Each day has its challenges – grind them out

The reality we all face is that each day is full of many different parts, events, activities, and emotions. Some things may go well, others not so well, and some may be horrible. For example, you may do really well on a test in school, but end up with a tough homework assignment that you cannot figure out. It is very rare that I have a day that is either all good, or all difficult. Even days off, and vacation days can have their ups and downs.

Dealing with the good stuff is not hard. Sorting through the crappy stuff can be much more difficult. In fact, it can wear you down. I recommend that you learn how to “grind it out” when faced with something you have to do, and you know may not go well. For example, I . have run many races. It is a rare occurrence that I feel good and run well the entire race. Many times it is not going well at some point in the race and doubt starts to creep in. Questions come to mind like why am I doing this…I should have stayed in bed.

Many times I seriously consider quitting, but then remind myself that I have faced bigger challenges and that I just need to grind out the last few miles. One foot in front of the other, until I reached the finish line. It may result in a horrible finish time, but at least I made it. You know that I play to win, and always want to do my best…but sometimes, just making it to the finish line is the best you can do. That effort alone will pay dividends at a future time. I believe overcoming these small obstacles is critical to achieving big things.

Adversity can strengthen you if you have the will to grind it out.
– Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonalds

Know your friends – spend time with them

We live in a day and age in which many people do not know each other. Neighbors do not know one another very well. Adults commute to the office, work a long day, drive home, eat dinner, watch television, and then off to bed before starting another day. Some weeks it is a struggle to figure out what day of the week it is since they all seem to run together. In fact we use sayings like hump day, throw back Thursday, and TGIF as verbal cues to remember what day it is.

Modern technology has made the situation even more challenging in an unexpected way. We are connected to many others via social media, but we don’t really spend time with them. We can text, call, and FaceTime someone whenever we want, but do we really spend time getting to know them. The ability we have to connect with others is truly amazing. Nowadays you can login to Facebook or Instagram and see what all your friends are doing. You can contribute your own pictures and videos so that others get a glimpse into your world.

The world was different when I was your age. We did not have many ways to connect with our friends, or endless forms of entertainment. If we wanted to touch base with friends, we would go to their house and hang out. I cannot recall how many hours I spent over at Jim Fuhs house growing up. Companies like Netflix, YouTube, Google, Amazon, Snapchat, and Spotify did not exist, so we had to come up with other ways to entertain ourselves. Lord knows, we were up to no good on a regular basis, but the fact is that we knew each other.

I am not suggesting that all the new technology is a bad thing, at all. I enjoy watching movies on Netflix like many other people. Rather, I am challenging you to spend some quality time relaxing and growing meaningful relationships with your friends and others. Stop staring at your screen and talk to people. Ask them questions so that you know what is going on in their world, and share what is going on in yours. As I have mentioned previously this area has been a struggle for me over the years, so I am making an effort do more of that nowadays. In fact, Jill and I just spent many hours with friends catching up, and it was great. I hope you do the same.

I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)
– Theme from Friends, a popular 90s TV show

The weather can change quickly – just like life

Wow – what a week. We went from great spring weather to a snowstorm within a matter of hours. I was on the road late Monday night, and it was miserable. Snow, rain, and ice wreaking havoc on the area. I cannot recall the last time that the weather changed so quickly. I have to admit that I was caught somewhat off guard. I knew it was going to snow, but did not prepare myself for the change, unlike last year. You will recall that last year we experienced the blizzard of 2016. The storm lived up to the hype, dumping over a feet of snow.

Three life lessons come to mind when I think about how a storm affects us. First, we have to slow down. The roads are slick, and it is dangerous to drive too fast. If you do not slow down, you will end up in a ditch. The roads on Monday were rather dicey, and I was not sure I would make it home unless I took my time. In life, sometimes slowing down is the right thing to do. We tend to rush through life without paying much attention to what is going on around us. If you are not careful, you may end up in a dangerous situation.

Second, the storm forces us to prioritize our needs. Everyone flocks to the stores for supplies to stock up before the storm hits. Notice that we buy what we need like milk, bread, beer and toilet paper. This lesson is helpful when thinking about how to spend your money and your time. Both are limited resources. Don’t waste them on things that are not important. You will regret it.

