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The Forgotten Art of Finding Brotherhood

9:30 AM on a Tuesday. It’s been in my calendar for over four years. It’s an hour blocked off, sacrosanct. It’s something I can point to every week, something I look forward to and it’s something that keeps me very grounded.

A balm for my soul.

For over four years, my friend Tom and I have met for coffee. We don’t make every week happen. Tom has a bit of cancer that causes him some problems, so he gets a pass when he has to cancel. We occasionally go through a book on leadership or development, a passion of ours, but mainly we sit and talk about our lives. The struggles and the joys, the laughs and the bumps that come when we are in our 40s.

Every time we meet for coffee it isn’t this inspirational moment; you wouldn’t use it in a clip at a TED talk. But it’s valuable and at times, crucial.

And when I talk to other men in their 30s and 40s, they look at me as if I’m speaking Swahili. They are stunned into silence because male friendship isn’t something we talk about much.

If we mention it, we are found to be soft and weak. If we utter it’s name, we might get a strange stare or even worse a critical laugh.

So we stay silent about it and in our refusal to own up to the problem it’s not our bodies that suffer; it isn’t our cholesterol or our blood pressure.

Instead it is our very soul that suffers.

Men are more lonely now than ever. If you ask a man in his mid 20s to his 40s, “How many friends do you have?” he will scratch his head and answer, “Like real friends? It’s . . . .it’s been awhile.”

Rarely do we have men in our lives to do something with—have coffee, throw a ball around or even help us fix the garage.

We have bought into this myth that men do things on their own. Asking for help equates to be called a five-letter word that starts with “p”. We’d rather watch a game with a guy, but not have a conversation about the struggles we are having like connecting with our spouse or kids, our job that seems pointless or simply just why we can’t seem to figure out the sprinkler system.

We go at it alone hoping people marvel at our independence.

We hope for applause while we die inside.

If we want to have actual friends, how do we do it? How can we find other men in our lives that become our friends?

Honestly, there isn’t a system for it. Online dating? Sure. A billion apps. Online brotherhood?

Nope. Not one.

Here are the ways I’ve found to find friends and find someone authentic to connect with.

  1. Ask Your Spouse: Ask if there are any husbands out there that you have something in common with. It doesn’t have to be this laundry list of options, but if they like baseball and you do too, great.
  2. Ask Your Religious Leader: If you attend a church, synagogue or mosque, ask your religious leader, “Hey, I’m trying to find some more male friends here. If you think of anyone I could connect with, let me know.”
  3. Flip the Script: If your wife is having an “all girls night” turn that into an opportunity to have all the husbands over to BBQ, watch a movie and hang out. If kids are involved, have a babysitter (or two?) watch the gaggle of children. See who you connect with.
  4. How do you make the first move?
  5. `There’s this weirdness that comes from asking another guy, “Hey, wanna hang out?” It stems from never seeing it happen to, well, homophobia, (being perceived and feared as gay). But here are some ways to make it way more comfortable and natural to hang out with a new friend.
  6. Coffee. Coffee, while being the 2nd greatest elixir on the planet, is a natural way of getting to know someone. If there is someone I want to connect with, a potential friend, I’ll ask, “Hey, I’m having coffee at Starbucks while catching up on my (reading, work, fly fishing collection) and was wondering if you wanted to join me.” You are going to be there anyway—might as well have some company. This way there is no pressure.
  7. Help. Need some help over here. If you know the person has a certain skill that you could use some advice on, use that as a way to invite them over. “I hear you are skilled at barbecuing—could you show me tips?” Invite him over for lunch or dinner.
  8. Poker night. This is the way I’ve made a ton of friends in my 30s. I hosted a poker night at my place. Nine was the maximum amount of people, but friends could always bring friends. I got to meet a variety of people, follow up with hanging out for coffee later, and since I was a great poker player, I could make a little bit of money while I was at it.
  9. Serving. I had a local food bank down the street from my house and I would ask guys if they wanted to help out for an hour. We got to hang out, chat, and all the while we organized tomato cans. (We got a lot of tomatoes at that food bank.)
  10. Go all out. If you want to be the Braveheart of making this happen, you can simply ask, “Look. I’m looking for someone to hang out with, bounce ideas off of and go with to see a Guy movie every once in awhile. You in?”

