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Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Season to Remember

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on May 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

As we walked off of the field after our Super Bowl, I looked up into the stands, saw all of the parents giving our team a standing ovation, and it got me a little choked up.  I couldn’t help but think how lucky these kids were to have experienced such an amazing season together.   The only thing that could have made it better was if we had actually won the game and the league championship.

Despite a hard-fought battle, it was a case of too little, too late.  We lost by one touchdown to the defending champions.  The team that most feared.  The team that dominated every team that they have played for the last two years (except for us).  I wrote about how we beat them earlier in the year in a post entitled “David vs. Goliath.” And though we came out on the losing side of this battle, this was anything but an easy victory for our opponents.

After the game, I sought out one of the dads from the other team.  Our sons played together in the fall, and I wanted to congratulate him on his son winning the championship.  He shook my hand and said…“I’m just glad that this isn’t a best of three series.” I imagine that most of the parents on the winning team felt the same way.

Long before the game was played, we planned for our team to have the year-end pool party right afterwards.  Part of me thought that this was a great idea because it would give the kids a chance to extend their celebration if they won.  But another part of me knew that we were in for a battle, and that victory was no sure thing.  I feared that the well-deserved celebration of this season would be tainted if the kids were sitting around bemoaning the loss of the game, rather than enjoying one final moment together as a team.  I’m happy to say that I was 100% wrong!  The team party was just what the kids needed to get past the disappointment of losing the championship game.

We arrived at the party a little bit later than most because we had to stop home to pick up a few things.  By the time that we arrived, the kids were all playing together in the pool and on a gigantic inflatable water slide.  There was a smile on EVERY kid’s face.  It probably shouldn’t surprise me any longer, but I still tend to marvel at the resiliency that kids show in the face of trying times or disappointment.  Clearly, the kids had already put the loss in proper perspective and had moved on to living in the moment and enjoying the party.

For the first time since my son started playing organized sports, I was disappointed to see the season come to an end.  I looked forward to each practice and each game because we were a part of something that reminded me of my little league baseball team that stayed together for four years.  Like my little league team, this football team featured a great group of kids that worked hard to be their best while truly enjoying being around each other.  It was, by far, the best coaching staff that I have been a part of, and the parents were all very supportive and friendly (just like my little league team).

At the party, the parents all sat around socializing while the kids played in and around the pool.  For a while, I sat on the edge of the pool as the boys roughhoused in a spirited game of water basketball.  Before long, I ended up being the only adult in the pool, playing alongside the kids.  They all wanted me on their team…the first time that has happened to me in any sort of basketball game.  I guess it made sense, being that I was the tallest “kid”.  I participated for a while, and then eased back towards the middle of the pool as I watched the game, just trying to soak in the moment of our last time together as a team.

I played along and ducked for cover under a pool toy as some of the kids nailed me with their super soaker water guns.  I happily watched as the kids showed me their flips and dives into the pool.  You could hear the excitement in each of their voices as they yelled… “hey coach, watch me!” Truth be told, I didn’t want the party to end because I was having as much fun as the kids were.

After the kids were presented with their trophies, each of the coaches was presented with a gift from the parents.  In my past coaching experiences, the gifts were usually a gift card to a store or restaurant (which I greatly appreciated).  However, this year’s gift was even better.  It was a photo album featuring highlights from the season, including candid shots of me working with the kids that I didn’t even know existed, largely because I was always living in the moment at the time.

In fact, living in each moment with this team is exactly what made it so special for me.  It never mattered if I was having a good day or a bad day.  Whatever happened during the day left my mind the minute that our practice or game started, and didn’t return until I had returned home.

I can honestly say that almost every kid on the team showed a great deal of improvement by the end of the season.  Since it was my first time coaching any of them, I can’t tell if the progress that they made was similar to what they had made before with previous coaches.  However, this was my son’s fourth season, and I can say (without hesitation) that this was his best one yet.  He worked as hard as any kid on the team, and developed his skills more than I’ve ever seen him do in the past.

Words cannot describe the pride that I have for my son for what he has accomplished this season, especially since he is one of the youngest and smallest kids on the team.  While he may not be the biggest, the strongest or the fastest one on the team, his heart is as big as any kid that I’ve ever seen.  And for the first time since he started playing sports, he developed real friendships that go beyond the field and the game.  What more could any parent ask for?

We may not have won the championship, but I would not trade this season or this team in for anything, and I’m sure that my son feels the exact same way.  Given the choice between just winning a championship or being on a team filled with great kids, parents and coaches and not winning the championship, I’ll take the latter every day of the week.

As I reflect back upon my own little league days, I can only remember a handful of actual game memories.  But I will never forget what it was like to be a part of something special with that team.  It was what I have wanted most for my son ever since he started playing organized sports.  Thankfully, I got to see that dream become a reality for him this season.  It truly was a season to remember!

