Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 17

Most people are “listening” with the intent to reply.  They are simply hearing you out and formulating a response.  

I encourage you to be an attentive listener (at the least).  Better yet, be an empathetic listener.  Listen to truly understand the person you are communicating with.  Put yourself in their shoes.  How would you feel if you were in their situation?

You must be vulnerable to be empathetic.  Be vulnerable and seek the welfare of the person you are listening to.  

If you work diligently to understand others you will be trusted, respected . . . and you will be understood.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 16

Generally speaking, people go through life riddled with guilt.  They have a perpetual internal argument between who they have been and who they think they should be.  Many people look in the mirror and absolutely don't like the person who is looking back at them.

You will make mistakes.  You should make mistakes.  

Forgive yourself.  Move on.  
Practice self-acceptance.  Become your own best friend.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 15

  Seize the day.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 14

I can’t count how many times that you have asked me “why?” this weekend.  At 2 ½ years old, you have definitely entered your why phase.  Please don’t ever leave that phase.  

Look around and you will find people going about their days without intention . . . without purpose.  Simply put, they couldn’t answer your question “why?”.  They are just going through the motions and following the herd.  

Don’t buy into herd mentality.  In fact, find reasons to go against the grain.  In Earl Nightengale’s recordings he encourages people to find out what the majority of the people are doing, and do exactly the opposite.  

Be a leader!  

If you don’t understand why things are being done a certain way . . . ask “why?”   If you don’t get a qualified answer, there is probably a better way to do it . . . or it may not be necessary to do it at all.  

If you have a compelling “Why” or purpose to what you are doing the “Hows” will take care of themselves.  That “Why”  allows your mind to find the resources it needs to complete the mission.  Make “Why” foundational to what you do (and how you do them).  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 13

Your Great-grandfather, Robert, served as a medic in World War II.  I can’t fathom the horrors he must have seen.  Your Gido was also in the Army, as was I.  

They say it’s better to give than to receive.  I believe that you must give to receive.  Service is the only way you can create value for others and for the world.  

I hope you too dedicate your life to serving.  Military service is just one of the many ways to serve.  You may choose to serve your country.  That’s up to you . . . that’s freedom! Regardless of your choice, I hope you respect and honor those who have chosen to have wear a military uniform.  

Just one half of one percent of Americans have served this country in the past decade.  Some of those people gave their life to support the missions of this country.  Find ways to respect and honor those who have served in the Armed Forces.  Their dedication and sacrifices often go unnoticed . . . it shouldn't!  

Friday, October 26, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 12

You need very few things.  A need is something you have to have.  If you want to know what you need, take a mission trip to Africa.  Go to a remote village.  See what the villagers have.  See what it takes for them to survive . . . that's what you need.  Food, water, shelter, air . . . that's about it.

Everything else is a want.  When all your real needs are met, it common for the wants to suddenly become "needs".

Most people think they "need" smart phones and a car.  Don't become baffled by popular culture.  Most things in your life are nothing more than a luxury.

Stay grateful.  Don't be a glutton.  Realize the stark contrast between needs and wants.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 11

Sometimes I wonder if you were “born” to be born in Colorado.  You seem to enjoy being outdoors so much.  In fact, when you were a baby . . . if you were inconsolably upset, I’d often just step outside and you would become serene.  

You love to swim, hike, and run.  I encourage you to never lose your awe of the outdoors.  It’s a great way to remember how connected to the rest of the universe you really are.  

Sometimes life will throw you curve balls.  Occasionally you will feel like your world is caving in.  Commune with nature!  Those immense Rocky Mountains can remind you how insignificant your problems are.  Nature will help recharge and reflect on your life.  

When you are feeling overwhelmed . . . let the fresh air, sun and adrenaline serve as your medicine.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 10

As I write this, we are 15 days away from a Presidential election.  Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are in the middle of a close and heated race.  The polls show that they are neck and neck at the moment.  

The country is divided and I am not confident either of these guys is fit for the job.  Effective leadership is about unifying your "team" (in this case country).  

Competition is usually between you and you.  But these guys want to point fingers . . . neither seems to want to run on their own merits.  In this election it is predicted that most voters are going to vote against a candidate instead of voting for a candidate they like.  

I definitely have my political leans (which will not be discussed in this forum) but I think both of these candidates (along with almost all of their constituents) should play their own game.  They should worry about themselves or as it is often put "tend to their own garden."  And so should you.  

There are many take home points we can learn from elections such as this.  First and foremost, is do your best.  Don't worry about those around you.  Secondly, stand up for what you believe in . . . but respect others' opinions.  Third, tell the truth and don't try to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 9

Five years ago this week, your mom and I moved back to the United States after living in Europe for four years.  It was 2003 and I was in the Army when I received orders to serve in Germany.  The thought of moving from the U.S. kept me up many a night.  I did not want to go.  I didn’t care to be a stranger in a strange land.  

