiest of the grandchildren because at least there are pictures of the two of you together.  And though you never got to hold the other grandchildren, I have no doubt that they would have felt just as loved, and you wouldn’t have been able to leave them to go someplace warm.  Of course, knowing what I know now, I wish that we were only a plane ride away from visiting you.

Life has taken some strange turns since I stood at your grave last year on your birthday.  Who would have thought that I would be the one to move away to a warmer place?  Leaving New York was hard for many reasons….not being able to visit you is near the top of the list.  I’ve always been there for every birthday, the anniversary of your passing and other times during the year where I just felt the need to be there…if only for a little while.  Being so far away, it’s just not possible to do that right now, but visiting you will be the first thing that I do when I visit Long Island.

I’ll stand there with the kids, telling them funny stories and thinking about what might have been if they had gotten the chance to know you on their own.  I’m sure that they would talk about their Poppy with the same love and adulation that you would have as you showed pictures of them to your customers.  The older ones already talk about you that way even though they have no memories of their own with you.  They love you and miss you…as we all do.  My son has cried at times as he speaks about how unfair it is that he never got to meet you.

My little one isn’t as aware as the other kids, but she knows more and more about you as the days pass by.  If you are watching over everyone (as I hope you are), you already know that she inherited her fun personality from you.  There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t make me laugh often with the things that come out of her mouth.   I always enjoy bringing her with me to visit you because she does it with a smile.  She has fun putting rocks on your stone as the meaning behind it is beyond her grasp right now.  When I visit you with her, there are moments when I let go of the pain because I am so wrapped up in her joy.

Your birthday is never an easy day for me, but I will do my best to put my sadness aside and be there for the kids the way that you always were there for us.  Spending a few hours on the football field with my boy should help.  He’s doing a great job.  You would be so proud of him.  Despite all of the loss that he has had in the last year, he is thriving in his new school.  He is adjusting to living in a new place.  He still misses things about home.  I do too.  But we’re making the best of where we are.  I just wish that it wasn’t so far away from everyone.

Even though I can’t be there to celebrate your birthday with you today, I will be there in spirit.  On a day that should be about gifts for you, I want to thank you for the gift that you unknowingly gave to me…the example of what a dad should be to his kids.

Happy Birthday Dad!  I love you and miss you more than words could ever say!

True Colors

In Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on March 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm

There are a lot of things to like about social networking from both a business and a personal standpoint.  Social networking gives us the chance to reconnect with people that we have lost touch with, meet new people and even explore new business opportunities.  Because of social networking, the world has become a much smaller place.  When I first started social networking, it was new and fun, and there was a honeymoon period where everyone seemed to get along.  But there are negatives to social networking as well.  Once the honeymoon period ends, and the novelty wears off, people tend to let their true colors shine through.

It is said that “a leopard can’t change its spots” when referring to the resistance that many people have to change.  Personally, I believe that a more accurate statement would be “most leopards have no desire to change their spots.” Ironically, the things that may have drawn you to someone at one time, often times are the very things make you realize your differences, especially when one person changes.

It would be easy to blame withering relationships on others for not wanting to change their spots, but it would not be fair to do so.  The truth of the matter is that the person that is willing to change is more likely to blame for any parting of the ways.  I readily admit that I am working on making changes in my life.  In fact, Waldo2010 is mostly about chronicling the changes that I am attempting to make.  Some have been successful.  Some have not.  Maybe the desired changes that haven’t happened yet will happen in the future.  Maybe they won’t.  Either way, it is my personal journey, so the only one that I can let down by failing is myself (and to some degree – my family).

Over the past few years, even before I discovered social networking, it became apparent to me that some friends of the past are likely to be nothing more than acquaintances going forward.  While some of the fading friendships have been caused by specific events, others have been caused by nothing more than people showing their true colors (myself included).   I realize that there are things about me that others may not appreciate.  Those very same traits, however, also draw other people to me.  As the saying goes…“one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Rather than bemoan the fading friendships, I prefer to look at the positives of gravitating towards more like-minded people.  With April right around the corner, many people will soon be doing their spring cleaning.  For some, spring cleaning is about restoring the aesthetic appeal to the outside of their home.  For others, it is an opportunity to de-clutter the inside of their home.  For me, spring cleaning will be a bit more metaphorical, as I sort through the people and things that matter most to me, and make changes accordingly.

