Monday, June 30, 2014

What Are The Five Secrets To Life ?

One of the books I've recently read suggests that there are five key secrets everyone should discover before they die.  Here is a link to a short intro to the book on if you want to read about it, but I've also listed the title topics of those five secrets below.

Secret #1:  Be True To Your Self

Secret #2:  Leave No Regrets

Secret #3:  Become Love

Secret #4:  Live The Moment

Secret #5:  Give More Than You Take

I highly suggest buying the book or borrowing it from the library and reading it in its entirety.  The author outlines his experiences conducting interviews of hundreds of wise people in their later stages of life.  The common themes of their success, happiness, wisdom, etc. are contained in these secrets.  They provide insight into living a life you'll be glad you lived when you reach that stage of life and look back on how you've spent your time on this earth.

The first secret has been on my mind a lot lately, but I'm not sure I'm any closer to truly living it.  The author suggests the following questions to help you assess whether you are living true to your self:
- Did this day or week feel like my kind of day / week?  What would make tomorrow or next week feel more true to myself?
- Was I the kind of person I wanted to be today / this week?
- Am I following my heart right now?  What would it mean for me to really do that?

I feel the key with this secret is to really ponder and meditate on who you want to be.  I can think of that in smaller increments (good father, loving husband, caring friend, etc.) but other than an unreachable ideal of perfection (i.e. Jesus Christ) I'm not sure I can define an overall person I want to be.  That leaves me wanting when it comes to knowing if my life's work or personality or even hobbies are truly me or if they are where I happen to be and what I happen to be doing.  At least I theoretically have plenty of years left to figure that out and move toward it right?!

Song Of The Day:
Today's song choice is "I'm Not Who I Was" by Brandon Heath.  My favorite part of it is not the lyrics, although those are great, but rather the background vocals on the chorus.  I'm not sure why they capture my attention each time I hear the song, but I love to sing along.  I'm sharing the song because at least with music I feel like I can be true to myself.  I know what I like and what I don't and more importantly, I know why I like what I like (for the most part).  The title of this track also shares a message about how we can change into whoever we truly are and I love that concept and believe it to be true!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Have You Read Lately ?

As a youth, reading was easily one of my favorite pastimes.  Encyclopedia Brown was a favorite series that comes to mind, but almost any kind of book was interesting to me.  I read fiction and non-fiction.  In either genre my favorite thing to do was imagining myself into the story or identifying with the lessons learned by the main characters and trying to learn them for my own future use.  It was just as Nephi (from the Book Of Mormon - 1 Nephi 19:23) had written when he said he did "liken the scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning."  In fact that's likely where I got the idea.

That concept has stuck with me all my life, but my "reading time" had disappeared almost entirely with the time commitment that my marriage, being a father, working full time, and so on had rightfully demanded.  I didn't really miss my reading time because my life was filled with plenty of other enjoyable experiences in those new roles and responsibilities.  But technology is truly amazing and, if used properly, is another gift from the Lord!

Through use of the Kindle app on my iPad, and my long forgotten library card (I cannot believe it's still active and you can read the numbers on it) I have been able to read three books thus far this year.  That may not sound like much, but if you knew how little I've read books in the past 15 years you would be amazed.
I've read a book about preparing for interviews and a new role or job (from the Knock 'Em Dead series).  I've read a research book (The Power Of Habit - cover shown on the left) which has helped me begin replacing habits I do not want to keep with those I believe to be important to me.  And because the title caught my attention, I've read "The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die."  That book coupled with the Habit book has already inspired and motivated me to make some positive personal changes in how I view and live my life.

Best of all, I have been reminded of my love for investing time and energy in reading again.  Not just reading sports articles or pop culture magazines, but books that I can learn important life lessons from.  Even those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books of my youth taught important truths that I hold dear to me still, mainly: your choices always have consequences ... and you don't get to choose what those are - only the initial choice is yours alone.  What happens afterward is, in some cases, already decided.  So choose wisely!

