This past week I went to Knoxville, TN to see Needtobreathe and decided to go check out Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountains while in town. After navigating the windy mountain road, I made it up towards the top and took a moment to appreciate the view. I couldn’t help but wonder about the early founders and explorers of this country. Not only the early settlers, but also those native to the land. What sense of adventure they all must have had to see a mountain and decide to transverse over it. To go little farther. Climb a little higher. To explore the unseen. That sense of risk and adventure must have been a critical characteristic back then and likely, to some extent, rings true today. Some of our most successful historical icons, inventors, disrupters, athletes, and performers questioned the current state of affairs and challenged themselves to go beyond. I suspect that many of us have reached where we are today by pushing a little more, going a little further, climbing a little higher. Perhaps not by giant leaps, but by taking small steps. However, I also recognize that there might also be many of us who have reached the level of growth that they want and that is where they will stay. That is fine, as long as it is not the fear of unknown or doubt in one’s self that is getting in the way of going for more. Fear is inevitable. I am certain the early settlers felt fear exploring into uncharted territory, not knowing what was around the next bend or other side of the mountain. Doubt is also inevitable. Everyone experiences doubt, even the greats, but they act despite it. Take a moment and look out. Where do you want to go? Is it beyond? Good…now go.
I am all about adventures. So Tuesday I decided to splurge on a ticket from StubHub to Needtobreathe down in Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville is about five and a half hours from Columbus, Ohio, but the ticket was a good one, I was intrigued, and I had the time. So….off I went, south…to Knoxville. Why you ask? Well, Needtobreathe did an interesting little leg of their tour. Though friends and I saw them in Columbus at the Newport Music Hall, an iconic rock n roll venue, this was different. Rather than heavy hitting amplification, this was them, at their core, singing their songs, acoustically. And it was incredible. Performing songs acoustically “forced” them to be creative with arrangements and play bare bones without any extra bells and whistles production. They had to show up because acoustic doesn’t lie. And show up they did. It was fantastic. Seriously. For those that read my blog often, you are aware that I attend many concerts…MANY! It’s my thing. And this was special. It resonated. So the take away is that we don’t always have to be overly loud, plugged in, or amplified to resonate. We can unplug, strip down, show vulnerability, and still reach an audience. Perhaps not only reach them, but powerfully impact them. More is not always more as I’ve discussed before. And when you do it right, acoustic can fucking rock.
Last weekend I attended a Christmas buffet with the family and relatives down at the Amish Door. After connecting and over indulging in the all-you-can-eat goodness, we were visited by a very special guest. That’s right! Ole Jolly St. Nick. Since then, I’ve been doing a little thinking about our buddy Santa and I’ve discovered that there are some lessons to be learned from the elf of all elves.
- Give a good handshake. Santa always gives a good handshake.
- Make an entrance. When you walk in the room are people happy? Do they want to hug you, grab you, connect with you?
- Objective and Fluid. Though Santa categorizes people into naughty or nice, this is a fluid concept based on what has occurred over the course of the year. As such, someone who may have started off the year naughty, might be able to redeem themselves by December. Santa loves second chances.
- Keep it simple. Santa has one work outfit. Since he doesn’t have to bother with thinking about his daily wardrobe he has much more energy to focus on making and delivering toys and doing appearances.
- Efficiency. Santa is the king of efficiency. Around the world in 24 hours? While sliding down chimneys? That’s badass!
- Let helpers help. Santa doesn’t do all of this on his own. He has many elf side kicks and a strong Mrs. Claus by his side. Santa needs help and he allows himself to receive it.
- Have a niche. Santa doesn’t hand out halloween candy or hide easter eggs. Nope, Santa specialized. As such, he learned about what his audience wanted, performs individual focus groups each year (wish list), and then dominates the competition. There’s only one santa after all.
- Travel. Santa doesn’t just travel to Wooster, OH. He travels ALL…AROUND…THE…WORLD! As such he opens his mind up to different people, different toys, and different environments.
- Embrace diversity. Santa cares more about what connects us compared to what divides us. He is willing to travel to your house, regardless of where you’re from, how much money you make, etc.
- Good is reward. Santa will deliver. If you’ve been a solid human being and believe, he will be there, you will be rewarded. Life tends to work this way. If you’re good, you give, and you love. Things work out the majority of the time. Not always. But the majority of the time. Trust that.
So there’s some lessons from that rose cheeked wild man. Take some leads from his big snowy footprint and realize that Santa is real, and he is inside all of us.