There are only so many hours in the day, and there is no sense in spending precious time trying to convince leopards to change their spots.   My spots are changing, so I expect that my relationships will as well.  I’ve accepted the fact that my changes may very well mean that more friends will be reduced to acquaintances in the future.  On the bright side, in the future, I will have more time to spend developing the relationships with people who share the same vision as me.  Though it can be disappointing to see someone’s true colors, it can also be a blessing in disguise.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

System Overload

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on March 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

When I started my journey in the pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness,” my intention was to remain as positive as possible in all situations.  Sometimes, however, the only positive to come out of a situation is learning how to avoid mistakes that others are making.  The mistakes that I am referring to are business-related, not personal.  What people do with their personal lives, (as long as it doesn’t have an impact on my family or me), is their own business.

Lately I’ve been dealing with some big companies whose business practices leave a lot to be desired.  It is truly shocking that – in today’s economy – some companies actually make it difficult to give them business, due in large part to their archaic systems.  Other companies that supposedly exist as a platform to allow people to connect to one another (for both business and personal use) have created seemingly arbitrary rules to block people from doing just that.  In my opinion, it has gotten to the point where companies that do the “right thing,” and simply meet expectations are seen as extraordinary.

It seems to me that technology has allowed us to move one step forward while taking two steps backwards, particularly when it comes to customer relations.  Domestic customer service representatives with the capacity to think and feel have been replaced by automated systems and outsourced customer service representatives who can’t go “off script” because they barely speak English.  Even those companies that have not outsourced their customer service representatives have made it difficult (and time-consuming) to reach a human being.  How often do we find ourselves yelling voice prompts into the phone because the automated system didn’t understand our response?

As frustrating as the companies are that make it difficult to speak to an actual person, there are also companies that seem to operate with no phone lines whatsoever.  It would be one thing if these were small start-ups, but the companies that I’m referring to are so ubiquitous that they are often mentioned in day-to-day conversation, television shows and movies.  Of course, I am referring to Facebook and Twitter…two companies whose only customer service is online, and even then, it is done mostly by autoresponse, and FAQ links to answers provided by other users.

Facebook frustration is nothing new.  They are constantly changing the layout and functionality of the site, much to the dismay of the community-at-large.  It seems that these changes usually happen just as Facebook users get comfortable with the previous change.  When the most recent change happened, I compared Facebook to a sadist who randomly rearranges the furniture in a blind person’s house.  While I understand why Facebook does not want to put customer service people in place to handle objections to layout changes, I cannot understand why there is no mechanism in place to help people when their profile becomes unavailable for no apparent reason.  I guess the answer is…because they can do whatever they want, and no one ever seems to leave.

After resisting Twitter for a long time, I finally started to use it recently for a new business venture that I am working on.  Like Facebook, Twitter also seems to have arbitrary rules that restrict the ability of people to connect to one another.  Pretty ironic considering the fact that Twitter solely exists as a conduit to connect people for either personal or business purposes.  I only started using Twitter for business purposes, as I find it too limiting to socialize with friends in a meaningful way.  However, Twitter does appeal to me as a business tool.  I just wish that they didn’t make rules that create stumbling blocks for no apparent reason.

Case in point…

I received a direct message yesterday from someone that is interested in my new venture.  When I hit the “reply” link, I was allowed to type a 140-character response.  However, when I tried to send my response, I was denied because the person that sent me the inquiry was not one of my followers.  How are people supposed to connect if they have to connect first before they are allowed to have a 2-way communication?  This makes no sense to me!

After doing some research, I was able to find a phone number for the person that contacted me.  When we spoke on the phone, I let him know that I tried to respond on Twitter, but it wouldn’t let me because he wasn’t following me.  He told me that he would have followed me, but he had already reached his limit of 2000, and couldn’t follow any more people until he had more people following him.  Pardon the pun, but I have a hard time “following” Twitter’s logic on this rule.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I have found a positive in all of this insanity.  I know what it is like to be a disgruntled, frustrated consumer.  I see simple solutions to the problems that have been created by our increasingly automated society, and I plan on using them in my business ventures.  Ironically, providing outstanding customer service has very little to do with technology.  Quite the contrary!  While technology can be helpful in managing customer relations, the best way to connect with customers (while creating loyalty) is to be there for them.

It may sound crazy, but my plan to succeed with my new venture is to do more talking and less typing.  I will use systems for management purposes, but I will not use systems that alienate my customers.  Amazingly, my “old school” approach to customer relations may very well be the biggest point of differentiation between my competitors and me.  Time will tell, but I think that this plan just might be crazy enough to work!

