“Return to Base” – remembering my Dad on his Birthday and wishing he was still with us. Without family you have no courage. I am blessed to have love and support on both sides of my family, unconditionally, which is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
Happy Birthday Dad. You are still very much loved and very much missed, but as a kid from Bridgeport who achieved the dreams of 1000 Romans, there is no question you lived life to it’s fullest. I love you for teaching me that and so much more (much of which I can’t put in a blog post.)
You’re loyalty to God, to Country and to the Family was completely unshakeable. Even when they gave the call to “return to base” for the very last time. Love you Dad. And Happy Birthday.
You feel like a failure. You know, a failure like Elon Musk. To quote the irresponsible risk taking and brilliant Mr Musk:
“The end of 2008 was really really terrible. I never thought of myself as somebody who could have a nervous breakdown…. I came pretty close honestly in 2008 the day before Christmas…. We just barely made it.”
Q: “So you did have those experiences?” A: “We had multiple near death experiences. Like death on the nose. Not just in front of you.'”
Q “What’s it like when you go all in and you are about to lose?” A: “It’s quite a terrible emotion actually.”
So maybe Elon is crazy. He risked his own failure and thousands of people’s jobs. But he isn’t a failure. He rebounded pretty well it turns out. Because he was willing to face death and total failure and keep fighting. To use his words “death on the tip of your nose” and then salvation one hour before Tesla would have gone bankrupt.
One hour. One single hour away from complete devastation.
“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”
– Joshua 1:9
He is up there as an innovator in my my mind with the likes of Grace Jones
I know Madonna and Lady Gaga will live well beyond their time with us with such constant renewal and reinvention.
And it makes me also think of Elvis Presley of course. But I really don’t remember.
David Byrne describing creativity and the difficulty of diversity
How did I get here?
David and so many of these other artists were such a huge influence on me and I’m not even a musician. Mr. David Bowie – your talent will be remembered and your creativity will continue to inspire. I hope they play this one at your funeral because this is how I prefer to imagine your life-after my friend.
Applause Applause Indeed to you Mr. Bowie. And as you did so many times, I give credit to the people you influenced. The people who carry your legacy on.
There is nothing wrong with those that want the “normal” life. Or is there? I can’t say I “miss it” as I’m not sure what a “normal life” looks like.
Here is what I do know. I may be crazy, and you may have been crazy, but I’d rather live life to it’s fullest with or without applause, but definitely a life without regrets. I’ve failed brilliantly and publicly many times. So you reinvented, and I learned that from the few, the rare, the audacious artists who were told “you can’t fly silly little man” and you said “fuck you, fly to keep up with me or we aren’t in the same flock.”
I don’t think I’m in your league in any way with my humble accomplishments, but I give you credit and I give you applause from another talent inspired by creative giants like yourself.
On openness and open minds. While you read “the facts,” who is to say that the author of the “facts” isn’t incorrect themselves given the “history is written by the victors”? (Note quote and article – via @SarahWorthy)
I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”
Because refusing to truly understand those who disagree with you is intellectual laziness and worse, is usually worse than what you’re accusing the Other Side of doing.
My take away from the article is similar to what I have always advocated (maybe it’s a meta-meta-meta loop and I’m being duped again?). Anyway, those principles in communication are:
Be open minded.
I believe I am qualified to speak on this subject for a few odd reasons. Like the fact that it is hard for me to be present.Being open minded is always a challenge. And listening first is also a challenge. I’m qualified to venture an opinion because I have failed so many times. Sometimes failure teaches more than success.
Then, you get older. You listen more. You respect facts but question bias in statistics. You trust your gut. Your pattern recognition carries more weight than a persuasive graphic alone.
Mostly, in my opinion you learn to listen to other people deeply. You are “present” and you “hear” them. You learn to “see” people in a different way. You aren’t present because you have to, but because you desire the wisdom they are sharing even if you don’t agree. You listen because, maybe with their input, you might come to agree and learn from them! Your passion for wisdom and knowledge outweighs the biases and prejudices we all develop.
I had a friend describe working for me (I’m paraphrasing as it has been a while.)
“It’s hard to get your attention. But when you have your attention, its 100%. It can be a bit much.”
I may have gotten the wording wrong, but it was said by one of my true friends who has been there for me for over 20 years. I respect his opinion and I used his feedback to try to tone my presence down without turning down the attention with which I listen and speak.
