Reaching Out To The Unlikely – Chalenge To My Sons (All Teens)

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(This is one of my first posts and I feel humbled and proud that my boys have honored the wishes set forth below since the day I first shared it with them)

1/24/15

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. ” – Princess Diana

So now I’m going to ask you boys for something which is less a request and more of a challenge and test.  In a way it’s something you owe yourselves as part of a discovery of who you are and how others see you and/or may be affected by you.  At a minimum after all I’ve written and hopefully assisted you with, this is something that you owe me.

Life has a funny way of working out but many things are not really random.  It can be excellent at times and others, well not so much.  Our ability to make an average day better from our own efforts is not something we should take for granted when we boil it down to its basics.  The best part of our day and overall existence should not be the greatest gifts we receive but the simplest gifts we give and just maybe, create for others.

You boys by virtue of being athletes, relatively easy on the eyes, personable, charming, fairly witty, etc., consequently may fall into the “popular” and “admired” categories, at least in the high and middle school arenas.  All of this changes in the college settings where you can get overlooked in a larger population and the grading scale of success is different.

So take this time to use this aspect of your status to reach out to those who would never imagine that you would even acknowledge them.  They are no less important than those you regularly interact with and importantly, can add a new dimension to your emerging interpersonal skills by exploring their own unique and distinctive attributes.  You just might be surprised that by performing this simple act of altruism, you may expand your understanding of your infinite coexistence with a few of the 7 billion people on this planet.

This is a perfect time to attempt to figuratively “touch someone” in an unexpected and meaningful fashion because of the daily paths you cross in your school communities.  When you get older and in your professional world, you will meet a lot of people who you are essentially required to interact with, and consequently it’s financially beneficial to excel in that capacity.  But how authentic are those interactions when the objectives are more self-serving than a genuine extension of the best of who you are.  It’s no excuse, just the frequent trap that engulfs us.  It’s unfortunate to find that we ignore the opportunities, either due to the hectic pace or schedule of our days, to slow down and capitalize on the random lives that we can affect or be affected by.

So my challenge is to make a simple attempt this next week (or longer) to acknowledge the unlikeliest of suspects whether it be another student, teacher, staff member, janitor, acquaintance, etc., who may fall outside your normal social sphere and would least expect it – I’m sure you can think of a few people who fall in that category.  Take an extra few seconds to just say “hi” or “how are you” to that person and pay attention to the response, if any, and do it at least one more time in the upcoming days.  If done only once, it can be construed as a fluke or aberration.  Importantly, initiate the encounter and use the person’s name, look at them, smile, and again at a minimum, wait for some sort of response and then take it however you wish from there.  Don’t think about it too much – just try it because there’s no reason not to and you might find a surprising return on the investment.

I’m not asking you to adopt my routine because frankly, you probably think I’m nuts!  I have the time, desire, and my own personal objectives which essentially involve gratitude for where I’m at and where I want my soul to remain.  Some might think I reach out to so many random individuals outside of my comfort zone for attention but that’s where they’d be mistaken.  My intention has never been to draw attention to myself (although that’s often the outcome), but to give my attention to those around me who deserve or maybe could just use it.  In the end though, I know that I benefit from it in too many ways to count and describe in detail.

All of our lives offer so many unnoticed and undiscovered things which really take little awareness to uncover.  Sometimes we get so locked inside our routines to appreciate what’s in front of us because we think external demands and distractions insist upon it.  Let’s be clear – they shouldn’t, they’re really not as significant as you think, and you can control your approach to them, all for the better!

So please be thoughtful in everything you do, and let that also include those who just happen to be part of your surroundings because the opportunities are abundant and shouldn’t be ignored.

And you want to know why it should come easy?  Because it’s the way you were raised, it’s who you are, and it honors your parents and those who influenced you to be that way!

Why Beauty Is Baseball – Sharing With The Boys

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4/6/15 (I wrote this to my sons over 2 years ago when Jason was a junior in high school and Christian was still a year from starting his high school career.  It seems somewhat prophetic now that J has begun his college baseball career at U of Santa Clara and C committed to play baseball at U of Washington after he graduates in 2019.  Coincidence – I’m fairly certain there’s more to it than that.)

“Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.” — Friedrich Schiller

This is when life is so liberating.  It’s when the exquisite and magnificent inner-structural components are pieced together so that we are momentarily elevated above the normalcy of our routine existence!  Wow, that was quite the combination of “big” words and the reason is that I’m not sure I’m able to precisely describe and articulate the moments where the “grace” and “freedom” converge as mentioned above.  I just know when it happens because it just seems and it feels that way!

I sometimes feel guilty because it happens so frequently during the most mundane moments when I slow down, take more in that’s around me, and make those moments not just part of me but able to surround them as opposed to letting them surround and overwhelm me.

When I read this quote, I instinctively went back to younger days and the freedom I felt during the buildup before, and the release of the usual daily boundaries right when I crossed onto the baseball field for any reason.  This occurred at almost any age starting from little league through high school and up until those ultra-competitive adult leagues I played in where the quality of the players kept alive my personalized and frenzied addiction to the sport.  I guess it was during those times that my life truly belonged to me, free of external obligations and responsibilities.  It’s funny but even though other players and coaches surrounded me, sometimes they were just voices in the background while I settled into my own individual state of reality.

I know baseball is considered a team sport but for it to have any particular meaning so that players can perform by and through the inner power that’s possessed, it has to be experienced and measured in accordance by individual models for successful attainment of “baseball nirvana”, devoid of external restrictions or limitations.  Is thIs that odd or do you guys ever feel that way because it can’t just be me, can it?

There was no one particular moment that baseball generated such an instinctive and personal state of mind but it was no doubt a combination of: the feeling of a ball settling into my glove; that same ball being released traveling stealthily along different horizontal angles and distances; an unbridled pitch that is captured, corralled, and released under the control of a bat; the acceleration around a base where the body is catapulted by the feet and legs towards the next destination that almost certainly belongs to you; and/or the “punch out” pinch or play to end an inning and jogging calmly off the mound or your position knowing that it’s all you can do to control yourself from exalting in the air and fist-pumping all the way back to the dugout (don’t do that or you’ll invite a retaliatory pitch but then again Jason would welcome getting hit by a pitch and then steal second and maybe third).

I got snippets of those days teaching and coaching you boys but living through you guys just doesn’t come close to replacing those feelings that were left behind.  J and C, remember that smile on my face you saw in that old high school video I showed you?  There’s no way to recall the precise thoughts in my head or during so many times after when art was inter-spliced with actual, living moments, but I’m guessing you have an idea.  But the best part about being a fan of you two in the stands is that I don’t have to restrict myself from expressing the excitement you elicit out of me when you the things that seem to come so natural to you knowing that few others are capable of them.

Oh and don’t ask me to calm it down because I can’t, I won’t, and shouldn’t have to, because it’s my connection with not just you guys but a love of a sport that was created well before and evolved well before you were born!  Just deal with it and bust your ass on the field because emotionally, so am I on the other side of it.

“Faith is love taking the form of aspiration.”  Think of this quote and apply it to why you are still playing baseball and plan to continue to do so at a high(er) level while others couldn’t or won’t be able to forge the same transference.

Obviously you found love and enjoyment in the sport through discovery and/or influence along while growing up with so many others around you.  But who’s left among those who you played against and why?  I’m guessing it’s because your sport requires maximum elevation allowing maximum mental, spiritual, and physical evolution leading to maximum execution that has to be harnessed and directed towards specific objectives that form the standards of your own personal goals and aspirations.  This my friends is where grace equals freedom and feeling anything different means you’re not thinking the right way, not loving the game so that it loves you back, or letting the wrong things enter in your own individual sphere to disturb what is one of the most magical and rewarding relationships that you’ll experience.  Eliminate that from happening and just enjoy where the resulting freedom takes you!

Last thing:  Remember the outcome will most times take care of itself if the approach is sound.  Not always but once you’re in the right place and where you need to be before you cross the write lines, the only surprises in store should work in your favor and against your opponents but then again, there are really few surprises when you put everything out there that continues to form the masterpieces you create!