Laying the Foundation

In Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on March 7, 2010 at 7:44 pm

It can be difficult to set expectations when venturing into the unknown because there is no basis for comparison.   Sometimes we set our expectations too low and end up pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes we set our expectations too high and end up disappointed.  In either case, all we are left with is the results that we get.  It is what we do with those results that really matters.

This past week I attended a tradeshow for a new venture that I am working on.  I only found out about it within the past month, so there was very little time for extensive planning, and a very limited budget to work with.  Because I had never attended the tradeshow before, I didn’t really know what to expect once I got there.

As the saying goes…“you only get one chance to make a first impression.” This tradeshow happens every March, so I had a few choices in how I was going to approach things.  I could have gone as a quiet observer, taking notes and coming up with a long-term plan to implement in March of 2011.  Had I known about the show a little bit sooner, I may have had the opportunity to be an exhibitor at this year’s show, but it would have been a stretch both creatively and financially.  My final choice was to use some creativity to make my presence felt with a limited budget on a tight deadline.  I chose the latter.

There is no doubt in my mind that the show would have yielded better results if I had an exhibit booth.  However, sometimes you have to be ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks, even if the conditions are less than ideal.  Waiting until next year would have allowed me to make a bigger “splash” in the industry, but it would have cost me valuable time.  More importantly, it would have cost me the opportunity to gain valuable insight into the needs and challenges of my target audience.

In business, as in life, the highs and the lows can often times be felt within the same day.  This tradeshow experience was no different.  While I feel that I was able to make a noticeable impact with my creativity and drive to succeed, I don’t feel like the results were as good as I expected they would be before the show began.  Clearly, there is more work that needs to be done.  But rather than dwelling on the results that fell short of my expectations, I have chosen to take the positive aspects of the show and use them as building blocks to help lay the foundation for future success.

Based on my return on investment for attending the tradeshow, it was absolutely worth it to attend for the following reasons:

  1. The cost to attend was relatively inexpensive (free admission, package travel deal using Travelocity, little to no expense for food).
  2. The knowledge that was gained during the course of the show will be used to improve the venture, and help fill a void in the marketplace.
  3. The marketing that was done on a shoestring budget was very effective, and helped get the word out about the venture to a mass audience.
  4. Plans have already been made for increasing my presence at the 2011 tradeshow next March.
  5. New ideas for other revenue streams were conceived during the course of the show.
  6. Contacts made will help make this new venture a success sooner rather than later.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, a number of companies have signed on to be a part of the new venture.  And while the number is not as high as I had anticipated, I am much further ahead than I would have been if I didn’t attend the show.

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with just one step.” Attending this tradeshow was a huge step in the right direction.  And though there is a lot of road left to travel, at least I know that I am on the right path.

A Year Ago Today…

In Family on March 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

I was driving around taking pictures of homes for a company that I was doing freelance work for.  My phone rang as I was driving.  It was my brother calling, which seemed a bit surprising since he is usually too busy during the day to speak.  Before long, I heard the words that I always knew could come at any time, but held out hope that the day would be in the future…“Grandma died.” After finding out what happened, I pulled over to the side of the road in shock.  The sadness that I felt at the moment was nothing compared to the sadness that I would feel later on in the day.

Driving home after receiving news like that was extremely difficult as the tears made it hard to see the road clearly.  When I got home, my wife had already heard the news.  She did her best to console me as I told her that I didn’t know how I was going to tell my 6-yr old son what had happened.  There is no parent manual to prepare you for moments like this.

I asked my wife to pick him up from school at the normal time.  He walked through the door and excitedly shouted “Hi Daddy!” (as always).  Seeing the sadness on my face, I sat him down and told him that I had some bad news to tell him…“Bubby died today.” He shrieked in a way that I had never heard before, and will never forget.  As we hugged and cried together over the loss, I did my best to explain to him what had happened.  And though he understood what death meant because of the stories that I’ve shared with him about my father (who passed away before my son was born), this was the first time that he had to deal with death directly.  The only real solace came from the fact that she lived a long, happy life of 96 years.

My grandmother was the glue that held the extended family together.  She was well-known and loved by the people in the building that she lived in for many years, as well as the community at large.  It is rare to find a person that is so beloved that no one has a negative word to say about them.  But that was my grandmother.

Though I no longer live in New York, I can’t imagine driving past the apartment that she lived in when I visit Manhattan again.  It just wouldn’t feel right.  After all, her apartment was the place where the family gatherings were held, even after the grandchildren had gotten married and had children of their own.  Most of us tend to think that family gatherings need to be held in the biggest place possible.  But somehow, we found a way to squeeze seventeen adults and seven kids into her apartment come holiday time.  It was all that any of us ever knew.

