January 30, 2012

Butt Trumpets & Prison Beds Provide Perspective, Help Create Experience of a Lifetime

When you take your 7-year-old niece camping – with grand visions of writing about the experience – it’s a little overwhelming.

My sister asked if I would accompany Mary Grace (right) on her inaugural father-daughter outing. It was part of the Oak Cliff Y-Guides program, which “encourages fathers and their children to spend uninterrupted time together as members of a larger group, building lifelong memories and bonds.”

“Her dad doesn’t camp,” my sister explained.

“Sure...sounds fun,” I responded with visions of blog posts
dancing in my head.

Confession: After spending 36 hours in the “wilderness” – I’m stuck. I have no idea where this story should start, and I’m even less clueless where it should go. There was just WAY too much fodder.

I HAVE decided that this adventure is worthy of two or three blog posts. Heck, I made that decision when I received the information packet and it said: “You are a Wildflower!!! Congratulations!!” (When I found out that I’d be sporting a leather vest (right) all weekend, too...there was instantly fodder for another post!)

But what’s my angle? My point? What’s the essence of these blog posts?

One potential theme: The fact that the entire weekend was like herding cats.

Then there were the prison beds we slept on.

I could get profound and explain what it was like to be around an engaged group of loving and caring dads for a weekend.

But I think the most logical premises would be:

• The fact that my life continuously flashed before my eyes, and

• The importance of selling the experience to my brother-in-law so I can hand him the baton for future camp outs.

This is the first part of a three-part series about me walking into the wilderness with a 7-year-old and walking out with a completely different perspective of being a father.

While some of this blog post will come across as bitching and moaning – that is simply for dramatic effect and humor. This was a remarkable experience with my niece that I will NEVER forget.

I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy herding cats.

– – –

It’s important to set the scene for the weekend, because the term “camping” is a little bit of a stretch.

It was more like summer camp. The fact we were at Collin County Adventure Camp, which is spitting distance from the 'burbs, helped remove the tag of "roughing it."

There were heated cabins – no tents. We had indoor plumbing – no wiping with foliage. And we ate in a cafeteria – no hot dogs and beans over an open flame. We even had two showers in our cabin – no stale smell of nature for a long period of time.

There was a campfire, but that was nothing more than a safe haven for the dads. The kids only paid attention to it when it was time to make smores.

Needless to say, I sent my sister a text letting her know that my brother-in-law could probably handle this “camping” experience. I intentionally didn’t go into detail about the cabin, though. I thought that would be counter-productive to my recruiting efforts.

If he glanced at the instructions and checklist for the campout, he would have been tipped off. It read:

“Mark your clothes...It can get crazy in the cabins!”

I giggled when I read the warning. After being there 5 minutes, I totally understood. (No giggling)

There were eight kids and six adults in a 14-bunk room, which meant there were little socks, coats, PJs, undies and shoes EVERYWHERE. Obviously, the dads did a good job keeping their stuff corralled, but those little girls were like walking tornadoes. I almost came home with a pair of tights and a Hello Kitty nightgown. (I’m just glad I took the advice on the checklist and I put my initials in my boxers.)

When describing the accommodations via text to my sister and brother-in-law, I didn’t mention the chaos. I definitely didn’t bring up the concert of sounds that filled the cabin.

When you have 14 people sleeping in one room (some of my roommates pictured on the right) – the noises define the experience as soon as the lights are turned off. It starts with 7-year-old whispers and giggles and ends with intense snoring and flatulence from grown men.

You knew it wasn't ideal when some of the dads were threatening to sleep in their cars, despite the 29-degree temperatures. No one made good on his threat, though. I’m convinced it was because they weren’t 100 percent sure if they were part of the symphony or not. (I definitely wasn’t sure...campfires do a number on my sinuses and we had a chili cook-off one night.)

In all honesty, I think the prison beds would have caused someone to snap before the ensemble of sleep apnea and butt trumpets.

While I laid awake at 3:30 in the morning – begging my brain to block out the sounds, the radiant glow of the TWO exit signs and the aches in my lower back – I worked-up a description for these beds:

Imagine sleeping on a very large cookie sheet lined with a partially inflated pool raft.

