Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Plan

     I haven't been blogging a lot but it isn't because I'm not interested in sharing.  Nothing but the converse is true.  It's simply that I've been so busy with my re-invention that I haven't stopped to tell others about it.  In my first blog posting I stated somethings that I wanted to change.  In my second blog posting I stated some of my motivation for changing (death can be a big motivator).  In my third blog posting I would like to state how I'm executing some of the change.

     Before I go into that detail of how I'm executing the change I wanted to stop and recognize something I saw that was inspiring.  Today I was watching a TV show, that I just start viewing, and it resonated with much of my second blog posting.  The show is called Touch and it stars Keifer Sutherland.  The episode I just watched was Season 1 Episode 6 - Lost and Found.  I'm not sure I agree with the shows premise but it has been entertaining to watch.  Episode 6 had a character who got on a plane that crashed.  This particular character was very bright but was working for a company who was profit driven (profits > ethics).  He didn't feel like he had made a difference (in the world) and wanted to fix that before he died.  He managed to survive the plane crash and spent the rest of the episode trying to undo something he had put in place for his company that would make millions but take a historical building down to do it.  In the end, he made a difference but not exactly how he thought he would.  If you haven't seen Touch I'd recommend it but definitely check out episode 6.  You'll recognize the character I'm talking about instantly.

     If you recall one of the things I had stated in my first blog post was that I am disheartened that two of my kids don't live with me full time.  They live with my ex-wife.  Due to this custody arrangement I see my children four times a year.  Which is enough for them to know that I love them to death but not really enough for them to learn my values and what makes their father tick (my core beliefs, values, morals, etc).  Late last year I gave this a lot of thought and found a solution that I really liked.  My solution was to write a book!

     I know what you are thinking.  There has to be an easier way for you to convey your beliefs and values than writing an entire book.  I thought it was a good idea for a couple of reasons.  For one I've been told I'm pretty articulate when it comes to writing.  My friends send me small emails and very often I respond with paragraphs of information that just flows from my mind to my fingertips.  Before I know it I've written a short story in response to a simple one line email :).  Secondly I remember what it was to be a teenager (my kids, who live with their mother, are 14 and 17).  When I was young, if my parents told me to go left I'd intentionally go right.  Thank you but I'll make my own mistakes!  One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain and he said, "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."  With a book they will undoubtedly read it now but I'm not sure how much will stick with them at this age.  Yet if they have access to this book, as they get older and more mature, they can revisit it again by re-reading it.  I have no doubt the second time they read it the content will be much more meaningful.

     So my first thought was to just take random topics and then write about them.  Each chapter would cover my thoughts and feelings on that particular topic.  While that may be an effective medium to pen my beliefs and values it would make for a very dry read.  So I decided to really challenge myself and write a fictional story in which as the story unfolds you'll see the characters in the book exude my values and beliefs.  Pretty tricky eh?  As you get attached to characters and get to know their beliefs and values, you'll actually be learning about me.

     I'm much further along than you might think.  While you have just found out about this idea I've been working on it since last last year.  I have the entire story outlined and have most of the main characters flushed out.  I've actually written the first four chapters and am plowing along at a steady pace.  It's not as fast as I thought it would be but part of that is my attention to detail (DBA training at its best).  The story will be consistent and the details will be as accurate as I can make them.  I have three proof readers and an editor all working to make sure the book is something more than a dry read.  The proof readers are reading each chapter to help me make sure the story flows and is interesting.  The editor is there to catch my flamboyant lack of commas and spruce up the grammar/punctuation.  It's been a lot of fun so far!

     So this obviously parlays itself into one of my other objectives.  How do I leave my fingerprint on the world and make a difference?  Well one possibility is that instead of keeping the book private I might publish this book if I think it has merit.  I'll be happy if just three people read it; that would be, of course, all three of my kids.  However if I pour my heart and soul into and actually craft an interesting fictional story I might be able to sell a few copies.  So for me, this is a chance to explore the possibility that I can write and if I do it well enough I might have a possible career shift in my immediate future.

     In my next blog posting I'll share with you my thoughts on how finding a new career (even if it isn't writing) is going to be an awesome experience as I find a way to make a difference in the world MY way.  I'll leave you with a quote that I ran into recently that really inspired me one day.  The quote is, "What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it."  The author is unknown but what did you do today?  Was it worth it?  Make sure you make every day count!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grim News

                So I wanted to share a little insight as to why I am re-inventing myself.  It starts off with some very grim news for everyone.  You are going to die.  This shouldn’t really surprise anyone however if you really accepted that statement you might be behaving slightly different than those around you.  I don’t see it as grim and if you stick with me long enough I’ll explain why.