If they say “Nah, I got a lot of family stuff.” Move on. It’s not personal.

But they might look at you with the relief of an exhausted man who finally got to sit down. That’s what I did with Tom; I simply asked him, “Want to grab coffee?” He said yes. And it has truly made all the difference—I have a brother now, a comrade to weather the storms with.

Find other men to meet, walk and share with—and you will find this journey you are on that much better.

Ryan McRae is an author and the creator of The ADHD Nerd , a blog designed to help the terminally distracted become greatly successful. If you want his free book on this topic, you can grab it here for FREE.

Lessons from Top Gun: A Dad’s Guide to Making Tough Decisions

Landing an aircraft on a carrier is a daunting task. Finding a runway the size of a postage stamp somewhere out in the ocean is hard enough, but then sweeping in out of the sky and putting your screaming jet on an undulating deck is doubly hard. There are so many opportunities to screw it up, and every one of them has a potentially disastrous outcome.

Every landing on an aircraft carrier is hard. It takes a lot of skill. For Maverick (our movie hero, played by Tom Cruise) in the opening scenes of Top Gun, it seems like a perfect reflection of his confidence and skill set. But not so much for his wingman. In the opening sequence, it takes every shred of composure and guts he has to land his plane after a run-in with hostile forces.

Landing is difficult EVERY TIME. Planes can’t fly indefinitely, the fuel gauge often dictates the day. Whether the conditions are good, or there’s a storm brewing, if you’re low on fuel the plane HAS TO land. There’s no choice.  I wish it were as clear for us as Dads. Sometimes we just have to do the difficult thing, make the tough decision even (and especially!) when we don’t want to. Let’s take a look.

I think one of the most challenging parts of being a Dad is choosing to make the tough decisions (“rough landings”) that need to be made. We don’t run out of fuel like an airplane. Let me explain.

No outside circumstance forces us to lean into parenting, like a plane is forced to land when it runs low on fuel. To wade into the fray of schedules and grades, household budgets, homework and discipline takes an act of will. It’s a choice we make.

I notice sometimes I want to avoid doing the hard work or making the tough decisions as a parent. Especially when it comes to family. Can’t it just be easy? The last thing I want to do is unnecessarily or unintentionally cause upset at home. There’s enough conflict and drama raising kids and being in a relationship. Whether toddlers or teenagers, raising kids is a lot of work. Me roaring into the fray seems like it might be the LAST thing that anyone needs.

Maybe we’ll just “stay in the air”, hoping to wait around long enough for the landing to be easier or softer. And unlike airplanes, we don’t run out of fuel. We could stay disengaged, hoping for better circumstances, a softer ride or a smoother landing.

Avoiding the hard work because of the “rough landing” it would create or the “potentially hazardous” outcome we imagine has a cost. Engaged parenting is done on the shifting, rain-swept deck of the aircraft carrier. Your family needs you (and me) to be both the visionary, flying high above the clouds and doing what serves us and the family best. But we’re also critically needed on the flight deck at home.

Sometimes that means taking big chances and not-so-gracefully slapping that airplane back on the deck. Maybe it won’t be pretty, and it’s possible (or likely in my case!) we’ll say or do something that needs cleaning up. Your kids need you, even when you screw it up, so does your partner. You JUST SHOWING UP can make all the difference.

Aircraft Carrier pilots “Call The Ball” when they’re on final approach. They’re declaring that they’re coming in and managing their own landing.

Where will you call the ball this week? Your flight crew is waiting to greet you on the deck.