Song Of The Day:
I love reading, but had forgotten how much.  So I'm featuring a great song by Chris Rice today, which asks a great question.
"When Did You Fall (In Love With Me)"  is a song about relationship love, but the questions pondered in the lyrics could almost all be written about books or other pastimes.  I'd also forgotten how much I loved this melody, so I hope you enjoy it too.


Friday, June 27, 2014

How Do You Teach Technology Etiquette ?

Perhaps the better title of this post would have been "Just because we can does it mean we should ?" but that may be misleading or altogether confusing.  I'm specifically only referring to etiquette when using technology for communication purposes.

It is almost mind-boggling to consider the communication options that technology affords us.  I remember it being less than a decade ago when I had my first workplace video conference call.  I found it amazing to be able to see and hear business partners that were thousands of miles away.  Sure the images were limited and a little grainy, but I was in awe (and this even with my employer's technology being well behind the curve at that time with the equipment we were using).

Fast forward to this year.  I have been on a few video chats with many different people from many miles away ... on my PHONE!  The picture and sound quality are much better than they were in that office chat, and at least one of these situations involved multiple devices being connected (i.e. my phone to someone else's tablet and they are connected to someone else's phone).  Simply AMAZING right?!

And yet ... the social etiquette of these face to face conversations was nothing near what it would have been had we been speaking in person.  This has also been the case when I have received phone calls during a time that text messaging would have been more appropriate to the topic of conversation.  It also goes the other way, where we get so used to texting others that we forget the option we have to actually call and verbally converse with one another.

It seems to me that we'd all be better served to consider the time, place, mode, and purpose of conversations we are having through use of any electronics.
Does everyone need to be connected in on this call or video chat?  Does this need to be discussed now or would it be better after kids and pets have gone to bed or outside?  Wouldn't it be easier to text since the connection is spotty?

Bottom line: just because the technology exists doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

Song Of The Day:
I'm sharing "Talking Loud And Clear" by OMD with today's post.  You've likely never heard this song before, but it's a classic 80's synth-pop tune.  But that isn't why it relates to today's post.  If you take the 4 minutes to listen to the tune, I suggest paying attention to the lyrics as they are poetic and beautiful.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Is The First Step ?

In famous self-help programs it is almost always said that the first step is admitting the problem.  This may seem odd in some circumstances, as it feels rather obvious that there is a problem.  But as I have observed different people in different circumstances lately, it has become clearer to me that many people don't even realize they have a problem in the first place.  And getting them to admit that would be a HUGE first step.

Let's take a few examples of things that might not even be considered a problem.

Electronic device connectivity.  I'm talking about your phone, computer, internet, television, or your iAnything.  How long do you go without needing to "connect" to the grid electronically?  Has it become a habit at certain times of the day or in certain situations?  While we're at it, Facebook or social media could be a problem for you.  FOMO (fear of missing out) isn't healthy, and actually can cause you to "miss out" on real life.

Unhealthy eating.  When was the last time you wrote down everything that you ate for the entire day?  You may actually have snacking patterns that are the main contributing factor to lack of weight loss or increased cholesterol, etc.  Either on purpose or inadvertently, you could be setting yourself up for failure and not even be able to be fully aware of it.  You can't stop poor or excessive eating if you can't admit that it is happening.

Excessive shopping or spending money.  Here again, it likely takes a serious, in depth look at where and when you spend money before you can recognize a problem.  Credit and debit cards have certainly made this very easy to happen without us noticing.  It may only feel like (or even actually be) just $10 here and there, but at the end of the month, the money is long gone and you're left wondering how.

I think the key to fixing these problems begins with having a mentor, coach, or close friend to whom you give explicit permission and authority to call you out on anything.  This likely cannot be your immediate boss at work or even your significant other, as that may cause more problems than it solves.  You need someone who you can trust, but not hold a grudge against, to help you admit where you have problems.  I'm confident this is why we have financial planners, diet and exercise coaches, etc.  I personally would prefer not to have to pay someone to tell me I have a problem, but if that's what it takes to be able to admit it, perhaps it's not a waste of money at all.

