Today’s Lesson: “I Hate Learning Patience” [140926]

“I hate learning patience,” Nicole said as she left for work.

She was waiting on an important answer and knew it would still be a few days before she heard. When I want to know something, I am also impatient but rather than see the lesson in it (waiting helps us learn to be patient), I agonize over not knowing.

I love this lesson because it applies so many times and in so many ways for me. When I am waiting for a response, or an important decision, or for information, or for clarification… being frustrated, anxious, and over-analyzing things that are not yet in my control is a choice.

The other choice is to see the opportunity to practice being patient. That does not mean I have to like it, just that I can choose to learn and apply or to agonize and whine.

I hate learning patience (but I like it better than feeling frustrated!).


Today’s Lesson: Silence Is Golden [140925]

In big crowds, I tend to be quiet.


I used to think it was because I am shy but I realize now it is because I am interested, not introverted.

You will be surprised what you can learn in a group of people if you do less talking and more listening. This is also true even when you are alone.

Sometimes you do not have to explore or implore.


If you just sit quietly and listen for a while… the world will reveal itself.


Today’s Lesson: Staying Up Late [140924]

Time spent with friends is sometimes more valuable than sleep. I enjoyed a rare moment with my peers, discussing work, strategies for success, and general life drama (with a bunch of District Sales Managers, there is plenty of life drama!).

We had to be up early for a meeting but we had so much fun enjoying each other’s company we reluctantly went to bed with only a few hours left to rest.

You should always try to have enough rest but, once in a while, the information or pleasure of an opportunity to share with others in a meaningful way is more valuable than fleeting dreams.


Today’s Lesson: Veganomics [140923]

I looked at the scale and could barely believe my eyes. I lost 53 lbs the year I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan. At first, I thought it was great but then I started to worry. I didn’t know if, or when, the weight loss would stop and, frankly, it was getting expensive to keep buying new clothes.


The weight loss did stop, though, after about a year. I think it was only because it took me that long to find vegan junk food. There are a lot of myths around veganism and probably as many reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle (meaning you do not consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, another animal) but weight loss was never part of my reason for “embracing the ‘V”.


Over dinner, I explained to a friend that many people choose to go vegan for better health but are surprised to find we vegans can be just as fat on a vegan diet as meat and dairy centric people can be on their diet. The vegan diet is still healthier in many ways but if you are looking to lose weight, forget all the diet advice and media hype out there.


There is only one sure way I know of to drop pounds and it is virtually foolproof. Here it is: eat less, move more.


The more you move, the more fuel you burn. To become lean, you simply must burn more fuel than you take in.


Being vegan is great and I have enjoyed many benefits like needing less sleep, having greater concentration and more energy, almost never being sick, and generally feeling about 10 years younger than my age. Those are all fine reasons to choose veganism, too, but if you are doing it in the hopes of becoming thinner, I would just advise you to go for a walk instead!


Great food, though. So much great vegan food. Just thinking about it makes me think I need to go for a walk, too…




Today’s Lesson: United We Stand [140922]

It is amazing what two people can accomplish together. I have had many victories this year… both career successes and many personal successes. I was reflecting on the year so far today, and I realized all the biggest wins in my life (this year and throughout my life) have been with the support and partnership of someone else.


Some random successes that popped into my head were when I was younger and writing lyrics for local singers. That success came because a coworker read my poetry and demanded I take it to her producer friend. It was a great partnership but I would never have gone down that path without her.


Achieving my black belt–especially when it became a personally difficult choice–came because my long-time friend and teacher, Shihan (Master) Peterson, was behind me the whole way, telling me I could do more than I ever thought I could, and then showing me it was true! Moving to Grand Rapids on the tail of a failed career, divorce, and financial ruin could never have happened without the loving support of my brother, Milo. He quite literally dropped everything to make sure I had what I needed to succeed.


It is hard to imagine how I would have succeeded in many areas without someone else there to hold me up, hold me accountable, or sometimes just help me hold it together. All my successes happened with partners. On the other hand, all my biggest failures happened alone (divorce, trying to go into business for myself by myself, bankruptcy… all the bad stuff was with the help of me, myself, and I).


Looking at whatever you are trying to accomplish right now, pause and make sure you have a partner. In a world as complex and chaotic as ours is, you can probably find a way to go it alone, but I can tell you unequivocally it is easier, and more fun, to have a partner in crime.


(But, of course, don’t actually commit crimes. Hopefully both you and your partner are not that dumb…)




Today’s Lesson: Nice Shirt. [140921]

My cheap shirt annoyed me the whole time I was walking today.


At first thought, there was a small bug caught in it or something. With every step, something pointed seemed to rub against my chest, making me itch. I realized it was the shirt itself.


I have slowly been upgrading my wardrobe over the last year, replacing two or three older (usually inexpensive) items with one high-quality (usually higher-priced) item. Paying more for something is not always a smart thing to do but it does seem that better quality often comes at a higher price.


Adopting a minimalist approach has allowed me to have more freedom by buying less stuff (which means less stuff to store, clean, repair, upgrade, and maintain). Being minimal also allows me to spend more on the stuff that really matters to me and I am learning the difference that quality can make is astounding!


One thing is for sure: I am excited to put a better shirt on as soon as I get home!




Today’s Lesson: Give a Little [140920]

I have been very lucky to work with and for many great people, including my current boss. He is as much a friend as a mentor, even though we work mostly remotely.


Occasionally my boss will send me a token gift to let me know he is thinking of me or just that he appreciates me. The gift might be a book or a gift card or sometimes even a funny toy. Nothing extravagant, just something to say thanks.


I have adopted the same practice with my team. My company has a gracious “generosity” budget–a few bucks that I can use to fund a random act of kindness. I exceed that budget every week by bringing my frontline managers coffee, cookies, fun vegan snacks, or sometimes I will just take them to lunch.


This is not part of a company plan or any master-ploy. Maybe it is just “Leadership 101” stuff, but it really sank in while I was reading a book my boss sent me. It is not something that is even top of mind. I don’t plan or budget it in; I just grab something on my way to work to let someone on my team know, “This is just because you’re awesome.”




Today’s Lesson: Local Treasures Lost And Found [140919]

Some people prefer to live in their comfort zone, no matter where they are. When on vacation, they stick to what they know. They shop at Walmart, eat at McDonald’s or Applebee’s, and grab coffee from Starbucks no matter where they go.


I suppose there is nothing wrong with always sticking to what you know you like but, oh man, are they missing out! I might never have found some of the best food I have ever had if I always stuck in my comfort zone. There are local treasures everywhere! When I visit Chicago, I don’t want Mickey D’s; I want Native Foods or The Chicago Diner! Amazing places with food you can’t pronounce but you know will knock your socks off!


When I visit Savannah, I don’t want Starbucks (though I do love Starbucks!). I want The Sentient Bean–I had a Cardamom cookie there that is almost worth driving 18 hours back for! I want Watercress in Denver, and right here in Grand Rapids I don’t want Walmart. I want West Michigan Clothing, The Mad Dogz, Kava House, Stella’s, Salon Re:, Bartertown, Brick Road, Peninsula Trading, Love’s, Mad Cap, Under The Vine, The Mitten, Spoonlickers, and Tacos El Cunado! I want the best of the best–not the standard vanilla I can have anywhere across the nation. Not only are the names more fun but the local people who run those places have a vested interest in the quality and heart that goes into whatever they do.


Wherever you are, go off the beaten path. Find the really good stuff.




Today’s Lesson: Let The Music Play [140918]

I gave up listening to music for about 6 months. The following 6 months I listened only to instrumental music. It was a fascinating experiment and I was reminded of it today when a friend shared one of their favorite songs.


The music was great but when I heard the lyrics, I immediately remembered what I learned from my experiment. Popular musicians are crazy.


So many of us find comfort, solace, or worldly wisdom from pop songs. The only problem is pop musicians do not live in the same world as most of us. People like Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z, Prince, or Tim McGraw are so far removed from normal relationships, social and political struggles, or common hardships that they are simply not qualified to have a relevant opinion on these matters. Do you think Prince has ever had any dating/living situation that even remotely resembles any relationship you or I have had? Yet, people flock to these performers in fantasy worlds for guidance. We learn about love from Sting and Van Halen before we ever read a book about it or turn to actual professionals.


If you are getting advice on love, sex, religion, society, or politics from complete nutters like Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Shania Twain, Elton John, Lil’ John, or even John Mayer… just consider the source.


You would be better off taking advice on Quantum Mechanics from your actual car mechanic. I am not a total curmudgeon. I like music. You should enjoy music… I just think you should also remember you are listening to, at best, talented crazy people.



Today’s Lesson: The Umbrella Incident [140917]

The sun umbrella on our deck has been folded closed the last few weeks. When I opened it, I was surprised (actually, alarmed!) to find several bees, spiders, beetles, flies, and moths were either trapped in the folds or seeking warmth there.


Like most people, I am not a fan of bugs. I don’t fear them and I choose not to kill them but I still do not like them surprising me.


Since we have only used the umbrella a few times this year, we decided it is better to give it away than to deal with “uninvited guests” on the rare occasions when we open it. This reminded me of the singularity of our expectations against the duality of nature. Sometimes we only see the good (or the bad) without remembering the other side of the equation.


When Nicole and I bought the umbrella, all we thought about was the comfort it would bring on hot days when the sun is directly overhead. We had fantasies of sitting on the patio in the shade with our tablets and drinks, enjoying the weather. We forgot about all the times we have seen bugs on other people’s umbrellas or watched a storm carry an umbrella off.


Of course, this principle applies elsewhere. How many times have you written someone off (only seeing the bad) to later find they blossomed into something better? Or how many times have you naively committed to seeing only the good in someone, to the point that you could not see the bad, even when it was right in front of your face?


People, like everything else in nature (including patio umbrellas), have more facets to them than meets the eye and the best way I know to never find my expectations unfulfilled… is to not be attached to any.