The “Boston Parking” theory of forgiveness

In Boston where I grew up it seems ALL parking is hard. The spaces are small and invariably require you to parallel park. Most people are uncomfortable with parallel parking. It’s a heck of a skill to learn, but it’s critical in Boston. It’s like learning the skill of forgiveness.

I look at it this way: If you’re going to become a great driver, you need to work on your skill of parking. It’s a key component of driving. You can be an amazing driver, but if you haven’t developed the skill to park effectively you’ll end up driving around all day looking for a perfect space that you can’t find or leaving your car epically jammed into a space like a drunk who abandoned a bashed stolen car after a high speed chase with police.

I think there are two forgiveness “parking” skills: Forgiving others and Forgiving yourself. And my skills are better in one area than another. Let’s take a look.

Forgiving others is like the parallel parking skill. I’m pretty good at that. It’s been a long time since I was nose-to-nose with someone having an epic “will this go nuclear?!?” argument. I’ve learned through hard experience when I get really angry, it has more to do with me and some soft underbelly that got poked than it does with any action or words from someone else. When it feels that way, it’s like a warning siren that I should check in and see what’s going inside of me for me before I say or do something I can’t take back.

See? I’m a great driver! I have worked hard on this skill.

But I don’t forgive myself nearly as quickly.

My “parking skill” for forgiving others is well developed, not as much the skill of forgiving myself.

I can’t gird myself up for a toe-to-toe force of wills against myself. No matter how it goes, I lose. Every time I tell myself “it’s going to be OK”, my little voice reminds me how it’s not, how screwed up I am and how this failure is YET AGAIN another example of my “you-will-never-measure-up”. It’s the same old diatribe that plays like a county fair circus calliope run by toothless carnies.

Ahhh, I can hear the music now.

And of course I can’t ask for help with it. Because I’m a Man, a Dad, a Coach…. so says the voice (craftily using logic to undermine the idea of “not doing it all alone – again”). So I double down on trying to “figure it out on my own” or “work on it” or “get better”. But it’s the opposite that’s needed.

Forgiveness is about letting go, releasing the chokehold on “getting it right.” There’s some illusion that many Dads have there’s a “right” way to do this parenting/Dad/Man/Spouse thing. We set the bar high. The bar is high for us. And if you asked 50 dads about what the “right” way to do it was, you’d get 50 answers, none of which is right, and every one is right.

We’re in the trenches now. Kids are growing, needs are changing, so are expectations. We often don’t have the hindsight because we’re waist-deep in the “doing” part of parenting. It’ll be years before we’re able to look back on this time with any kind of global perspective.

Here’s a practice, try it out:  The next time you find yourself beating yourself up for some action you did or didn’t take or some thing you did or didn’t say, ask yourself the following:

“Did I do the best I knew how to in the moment with the information I had the time?”

Almost invariably the answer is yes. Let’s take on a practice of cutting ourselves some slack this week, shall we?

Hot Mess Mindset

This morning I felt like a hot mess. I woke up after a long week, haven’t had enough sleep, and had a busy weekend ahead. After all, I’m writing 1000 words a day, I have to chaperone my son’s water polo team to another state, and manage multiple trips, clients, programs and meet ups I have coming up over the next two weeks.

This made my brain a hot mess. I tried to write down all the things I need to do, and look at the actions left undone, and I can feel my blood pressure rise. I thought that sneaking sensation of overwhelmed trying to take over and shut me down. When this happens, the world becomes pretty predictable: I can know everything around me, and either avoid the work completely and do something to distract myself or tunnel in on my work and at the expense of my well-being and family.

Do you want to know what the secret is? We are all hot messes in our own heads! We look at others and think, “geez everybody seems to have it all worked out”. Or “their family has it all put together” or “in there so organized” or “they are so successful” or “they seem so confident”.