Song Of The Day:
Yeah it's a love song, but "Step By Step" by Eddie Rabbitt works well for today's post.  The phrase you've gotta take that first step is why I picked it, because nothing else can happen until you do that.  It works with everything in life and soon those first steps become easier and easier to take.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Are You Even A DJ ?

I've blogged before about a local radio station I love to listen to because it plays soft favorites and smooth jazz.  Most mornings on my commute to work the radio will be tuned to this station and I only turn the channel when commercials come on.

Recently I noticed that there is one other time when I HAVE TO turn the channel, but it has nothing to do with the music or commercials ... it's the DJ.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that one of the most basic criteria for being a Radio DJ would be that you have the ability to speak clearly, confidently, concisely, and without too many of the traditional space-filling words and sounds that most normal humans use (i.e. um, uh, so, hmm, well, or even a sigh).  This is most evident when sharing news updates or short stories to fill time in between loading songs to play, etc.

This guy (DJ Michaels) is HORRIBLE at that basic skill!

I'm a relatively forgiving person, but I simply cannot listen to him once he starts sharing factoids, or funny news stories, or even local news updates.  The best way I can describe how it sounds is like this: picture a college freshman seminar where each person is asked to give a two-minute speech on a topic they've never heard about or seen before in their life.  The stumbling and fumbling around which words to use, the order in which they go, and even the greater purpose of conveying a single thought, idea, or story, seem to be lost amidst random comments or verbal filler.  It's like listening to someone try to tell you about an article they are reading while they are reading it.

I just really wonder how little the salary must be, or how complicated the system for playing music, etc. must be for this DJ to still be employed with such a clear skill being so lacking.

Song Of The Day:
It's only fair to share a really positive song today, to combat the negativity and complaining from my post.  So here's "The Next Time I Fall" by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant which is playing semi-often on the aforementioned radio station.  It fits for me because sometimes this DJ even sounds like he just fell off his chair and is scrambling to fill air time.  The next time that happens I'll continue to change the station until he's done talking.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Do You Even Respond ?

I never thought I would actually have hate toward a letter of the alphabet, but that's what's happening here.  Every single letter response to a text or instant message conversation is moving me further and further down a path of destruction.  I'm beginning to wish the letter didn't even exist.  I'm questioning whether it has any value outside of that lazy response.  In fact, I've written this whole first paragraph to this blog and haven't needed to use it once.  Perhaps it has been over-rated all these years and should be relegated to a single function.

And yet I find myself also wondering ... why do those who invest the infinitely small amount of time to reply with that letter even do so in the first place?  Perhaps, they see the inequality of letter distribution in everyday language and they have vowed to elevate this letter to it's rightful place in history.  Consider their efforts a crusade to right what is wrong.  In that case, they are most certainly not deserving of my negative reactions, but rather are worthy of admiration for their actions.  Could it be that they are sending more of a message than just the letter itself?  If so, what other letters will they rally behind and create usage for?  Will we type or text a simple "Q" to represent answers we do not have?  If someone is boring us or we need to head to bed would a "Z" response suffice?

Perhaps we'll never Know ... (see, I guess it does have another use!)

Song Of the Day:
I think of the title of the song "Don't Answer Me" by the Allan Parsons Project whenever I get a "k" response.  Just save yourself a millisecond and I'll assume you saw the text and agreed with what I said.  I trust technology well enough to believe that you got my message.  If you don't agree or you have something of value to add, feel free to respond when you have time to type at least a few keystrokes.  K?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Grudges Are You Carrying ?

A while back, I received some information from a person whose opinions I generally respect.  This individual was more or less assessing my value with the information that they shared.  At the time, I disagreed with their assessment so much that I took what they shared with me and printed it out on a sheet of paper.  I then folded this piece of paper up and carried it with me for many months.  I was literally carrying a grudge.