Third, the storm teaches us to be flexible. Think about all the plans that had to change. Thousands of flights were cancelled, stores and schools closed, and we all had to hunker down during the blizzard. Being flexible is critical because you cannot control the weather at all. You may experience a similar situation at some point in your life. It will change in ways you do not anticipate and you will need to be flexible to deal with it. Hopefully Spring is here, and we will not have anymore weather surprises…but you never know.

And you may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”
And you may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”
And you may ask yourself, “Am I right? Am I wrong?”
And you may tell yourself, “My God! What have I done?”
– Once in lifetime, Talking Heads

Stay in touch with your friends over the years.

Over the years I have not done the best job staying in touch with my friends, especially my buddies from high school and college. As the years go by, and your responsibilities grow, it is easy to lose contact with your friends. For some reason, we men are not good at maintaining male friendships. Like many men, I fell into this trap, and did not keep strong ties with many of my friends over the years.

I was reminded of this fact several times the past few years. Two years ago I attended my 25th college reunion at UVA. It was a fun time. I saw many college friends that I have not talked to in years. It was great to catch up with old friends. We all change and many of us dealt with similar challenges in our life. Another example – last year I was able to spend an evening with several of my good friends from high school. They are all great guys, but I did not really talk much with them at all the past twenty plus years. We were making up for lost time. Something similar happened when I attended my 30th high school reunion. Once again it was great to see everyone.

This past weekend I was down in Charlottesville and spent some time with one of my best college buddies – Joe. We both are busy, and it is a challenge for us to get together on a regular basis. Even though we only had a few hours together – it was great. We talked about getting more of us together later this year. I am already looking forward to that event. Reuniting with old friends is always fun.

Studies show that women do a much better job at being friends for life. How do they do it – by spending time together. Facebook helps – I have reconnected with many old friends, but nothing replaces face to face communications. I challenge you to keep in touch with your buddies – it will pay big dividends over the years. Don’t make the mistake I made and lose touch with your friends.

Proverbs 14, verse 20: The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich many has many friends.

Some planning will move you towards success

I have noticed that many people do not spend much time planning for the future. It seems like they are waiting for success to happen, for life to get better, for things to change. I believe that a little planning will take you far down the path of success. I am not saying that you need to plan every step of your life – that will drive you, and everyone around you crazy. Rather, it is worth investing some time in planning when it comes to fulfilling your dreams and succeeding in this world. The bigger your dreams the more planning it takes.

For example, many dream of taking a European vacation, but few actually go. In fact, most Americans do not even have a current passport. I lived in Europe years ago and love traveling, so I set a personal goal of visiting there on a regular basis. You will remember that we spent some time brainstorming, discussing, and planning our trip to Germany and Austria two years ago, and last year’s adventure to Germany and France. We identified the places we wanted to see, the resources to pay for it, and made our reservations in advance. Every minute was not set in stone, but we had a general agenda for every day. All that planning paid off – we had two great trips. The pictures prove it.

Now we are figuring out the details for this summer vacation. I challenge you to do some planning for your future. It will be worth it.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

You are unique – don’t be afraid to be yourself

A year ago I visited New Orleans. I had not been there in over 20 years. It is a unique American city. It has fantastic food, warm weather, fascinating people, and can be a lot of fun. I saw some things that were disturbing – lots of drunks, too many homeless people, and a carefree lifestyle that creates destructive results. But, it is easy to see the bad things in a place like New Orleans, and miss the good.

One thing I noticed in New Orleans is that people are relaxed and able to be themselves. They let who they are show. My sense is that too many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to please others and be someone different than who they really are. This constant concern about what others think about you creates unnecessary frustration and consternation. I am not saying to be weird or strange, just to be draw attention to yourself. Rather I am saying that you are unique, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. For example, I like to smoke cigars. For years and years I did not because I was worried about what others might say. Nowadays I enjoy a good cigar whenever I want to.

It’s just better to be yourself than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants.
– Matt Damon

Why I enjoy New York City

I never visited New York City until the past few years. No particular reason, just never went there when I was young. More recently, I have visited New York several times. Each trip was different. My first time there, I went by myself, and ran the NYC half-marathon. It was exciting to run through Central Park, around the wide city streets, and finish in downtown Manhattan. One time, Jill and I went there to see one of my favorite bands, U2, perform at Madison Square Garden. The last two times, Riley and I visited to see the sites and learn more about the city. After these trips, I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoy visiting NYC – one of America’s great cities.