But actually, the opposite is true. And the insidious thing is that we are all so insecure about the hot mess monkey mind that we have from time to time that we work very hard to make it look like we’ve got it hope all people together.” On those days when you’re feeling insecure and out of control, seeing other people who are seemingly “pulling it all together” makes the monkey mind even worse!

I was there having a theoretical conversation about the hot mess mindset, I want to provide some practical actions you can take to make a difference with it when it happens for you. These are my practices, and I hope to make a difference for you.

  1. Breath. It serves nothing to get wound up in time, which is the what the monkey mind wants to do. I’m all in on focus on the scarcity of the moment, and every gap that you see in your life. Close your eyes, breathe deeply into your nose, and out through your mouth.
  2. Tell yourself that you’re having some feelings, and noticed them, whatever they are. And then say those feelings out loud. “I’m feeling scared, I’m feeling alone, and feeling poor, I’m afraid of…”. Now here’s what I know about feelings: they seem significant, but they’re all on the inside, and they don’t live in the real world. It doesn’t mean they’re not worth noticing, but the only thing that brings them to life is acting from them, as opposed to just noticing them and seeing if there’s anything you actually need to address because of that.
  3. Get a clean piece of paper and write down every single thing that shows up in your brain. What are all the things that have you in this seeming spiral of negative thoughts? These can be relationships, projects, actions. Keep this paper handy, and add more things to the list if they show up as we move forward.

This brain dump is designed to get everything out of your head so he doesn’t have to take up real estate when we do the next pieces. Often our thoughts live on a more macro level. They are vague and do not lead to specific action. Macro oriented fears are the ones that seem overwhelming and immediately push us into a downward spiral imagining the worst case scenario.

The challenge is to take the brain dump and the macro fears and turn them into things that you can prioritize and take action on. This is something you can do yourself, or you can do with someone else. To help get you out of your head.

You’ll have things in your hot mess mindset that are oriented around different areas of your life. You can be around work, relationships, personally. It can be further broken down into different, bigger areas: eating healthy, exercise, rest, personal growth, dating, home repair, budget. It can then be broken down further into actionable items like deciding on a number of calories for your day, shopping only for fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins, creating your week’s menu, budgeting expenses for the month, making a list of needed items from Home Depot for home repair.

The root of the hot mess mindset is an expectation. We expect that life will show up a certain way, or we will achieve a result or that a situation will unfold in a way in line with our expectations. Often our unreasonable expectations are based on some picture we have made up with limited information.

It’s a little like comparing yourself to an episode of Hoarders. The episode where the couple cleaned up their garage and created a minimalist, showroom-ready space that resulted in fresh paint, skylights, a gardening table, a wall-mounted tool rack and PLENTY of room to park your car.

At the end of the episode, the garage was cleaner and more spiffy than most kitchens. The host and homeowners (wearing spiffy tool belts!) apparently created all these results in a smiling 30-minute episode. Yeah, Sure.

What they don’t reveal in those shows is 20-man construction crew behind the camera who arrive with a flatbed of tools, supplies and a dumpster. Or the 3 weeks debating priorities: “More open space, Jack!” “No, more room for tools, Janet!” The show doesn’t reveal the couple’s screaming fights over whether to keep Grandma’s croquet set or throw it away “because that woman was a nasty witch no one should remember!” They don’t reveal the host’s rampant alcoholism or the passive/aggressive sniping he does with his producer on set in front of the crew.

You don’t see the conflicts, you just see the 30 minute highly edited moments of perceived PERFECTION that TV is so good at. We are no different. We look at other people’s lives and only see the highlight reel that they either show us or we MAKE UP about their lives. And then we project it on our own. We are guaranteed to lose out. We can NEVER win that battle.

It’s just a game our minds play. And it doesn’t serve you.