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to celebrate the holidays anyplace else, and more importantly, without my grandmother being there.  Because of the timing of my move, I still don’t know what it feels like to celebrate with the family someplace else.  Even though I wasn’t there personally, I have to imagine that it felt very strange, with my grandmother’s absence creating a tremendous void.

There is something about losing someone close to you that has a way of making it seem as though it just happened.  Though the pain fades with time, the emptiness never goes away.  Certain events and dates can trigger the pain of loss to come rushing back.  For me, the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing has done just that, but it’s certainly not the only thing.

My little one still has no idea what happened.  She likes to look at a picture of Bubby wearing a crown at what turned out to be her final birthday celebration.  She talks about Bubby’s birthday, the crown and the cake with so much enthusiasm.  Inevitably, she’ll ask when we are going to visit Bubby.  I do my best to answer, but usually try and change the subject because she cannot grasp the reality of the situation.  The blissful ignorance of a young child is something that I am envious of at times.

If I were in still in New York, I would visit Bubby today, but not in the way that my daughter envisions.  Unfortunately, I cannot visit her on the anniversary of her passing, but I’ll be there in spirit.  When we come back to New York, one of my first stops will be to visit my grandmother and my father.  I’ll bring the kids so that they can pay their respects, even if it means having my little one laughing and playing near their graves, which would undoubtedly bring them both more joy than having any of us standing there in despair.

So much has happened in my life over the past year, but somehow, one year later, my grandmother’s passing feels like it just happened yesterday.

24 Years

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on March 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

Last summer, as we were preparing to move from New York to Texas, I received an unexpected e-mail.  It was from a cousin that I hadn’t spoken to since high school.  We both got caught up in some family drama that had nothing to do with either one of us.  Due to misinformation being fed to me, I harbored resentment towards my cousin (who was also a very good friend).  Unfortunately, at that age, we didn’t just pick up the phone and clear things up, so we ended up losing touch.

Years went by, and we missed out on many of the moments that would have been shared had none of this occurred…most notably our weddings and the birth of our children.  Truth be told, I had no intention of reaching out because I believed the things that were said.  While I found it to be surprising, I was also very angry about it.  Thankfully, my cousin was the bigger man, realizing that our estrangement was not because of anything that happened directly between us, and that there was no reason for us to not be a part of each other’s lives.

As I read the e-mail, all of my hard feelings started to fade.  When I reached out to my cousin by phone, we spoke for hours.  By the time that we hung up, the only hard feelings that remained were towards the person that caused them in the first place.  Both of us share the same disdain for the person that tore apart our relationship.  Of course, it also saddened me that we didn’t clear the air sooner.  If we had, there wouldn’t have been so much lost time to make up for.

While we were together for our formative years, we have been out of each other’s lives for longer than we have been a part of them.  Based on the way that we picked up right where we left off after being estranged for 24 years, it is safe to say that we missed out on a lot of good times together.  Thinking about it makes me mad.  Mad at the person that caused it, and mad at myself for allowing it to happen.  But we all know that hindsight is 20/20, and that we cannot go back in time and right our wrongs.

Yesterday, we saw each other for the first time since we were in high school, and it was a great day.  The kind of day that I suspect we would have had many times over had we not been estranged.  It’s amazing to see how similar we both still are after all these years.  Though our paths may have been different, our destinations are nearly identical.

There is no doubt in my mind that we would see each other regularly if we lived in close proximity.  Our wives would become friends, and our kids would have cousins in their lives that they never even knew about until recently.  While this seems unlikely, my hope is that we can at least plan a trip for both families to spend some time together in the near future.  One thing I know with certainty is that it won’t be 24 years between visits.

The silver lining in our estrangement, and subsequent reunion, is that I have learned some valuable lessons that I can pass on to my children so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I have made:

  1. Time moves much faster than any of us realize.  Savor each moment.
  2. Things aren’t always as they seem.  Don’t rush to judgment before knowing all of the facts.
  3. Go directly to the source.  Making decisions based on hearsay is a big mistake.
  4. If you value your relationship with someone, keep an open mind and be willing to forgive and forget.
  5. Don’t spend too much time dwelling on what might have been.  Focus on what can still be.

I’m grateful to my cousin for reaching out and clearing the air.  Although yesterday didn’t fill in all of the gaps of the past 24 years, it was a great start!  Needless to say, I’m glad to have a good friend back in my life.

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