Living overseas ended up being the greatest of blessings! We savored the experience.  We traveled to over 20 countries while we were there.  We met incredible people in the two years we lived in Germany.  We then moved to Italy and made more marvelous friends.  

Our European experience taught us many things.  It certainly opened our minds to other cultures.  We learned that there is much more to life than working and accumulating stuff.  We were able to be around people who really understand how to celebrate life.  

I encourage you to aggressively travel.  Make it a priority to see the world (and take me with you!).  It will open your mind and your heart.  As Mark Twain once stated, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

An open letter to my son - Part 8

Women tend to call it “intuition”.  Men usually call it “trusting their gut”.

Conscience.  Instinct.  Call it whatever you want.  I just want you to follow that feeling.  

We all have it.  It’s just not very well utilized.  We typically let our logic overrule it.  

Use your head, but don’t neglect your heart and gut.  When you hear that quiet voice . . . when that moment of inspiration strikes, take note.  Take action!  

I was once caught off guard by a wise Priest.  I was totally expecting him to start preaching to me about some religious doctrine.  He must have perceived my resistance and decided to blindside me.  He said, “David, that voice inside you is God speaking through you.  Listen to it!”  That was 1997.  I have followed his advice ever since . . . and it’s never served me wrong.

I'm going to rely on a little more Steve Jobs wisdom.
That iphone and ipad that are so intuitive for a 2 year old (i.e. you) to maneuver . . .
ya, he created them.   He's kind of a big deal.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 7

You’ll hear people exclaim, “She’s so lucky”  You’ll also hear people whine, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Your Gido likes to say, “You’re lucky, David.”  My typical reply is “No, I’m fortunate.”  

You see, I don’t really believe in luck in the classic sense.  Despite the popularity of the notion, life really isn’t a game of chance.  If there is such thing as luck, it’s a byproduct of recognizing opportunities and seizing them.

Think of “LUCK” as an acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.  
If you do your research . . .
if you develop your talents . . .
if you have an admirable work ethic . . .
if you look at all the facts and then follow your intuition . . .
if you are decisive and persistent . . .
You will have created all the luck you’ll need.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 6

Speaking of fears, I believe your goals and dreams should scare you on some level.  If your dreams don’t bring you at least a bit of anxiety, they probably aren’t big enough.  

In my opinion, “sweet dreams” aren’t the highest and best use of those hours in which you slumber. Since you were a baby, my standard blessing as you head off to bed has been “dream big!”  

Develop BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that are so compelling that they’ll fuel you over obstacles and through the criticism.  Another good investment of your time would be to find the “Last Lecture” presentation by Randy Pausch.  Randy was dying of pancreatic cancer and in this speech he suggests that the “brick walls” that we encounter while pursuing our dreams are simply there to allow us to show how badly we want something. Your BHAG will get you over that brick wall every time.  

It’s energizing to have big dreams.  Dream so big that you are just like a kid . . . so revved up that you never get tired.  As Walt Disney put it, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  

This also reminds me of a Will Smith interview that I once saw.  He said, “There’s a certain delusional quality that all successful people have to have, you have to believe that something different than what has happened for the last 50 million years of history, you have to believe that something different can happen.”   

He continues, “Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity, why would you be realistic? I’m gonna do it, it’s done. It’s unrealistic to walk in a room and flip a switch and lights to come on. That’s unrealistic, fortunately Edison didn’t think so.  It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to bend a piece of metal and fly people over an ocean in that metal, that’s unrealistic, but fortunately the Wright brothers and others didn’t believe that.”

Since I’m in a quote kind of mood, I’ll leave you with one more on this topic.  It’s the signature advice from Apple founder, Steve Jobs:

Dream BIG, Bennett.  
Be Unrealistic.  
Stay foolish.  
Do the impossible!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 5

As I previously mentioned, I want you to be prosperous.  I want you to be happy.  I also want you to be comfortable . . . but not all the time.  Recognize that most of the important stuff in your life will happen when you are beyond your comfort zone.  

I challenge you to take frequent and intentional trips outside of your comfort zone.  It’s similar to going to the gym.  Unless you are sweating and feeling a little bit of a “burn”, it’s probably not worth your while.  

So, order something on that restaurant menu that you have never had before.  Better yet, order something you’ve never heard of.  Hang out with the “weirdos” and “freaks”.  Seek to understand people with religious and political views opposite of those you currently hold.  Travel to foreign lands and make yourself the minority.  

One of my favorite quotes is by Joseph Campbell.  He said, “"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”  Fear is a biological response that really isn’t appropriate for this day and age.  Those fears were created to keep your ancestor of 400 generations ago from being devoured by a saber-toothed tiger.  