Next time you feel the hot mess mindset showing up, ask yourself any of the following:

  • Who am I comparing myself to?
  • Is the expectation I have real, based on the real experiences, or is it made up?
  • What’s MORE likely the truth?
  • If I was going to ease back on my expectations, what would that look like?
  • For today, if I was going to take it easier on myself, what would I do?

No one’s perfect. Not me, not you, and certainly not the folks on Hoarders (guests OR hosts). Our only job is to do our best, have a little self-compassion and be able to fist-bump life at the end of the day and say “I did my best, and for today that’s enough.”

You’re the 1 in 10

You are the one in 10. Congratulations. You are the one in 10. UB40 came out with the song back in 1981 on the ‘Present Arms’ album. It was called one in ten and spoke to the incredibly high unemployment rate in England at the time. I’ve been considering unemployment, the job market and the future of work lately.

Most people, 9 out of 10 or more, are looking for somebody else to decide what their future is, what’s best for them, what they should do, or whether they’re good enough to have the life they want. Whether it’s the next boss who’s going to hire them and tell them what to do, the next change in the economy, the next diet program that’s going to finally get them to lose that 30 lb or the next relationship where maybe they’ll find someone who treats them like they deserve.

But that’s not for you, you’re the one in ten.

The one in ten is the person who isn’t interested in following along with the rest of the crowd. It’s lonely at times to be the one in 10. To be the one in 10, you’re the one who isn’t showing up at 8 or 9 in the morning, but you’re showing up at 6 in the morning. You aren’t leaving at 4 p.m., you may be leaving at 6 p.m., or possibly 2 p.m. You’re not following the schedule that most people follow in the world. You’re disrupting what is normal and expected period and that can be lonely sometimes

It can be lonely because you’re the one outside the norm, and there’s no one to validate your choice. Because you’re the 1 on 10. As a matter of fact, many people ask you why you do what you do, and the way you do it. They will then give you their opinions or look bewildered because your choice doesn’t match up with their expectations, or with what they are familiar with, or what they would choose.

It’s hard to find parallel when you’re the one in 10. Whether you’re a stay-at-home dad, and online entrepreneur, starting your own business, taking on a new health and fitness regimen, starting therapy, choosing a different lifestyle, leaving popular groups, or quitting your job at a very influential company.

People will tell you you’re crazy, or they “just don’t understand” somehow hoping that if you keep telling them in a different way they’ll finally “get it.” Don’t play that game. That’s their issue, not yours. Taking on other people’s concerns about your life is as productive as shouting at the moon hoping it’ll turn to cheese. It can also drive up a lot of doubt, second-guessing, and wonder whether you did the right thing.

I want to tell you absolutely, positively: you are doing the right thing. You are the one in 10. You are the one who’s choosing to live outside the box of what’s normal, what’s expected and what is conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is what everybody does, and it gets everyone more of the same results. Your path doesn’t look like conventional wisdom, it doesn’t look like anybody else’s life because it’s not supposed to your life looks like the back side of a quilt it may look.

Beer Tub As A Metaphor For Life

For the longest time when I was younger, I tried to be like (and “liked by”) the “guy-guys”. I wanted to be accepted and felt like they were the “cool kids” of adulthood. I quickly discovered that they drank a lot, and were more interested in talking their gym routine and ESPN than they were in talking about life. And they certainly weren’t interested in me.

I couldn’t figure out why I always felt alone when I was with the guy-guys. It only occurred to me later that I WAS alone, they didn’t want to connect with anyone. I tried to fit in, which felt awkward and was incredibly unfulfilling. But I saw that if I continued to hang out with them, it was likely I was going to end up like them. I was experiencing environmental conduction.

The easiest way to understand conduction (and its powerful role as a metaphor for our lives) is to talk about beer. Yes, beer. Imagine it’s summertime. Envision the classic barbecue. It’s a sweltering Friday afternoon, and all your friends are coming over. You’re hosting a shindig. You have all the trappings of a successful barbecue.