I wonder what would happen if we had to do this with all the perceived unfair judgments or improper actions of others.  Would we be as quick to judge or take offense?  Would we seek ways to remove the burden of blaming others?  How much easier would it be to separate real offenses from the very little things that don't matter much at all?  How much easier would it be to see how these reactions are only hurting ourselves?  Would we feel the physical weight of these grudges and choose to let them go sooner?

As for me, I wanted to experiment with having this piece of paper with me everywhere I went (within reason - it's not like I put it in a plastic bag to shower with or anything).  Each day the paper went into one of the pockets in my pants or shorts.  I almost never opened the paper up to look at what was depicted on it.  I didn't need to.  I already knew how this person valued me, or in my estimation under-valued me.

At length, I decided to "let go" of this grudge I was carrying.  It may have been comments from others that enabled me to do this.  As people in my life provided me with compliments or other means their assessment of my value, I found that I'd rather focus on those collective messages than this single statement.  I snapped the picture above and then tossed the paper into a recycle bin at work.  It felt great!  But the real value was knowing that I wasn't burdened any longer by this grudge.  The rest of that day I was much more happy and content.  I saw good all around me and found friends instead of foes.  I wanted everyone to feel that relief of burden from grudges so I wrote this post.  Hopefully anyone reading this can "let go" of things they've been carrying for way too long now.  You'll be glad you did!

Song Of The Day:
One of my favorite genres for music are songs about lost love.  Of course when you're in a happy marriage, it sorta sends the wrong message when you say this, so I have to carefully choose when to share some of these great tunes.  As related to today's song choice, "My Love's Leavin" by Steve Winwood, I suggest replacing the word "love" in the song with the word "grudge."  Then this lost love song can actually be more of a positive song about letting go of grudges.  Yeah it's a stretch I know ... at least I didn't use "Let It Go" from Frozen!  :)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Name Calling ?

Guys have it so much easier than ladies on so many things, but one that I noticed recently is when it comes to names.

Picture this:  You see someone a short ways off who looks familiar.  As you get closer you realize you know them ... but can't remember their name!

If it's a guy approaching another guy, the options are almost limitless:  dude, brother, my man, chief, and so on.  Guys can even create a sort of nickname based on how they know the other guy - Hoopenstein (basketball buddy), Working hard or hardly working (work buddy), Long shot (gambling buddy), etc.  Guys can also remember part of the other guy's name (first, last, initials, etc.) and it just works - Smithy, Joe, KC.

But for ladies ... it's not that simple.

You ever seen a lady holla across a parking lot "Yo Johnson!  How's it hangin'?!"

You ever heard two ladies cross paths in a hallway talking all "Girl how you been?" ... or ... "What up Yoga-lady?"

No, no you have not.

Because it just ... doesn't ... work.

In fact, if you're a lady and you don't know the other lady's name, there may even be a feeling of "Maybe I should walk the other way so she doesn't see me" to avoid the awkward interaction if she remembers your name.

Once again, it's great to be a guy!

Song Of The Day:
It's been a while since I featured a nice country song ... and this one isn't "nice" per se, but it fits this posts quite nicely.  "The Truth About Men" by Tracy Byrd is a song about how simple life is as a man.  While I appreciate the efforts that ladies go through, there's something to be said for keeping things easy and free-flowing.  Sing it my brothers!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Who Is The Real Hero ?

One of my favorite stand-up comedians, featured in this blog before HERE if you want to see one of his routines, was Mitch Hedberg.  One of his more popular bits involves a description that goes roughly like this:
I have a belt that is holding my pants up.  But my pants have loops to hold the belt up.  I don't really know what is happening down there.
Who is the real hero?

It is with that symbiotic relationship of belt, belt loops, and pants in mind that I lead into today's post.

I believe that I am a pretty good person.  I live healthy (mostly).  I treat others kindly (mostly).  I strive to be a good husband and father.  I work hard (in my occupation and in other areas of my life).  I make people laugh (mostly on purpose).  I provide counsel and support to family, friends, and even near-strangers when occasion suggests it is appropriate.