One of the dads compared it to a combination of a park bench and an airplane seat. Another dad said the inmates at Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville would NOT be jealous. (That’s when I jumped on the term “prison beds” and didn’t look back.)

The mattress was definitely “memory foam” – the only problem it was remembering the person who outweighed me by 150 pounds and went immediately flat. (Reminder: An unforgiving cookie sheet was underneath the mattress.)

We all survived, though, and a plethora of adventures followed. There is nothing like a full-day of get-it-on after a horrible night of sleep.

Archery, BB gun range, candle making, rock wall climbing, treasure hunt, bonfire....

I’m just tired trying to remember everything.

That’s why I’ll save that for Part II.

January 24, 2012

Calling All List-Makers: Game On!

Everyone has some sort of life list, right?

Call it whatever you want:
A Bucket List.

101 List.

If I Win the Lottery List.

Things I Want to Do Before I Croak List.
I can’t believe I feel compelled to explain this, but....

It's usually a list of big-ticket things you want to experience in your lifetime. Some of these lists are written on a cocktail napkin, while others are eloquently typed-up and uploaded to a fancy web site.

Again, it seems like everyone has one. Even anti-list makers have several unspoken "before-I-die tasks" mentally filed away.

The phrase “I should put that on my list” is totally accepted, understood and never questioned.

Some of these life lists have timetables. “Prior to death” is the hands-down winner, but I've also seen "before we have kids," "before I buy a house" and “before I’m forced to use a walker.”

My first life list was 101 things I wanted to accomplish in 1,001 days. (Confession: I’m the guy who
flamboyantly displayed
his online.)

Honda has even embraced this society-wide phenomenon with its new marketing campaign: Leap List. The concept, a CR-V can help you accomplish your goals before you whatever...celebrate your next birthday, settle down, etc. (So wonderfully brilliant!)

OK....the “What is a Bucket List?” tutoring session is officially over...quickly on to my point: I want to help people mark things off their list (kind of like the CR-V). I also want to write about the experience.

I mentioned this in a blog post exactly two years ago. The post referenced a VERY similar concept that MTV picked up and ran with – “The Buried Life.” I mused how I fiddle-farted around and let them “steal” my idea.

Update: The show has been cancelled, and I still think this is a tremendous way to connect with people, help them do something they’ve always wanted to do AND tell their story. (Again, I want to do it differently than they did on the show.)

How do YOU fit into all of this?

I’m ready to get started and I need your help. All you have to do is:

• Re-visit your life list (find it, write it down or dust it off);

• Attach it to an e-mail and send it to me;

• I’ll see if there is something I can help you mark off;

The only other request: Allow me to write about it (why was this on your list, what did it mean to mark it off, etc.).

Do NOT start making excuses before we even get started. The ONLY argument I’ll accept: “I don’t need anyone’s help.”

BUT as soon as those 5 ½ words enter your consciousness, you have to start attacking your list and marking tasks off. (Reminder: There is a reason these tasks still don’t have a line marked through them.)

Since this is an uncharted endeavor – I’m going to start slow. I will “adopt” the first six people who reach out to me.

Now, if you’re on board and don’t need anymore convincing – stop reading and send me your list. The accompanying message can be as simple as “Game on!” or “Let’s do this!”

If you’re on the fence, I want to share the premise of a book that changed my life: “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer. It’s a true story about a 20-something nomad named Chris McCandless, who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness and died. (I’m not ruining the book – it says that on the cover.)

Before his tragic and premature death, it was always about the next adventure for him. He wrote in one of his journals, “The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences.” During his last days, however – alone in an abandoned bus in the snow-covered wilderness – he made a note next to the following passage from "Doctor Zhviago."

“And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that unshared happiness is not happiness...”

In his dying days, Chris McCandless (right) realized that the experiences that he had were extraordinary, BUT they were meaningless because he didn’t get the chance to share them with someone else. Next to that passage, he wrote “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”

No one should suffer the same fate as Alexander Supertramp – the colorful alter ego that Chris McCandless adopted during his journeys. I’m not even referring to him dying in the abandoned school bus in Alaska. No one should mark the last task off his or her life list, look around and have no one there.

