Start off by making your bed

Today marks the first year anniversary of writing this blog. It has been a great experience, and hopefully both of you have learned something from the blog posts. Several people have provided positive feedback about the blog, and indicated they enjoy reading the weekly posts. I plan to keep on blogging, to keep looking for wisdom to pass on, and to discover new topics worthy of discussion. I learn a lot from others, so I will pass along their wisdom to you, rather than just fill the page with my own thoughts. With that in mind, I am going to start the new year off sharing some simple advice from one of America’s great warriors. Admiral William McRaven.

This time of year is graduation season. Celebrities, politicians, scholars, and many others take the graduation stage to dispense advice to high school and college students as they end one chapter of their life, and start a new one. Many graduation speeches are dull – full of cliches and dumb jokes. Occasionally, you will hear one that is excellent. In 2014, Admiral McRaven gave the commencement speech at the University of Texas. It was called 10 Lessons from my Years as a Navy Seal. It is a brilliant speech full of wisdom and insight. Below is a short excerpt from his speech. It is a simple idea, but a powerful one.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

It may sound trivial, but the act of making your bed every morning helps get the day off on the right foot. I recommend you take up this habit. In case you want to hear the rest of Admiral McRaven’s speech, here is the link to the Youtube video. It is well worth watching.

Be a learner – avoid repeated mistakes

It is impossible to always make good decisions. Everyone makes mistakes – some big, some small. What is important is that you learn from your mistakes, and avoid repeating them. One of the reasons I enjoy traveling so much is that you get to see the world, and you learn a lot about life. Unfortunately some of it is due to mistakes I make, bad decision, or short sighted judgments.

For example, it was a mistake not to use the free wi-fi that was available at the resort on our trip to Cancun last year. As a result, we wracked up hundreds of dollars in extra roaming charges – a costly mistake. Another example – it was a bad decision to return a rental car in Germany without the gas tank full. The customer service person was not thrilled, and it cost me a lot of grief and money. Lastly, I was short sighted when I received a parking ticket in Rothenburg and “forgot” to pay it. The rental car company added a hefty fee for dealing with the ticket when they billed my credit card.

These mistakes were learning experiences. I will make sure these mistakes do not happen again. Be a learner – avoid making the same mistakes over an over. Pay particular attention to your mistakes that result in loss, waste, or destruction. You want to avoid mistakes that create broken relationships with family and friends, results in losing large amounts of money, or wasting your time. Instead learn lessons from your mistakes and apply those in future situations. Smart people learn – fools don’t…and none of want to be a fool.

“Wisdom comes from life experience; life experience is the result of repeatedly taking corrective action while courageously learning from mistakes.” ― Ken Poirot

Be a creative force – the world needs ideas

This time last year the world lost two musical geniuses – David Bowie and Prince. These two men were very different people, but both of them were extremely creative. They each produced a large body of work (over 30 albums), full of both hits and misses. I am impressed by the breadth and depth of their creativity, and their drive to make new music. Many rock musicians have a moment of greatness and then sink back into obscurity…never to be heard from again.

Somehow David Bowie and Prince were able to remain relevant for many years. Each of them changed the music scene with their creative ideas. David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust, and released one of the best albums of the 70s. He returned a decade later with the album Let’s Dance which was brilliant. Prince ruled the 80s for a few years with his new music and movie Purple Rain. He was already popular by then, but took it to a whole new level. These landmark efforts made each of them a household name which is pretty amazing. Both of them continued writing and releasing music until their last days on earth. They never really faded away.

I encourage you to be a creative force in the world. I am not saying that you need to be musical, or emulate the lifestyle of either Bowie or Prince. Both of them struggled with drugs and relationships. What I am saying is that it takes time, energy, effort, and discipline to be creative, and generate new ideas. Too many people fall into a rut, and never get around to bringing something new into the world. Don’t be like that – contribute your ideas. It is one of the main reasons that God created you. I have already noticed that you are very creative, full of unique ideas. Cultivate and share your ideas. They will make the world a better place.

“Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today, 2 get through this thing called life. Electric word life. It means forever and that’s a mighty long time.” ― Let’s Go Crazy by Prince

Nothing in this world is free – not even you

Last year you will recall that we stayed at an “all inclusive” resort in Cancun Mexico for Spring Break. While there you did not have to pay for any food, coffee, snacks, or drinks. It felt like everything was free…but it was not. The reality is that I paid the resort a fixed price for all of us before we left for the trip. Also, my parents paid for the room so that we could afford the trip. This type of vacation is designed for convenience, and I hope that you truly enjoyed it. I know that I did.

