Hit the reset button – New York blunder

As you know, this past weekend Gavin and I visited New York City. It was a great trip, and every thing was going really well until we arrived at the airport for our trip back home. Once at the airport I noticed that our flight was not listed on the arrival board which seemed strange. I should have stopped there, but we went through security and on to the departure gate. At this point, I could tell something was wrong. Our flight was not listed at the gate, so I checked my ticket. Crap – our flight did not depart at 9 AM…but 9 PM. I made a huge blunder, a really big error. We were at the airport twelve hours early with nothing to do, and no other flights available.

What to do next? Gavin and I pondered the situation and we decided to hit the reset button on the day. We trekked back to NYC, found a place to store our luggage, and spent another day exploring NYC. The weather was not great, but we had a good time being tourists. We went to the top of the rock, hung out in Times Square, visited the wax museum, explored Ripley’s, and an array of other attractions. The day was topped off with New York cheesecake at a diner. Not a bad day considering we had not planned any of it beforehand.

As this experience shows – sometimes you have to hit the reset button on a day. The bottom line is that I messed up big time. But, we could recover from it. Rather than spending the day beating myself up over my mistake (Gavin did a nice job reminding me about it), I decided to get on with it, and make the most of what was left of the day. The ability to “hit the reset button” is an important skill in life. Many times, you will make stupid mistakes, or have things not go your way. It is easy to get really upset about the situation, and even pout about it. But, a more mature response, is to get over it, and then get on with it. You will be amazed at what will happen when you hit the reset button – you will meet new people, see new places, and gain new experiences.

Keep this lesson in mind the next time you travel, and things take a turn for the worse. I have traveled a fair bit, and trust me, these kind of things happen. Flights are delayed, and your plans will need to change. Hopefully, I will avoid making this kind of big blunder again. But, if it does, I know what I will do. Hit the reset button, and start all over again.

Standing in the middle of nowhere,
Wondering how to begin.
Lost between tomorrow and yesterday,
Between now and then.

And now we’re back where we started,
Here we go round again.
Day after day I get up and I say
I better do it again
– Do It Again by the Kinks

How should we honor the fallen?

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is an important holiday, and I want to make sure we honor the fallen properly. This holiday has become confusing for many Americans. Nowadays, some treat Memorial in the same manner as Veteran’s Day. They are two distinct holidays with different purposes. Memorial Day is the day we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our great country. Veteran’s Day, on the other hand, is the day we honor those who have served in our military. Given that Memorial Day is when we are supposed to honor the fallen, the natural questions is how should we do that. Three ideas comes to mind.

1. Remember their heroic deeds. All Americans should pause this weekend and think about those who died for our freedom. There are several ways to do this – read a book about military history, visit a military monument, or watch a military history movie. Over the years I have done all three of these activities many times. My favorite book about military history is Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. The movie about this unbelievable US Army Ranger raid is also great. My favorite military monument is at the top of Pointe Du Hoc where the US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs on D-Day. My favorite military history movie is a tie between The Longest Day or A Bridge Too Far. Both are great, and based on books written by Cornelius Ryan.

2. Visit the battlefields where they fought. The best way to get a sense of what our fallen experienced is to visit where they fought. Walk the battlefield, learn their stories, and ponder what happened. This summer, you will get the opportunity to see some of the most historic battlefields and cemeteries in the world when we go to Normandy. We will see firsthand what our troops faced on D-Day, visit several museums, and pay our respects at the cemetery. I believe it will be an eye opening experience for both of you. I am looking forward to showing you this important piece of our history.

3. Honor their sacrifice. This one can be challenging, so I would be plain. In my opinion the best way to honor the sacrifice of the fallen is to live a life worth living. Make the most of what you have been given. As an American you have more opportunity than most people in this world. Our freedom was paid for by others. Don’t squander their sacrifice. Get out there and make something of yourself.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan (another great war movie), there is a powerful scene at the end. Tom Hanks character Captain John Miller is severely wounded. He tells Private Ryan played by Matt Damon to “earn this”, and then he dies. The message is the same as what I am saying here. In the next scene, Private Ryan is in cemetery at Normandy, and remembers those words, and thinks about his life. Watch the clip below. It actually makes me cry every time I watch it.

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.

Thank your mom – today is her special day

Today is a special day for women. Today is Mother’s Day. Make sure you take time to thank your mom for all she has done for you over the years. I know I will. For a long time I was not very close to my mom. Some things happened in my youth that strained our relationship, and I did not see a compelling reason to do anything about it. Neglecting my relationship with my mom was a big mistake – one that I regret to this day. The reason that I regret it is that my mom is awesome. When I think about why my mom is great, three words come to mind.