It would be easy to look at all those things and have a sense of self-pride, or begin to feel a little higher than others.  It would be easy to credit myself for possessing and demonstrating those characteristics.  After all, I am me and nobody else can claim credit for my success.  They are MY successes.  I achieved them.  Yay me.

And yet ...

I am NOT the real hero.  I am not the secret behind the success.  I am not truly deserving of the credit for improvements I have made or consistency in my life.  That credit goes to the real hero.  That credit goes to the person who supports me publicly and in secret.  That credit is due to the person who quietly encourages my improvements and consistency.

It is my wife Karen who almost exclusively deserves that credit.

She is my reminder to live healthy and remain active.
She is my best example of treating others kindly.
She is the reason I know how to be a good husband and father.
She is supportive of me in all the hard work I do.
She is the one who laughs the most at my humor, and whose laugh I enjoy hearing the most.
She is my sounding board or practice patient for providing counsel and support to others.

I certainly recognize the hand of many others in this life and from the heavens who I owe a debt of gratitude to for their help as well.  But NONE of these had to choose to support me in the way she has.  NONE of these are called upon as often as I lean on her strength, wisdom, compassion, and belief in me.  I don't think I can ever really express my appreciation to her for this, but I'll enjoy spending eternity trying to do so.

Song Of the Day:
If you have ever heard the song "If She Only Knew" by Brett Raymond, I am impressed with your musical diversity.  The song is found on a CD titled Northern Voices - Faithful, which is a compilation of different artists.  But the actual singer deserves credit for this tune just like my wife deserves credit for any success I have or will achieve.  The tune itself could also easily be sung about her because what a catch she has been for me.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Do You Ever Feel This Way ?

Song Of The Day:
Today was the kind of day I needed to lighten the mood.  It was a Monday in all senses of the word, and I know many people I work with felt it too.  Sadly, on days like this, it is easy to get caught up in an attitude of blaming others and acting more childish than responsible.
With that in mind, I choose to feature "The Animal Song" by Savage Garden as today's song.  I think kids (or adults when they act like kids) and animals are very similar in their primal dog-eat-dog nature.  We have to rise above this if we aim to truly live well.  Here's hoping that tomorrow more people choose to rise up instead of tearing down.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Isn't That Kind Of Backwards?

I am a father of seven children.  They are each wonderful, at least some of the time.  Sadly it is a rare occurrence when they are all wonderful at the same time, but looking at the odds I guess I can't complain.

It is important that you understand how much I love my kids, collectively and individually, because what I'm about to write will almost certainly give you reasons to believe I do not even like them.

Father's Day is one of a few days each year when I actually don't feel guilty doing what I want (the others are my birthday and every other wedding anniversary - since Karen gets to pick our activities on even year anniversaries).

I recognize the irony here, but sometimes, the thing I want most on MY Father's Day is to have those that call me dad just not bug me all day long.  No requests for reading books.  No listening to pointless stories with no plot or recurring characters.  No jokes that make no sense but require me to laugh like they're hilarious.  No reaching toys or other things from high shelves.  No changing diapers or helping comb hair.  No having to explain why Game 5 of the NBA Finals is important or answering who I want to win.  No sharing some of my bacon or ice cream or having to justify why I get whatever snack I feel like and you only get cookies (you GET cookies !!  When I was a kid that was a great day!). No making yucky sounds when I kiss your mother a little longer than you think I should.  No grumbling when I ask you to pick up YOUR mess in MY house.  No fixing you another plate of dinner before I've even had my first helping.  No pumping bike tires, or your basketball, or even getting something out of the attic since it's 'finally summertime.'

None of it.

I just want to NOT be an "all-the-time daddy" for just a little while.  Yes I will miss it and gladly take back my responsibilities tomorrow.  Yes I will find life a little more hollow when it's all about me today.  Yes I will reflect back on the day and wonder why I wanted to be alone.  Yes I will have made a mental list of things we will do as father and kids within the coming month and be excited about checking things off it soon.

But today ... I think I want some ME time.