I’ve been a busy man with a little bit of roadtrips, work, and family time. As such my writing has been a bit delayed. But I am back on the blog and happy to report a new addition to my van! This -20 degree rated sleeping bag from Field and Stream. For my birthday, my parents had originally gifted me a Little Buddy Propane Heater. Great product, but I found that the comfort provided by it’s warmth was outweighed by the constant anxiety of potential carbon monoxide poisoning. Probably an irrational fear, but given that sleep is already semi-compromised when parking on the side of roads, I didn’t want the additional obstacle. So, my parents were nice enough to return the propane heater and instead purchased this badass sleeping bag! I am now four nights into using the sleeping bag and I am happy to report that the van is now less cluttered (I got rid of 3 comforters) and the winter temperatures are not only bearable, but welcomed. It is safe to say that when I am in this sleeping bag, I am snug! What do I mean by snug? Well, I am warm. I am comfortable. I am cozy, close, and tight-knit. I am protected. I am restful. I am good. This sleeping bag allows this snugness despite the harsh, winter temperatures. Instead, I sleep with confidence knowing that the sleeping bag literally has my back. Where do you feel snug? What is that product, person, or place, that provides you warmth, comfort, protection, rest, and confidence? Though the propane heater might have provided warmth, it also provided unnecessary anxiety. That happens sometimes, but with a simple switch out you might get the same warmth, comfort, and protection, without the unnecessary fear, anxiety, or tension. The solution is out there somewhere. Get snug.
This is the scorecard for one of the games in our Thursday night Bowling League. Despite having inconsistent growth over the years, plenty of adult beverages and other distractions makes consistent performance a bit more difficult, the scorecard is important. Now, I understand this can be somewhat controversial. Often I write about the importance of connecting with the process and being less concerned about the outcomes of our performances, which is what a scorecard is all about. However, a scorecard is, in fact, important. Identifying metrics in your business, sport, or life that help identify whether you are winning the day or not, reaching your goals or not, is paramount in your individual or group growth. A scorecard helps determine if you are moving in the right direction and what you might need to alter in order to have continued success. This may be a bowling scorecard but what scorecard do you need? Days at the gym? Phone calls made? Clients obtained? Lunches had? Revenue achieved? Hours practiced? Fairways hit? So on and so forth. Admittedly, I am not a good score keeper. I don’t really identify the amount of clients I want to obtain this month or how much revenue I want to generate. I have all park ideas. However, i think it is time to put some metrics behind method. I’m going to keep score. Can you?
Last sunday I went to watch the Dustbowl Revival in Chicago and the opener was a band called Frontier Ruckus. A pretty cool, folksy, 3-piece with witty lyrics and good vibe tunes. Oh, and incredibly talented I might add! One particular highlight was when the keyboard / melodica player, picked up a saw and started crafting a beautiful melody. A saw you say? Yes, a saw. By using a violin bow across the teeth and bending the saw at various angles, the musician was able to make this construction tool create an incredibly full sound. Amazing. Most wouldn’t consider a saw to be an instrument. Much like spoons, a wash board, an old jug, a bucket, etc. However, beautiful music can come from all sorts of objects that might be considered non-musical otherwise. Imagine if the saw was human, and never had the opportunity to express itself in a different way? This beautiful sound and resulting realization would have never been obtained. A tragedy right? Un-discovered talent. Yet, we humans experience this all the time. People spending their entire lives believing they are just a saw and can only be used to cut wood. Meanwhile, under the surface is a beautiful song dying to be sung. We need to learn to give others, as well as ourselves, the opportunity to try things out. To be creative. To explore different ways of doing things. Different ways of using things. Like our minds, our hearts, our bodies. We all have the opportunity to put a beautiful melody onto the song of life, we just might be surprised where it comes from. Play the saw.