1. German – my mom was born and raised in Dresden Germany. She met my Dad in Berlin and came to America with him in the early 1960s. Even though mom spent the rest of her life here, she is still very German. You hear it in her voice, and will notice it in her mannerisms. Mom speaks her mind when talking with others. This trait is unsettling for some. She expects excellence. Why do something if you don’t plan to be the best. And she is not physically affectionate. Germans are just not big at hugging. What I have learned by watching my German mom is to be myself, and not worry about what others think about me. I encourage you to do the same. Be who you are, not who others think you should be. I know a lot of people who drive themselves crazy trying to please others all the time.

2. Tough – my mom has dealt with a lot in her life. Dresden was bombed to the ground during the war, and conquered by the Russians. Her family was wealthy before the war, but not so much after Dresden become part of the communist DDR. Mom went to Berlin to find work, and met Dad there. The Berlin wall went up while they were there. As a result she would not see her family, or her home, for many, many years. She raised two young boys while Dad served in the Army, deploying to Vietnam for three combat tours. We moved many times before finally settling in the DC area. She dealt with all of these challenges, and many more. I have never heard my mom say, I cannot handle this. Her toughness set a great example for me to follow as I deal with the challenges of life.

3. Generous – my mom has given me more than I can ever repay. Both your Uncle Perry and I played multiple sports growing up. Mom drove all over God’s green earth making sure we made it to swim practice, swim meets, and soccer games every weekend. Dad did a lot of coaching, Mom did a ton of driving. Also, she has never hesitated to help you boys. I have not told this story before, but I will now. When your mom and I divorced it cause a lot of financial challenges to me. I was paying a large mortgage, rent for a townhouse, and for a divorce lawyer all at the same time. I was spending more than I earned, and on the road to financial ruin. I mentioned this challenge to my mom, and bemoaned the fact that I had to stop saving money to pay for your college. Without saying anything, she quietly went upstairs, wrote a check, and then handed it to me. It was enough money to pay for your first year of college. I told mom that I had no idea when I could pay her back. She did not want the money back. She wanted her grandsons to succeed in this world, and that meant going to college. Her generosity inspires me to do the same. I am in a much better place financially these days, and will do my best to help both of you, and your families.

Take a moment to reflect today about your mom, and what she means to you. Make sure you express your thanks. I bet she will appreciate it.

I got to grow up with a mother who taught me to believe in me.
– Antonio Villaraigosa

Honor your parents – they will need you

As you know, this week has been a rough one for my parents, your Oma and Opa. They were in a bad car accident that totaled their car, and left both of them injured. Your Uncle Perry and Cousin Cooper went to the hospital, and drove them home. I met all of them at home to try and get mom and dad settled in. We have been doing our best to make sure they are cared for while they heal. It is a long road ahead, but I am really glad we are able to help my parents.

The Bible teaches us that we are supposed to honor our parents. Some days I am not exactly sure what that means. This past week, the answer was clear to me. Honoring my parents meant helping them out in their time of need. At other times, I try to honor my parents by spending time with them. We do not do much other than talk about life. They really enjoy hearing about how each of you is doing, and how things are going. Nowadays, I live near them (only a few miles away), so it is not too difficult to visit them once a week.

For many years I did not do a great job staying connected with my parents. I was always too busy to spend time with them. As a result, I grew distant from my parents. I am really glad that I saw the error of my ways, and decided to make a change. It would have been an awful shame, and I would have missed out on a lot of great conversations. As you get older, I hope that we get the opportunity to spend time together. It will be time well spent.

Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

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

Lessons learned while traveling – Cancun Mexico

As you know, I really enjoy traveling. Seeing other parts of the world is fun. Experiencing other cultures is eye opening. Many of life’s greatest lessons I have learned while traveling. Spring Break is next week, so I was thinking about our trip last year to a luxury resort in Cancun Mexico. My parents were nice enough to let us borrow their time share points to enjoy a week off in paradise.

I hope that you noticed a few things during the trip. First – it is rewarding to take a week off and relax. The place we stayed was awesome. We had great weather, and a chance to truly relax. It is important to take time off and enjoy life. Second – you saw first hand another culture that is much different than ours. Mexicans speak a different language, eat different foods, and take a different approach to work. I was impressed with how hard everyone at the resort worked, and how diligent they were in making sure that we had what we needed during our stay. Lastly, you witnessed first hand the art of haggling. Some items you buy do not really have a set price. Instead you will have to negotiate the cost with the seller – it is expected. I do not pretend to be an expert in haggling, but understand that I will not pay more for something than what I think it is worth.

I hope you learned these lessons and more during our trip. We have several trips coming up soon. Riley – we are going away again this year for Spring Break. I am looking forward to relaxing in the sun, especially with our recent crazy weather. Gavin – I am taking you to New York City for the first time. You will get a chance to see one of the greatest cities in the world. Of course, we have exciting summer vacation trip plans as we visit a new part of Europe. We will see and learn a lot. Great adventure is ahead for us.

So I just sit right here and have another beer in Mexico. Do my best to waste another day
– Beer in Mexico, Kenny Chesney

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