Live life

Little drummer boy.

My parents got divorced before before I can remember. I grew up with my mom, my sister, and my grandmother in a small New England town. All three of them were very intelligent, strong, and powerful women. Looking back I feel very fortunate to have been raised by such incredible role models. I also had a really awesome dad. He lived and worked about an hour away from us and was the athletic director / golf coach for a small college in Connecticut. In addition to his scheduled visits with my sister and I throughout the year, there was a very special time every spring that my dad and I spent together. It was the college spring break, and it included a trip to Myrtle Beach SC with his golf team. Imagine me as an 10 year old riding in a Connecticut state van packed with a bunch of rowdy, hyped up, college dudes going to Myrtle Beach for a week! I loved those trips.

Looking back, one of the most important lessons I learned during those times was to following your own path in life.

These summer trips consisted of a 13 hour ride to and from South Carolina, a week full of golfing, and staying the nights in some cheap hotel where we played cards and ate crappy take-out food. The guys that I remember most were not the best golfers or the guys who went to bed at my dad's curfew. I remember the ones that would stay up late playing poker with their food per-Diem money. There was drinking, cursing, talking about hooking up with the cart girls at the golf course... and occasionally, sneaking out to "call home" - code for smoking weed. Those are the guys that interested me the most. They didn't play by all my dad's rules and they were definitely having a good time living life! They spoke freely, treated me more like a buddy, and didn't give a shit about what other people thought. They weren't disrespectful or even cocky, they were just marching to their own beat. There was a confidence in their actions, a fearlessness in the way they approached life. Independent, genuine, and real. Those are the guys I admired.

As I've grown older, I remember back to those trips and the way the team interacted with each other, acted around my dad, and how they treated me. The teams were successful. They won several New England golf championships and for more then a decade they competed against the best NCAA division 1 schools from across the nation. They were legit. But more importantly to me, they taught me the value of being yourself. Being genuine, honest, and confident in who you are. They were 'real', and that shined through in their actions. Much like my business life today, what made those teams successful was the synchronization of several different types of individuals, led by a few people who had their own strong personal compass. There were the 'early to sleep, follow the rules' types, and there were the 'others'... I respected and looked up to all of them, but it was the guys marching to their own beat that I admired the most. They were diligent and focused on winning tournaments, but they also had a strong individual presence. They were the leaders on the team, not because they were the best golfers but because they were the most confident in character. They built the team culture. 

It's not about going against the grain or purposely being defiant to the rules of life. There are many times I look back and I'm thankful I didn't follow my gut and went with the crowd. But there are also those defining moments in my life when I chose a different path, a non-popular choice. I was true to myself and didn't care what the rest of the world thought of my choices... and it's in those moments that I felt the most alive. So, live passionately, take risks, give freely, love hard, and leave an incredible wake behind you...but most importantly live your own life and be your own individual. It's a beautiful thing, It attracts the right people into your life, and you will never regret your choices. Because although you'll still make mistakes, they will be your mistakes and not mistakes made while trying to be what other people want you to be.  

Today is the day.

Today is the day.

This simple phrase seems easy to understand. The meaning isn't deeply buried in some secret literary poem requiring a theologist to decode. Yet really taking action toward what we want, seems to be infinitely distant to what we actually do. Now, understandably we all need to be, and should be, responsible, caring, thoughtful, pragmatic, and cause no burden to others, but... why can't we balance both? Living the life you desire and the life you love should not be an occasional feeling you stumble on during an infrequent vacation or the occasional planned holiday.

Jumping Surfer.jpg

Learning "carpe diem".

To get an idea of where and how I learned to love my life and really enjoy the things I've come to own, I have to give you some background on my upbringing. I grew up in a lower middle class home with a working mother, my older sister, and my grandmother. My mom was strategic in moving our family to a VERY nice town in Connecticut because she knew the public schools were some of the best in the nation. So we lived in a relatively nice home (At least it looked nice from the outside. Truth is, because of poor construction and costs, it was freezing in the winter and hotter then hell in the summer). The important part is that I was getting a really good education (with some special attention for my LD - another post) and learning what it meant to be responsible for chores, managing food on a tight budget, and learning to be emotionally intelligent in an environment where my friends drove Porsches to school while I took the bus. I didn't realize it at the time, but like every other kid at that age, I was shaping many parts of who I would later become as a young adult and even now as a 'quasi'-adult... Because we didn't have a lot of money AND because the responsibility of owning 'things' was drilled into my head, I learned a habit to fiercely maintain what I had. I remember waiting 2-3 Christmas' to get a "boom-box" stereo. I had asked Santa for it a few times and I'm guessing we just didn't have the money, but when I did get it, I thought to myself, I really need to take care of this thing. Its the last stereo I'll ever get to own in my life! It went on from there to being extremely vigilant with anything I owned. I couldn't stand the thought of losing things and I began a habit of being very organized. This included my time, my clothes, and any other aspect of my life that I felt could be organized and put in 'compartments' for safe keeping. I made to-do lists so as to never forget a chore or project that needed to be completed. As a result I became very responsible. You could count on me to do chores around the house, be places on time, and always give you back anything I borrowed. These are all good traits that were very helpful later in life. But there was an imbalance being groomed...     

Fast forward to college. My roommate Carey from James Madison University was the first real exposure to where I had gone astray. Carey was a ridiculously good athlete (wrestler), with an awesome high energy about him. At 116 pounds, this kid could out run you, out jump you, out back-flip you, and pretty much physically and energetically out-pace anyone. He LIVED life to the fullest! He quickly taught me the concept of really using what you have. Stuff breaks, shit gets lost, and in the end, guess what,  it's OK. He didn't know it at the time, but he taught me about "carpe diem". Carey came from an environment where he was taught to live life! For him, the most feared thing was to lose the moment. To lose the opportunity of what was possible right in front of you. He was equally neat and clean and had very nice things, but he looked at a clean apartment as a place to throw a party. Where as I looked at a clean apartment as an accomplishment and something to try and maintain, i.e. don't walk on the carpets, don't mess the kitchen up by cooking, etc. I think the point was made clear to me when we were at the gym one day doing some dumbbell exercise and I looked down to see Carey wearing his very expensive, custom engraved Movado watch that his father hadgiven him for graduating high school. I stopped him quickly as I saw the dumbbells crunching down and scrapping against this beautiful watch. "Wait!, Don't you want to take off your watch?" I asked. "It will get ruined." He quickly responded with a chuckle and said, "no, why would I do that? It's my watch, I wear it so I can tell what time it is."

And here in lays the lesson for me. Life (including the material things) can't be saved for later. Life is meant to be lived. It's meant to get messy and things are meant to get lost and broken. Had that been my watch it probably would have been safely lock away in a drawer, never to see the light of day. That way, I would know where it is at all times and it would never get lost, stolen, or broken. But what good is a watch that is locked away, never to be used? Why have it? This goes for our bodies, minds, and spirits as well. Don't keep yourself, or your things, locked away for some future day. Live now. Use what you have. Experience everything you can in the present moment. There is no guarantee of tomorrow. Today is the day.