                I found a great quote last year and I’m not sure when it was said but that really isn’t important.  The meaning of the quote is totally relevant.  It is one of my favorite quotes and I find myself amazed that he worded his response so well.  The Dalai Lama was asked a question and his response is the quote I am referring to.  The question was “What surprised him most about humanity?”  His amazing response was this:
                “Man.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
                There is a lot there if you take a second to appreciate what he said.  How many of us work fifty plus hours a week?  Some work sixty or worse even more?  How many times have you said I don’t have time to ____________?  How many times have you said you’ll do something next week when you have more time?  Do you think that you enjoy the present?  Do you feel that you are living life to its maximum potential?  When was the last time you took a vacation?  Do you ever stop and realize that another year just flew by and it seems like time is going faster and faster?  I’ll give you a big hint, time isn’t going faster!  I’d venture to say that most of the people I meet do not get the Dalai Lama’s response and might not even get this paragraph.  Those are the folks who go through life on cruise control.  They don’t accomplish much in their lifetime and are surprised by their ending (in whatever form it comes).  I DO NOT want to be that person.
                However I didn’t really need The Dalai Lama’s quote to change my life or my behavior.  I had a much more personal experience about twelve years ago.  Every year I go for my annual physical, with my doctor, just to make sure my body is doing ok.  Twelve years ago I had some blood work come back that didn’t paint a pretty picture.  It looked as though my liver was failing and when I asked the doctor what the worst case scenarios would be he replied that I might just have weeks to live.  I was twenty eight when this happened.  I had two wonderful children and now had to look at my short life and write the ending.  It wasn’t complete.  I had so much that I wanted to do.  I, just like most, thought I would have more time.  I’d get to it next week, etc.  It was a very dark moment in my life as I came face to face with my own mortality.  I realized I had been on cruise control for most of my adult life.  As you can already deduce, I didn’t die but that event changed me forever.
                I now realized that I was going to do die and while it wasn’t just weeks away it was inevitable.  This time though I was going to be ready or should I say as ready as you can be.   When you have weeks to live, you realize just how NOT important work is.  Sure, it is a necessity to get money but for most of us it takes us a way from our families and the things we love to do for long stretches of time.  The really smart and lucky ones love our work so it’s more tolerable.  I basically, at a fundamental level, re-invented myself way back then.  I changed my diet.  I started exercising.  I changed my life.  Those who know me well enough will draw the lines that I got divorced not to long after that event.  Because of that experience I cherished life in a totally different way than those around me.  I work hard but I play hard.  I strive to be the best at whatever I am doing.  I tried to embody living consciously.  I live in the moment and when I’m focused on something it has my complete attention.  When I’m not working I am doing what I want to be doing and it usually is not what I’d call wasted time.  I never have a moment where I thought what happened to that month?  What happened to that year?  I am living in the present and experiencing life!
It wasn’t too long after the bad blood work event that I found the story 1,000 marbles written by Jeffrey Davis.  It resonated with me because of my experience.  If you aren’t familiar with it I highly recommend reading it, at least once (it is very short).  It’s a parable about appreciating life’s finite nature.  You can read it here:  http://www.landofmarbles.com/marbles-1000marbles.html or buy his book.  You can count the marbles you have left as they go by.  It’s a great way of keeping you focused on what is really important and it makes you consciously aware of just how little time you have left.
Oddly, and this sounds bad, but I wish all those who read this could experience the event that I had with that bad blood work.  I don’t want anyone to actually die but the experience alone would touch and change your life just as it did to me.   Just think about it for a second.  What if you had two weeks to live?  Would you do anything different?  Would you have any regrets?  If the answer to either of those questions is yes then you may have been cruising through life like I did in my twenties.  Stop!  Don’t do that.  Join me in my re-invention if you have to.  Do whatever it takes to start living consciously.  DO NOT put off the things that are important to you.  If you have a friend you haven’t spoken to recently, call them.  If you have always wanted to go see the Great Barrier Reef then put it on your list.  Start saving now and begin making plans to do it.  I never really thought I’d make it to forty!  Now, at forty, I’m making sure that if I do get to fifty or beyond that my list of things that I have to get done will be done.
This is one of the large driving forces behind my re-invention.  I’m going to die.  Unlike those on cruise control though, I’m very aware of this fact.  It's not a bad thing and it is a big motivator!  I’m actively working on my list of things I must get done before that occurs.
 There is another dimension to my re-invention that I just touched on in my first blog posting.  Ask yourself this, how many lives simply extinguish each and every day that you don’t know or hear about?  Roughly ~150,000 people die every day on this planet.  You might hear about a small handful of those each year (unfortunately it’s mostly celebrities).  Worse you may have known one or more of those who passed.  I don’t need to become a celebrity to be relevant but right now, if I passed, outside of my family and close friends I’d be one of those nameless 150,000.  The second part of my re-invention is to make sure that I leave some measurable fingerprint on this planet.  I am going to make a difference before I go.  This second dimension to my re-invention is me trying to find HOW I am going to make that difference.
                In my next blog entry, I’ll go more into how I am approaching some of the things I want to change that I mentioned in my first blog posting.  But before I shared my approach on change I wanted you to understand two of the driving forces behind my re-invention.  I am dying and I haven’t left my fingerprint on the planet yet.  I can't stop the first one but I can most definitely work on the second!  Embrace your mortality and live each day to its fullest.  I’ll end this blog with another quote…
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 - The Year I Re-Invent Myself