In this century, all your needs are met.  Almost all your fears are irrational and unwarranted.  

Dedicate a morning and read “The Flinch.”  In this book Julien Smith will eloquently explain to you why facing your fears and anxieties head on is so important.  You’ll understand why you won’t make a difference if you aren’t willing to sacrifice your comfort.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 4

I want you to be true to yourself.  Decide what you value most and then engineer your life around those values.  

If you yearn to be a man of character (which I hope you do and suspect you will), you’ll want to make integrity your #1 value.  Integrity is the value that makes all the other values possible.

Integrity means being honest.  It also means being accountable.  When I was a kid, they talked about the 3 R’s in school (Reading, Riting? and ‘Rithmetic? . . . I think they forgot Spelling in that list because only one of them really starts with R).  There are 3 more important R’s associated with integrity:
1)  Respect for yourself
2)  Respect for others
3)  Responsibility for all your actions.  

It’s about doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it.  Work hard to keep those promises to others. Learn how to honor the promises you make to yourself.  Enlist others to hold you accountable.  

Bennett, I want your life to be a prosperous one.  But please remember that it’s important that you create a life in which your name (and your legacy) is worth much more than your bank account.  

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. — Samuel Johnson

Monday, October 15, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 3

When we are born, we are pure potential.  The path of life stands before us and there are endless things on that path that we can see, do, and become.  Being born in America, that potential is inseparably linked with opportunity.  This abundant opportunity allows you to control (to a great deal) where the path may lead.

Fortunately, there are abundant opportunities available to all of us.  Unfortunately, there is so much opportunity that most take it for granted.  In fact, many can't even see it.  This has led to a growing population of ungrateful and entitled Americans.  

The Declaration of Independence emphasizes "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  The most important word in that phrase is pursuit.  Pursuit is an active verb.  You have to move your feet.  You have to hustle.  You have to make it happen.  Happiness isn't just going to land in your lap or show up in your mailbox (if there are still mailboxes when you read this).  

I have some very simple advice that will help you combat this entitlement and ingratitude epidemic.  It will help you in your pursuit of a happy life.  It's called "Please and Thank you".

You are already a very polite little boy.  Please don't let those habits atrophy as you grow up.  You can defeat an entitlement mindset with the word “please”.  Ask for what you want, but say please.  Please assumes that you aren't entitled and that if you are going to get something that it must be shared by someone or something else.  That sharer may be me, another family member, a friend, a stranger, nature or whatever Higher Being you choose to believe in.  

When you ask for what you want, sometimes you will hear no.  That's okay (but sometimes it's actually a "maybe later" in disguise. Please refer back to the word "pursuit". We'll talk about critics, cynics, naysayers, and not taking no for an answer at a later time).  

If the answer is yes,  be grateful.  Say thank you.  Say thank you again! Show appreciation. As Jack Canfield has said, “Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An open letter to my son - Part 2

I will tell you things in your life that will seem insignificant and maybe even idiotic.  Some of these same lessons you may recall years later and they will resonate with you as transformational . . . and perhaps genius.  

I remember standing in the kitchen when I was waist-high to my father.  I asked him, "Dad, what should I be when I grow up?"  He quickly replied, "I don't care if you are the trash man, just be the best trash man you can be."  

My internal response as a 4 year old was, "What is he talking about? I'm not going to be the local trash man!"

My interpretation now is "Be the best you you can be. Do your best work each and every day." That's transformational. That is genius.

 When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.  -Mark Twain

An open letter to my son - Part 1

Good morning Bennett.

This last year I've been an active father but an absentee blogger.  I originally created this blog for a few reasons:
1) To get me focused on being a father when I was overwhelmed with starting the business
2) To serve as a bit of a baby book.  As you age you may occasionally use this blog to "take a walk down memory lane."
3) To allow me to teach you lessons now that will mean much more to you later in your life.

I woke up this morning realizing that as of today I have lived 38 years.  I have experienced 13,879 of these mornings (I was going to say that I've woken up 13,879 times . . . but there are some studying or partying all-nighters in college that throw off the "wake-up" math).

With tomorrow being my birthday, I woke up reflective.  What have I accomplished in these 38 years?  What am I proud of?  What am I not so proud of?  What should I commit to accomplishing in the next 38 years?

Then, I heard you rustling downstairs . . . ready to wake up yourself (for your 839th morning).  My thoughts immediately turned to you.  From all I've seen and done these past 13,878 days, you are what I am MOST proud of.

I want to spend the next 38 days writing this letter to you.  It will contain 38 lessons that have taken me all of 38 years to learn.  Understanding and valuing these lessons certainly does not mean I've mastered them . . . far from it.  Oftentimes mastery is a never ending quest.  Nonetheless, I'd like to get these thoughts down here so that they are ready for you when you are ready for them.  As the Buddhists say, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."