So get your mind right because “we seek purpose when we are not in touch with who we really are.  When an apple tree discovers who it is, the question ‘what must I do?’ disappears.  When you discover who you are (at the deepest part of your being) you will find your purpose.” — Colleen-Joy Page

A Moment Of Thanks For Today – Thoughts For My Son

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5/16/14

“You were given a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?.”

Whether it be to God, family, friends, a loved one, or even random stranger who was kind to you, don’t miss the opportunity to express a level of gratitude.  If to God, don’t forget to thank Him for the challenges and obstacles you’ll face because by exhausting your efforts to overcome them, you find and define yourself and ultimately begin to understand His intensions and why He has faith in you and each other.

Also in those numerous seconds, mix in a few hugs, smiles to others, laughs, “I love you’s”, silly moments, tears if your heart is moved that much, and reflections of the day.  It took me a long time to realize this so I pass it on to you my Child. Trust me, it’s so worth it!

Part Of Our Purpose – Guidance To My Sons

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7/14/14 (originally posted 1/15)

“One word or a pleasing smile is often enough to raise up a saddened and wounded soul.” – Therese of Lisieux

I don’t really think that God has created us with the unrealistic expectation that we would create a cure for cancer or solve world hunger.  It would be unbelievable if we could but it is no less remarkable than recognizing that someone may benefit from a simple kind gesture.  It is difficult to justify ignoring such an opportunity when that person is close to you.

It does not matter what kind of response in return you receive because that person may be so immersed in their inner turmoil to respond as we would expect.  They just need to realize that they are not alone, forgotten, or ignored, because in time they will realize it.

It would be a betrayal of the gifts and blessings of the good fortune given by our Creator and family to step over a chance to simply share a smile because so many in our vicinity need one.  Maybe you have momentarily been there and it’s reasonable to predict you might encounter similar situations.  Make sure you offer what you would gratefully appreciate and need during those times. We do not live in a vacuum nor are we alone and it takes so little to contribute to life’s basic simple elegance.

Accepting And Working Through Challenges – Message To My Sons

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9/18/14

“To be successful you must accept all challenges that come your way.  You can’t just accept the ones you like.”

Life would be so less complicated if all that we wished for flowed to us on a simple stream.  All we would have to do is sit and wait for their arrivals.

No such luck nor should it be that way!  Our greatest accomplishments have to be measured in some manner.  Of course that has to be a study that involves a detailed reassessment of the starting point to its eventual outcome.  The flawed efforts and disappointing initial results have to be factored in before recognizing the level of accomplishment.

Take this into account in the planning for your most important goals.  The ship you charter towards those goals will never sail along the same route you planned.  No matter how you foresee the anticipated obstacles, they present themselves differently or are either replaced with other ones.

DON’T BE FRUSTRATED OR DETERRED!  This is just part of the journey and don’t just crash ahead blindly and stubbornly without thought when simple adjustments will get you to your destination quicker.

Accept this.  Challenges are created by your decisions, failure to make decisions, delay in acting on decisions, or decisions made by others who by necessity (or unfortunately at times your permission) create challenges.  Either way the challenges exist and it is vital that you react to them appropriately, promptly, positively, and with the commitment necessary to overcome them.

You may sometimes doubt whether you have it in you to carry on towards certain dreams because of the complexity of a problem, the effort required, and the uncertainty whether the direction you are headed is towards the proper point on the compass.  DO NOT STOP other than to rest, breathe, think, get your bearings, and then keep moving.

Don’t worry about whether you have the ability.  The creation of the dream was predicated by what was created in you and, fashioned by what was already within you. Where you are at is at the beginning of the discovery of what has been in you all along and what you will find in the future.  Remember – “not overachievement”, just a matter of “under-discovery”!

Read the creation of challenges as set forth above again.  Use what you already know about yourself to avoid their creation or just overcome them.  Be confident that you have within you what has yet to be uncovered to overwhelm the unexpected and associated complications.  I am a man of faith when it comes to you boys so don’t let me and more importantly, yourself down.