     Last year I turned forty.  That is an amazing sentence to see myself type.  I am forty years old.  I don't feel like I am forty years old.  I still playfully state that I have cat like reflexes and can easily keep up with the kids in video games.  Yet I can remember when I was young that I used to think thirty year olds were old.  I still can't believe I am forty years old!

     Depending how long I live I could be half way through my life.  In actuality I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and my life would be over.  That thought doesn't leave me with a warm fuzzy.  Not that getting hit by a bus would give anyone a warm fuzzy but what if you were at the end of your life?  Would you have any regrets?  Would you have anything that you wanted to do but kept putting off?  Or would you look back at your life and think I did everything I wanted to do?  That is what I've been thinking about a lot lately.  Introspection is a good thing as long as you see what you like.  My problem is I see many things I want to change and many things I still want to do.

     What do I want to do?  I want to start traveling the world with my beautiful wife.  There are so many places I want to see and experience with her!  I want to buy her dinner in Paris with a view of the Eiffel tower in the background.  I want to tour Australia with her by my side.  I want to stand with my wife in the middle of stonehenge and dance with her.  I want to travel to Alaska and gaze upon the northern lights with her.  I want to live long enough to see what kind of adults my kids turn out to be.  I want to help them in their major life decisions and be there for them in case they misstep.  I want to see them have their own kids.  I want to piss my kids off by showering their kids with gifts (grandparent spoiling!).  I want to see the men my daughters bring home to seek their hands in marriage.  I can't wait to show them my gun/sword/axe collection <grin>.  As you can see I have many things I want to do.

     What do I want to change?  That is a complex question and I have a complex answer.  The first thing I want to immediately change is centered around two of my children.  Sadly two of my three kids live apart from me.  So I don't feel they've had as much exposure to the values that are all things Billy.  What do I believe in?  What are my values?  These are the things you want your kids to know but how do you expose those values and beliefs to kids who don't live with you?  They have glimpses into my life when they visit but I want my legacy to be crystal clear.  That is only one element I want to change.

     Secondly I want to re-invent myself professionally this year.  Let me take a few steps back to explain that statement.  I am forty years old!  Yet when I look back at what I thought I'd be doing and what I am doing it is radically different.  The more I looked back at my career the more I saw how it was guided by others instead of Billy doing what Billy wants to do.  In my early twenties I was set out to prove someone wrong with my career.  You see I was told that I would fail in the real world because of some decisions I had made early on in life.  Boy did I prove that person wrong :).  I succeeded at EVERYTHING that I did professionally.  In my thirties I found myself guiding my career to impress someone who's opinion I valued.  Since then I've been on cruise control enjoying the spoils of my ability to succeed.  That sounds great right?  However if you take a close enough look I'm not actually doing what I want to be doing.  For most of my career I've been either trying to prove someone wrong or trying to impress others.  To address this I am going to test that ability to succeed as I re-invent myself this year.

So how do I change the things I want to change?  How do I convey my value and belief system to my children who live afar?  How am I planning on re-inventing myself professionally?  How am I going to accomplish all the things I want to do?  You'll have to wait for some follow up blog posts where I'll cover each one in the detail it deserves.  For now just know that this is the year Billy is going to re-invent himself and that more is definitely coming.