The lesson to learn is that nothing in the world is really free. There is a cost for everything, even if you are not the one paying. It is easy to walk in this world without fully knowing this truth, particularly when it comes to your own life. Today is Easter Sunday. A special day for all of us who choose to follow Christ. Today we celebrate Christ rising from the dead in order to give us new life. I want to make sure you understand what Christ has done for you. He has paid the ultimate price with his own blood for you so that you can have new life. No one else could do what was needed. Don’t forget to thank Him for what he did so that you can live free.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

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

Know that I love both of you

I want to make one thing clear to you.  I LOVE YOU and will continue to love you until we depart from this world.  Ever since I held you in my arms for the first time, up until now, I have loved you.  No matter what happens- I will love you.  No matter how I act- I love you.  I am here for you now, and will always be there for you in the future because I love you.  You may make me mad, frustrate me, disappoint me, curse my name, hate me, rebel against me, but nothing you can or will ever do will make me stop loving you.  I consider both of you a blessing from God.  You are my sons, and I am your father.  God has charged me with a great responsibility as your father, and I take that obligation seriously.

Psalm127:  3Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a real blessing.
The sons a man has when he is young
are like arrows in a soldier’s hand.

Jesus is my answer – forever

If I could pass along only one bit of advice to you it is this- Jesus is my answer.  My faith in Him has made the biggest difference in my life.  I have experienced many victories and good times during my lifetime, but none of them compares to the joy that Jesus brought into my life, after I decided to follow Him.  I did not make this decision until later in life (in my twenties), and it is by far the best decision that I have made.  My prayer is that you too will decide to follow Jesus, and make Him Lord of your life.  I do not want to come across as some religious fanatic, but I want you to know my heart, and what Jesus means to me.  I will talk a lot more about my own journey towards salvation later in this document because it has been quite a journey, and it is the foundation of my life.

3 John 1:4  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Introduction – when I was young I did not know much

This letter is an attempt to pass along my thoughts, prayers, wisdom, experience, and advice to you.  It is tough to be a successful man in today’s world, so my hope is that this document will help inspire you to develop into the man that God designed you to become.  When I was a young man there were a lot of things about God, people, and the world in which we live that I did not understand, at all.  Lord knows, I have made a million mistakes along the way, and there is a lot that I still need to learn. I have sought wisdom from many different sources, and spent many years trying to “figure out what life was all about”.  This letter summarizes what I have discovered, so far. Hopefully you find it useful.

Note- the text that is contained within this document is not in any particular order, and placed in any particular format.  Some writing will be very clear and concise, while other items may be somewhat obtuse.  I apologize if you do not understand everything that I am trying to convey to you, although some items are intended to make you think about things and come to your own conclusion.  Without further delay, here we go…..

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my new Blog. My name is Doug Keating. I am the father of two fine young men – Gavin and Riley Keating. Gavin is about to graduate from high school and go off to college. Riley is almost done with his freshman year and will start learning how to drive this summer. I am proud of both of them.

A few years ago my marriage ended which impacted my life in many ways – some positive and some negative. As a result of the divorce, I get to see my boys a few days a month (every other weekend), and for a few weeks in the summer. This constant separation caused me great concern as I wondered how can I be a good father to my boys without having much access to them, and the world they live in…so I decided to do something about it. I started writing “a letter” to them about life lessons that I have learned through the years. Basically, they get a new lesson every time they are with me. These lessons are not long (one page each), and not really that profound. Rather they offer me a creative and meaningful way to pass along what little knowledge and wisdom I have for my boys.

Why write a letter to my sons? The teen age years are an important time in a young man’s life. Decisions made during this phase can make the difference between success in this world, or failing at life. Lessons are learned, habits are formed, and the path forward for your life is established based on the decisions you make. What I am attempting to do is help my sons find their way in this world by avoiding the pitfalls I experienced, and navigating around obstacles.

This blog is the next step in the learning journey. I am making “the letter” available to others in case it helps them also. I am not claiming to be a wise man, or a great dad, or a Godly man. The Lord knows that I was not a very good husband. Rather I am just a man trying to learn about life and how to live it. Hopefully you find some of the content helpful. If so, let me know, and feel free to share the link. If not, then start your own blog and share your own perspective. The world needs wisdom. Thanks.