The Dreams Waiting To Be Fulfilled – Thoughts For My Sons

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 (Originally Posted 6/15 but even more meaningful as my sons and I are two years older as many of their dreams, old and new, are more defined and within reach)

6/22/15

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale

The other thing is don’t give up on that dream because it takes too much effort, time, sacrifice, or it becomes too confusing.  It may not make sense until the dream is actually realized but the scope of who you are, and maybe never envisioned yourself being, is how you respond to the most difficult obstacles on the journey to any dreams fulfillment.  Oh and if there weren’t any struggles along the way, you may want to revisit the substance of that dream, it’s origin, and possibly how “ordinary” it actually may have been compared to the average aspirations of so many others.

I’m not saying there’s no value to those minor accomplishments that we achieve because everything that is performed for our betterment should be experienced with joy and and an equal sense of pride because it’s part of the act of living and should never be overlooked, downplayed, or diminished.  Just make sure that upon quiet reflection, the self-satisfaction is proportional to the quality of the achievement and not overinflated for elements of drama, vanity, ego, or delusion.

I’m not sure that “suffering” is the proper term for what we experience during those times when adversity really taxes the internal chemistry of self-confidence and optimism that generally reinforces our plans to obtain the grander goals we envision.  Maybe it’s more a matter of “enduring” that particular period of time but I guess the terminology is subjective as to how we interpret that experience but remember your character will be measured by the demonstration of your responses to the conditions that challenge us.  I think it’s important to understand and accept that adversity, by its nature, is meant to be difficult, deflating, and generally an exhaustive challenge to our resources and may sometimes feel like a cannibalization of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical assets that we have stored for these occasions.

So when things aren’t working out or falling into place at the moment, don’t get frustrated with yourself because of any resulting feelings of failure nor should you get disappointed with how you interpret your life at that moment or for that matter, life in general, just because things haven’t worked out so far.  That just means that what you’re working towards just hasn’t happened YET and any other mindset is a defeatist and a counter-productive attitude opening the door to excuses, victimization, and martyrdom, and as Dico’s, you know how much tolerance for that is allowed!

So read the the following from the author of “Tom Sawyers Cabin” and I pray that it registers and makes the most logical sense.  “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe.  This is along the lines of my previous discussion with Jason where I shared my outlook that with each new day ahead of us, there is still the potential that it could turn out to be the best day of our lives regardless of what it actually delivers and from that, hope and optimism should continue to be fed.  And so with dreams, they truly never fade until we give up on them because we surrender to the obstacles and difficulties that make them seem no longer obtainable.  Please, please, don’t let that happen!

Oftentimes you’ve come too far to give up on what you think is the final end of a story when it’s only the conclusion of another chapter with the next one waiting to be written.  Just summon a deeper faith in yourself and stay hopeful about life in all of it’s overall beauty, no matter how it temporarily presents itself, because overwhelmingly more often than not that’s all it is – temporary. Just keep trying along with working harder, better, and maybe a bit differently if needed (why pound your head against the same wall?) because if you seek to uncover whatever you are looking for, it just might find you first!

Just remember that the chances for our best dreams to evolve towards fruition never disappear as long as we continue to cross even the most unstable bridges that might cause those less committed to their destinations to turn back because of what they can’t see yet or even worse, because of what others have told them can’t be done.  From the likely to even the most remote chances that any of our dreams can come true will always stay alive if we just avoid succumbing to products of what is only passing despair.  It makes sense that we are better served by maintaining an underlying basis of hope in the thought that given enough time, effort, a little assistance when stubborn pride has failed (okay that applies to me), and maybe a little serendipity, what we thought was so far away was just out of view and on the verge of introduction into our lives.

So I will end with a quote that I hope you can incorporate into the better part of your character because first it makes sense and second, what’s the purpose of thinking otherwise?  “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde.  If that should be our “punishment” for the hope and optimism we strive to uphold as we proceed towards our dreams, then let us all be held accountable for such efforts because the dawn of what we envision is right there awaiting our discovery!