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In a Viral World…

In Life Lessons on May 21, 2010 at 7:19 am

While working on one of my projects, I have been making a lot of phone calls to various businesses.  Sometimes, the reception on the other end of the line is very friendly.  Sometimes, people are genuinely interested in what I have to say, and are thankful for my call.  Even those that are not interested in what I have to say are usually polite at the very least.  But sometimes, the people at the other end of the line are simply rude, and have no just cause to act that way because I have done nothing to cause such a reaction.

In today’s economy, it would seem logical that businesses would go out of their way to garner goodwill, or at the very least, do whatever they can to avoid creating a negative perception of their business.  But even if the economy was booming, and businesses were thriving, there is another reason to treat people with respect (regardless of whether or not you are interested in what they have to say).  Aside from human decency, and treating others as you want to be treated, there is the stark reality that we all live in a viral world.

It is fairly easy to tarnish a product or service in the court of public opinion by spreading your dissatisfaction to the masses.  The damage that can be done on Facebook and Twitter alone is significant.  In theory, that damage caused would be contained to the reach of the dissatisfied consumer.  But the reality is that, in a viral world, bad news spreads like wildfire.  We all remember the commercial from the 70’s…“they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…” This is the very definition of spreading the word virally.

Businesses would be wise to take the viral effect into account before disrespecting people who they have no interest in speaking to.  However, there is something that may be even more damaging than one person spreading negativity about a product or service…and that is the ability for EVERY person to post reviews for the world to see.  And the worst part is that those reviews don’t go away, whereas the viral effect will likely have a relatively limited lifespan in our short-attention span society.

Whether businesses like it or not, the fact remains that the consumer is no longer powerless when they are dissatisfied.  They have a voice, and they are not shy about using it.  Today’s consumer is also far more educated than we were in the past, thanks in large part to Google.

Try doing the following experiment to see exactly what I am talking about…

Go to Google and type in the name of your town, your state and the word “restaurants.” You will usually be directed to a page that reads “Local business results for restaurants near_____”. Click on that link and you will see a Google map to the right, and a list of restaurants to the left.  Some of the restaurants will already have a number of reviews and high star ratings.  However, others may have few (if any) reviews or rankings.  It wouldn’t take much for a dissatisfied consumer to post a negative review, and give the restaurant a low rating.  If they had a few friends to do the same, this restaurant would instantly look like a place that is not worth visiting (regardless of whether or not this is true).

The bottom line is that perception IS reality, especially when it comes to Google and the consumer.  In a world of easy access to information and a plethora of choices, consumers will ALWAYS choose the products and services that are reviewed favorably by fellow consumers over those that are negatively reviewed.

If you are a business owner, it is in your best interest to be respectful to everyone that calls or visits your place of business (and to train your employees to do the same), or run the risk of having your reputation defined by those that you have disrespected.

Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm

“If you suddenly see, what has happened to me…you should spread the word around…and tell everyone here, that it’s perfectly clear…they can sail above it all on what they’ve found.”Ronnie James Dio

I was around ten years old when Rainbow (with Ronnie James Dio) released one of my favorite all-time albums entitled “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.” At the time, I hadn’t even been introduced to the band yet.  But when a friend of mine turned me on to them at sleepaway camp a few years later, I was instantly hooked.  One of my first stops upon returning home from camp was the local record store, where I picked up the whole catalog of Rainbow albums.  I would sit for hours in my room listening to Rainbow through my headphones, and before long, I considered them to be my favorite band.  And though I loved the albums that they made with Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet, there was something about the early albums with Ronnie James Dio that made them truly unique and unforgettable.

When Dio released “Holy Diver” with his own band, I couldn’t get to the record store fast enough to buy it, even though I hadn’t heard any of the music yet.  It’s been around twenty seven years since the album came out, but I can still remember listening to it for the first time with one of my friends (in his room) as if it were yesterday.  We were in awe of how great the album was.  The entire album…from the first track to the last!  I expected nothing less, since Dio was my favorite singer and his music was always nothing short of brilliant.

This morning, I woke to find that Ronnie James Dio had passed away, but I was relieved to find out that it was just a rumor.  Or so I thought.  Later on in the day, it was confirmed that he had, in fact, passed away this morning at 7:45am.

It is not often that I am impacted by the death of a famous person, but I am truly saddened by this loss.  Although the prognosis for stomach cancer is not usually very good, things seemed to be looking up, and it looked like Dio was going to beat the odds.  Unfortunately, despite his determination and will to live to return to the stage (where he belonged), stomach cancer was one demon that he just couldn’t conquer.  There will be a void in the heavy metal world that will never be filled now that Dio is gone.

As sad as it is to see an idol gone before his time, for me, this goes beyond Dio’s music.