Changes I made? Everything from changing my attire to be more casual even in business-suit-Houston and studying my own body posture when listening. Crossing my arms and looking down was my habit when listening deeply. It turns out not everyone interprets my posture for what it was; it came across as disapproving to some when it was in fact the exact opposite. So I changed. I learned to lean against a tree and nod my head, not always in agreement, but to acknowledge what they were saying. So when I say I took my friends feedback seriously, I mean it. I even read two more books on body language.
My reward for my changes? I get to learn more from more interesting people. I LOVE THAT!
Speaking and sharing knowledge
As they say, “the thing with introverts is that it is NOT that they don’t like to talk. It’s that they like to talk about things they are interested in.”
That of course is why we must listen first and learn about things we know nothing about without interrupting people, because that curiosity might uncover something new we are interested in. It is respectful to others. And learning is a lifelong endeavor – I have no intention to stop being curious or learning from others as long as I am breathing.
2016. This is a unique time in history. Seriously.
Modern knowledge in the Internet age swirls around like a whirlpool, regardless of age, gender, nationality or some certificate on your wall. Degrees in my field for example are close to irrelevant. This amazing kindling of knowledge I am seeing is practically a cauldron about to spill over for those not paying attention.
Example: you are likely to learn more from those younger than you this year than those older than you if you are over 40.
Youth of course has it’s own arrogance and may not want to learn from their elders because like EVERY generation they believe they know more. But they MUST have this arrogance or they won’t take risks, start companies, invent calculus, and push our society forward. Still, they can learn from their elders. But only, only if they respect you first. And they are the future. So yes, if you are over 40, get off your high horse and earn THEIR respect even if when we were 20 it was our job to earn the respect of 40 year olds.
I have traditionally, and will continue to respectfully, listen to my elders by being fully present. To learn from their wisdom. Yet…..
I must observe that in the last six months in particular, I have learned more from carefully listening to people sometimes much younger than me. To give them the floor and listen deeply and respectfully.
If you listen, our youth from 5 to 20 are particularly generous with their knowledge. I am so grateful to my younger friends and acquaintances who “grok” that I am interested in what they are teaching me. That I am fully present and grateful to them for sharing their knowledge with me.
This respect is the same as how appreciative I am of my 70 or 80 year old friend who share with me. Tell me stories. It’s kind of awesome. People are people, we should not underestimate them regardless of age.
The reward from these interchanges is truly priceless. Knowledge, respect, love, a human connection. Pay it forward in a time when knowledge is flying back and forth between all generations and cultures. It’s an exciting (and stressful) time to live. But definitely not boring, my friends!
For the curious ones out there, now is the time. Shut up and dance. Listen first. Be present. Be open minded.
Stories are the best way to share knowledge. Tell yours to those who are intently interested. And be interested in others and ask them to tell you their story. It’s a start. For example I know Alie will teach me to fire dance.
Fire dancing is something I will not do. But if asked, there is a possibility of zero that Alie would not share this knowledge with me. It is knowledge one question away from me. What a cool world we live in!
Instead, I choose to photograph my friends, be present, listen to them, and learn what I can while wishing they would keep the fire farther away from me. (Even if my mantra is to move fast and break things.)
To start the new year, to celebrate the beginning of 2016, I give you the indomitable Morgan James singing “Call My Name.” The video is creative, fun, sweet and a bit playful, perhaps even precocious. I choose to start the new year talking about something I love y’all – great music.
Music is always around me. All types. The soundtrack of our lives is one we choose – so choose wisely. If it is sung by talent like Morgan James, well, that’s pretty good start to a great day.
Don’t forget where you come from
The soundtrack of our lives…. makes me think of the saying “don’t forget where you came from.” I always thought of the saying, the engram if you will, of “don’t forget where you came from” meant the places you lived and travelled, your experiences, your family, friends, your schools, your adventures alone and together, your ancestry.
Example – I was a busboy in a restaurant for years in college, mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, bussed tables, ran into classmates when their parents or grandparents brought them to the restaurant on occasion while visiting them in College Station. It didn’t occur to me to be embarrassed. And those floors I mopped in college were perfect when I got done. I mopped them with precision, with an efficient pattern, no shortcuts but smooth like a Texas Two Step.
I say two step because indeed mopping is two steps. A chemical reaction between the chemicals in the water when you wet the floor. These chemicals vary based on the surface and the needs (this is not a mopping tutorial, just an explanation) and then a second pass with a dry mop to pick up the water solution that has lifted the dirt. Two steps, you see?
I mopped with dignity and responsibility. I knew that if someone slipped and fell they could be hurt and indeed mopping IS an important task. I respected mopping because of both pride in my workmanship and duty to my fellow humans who walked those floors.