The other night I drove up to Chicago to see a great up and coming band, Dustbowl Revival. One of the most enjoyable aspects of van life is that I am able to just pick up and go and not necessarily worry about finding lodging for the night or leaving an apartment unkept for any period of time. Everything I need is on me. Though I have been living in my van for about 3 months now, I have yet to experience an over night van stay in a huge city. Sure, I’ve been parking around Columbus and have a pretty nice set up here, but what about when I am in a city, that I don’t now, with strict parking enforcement, tighter streets, increased traffic, and more people. Well, what about it? It turned out fine. I lucked out on finding a free, non-permit, spot in Lincoln Park. Locked up the car, rocked out the concert, and then returned later for bed. Woke up the next morning, filled up the gas tank, and drove back to Columbus. This was a huge realization! That the flexibility and affordability of van life isn’t limited to the free-living zip codes of California, Colorado, or the pacific northwest, and that such a lifestyle can also be achieved in denser, more urban, and populated areas of the country. Though I can read about it on blogs or kick it around conceptually in my mind, until I actually do it, (i.e., park and sleep in a large city) I won’t ever really know. So now that I did, it’ll make such future overnight stays a lot easier. I’ll know to research the parking authority and look for spots around where I’ll likely be hanging out. As a result of rolling the dice once, I now have learned valuable lessons in the art of urban camping. All it took was one stay…One park. Sometimes in life we just have to roll the dice. We don’t know what we don’t know. So we just have to put ourselves out there and kinda see what happens. Sometimes all we have to do is park once, to learn so much more.
The scenic view. That pathway synonymous with taking your time, soaking up the experience, stopping along the way. Compared to the fast way, the scenic view is longer, less efficient, but can offer a fuller experience. Certainly there are benefits to the fast way. You get wherever you’re going fast! You can spend more time doing things other than journeying. There is a scenic view and a fast way in everything we do. A conversation with a cashier, writing paperwork, cleaning our cars, progressing in our jobs, vacationing, and yes, driving from point A to point B. Sometimes we live life one check mark at a time. Doing our best to fly through tasks to check the box, only to move on to the next. How might life be different if rather than always taking the fast way, we slowed down, soaked up the moment, and took the scenic view? Which way you going?
Yesterday I went to the Ross Heart Hospital at the Wexner Medical Center to get my annual flu shot. Upon entering the building, I asked the nice volunteer at the welcome both where the flu shots were being given. She politely and enthusiastically provided me directions and encouraged me to stop and admire the heart art on the wall. I did and as a result I kept thinking about the phrase the “heart of the matter.” Today’s blog is a collection of those thoughts.
Heart of the matter means getting to the point.
Heart of the matter means keeping things simple.
Heart of the matter means recognizing what is actually important.
Heart of the matter means the central theme.
Heart of the matter means the core element that keeps whatever going, moving, living.
Heart of the matter means leaning into others with love and understanding.
Heart of the matter means embracing empathy.
Heart of the matter means recognizing the good in a bad situation.
Heart of the matter means the area that provides the support.
Heart of the matter means pumping the blood through life.
Heart of the matter means bringing passion our pursuits.
Heart of the matter means bringing joy to our work, relationships, and life.
Let us remind ourselves of our hearts – our core, our central tenets, our passions, our fuel, and our capacity for love. Heart of the matter means its the heart that matters. stop to admire it.
On my birthday a few weeks ago I decided to attend a Gestalt Training Workshop. Though I initially thought it was going to be a didactic based, educational experience in the history, foundation, and application of Gestalt Therapy, I was surprised, and inevitably pleased, at how it turned into a therapeutic encounter group. Throughout the day people expressed some concern or conflict that they wanted to work through in the here and now. When it came to my turn, I was a bit at a loss at what to really share, but I decided to open myself up to the experience and see what emerged. In doing so, initially, I think I confused myself, as well as the others, which resulted in them feeling a superficiality in my disclosure. They wanted more and I did too. A strategy. One of the facilitators of the group asked me to turn my back to the circle and face outward, away from the group. What proceeded was about 10 minutes of the group talking openly about me, their desires or wants from me, and their hypotheses about what I want/need in general, and in the moment. A powerful and admittedly overwhelming experience. Powerful in the fact that very seldom do we get genuine, honest, and deep feedback. Overwhelming in that all 13 individuals had something to say. Integrating this feedback in a cohesive and coherent manner was obviously a bit tough, especially since I wasn’t particularly sure what was going on or what I wanted/needed. However the exercise must have worked because upon turning my chair back to face the group and attempting to summarize my experience I began sobbing! Something had reached the core. Something had jolted me loose. Something incredible. As we consider giving feedback in the future, might we benefit from such an approach? Of offering guidance and thoughts as though the person was turned around. As to not shy away from the discomfort of real, deep, genuine feedback. Perhaps we can receive this feedback as though our backs are turned too. For us to integrate the information and not be overly consumed by it, offended, or stung. Knowing that it is coming from a place of support and authenticity. If we want to give or receive good feedback, perhaps we can open up by turning our backs.