In 1999, while working in the music business, I was invited by a friend / client to a Dio record release party.  It took place at a cool bar in the east village of Manhattan.  Not some trendy bar where celebrities hang out mind you, just a regular local bar that blended in with all of the others in the neighborhood.  It would have been enough for me just get to hear the album before it was released, but I got so much more than that.

As I approached the bar to grab a drink, there sat my childhood idol, Ronnie James Dio, in the flesh.  Of course, I took the opportunity to tell him how much of a fan that I was, and that I owned the fairly rare albums that he made with the band, Elf.  Despite being in the music industry for a number of years, and having met a number of artists that I have great admiration for, my meeting with Dio was different.

He was the man of the hour, and it certainly would have been understandable for him to politely thank me for my support and move on, but he didn’t.  We sat at the bar talking for over an hour.  It was as if he had forgotten that he was at his own record release party.  I can’t recall what we spoke about, but I’ll never forget the experience as long as I live.

Today, I mourn the loss of more than just a great musician.  Ronnie James Dio was an innovator, an inspiration to others, a philanthropist (Hear ‘n’ Aid) and a heavy metal legend.  But more importantly, Ronnie James Dio was an incredible man who truly appreciated his fans in a way that most famous people cannot even begin to approach.

It seems appropriate that, on the weekend of his passing, I saw something that I have never seen before, and may very well never see again.  While at the pool with my family, my daughter kept looking up at the trees, which caused my wife to look up and see what she was looking at.  As she did, she saw a rainbow high up in the sky, but it wasn’t the typical rainbow…long and arching.  Rather, it looked like a straight, relatively small bridge connecting two clouds.  I like to think that the rainbow bridge appeared to illuminate Ronnie’s path to heaven.

“We are sunlight…we can sparkle and shine…and our dreams are what we’re made of…so just hold on…you can make it happen for you…reach for the stars and you will fly…you’re hungry for heaven.”Ronnie James Dio

Rest in peace, Ronnie.  You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten.  Your music left an indelible mark on me, my “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” and the rest of the metal world. \m/

Fighting Through the Pain

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on May 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm

It is said that “when the going gets tough…the tough get going.” Whenever I hear that line, I can’t help but be reminded of John Belushi delivering this message with brilliance in one of my all-time favorite movies, “Animal House.”  And though it was meant to induce laughter, in actuality, it was also a life lesson about what a determined mind can accomplish.

When I started on my journey in pursuit of health, wealth and “happyness,” I did so by taking small steps.  After a fairly dormant period of physical activity, I started walking nearly every day to get exercise.  And while it was better than doing nothing, the reality is that it was never very challenging physically.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect, I think that the walks were more effective as a way to clear my mind and get lost in thought than they were to help me to get into shape.

Over the past few weeks, I started a very demanding exercise program.  The workouts only last about 20 minutes, but they are much more taxing than walking for two straight hours.  When I am finished with the workout, I am physically spent, and need some time to recover before continuing my day.  I was told by the person who designed the workouts that they will be easier to complete once I am in better shape, and I believe that will be the case.  However, it does not mean that it will always be easier from one workout to the next.

The first few times that I did the workout, I seemed to be making progress.  However, the last workout seemed more difficult, and it felt like I was regressing.  I don’t think that I am actually regressing.  I just had one of those days where it is hard to get going.  During the workout, I was getting down on myself for not doing as well as I had been previously, but I fought through the pain and kept going.  At some point, I must have gotten a boost of adrenaline, because I finished the workout stronger than I began (even though I was already exhausted).

As adults, we tend to make excuses and find ways to avoid fighting through the pain (at least that has been the case for me in the past).  Although I’m sure that it is partially physical, I think that a lot of it has to do with our mindset.  I’ve witnessed first-hand how different it can be with kids.

In recent weeks, as the weather has gotten warmer, my son has been getting stomach cramps during football games and practices.  We finally figured out (through one of the parents who is a nurse) that it was most likely due to the fact that he had dairy products right before football.  Apparently, the dairy starts to curdle in your stomach as it heats up, causing stomach cramps.  My son took himself out for a while when the cramps came on, but quickly returned to action.  Ultimately, he ended up having one of his best games while playing through the pain.

It would be understandable if a 7-year old succumbed to pain while playing sports and chose to stay on the bench.  After all, playing sports at this age is supposed to be about fun.  And it is.  But there is also a sense of team, and no one wants to be the one that lets their team down.  It has been very inspiring to watch him fight through the pain and give his best effort.

Even though I would only be letting myself down if quit during a workout, I realize that it is important to stay the course because it is a slippery slope back to inactivity if I start making excuses instead of fighting through the pain.  As the saying goes…“No pain, no gain…no guts, no glory!”

Looking Back at April

In Family, Giving Back, Inspiration and Motivation, Pursuit of Happiness on May 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

Each month, I do a recap to measure my progress while keeping myself accountable to my goals.