Perhaps some might look down on the job of a busboy, but it was part of many different ways I paid for college. Getting steam burns from the industrial dishwasher was no fun, but again, you learn.
Why was I so good at mopping floors? Because I became friends with the school Janitor my freshman year in high school in Columbus Georgia. I offered to help one day because I was waiting for a ride home after returning from a road game given I was on the basketball team. No cell phones and parents didn’t leave early to take you home so I did extra drills until they closed the gym, and then wandered around the school waiting the one to three hours for a ride. It was a different time.
I wander. A lot. Needless to say I got to know the Janitor because he and I were really the only ones in the building at that time. He liked to talk, but he kept working and never missed or slowed down. I like to learn and I’m curious about pretty much everything so it worked well for both of us. I’d get him to tell me stories about the South as I’d just moved to Georgia from Connecticut. Georgia was like Mars to me. And boy did my yankee accent (at the time) get me picked on. And depending on your race the experiences in the two places were very different.
Then one day I asked my friend the Janitor a question. We had talked often by this time, and I’d offered to help before. He always said “no.” Then he said yes one day. I quickly found out why he had always said “no”. He was proud of his work and didn’t want me messing up. But this one time my friend said “OK kid.” (He called me “Kid” and I called him “Sir” – not sure we ever knew each other’s first names although surely we had exchanged names at some point. Regardless with the age difference I was raised to call my elders “Sir” unless they specifically asked to be addressed otherwise.)
And you know what? “Sir” was right. My initial mopping technique was substandard. I’m from a family of six kids so yes I had mopped the floor plenty of times given the only creatures that outnumbered the humans were the dogs. But when I began mopping for Sir to his amusement, two things happened.
1) Sir let me know directly, but not disrespectfully, that my mopping was maybe C+ material. Candor. (Hint: it’s chemistry and physics combined – not sloshing water around.)
2) Then he taught me how to properly mop a floor. Just the right amount of bleach or any of a number of other chemicals depending on the surface (basketball court versus tile entry way – very different.)
He taught me how and how often to rinse/dry the mop to pick up the dirt. He taught me to let it sit for a minute to let the chemicals do their job. The pickup mop pattern that would cause the least back pain, how to adjust your grip so you grew calluses and not blood blisters. Mostly he taught me how to produce the best results mopping the floor with the least amount of effort because High Schools are large, he was one man, and all of the floors had to be mopped. And mopped properly.
Of my two blog readers, perhaps one is saying “ya, like mopping is that hard.” This isn’t the best video but it does get the concepts across. It’s only missing a true discussion of what chemicals to use when and the ratios. Plus you have to factor in the environment and how long you want the mop to last.
But the other reader, if they truly know how to mop (not swiffer, I’m talking heavy cotton mops and a proper bucket.) well they are nodding their heads thinking “yup, using a mop does in fact require skill and practice just like anything else worthwhile.” You mop a floor differently right after you do the monthly wax machine buffing. Yes, there are subtle differences between time between buffing, adjusting for the weather. Heavier wax in the winter to protect the floor from boots, but a different wax so the wet shoes didn’t slip while the sneakers still squeaked.
Mopping is a skill. I was very good at it. I don’t do it much these days and I’m OK with that. I’m also grateful that “Sir”, the Janitor and I became friends. During school hours we both nodded in acknowledgement whenever we saw each other but he didn’t like to talk with the other students around.
I respected “Sir” and I believe he respected me as well. I think in our conversations over those few years he’d gruffly tell me “Hrmmmm, maybe I’d give you a “B” on that hall. But you weren’t horrible. I’ve seen worse.” he’d say.
Even though it was years later that I finally got the rhythm and technique of using a heavy mop down. By then I lived on the other coast and he never saw his student achieve even “A” never mind “A+” mopping skills.
The attributes that define “where you came from”also include things like joy, laughter and love. And if so, then should we not also strive to keep those in our lives as well as adding on new and wonderful layers?
Adding this post I realized after over 10 years of blogging I did not have a category for “Love”. Imagine that!
I find her talent absolutely inspiring. I find the visible joy in everything she says or sings to be uplifting.
The most fundamental element that provides the power for us to carry on against the wind because maybe we love a good fight. Maybe we love a good man or woman. My wife is awesome and yes, I absolutely LOVE her and she gives me great strength. Yet we take these things for granted.
So I have a new category on my blog for love. And I’m going to try and find the things that I love and celebrate those more often.
Here is to 1) Love, 2) Mopping and 3) Morgan James
OK, and 4) probably the most unusual blog post you will read in a while. #peace