“Congratulations to me!” – highlighted by the deafening sound of silence and maybe the occasional chirping of a bored cricket.

Life is short. I’m sure your list is long. Let’s share an amazing experience TOGETHER.

Game on?

January 22, 2012

Words Come Back to Haunt & Inspire Me
to Take a Radical Leap of Faith

Statistics show that the average person can expect to change jobs five to seven times in his or her lifetime.

I am humbled to say that I’ve already CRUSHED “average” and I’m quickly approaching legendary status. (Actually, the adjectives “preposterous” and “ridiculous” might be a better description for my resume.)

Since graduating from college in 1997, I have:
– Been a newspaper designer at two different newspapers
– Served as a college admissions counselor
– Coached football
– Been a football recruiting coordinator
– Worked in athletic administration at a major university
– Started my own business
– Helped a non-profit tell its story through marketing
– Been a consultant
– Worked at an advertising agency
– Peeked into the world of Oil and Gas.

That’s 11 jobs in 11 years. (Needless to say, I have an impressive stack of business cards with my name on them.)

Do I win something?

What about a lobotomy and/or a day pass at the closest mental institution?

My most recent career change is the reason for this blog post. Two days ago, I walked away from a company that I whole-heartedly believed in – making more money than I’d ever made before – because I was not appreciated and/or valued.

I quit without another job lined up, because I wasn’t being true to myself – going to work every day under a cloud of uncertainty and distrust.

Please know, when I say “quit” ... I approached the owners and said: “This will be my last day to work here. Thank you for the opportunity. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

I grabbed my computer bag and left.

It has always been important to me to leave a job on good terms, and to make sure that I left things in better shape than when I arrived.

That was not exactly the case this time, especially in regards to leaving on the best of terms. There was no two-weeks notice and/or mutually-beneficial exit strategy. (Obviously, there was not going away party.)

I can honestly say it was one of the least proudest moments of my life AND the proudest thing that I’ve ever done.

I had to walk away, and I had to do it right then.

A friend of mine put it best: “They didn’t deserve you.” And even though she made it sound like I was breaking up with a controlling, self-righteous, witch of a girlfriend, she was right.

If I had gone to work one more day, I would have been a hypocritical glutton for punishment. (More poetically referred to as a wuss.)

Was it easy to walk away? Hell, no!

Before my departure, my heart was beating out of my chest as I stared at a picture of my wife and son. My emotions ranged from sadness and anxiety to utter terror as I continuously asked myself: “What the hell am I about to do?”

Then it happened – a whisper from God. I received an e-mail from a friend that simply said:
Here's a reminder in case you need one:

“As our pastor closed us in prayer, I told God that I feel like I AM living ‘full throttle’ and I expressed my gratitude. Thanks to my faith in Him – I'm able to live boldly without any fear. (Not reckless...just boldly.) I'm able to take risks. I'm able to chase my dreams. I'm able to love with all my heart. I'm able to be the best husband, brother, son, and boss that I can be.”
My earnest response: “Wow! Who wrote that?”

Friend: “You did, nerd! In a blog post in 2009.”

The message spoke directly to my racing heart, but being re-introduced to my own thoughts and words was even more profound. My fear and apprehension was quickly replaced with confidence.

Before I received that e-mail, I was taking a leap of faith – clueless about what I was going to do next, But three VERY simple words gave me the courage to embrace my future:

“You”... “Did”...“Nerd”

It was a welcomed slap across the face – I FINALLY recognized that I need to leverage the gifts that God has blessed me with and inspire others through my writing.

So what does that exactly mean?

It’s time to write and write some more. It’s time to be true to myself and help other people do wonderfully great things.

Maybe this leap of faith will actually inspire someone to punch their fear in the face and make a radical change of their own.

I’ll close with this incredible reminder from Max Lucado’s
book, Fearless:
Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.
Lucado then asks: “Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?”

Yeah, it would....so I did.

Want Blog Updates?
E-mail Address: