Rear View Mirror Images Reflect Future

California is a long way from home.

This week a young man, whom I first met over half-dozen years ago as a middle-school student practicing a new skateboard trick in the middle of the cul-de-sac on our block, is moving across the country.

While California represents a tremendous distance when measured by the odometer on a car’s dashboard, the bigger gap is the one he’ll see in the rearview mirror. Building a brand new life without your traditional support system while life throws its best challenges at you can be daunting.

Statistically, a great many of us know this from personal experience. Picking up and moving away from the family and friends we’ve known our entire lives is in many ways, the moment we really begin to grow up. Life begins – for real – when you begin making adult decisions without the security of a safety net below.

The other night I saw a few photos of him at a family going-away party move across Facebook. Looking at the photos of the young man – only a relatively short time from his departure – I joined others posting words of encouragement.

“Go change the world,” I wrote.

But within minutes my words felt increasingly inadequate. While I truly meant what I wrote, I knew there was so much more I wanted to share. Life is to be lived with a vengeance – embracing each and every moment with passion and commitment to leave your personal contribution behind.

But life without a safety net can be tricky.

While this isn’t meant to be a manifesto, I do wish I could’ve shared a few more thoughts many of us learned along this very road.

Life will not be fair. Like gravity, learn to accept this natural force of life. In each experience will be a lesson you can learn and apply to a future opportunity. If you don’t, you’ll get stuck in a quagmire of unhappiness never recognizing the true opportunities in life when they come around.

You will make your own luck. Good things happen to good people – but more times than not they’ve also worked hard to put themselves in position to take advantage of the opportunity. Again, this is one of those inarguable forces of the universe.

Always remember who you truly are. New experiences will bring new opportunities and people into your life. When in doubt, always do a gut check to the very basic principals that helped steer you though difficult times in your life. Your gut is your friend and generally right.

Don’t be afraid to change. Not to contradict the earlier point, but change is good so long as you are growing and learning in a productive direction. None of us could ever accurately project the person we eventually became later in life.

You will become the sum of your experiences and actions. Make sure you make good decisions, as life doesn’t come with an eraser.

Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.  The sooner you recognize you’ll never fully figure out the universe, the better your life will be. Just ask around if you don’t believe me.

And finally, your family will always love you. Consider this your personal lucky charm when things get really tough – as will happen. No one gets out of life without a few of these chapters.

California – or anyplace you choose to go while leaving all you know in the rearview mirror – is a long way from home. Those of us who’ve already cut our own paths in life are truly excited for you. And as Apple founder Steve Jobs liked to say, “go put a ding in the universe”.

– 30 –

Digital Indigestion Coming to a Screen Near You

As technology continues to make reading more accessible, I’m coming to the realization what I really need is either more hours in the day or a little pill designed to relieve my discomfort.

Our house is filled with books, magazines and newspapers. Peek inside most every room and you’re likely to find a little space sequestered away for a comfortable chair and stack of books. Reading, in our home, is kind of a mini retreat – a quiet place to get away and get lost between the covers.

But now the world of technology is threatening this simple formula.

I’m pretty much like the rest of the population and found myself welcoming digital reading products into my world. As a matter of fact, I’ve both an iPad and a Kindle reader. The purchasing assumption, of course, was grounded in how these devices would make my life ‘easier’.

Well, so much for that theory. I think I’m wrestling with a case of indigestion of the mind.

Today my world is filled with even more access to reading, and to thirsty reader, this is like turning a kid loose in a candy store with $50 cash. And to add to my affliction, publishers’ are responding by putting even more content out for consumption on digital devices. For those of us who can’t seem to get enough, this could become overwhelming.

Got a book you’d like to read but don’t have time to go to your local bookstore? Simply open up your e-reader or tablet and in moments you’re connected to a digital destination. With a simple click of key any book you’ve ever dreamed of reading can be digitally downloaded onto your device of choice in mere minutes.

Furthermore, publishers are now taking advantage of ‘push’ technology or a subscription model so you literally don’t need to raise a finger to get the content on your device. No longer to do I need to ‘go out’ and find the website for the New York Times – it is magically delivered to my Kindle each day.

Today’s world is literally overflowing with opportunities to read or consume content – and some of us are in danger of choking on characters and digits.

My original Kindle will hold approximately 1,500 non-illustrated books. The Kindle 2, on the other hand, claims to hold over 3,500 similar titles. While this number is enough to make me choke, Apple raised the ante to a mind-numbing 28,000 titles for it’s current top-level iPad unit.

Add to this the number of books and magazine websites I read on my phone while waiting for something or another and no wonder my brain at times feels as if it is about to explode.

Where I once felt learning to read was a critical skill, I now wonder if learning to manage intake is the next logical – or survival – skill needed to manage this new world. Because without learning to control my urges to read, I’m probably setting myself up for an extended bout of consumption indigestion.

– 30 –

Flight Proves Time Travel Possible

My son is now an adult. Full-fledged, old-enough-to-drive-a-car, vote-for-president, register-for-the draft, walk-into-a bar-and-order-a-beer adult. Life is truly different now.

A few weeks ago he and I flew across the country together for a long weekend. Just the two of us in a new city with our backpacks filled with our laptops, a change of clothes, a room reservation and a very loose idea of a few things we might want to do.

Our son, now a junior in college, rarely comes home these days. Yes, I know this is both normal and healthy, but no matter how much you truly understand this, you always feel as if your family is slightly out of kilter. Although my wife and I still share our home with our teenage daughter, I believe we all share the same feelings about this stage. Heck, even our dog will pause at our son’s door looking longingly into his room for a playing partner.

Walking through the airport with my son on that day of our departure I found myself noticing a wall near a coffee shop as we approached the security check-in area. Immediately I thought of a snapshot on display in our home of he and his sister standing together – he in first grade and his sister still a couple years from joining him in school. He’s serious, and she, as usual, is not. I still laugh when I see the photo. If I remember right, they’d gone to the airport to see their grandfather fly back to his home.

Only on this particular day, fast-forward 15 years, my world is much different.

With the confidence only earned from inside, he strides across the open area, carefully navigating his way through the crowd. Flashing back to the picture on display in my head, I fight the natural parental urge to race to keep him close. Not too many years ago I might’ve required he and his sister to stay within arms length so they’d not get separated or lost in the crowd. Today, however, he does not need my assistance or protection in an airport – or any crowd at this time.

When he moved away to college, my parental emotions were engaged in a difficult battle with the logical acceptance of time encouraging me to let him go. It is a strange feeling standing at the bittersweet crossroads where pain and pride cross.

After our plane landed, we found ourselves hiking and trekking though a city of millions of strangers. As concrete towers dwarfed each of us, we’d periodically find ourselves separated, as he might want to go find a coffee shop while I might want to duck into an art studio. But no matter how much I tried to shake the feeling of worrying about his safety, I could not. For me, I needed to learn to accept he was no longer the little boy in the picture in the living room.

There is, however, a happy ending to this story. When the wheels of the plane left the ground that first day, I was flying out with my son. When we returned a few short days later, I was traveling with my new best friend. The fact he was my son was merely a technicality.

– 30 –

Emotions Trump Logic and Reason

“You know,” said the woman sitting next to me, “you should know he was a musician before he became an attorney.”

Earlier this week I found myself sitting in a room just offstage of a local theater while speaking to a man who’s stepped forward to help a local performance group bring a controversial play to the stage. But for him, the motivation behind his investment may very well come from somewhere deep inside. You see, before most of us became who we are today, we were someone much different long ago.

If we play it right, life gives us a good many chapters to explore, grow, and find ourselves. For some, we never really leave the past behind – carefully storing away a small nugget of an earlier time in a curiously protective manner. While we understand life moves forward, we never really want to fully erase any trace of the earlier chapters in our lives.

My new friend is well spoken and radiates a spark of genuine joy from his eyes.

“I met my wife in the theater,” he later tells me. “I’d been asked to fill in on a part at the last minute. Hadn’t been on stage in over 20 years or so.”

He’s speaking literally. They met on the stage, married and started yet another chapter in life shortly afterwards.

Actors from the performance poked their heads into the small reception room where a handful of people gathered before show time. A television camera is set up in the corner while another reporter fidgets with his camera. It’s nearly show time.

I think of the woman’s words earlier – those about him once being a musician – and how they led to this particular moment in time.

Most of us like to convince ourselves we make decisions based in logic and reasoning. Emotions, we tell ourselves, are a dangerous path to follow when making important decisions. Think, don’t feel, we force ourselves to believe.

Today I wear a jacket and tie nearly every day of the week. But inside, believe me, this is not who I see myself as. That person, as I’m sure is true with most of us, is someone rooted in a time of less responsibility, less concerned about the world around us.

Deep inside of me are remnants of the person who once competitively rode skateboards as well as later wore an over the top, spikey mullet rivaling Andre Agassi at the top of his game (in terms of hair, that is).

But today, ‘jacket and tie guy’ is always thirsty for a taste of a time considered long passed when measured by the calendar. To this day I still find myself eagerly looking over fences for an empty swimming pool or finding an excuse to drop into a half-pipe at a local municipal skate park. There will always be a soft spot in me for certain opportunities in life no matter how may suits hang in my closet.

As the curtain rose from the stage floor I looked back across the theater to see the musician-turned-attorney-turned producer sitting back in his seat. This did not follow any investment logic his broker might recommend nor could someone easily offer a solid reason for bankrolling such an undertaking.

But then again, the musician never asked.

– 30 –