Here is my look back at April…

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

After going off course in March due to a change in schedule and some extenuating circumstances, I was determined to do better in April.  Unfortunately, April started off much the same way that March ended.  While I am disappointed overall of my progress for the month, I am happy to say that I wrapped up the month on a high note, which will lay the foundation for May and the months ahead.

Part of the reason that it took until the end of the month to “right the ship” is because I was waiting for a new workout video to arrive.  Of course, that is no excuse for not doing something else until it arrived.  But since I can’t go back in time, I’ll just have to look ahead, and stop worrying about mistakes that I made early in the month.

The video finally arrived just as I was about to go out of town.  My wife and I decided to start the new workout when I got back, although we watched it a few times just to see what we needed to do to prepare.

Since the video was made by a friend, and we are acting as “testers,” it did not have the full workout to follow along with the instructor.  We wrote out each exercise and a list of things that we would need to do the workout.  I was happy that the workout could be done at home without having to spend a lot of money on equipment.  As we watched the video, I thought that it would be a good, effective workout, but one that I would be able to finish the first time that I tried it.  WRONG!!!

This workout is going to whip me into shape, but it is not something that can easily be finished coming off of the couch, largely because it is about going all out for a short period of time rather than being able to pace yourself.  It is going to take several tries before I can complete the entire workout in the way that it is intended to be completed.

Always one to look ahead, I asked the creator of the video what happens when I start to plateau.  His response was interesting, and something that I never thought about.  He admitted that the workout is going to start to feel easier at some point, but then it will start to get more difficult again if done properly.  Because the workout centers on a lot of jumping, and giving maximum effort in short bursts, it can actually build upon itself.  This is because, as the muscles start to develop, it will allow me to jump higher and move faster, so the same exact workout will end up having a higher degree of difficulty.

Of course, all of this exercise wouldn’t be as effective without an altered diet as well.  But unlike many “diets,” this one does not tell you what to eat, when to eat it, and how much to have.  It doesn’t have that feeling of dread, and it can be modified depending on your lifestyle and your goals.  This nutrition plan is more about what not to eat than what to eat.  I won’t say that it is easy, especially if you want to eat meals outside of the home, but it is manageable.

In addition to the 3-day-a-week exercise plan, and nutrition guidelines, I will also be incorporating fun exercise into the mix on the off-days.  Thrilled to hear that swinging a bat is good exercise for the off-days, I immediately found a batting cage nearby.  I went for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed myself.  The best part is that it is much cheaper than what I am used to paying (it’s only $1 for 20 balls).

I believe that May will be the month where I take a huge leap forward in my pursuit of health.

THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH

Because I have to rely on other people to get my projects off of the ground, there have been unforeseen delays.  If I had to sum up April in a word, it would be “progress.”

One of my projects is finally ready to take a big step forward, and I will actually be reaching out to others to see if they would like to be a part of it in the next week or so.

The other project took a slight step backwards, but in some ways, I think that the step backwards may end up being the most progress that I made this month.  I’ve learned that not everyone makes an ideal business partner.  And while I had hoped to be moving along with this particular project, I think that things may work out much better by partnering with someone else.  I guess time will tell if I was right.

THE PURSUIT OF “HAPPYNESS”

With the difficult month of March behind me, I thought that April would be better…and it was.

While I found some frustration in my pursuit of wealth, I made progress.

While it took a while to get my pursuit of health back on track, I finally did it.

And, as usual, I had a lot of fun with my wife and kids.  Ultimately, this is what it all comes down to anyway.

But when I look back at April 2010 in the future, the thing that I will remember most will be the first-ever fundraiser for the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation called “Bowling For Cookies” (which I wrote about recently).

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.  Even worse, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and having another child with the same terminal illness.  But that is the hand that my friend Trish has been dealt.  And while no one would blame her for falling apart, she has boldly taken a step in the other direction by launching the Olivia Grace Armand Foundation.

I proudly serve as a board member for the foundation, and was thrilled to have been a part of the first fundraiser.  It is hard to believe how much has been accomplished since Olivia passed away in December of 2009.

Without going into too much detail, I can honestly say that the results of the fundraiser blew me away.  If you want to see why, please read “Bowling For Cookies.”

The work that I do with the foundation truly makes me happy.  Part of it is because of the good that will come as a result of our collective efforts, but for now, the best part is supporting a friend in something that means so much to her.

“While her life was short, her impact will last a lifetime” is the tagline for the foundation.  The first fundraiser already proved that this is true.  The next fundraiser is planned for August, and it should be great as well.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t done so yet, to please check out www.OliviaGraceArmandFoundation.com and www.OliviasCookieJar.com.

CONCLUSION

April was much better than March (as anticipated). A lot of good things started to fall into place.  Hopefully the foundation that has been laid in April will result in a great May!

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