Song Of The Day:
There's a recent song on the radio called "Am I Wrong" by Nico and Vinz.  The lyrics seem to be written as a love song, which I think can mostly be interpreted to fit into a father's love for his children.  I also like that the title is a fitting commentary for this post.  Is it really that wrong to want a few days of ME time each year?  Is it really wrong to want to not have to be a hard-working father on Father's Day?
Yeah, probably ... But it's my day so that's what I'm choosing!

Friday, June 13, 2014

How Do You Break The Rules ?

In the bathroom at church a few weeks ago, I noticed the following helpful guide on the paper towel dispenser.

I couldn't resist the temptation to live dangerously and with complete disregard for directions.  Oddly enough, nothing bad happened ... including the supposed BIG BLACK X that was supposed to appear.  I was greatly disappointed, but my hands dried off just fine.

Song Of The Day:
Clearly the above description of breaking the rules is not very concerning.  It reminds me of those outrageous rebels known as The Bobby Fuller Four.  You may remember their song "I Fought The Law" but clearly they were up to serious no-goodery.
Anyone who believes these young men (at the time anyway) were fighting against the law will probably also see me as a terrible person who doesn't follow picture directions on a paper towel dispenser.  Crazy times right?!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What Do You Do During Your Commute ?

Changing work schedules has affected my commute days and times.  This has had a mostly positive affect on me, with just a few lessons learned about where or when not to traverse certain intersections and roadways.

One of my favorite things to do during my commute is to leave behind thoughts and feelings of where I'm travelling from and contemplate where I am headed.  This helps me get into the proper mindset for whatever my destination is, whether it be work, church, home, basketball, or some other event or meeting.

All the Case Kids (from Mother's Day 2014)
My favorite commute is always the ride home regardless of where I am travelling from.  I like to imagine what the sights and sounds will be when I open the door and sometimes even daydream a little about the surprised looks on the faces of my beloved family if I am coming home early or if I enter from a door they weren't expecting to see me at.  I also like to make a mental list of activities to be completed or interactions to have, whether they be a kiss for my wife, listening to the kids' recap story of the day, or something less exciting like mowing the lawn.

I am not always successful in this transition (and I'd love to blame it on the commute being shorter than I expected, but that's almost never true), but when I am, it makes a world of difference.  I can hit the ground running, so to speak, and am much better prepared to play whatever role is asked of me.

Song Of The Day:
I actually enjoyed "On My Way Home" by Enya as a sort of returning from my church mission song.  I used to daydream about the flight home from Los Angeles with the words from that tune playing softly in the background.  Now I sometimes think of it as I drive home from work or church or any other place.  As stated in the lyrics "On my way home, I'll remember all the best days" and typically those are days with family and friends.  Now who wouldn't want to daydream about those times?!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When Would You Ever Use This ?

When I first got my work laptop some years ago, I noticed that there was a little button just above the screen.  Naturally I pressed it and a little light popped out that shined on the middle of the keyboard below.

At that moment, and forever afterward when I saw the little button, I wondered to myself (and sometimes out loud) the title of this blog post.  I am a rational person and tried to contemplate any of various scenarios under which a keyboard light would be useful.  I could come up with no logical reasons.

Until today.

Sitting in a dark classroom at work today (I was observing one of our trainers and he was using the overhead projector but needed the lights off so everyone could see the screen), I opened my laptop to send a few emails.  I quickly found this task to be quite the challenge.  I am a three-finger typist, so I still need to look at the keyboard (most of the time) when I type.  It was really dark and I couldn't make out the letters or other keys ... and then a light went off (in my head).

I pressed the almost never used button and VOILA!

I can see!

Many emails were sent.  The small light was not even a small distraction to the members of the class.  Everyone wins.  And I finally know when to use that handy little light!

Song Of The Day:
Sometimes new information comes to us and we can hear hallelujah choirs singing.  Today, I thought of the song "Shine" by Collective Soul .  It would have been even more amusing if I'd broken into the chorus in the middle of the class and, while pushing the button, sang loudly "Come on and SHINE!"  But I didn't.  The thought did cross my mind though.