I think one can go there, and not have a good time. NYC is loud (all the honking car horns), dirty (like all major cities), and can be dangerous if you are not careful. Riding in a NYC city taxi can be a religious experience, and the subway seems like a magnet for strange people. But, it is easy to see the dark side of NYC more than what it has to offer visitors. Three compelling reasons why I enjoy NYC:

1. The sites are great. Each time I am there I see something new. This past weekend, we had great weather, so we visited Central Park at sunset, went to the top of the Empire State building, and hung out in Washington Square near NYU. The views from One World observatory are incredible, the 9/11 memorials are very well done, and there are too many great museums to list here.

2. The food is excellent. I always eat well when visiting NYC. The city is full of choices. Just walk around and you can find a great place to eat without spending too much money. Many say that the pizza in NYC is the best anywhere – I think they are right. We went to Prince Street pizza and it was excellent. Tiny place with a line out the door for good reason.

3. It is a huge melting pot. You will hear many languages, experience different cultures, and see things in NYC that you will not see in other parts of the US. The pace of life there seems intense, and I am convinced that the city never really sleeps (similar to New Orleans). At times, it can be challenging, but I feel like it forces me to get out of my comfort zone, and learn new things.

I plan to keep visiting NYC in the future to see more of it. It is worth the effort. I will take you boys with me whenever you want to go, and we can experience the big apple together.

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York
– Frank Sinatra

Learn from other cultures

Two years ago we visited Germany. You were afforded the opportunity to experience a lot of different things from German culture. You saw new places, you ate new foods, you learned about German history, and you saw German culture first-hand. It is important to leave the US and see the world. Many Americans stay within our borders, and do not even have a passport. Don’t make this mistake. Be a world traveler.

Make the most of these trips. Learn from other cultures – both the good and the bad. The Germans do some things better than we do in America, and they also have their challenges. For example, Germans are much better at relaxing and enjoying their time off than we are. The American pace of life is intense, and fast paced. German people do not seem to be in such a rush (except when driving on the Autobahn).

I am glad you were able to see a different part of the world. I hope to take you on more trips like this one in the future, so that you can see, and more importantly, experience other cultures besides your own. It will give you new perspectives on life. This year I am planning some exciting trips for us. Gavin – we will see Belgium. Riley – we will visit a Caribbean island. We will also experience a different part of Europe this summer during our family vacation to France. I am looking forward to these trips. They are going to be awesome.

“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.” Rick Steves

Explore your surroundings – we live near Washington DC

Every time I go into Washington DC I have a good time and learn something new. It is important to experience your surroundings, which for us includes the nation’s capital since it is less than an hour from my house. This year I have already been into DC multiple times. I tried out several places to eat during restaurant week, watched a play at the Folger Shakespeare Theater, and walked around the US Capitol area. DC is not a big city, but it does have world class sites, and plenty of really good places to eat.

When I lived in Europe I made it a point to get out and about as much as possible on a regular basis. I saw a lot, and have the pictures to prove it. It is too easy to get lazy and lull yourself into boredom these days. Between television and the Internet, we now have the ability to entertain ourselves at the touch a button, a few clicks of the mouse, or the flick of a switch. But, it is far more fulfilling to get out there and see the world, especially the one in your own backyard. We will start to get more proactive and hit the road for an adventure on a more regular basis to include trips into the city. Who knows what great adventures lie in wait for us this year.

“I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all who shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” John Adams quote in the White House State Dining Room.

Play the game hard, and have fun along the way

The past three posts focused on playing the game hard, and making the most of every opportunity. I don’t want you to think that life should be all hard work, and no fun at all. Remember to have some fun along the way, especially after you finish a big project, or complete something that has taken a long time to achieve. I call this spiking the ball. You will notice in sports that athletes celebrate after they achieve victory. I am not saying that you need to make a big deal every time you achieve something. For example, it is silly to celebrate getting a first down in football if you team is losing. You still have work to do, so give the ref the ball and head back to the huddle.

Appropriate situations where you see athletes celebrate is hitting a home run in baseball, scoring a touch down in football, winning a race, making the winning shot in basketball, and winning an important game. It is perfectly okay to celebrate these achievements. The bigger the win the bigger the celebration. High five your teammates, raise your arms and commemorate a hard fought victory. Try to do the same in life when you get the chance. These moments help provide inspiration when life is difficult, and things do not go your way. There may come a day when the thought that keeps you going during a tough patch is the memory of a victory and how you felt in that moment.

I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day
– Heroes by David Bowie