There are a few critical items that every barbecue needs. Just as important as the grill, the burgers, and the hotdogs are, there’s always the metal tub full of ice cold beer. The tub of beer is a central bonding spot, like a homing beacon for a good time. The tub is often close to the grill, usually on the patio.

The beer is arctic-cold. But it wasn’t always this cold. The beer was warm when it came from the store, and you, as a thoughtful host, put ice into the tub before you added the beer. If you did this 30 minutes or more before the party, by the time the guests arrived to dive a hand in for a cold one, the beer will be ice cold.

What made your beer cold was the process of conduction. Conduction is the movement of heat from the surface of a warm object to the surface of a colder object that it’s in contact with. In this case, the heat of the beer is transferred to the ice, which in turn melts until the beer reaches the temperature of the ice and water around it.

If we’re thinking about the beer and ice in a tub as an environment, it’s a wonderful metaphor for life. We are like the warm, room temperature beer. Sounds like a bummer, huh? Every environment that we put ourselves in is going to have an impact on our “temperature”. However, the difference between the beer and us is that we have the choice of what environment we put ourselves into.

If you find yourself surrounded by people with different agendas or mindsets than you, that’s a “colder” environment. Stay there long enough, and you too will become cold. Do you have that friend who’s a complainer? Always complains about his boss, job, and co-workers? How about a spouse, partner or workout buddy who loves to gossip, create drama or chaos? And then there are the friends who see the glass as half empty, something’s always wrong.

It is likely over time (if you spend time with these people) that you will participate in the gossip or find yourself complaining. And it has an impact. However, the inverse is also true. If you hang out with people who either come from a place of service or work actively to excel at their role, you will be impacted by that environment as well.

We get to choose the environment we expose ourselves to. We could choose to spend time either by ourselves or find new co-workers to spend time with. We can choose another career, or we can actively pursue personal growth avenues via other sources. We can struggle in a relationship or actively work to better it.

That’s the best part about environments, we can get them other than our physical environment. We can read articles, listen to podcasts, connect with people on the phone, and use social media to connect with like-minded people. This can also be physically by attending meetups, participating in activities with other people or finding that new co-worker whose mindset matches the one you’re trying to emulate.

The same is true at home. If your favorite pastime with your spouse and friends is to sit around and watch movies on Netflix and eat ice cream when you get home from work, it’s likely that environment has an impact on your health. If you want to do something different, if you want to change your lifestyle and become more active, athletic and lose weight, you’ll need to change your environment.

Spending time in the gym with people who are working out and working to achieve their goals would serve you better. The number of treadmills that end up as coat racks is an extraordinary percentage. And it has everything to do with the environment. The treadmill in your bedroom at home is no different than the treadmill at the gym. But your bedroom isn’t an environment full of people and other equipment all designed to get in better shape. You are far more likely to work out in a gym on the same treadmill surrounded by people working out, then you are working out on a treadmill at home by yourself.

Separate and alone is often the way we try and create new results. We tell ourselves that the people around us don’t understand, and worst don’t care. But often that’s where we stop, not looking to see where else we could surround ourselves with an environment that supports the new results we’re creating.

Whatever environment you choose, be aware of the impact of the environment around you. Does it meet your goals? Are you the beer or are you the ice? And does the environment that you’re in support the results you’re looking to create? If it doesn’t, find a new environment. Because no one likes warm beer.

Show Your Work

When I was in grade school, I struggle with math. Mr. Evans was a stickler – an Englishman teaching math to 6th graders. He was engaging but took no bull. We laughed when he called rubber bands “rubbers”. But when it came to the work, he was not messing around. Algebra was serious business to him. Seeing how “solving X to find Y” might have practical application in my future seemed pretty obscure at the time.

Funnily enough, I would find out decades later that algebra had a direct application in my professional life. Go figure, showing my work actually had value. Algebra doesn’t appear to have any physical application in real life (3 out of 4 adults agree!). However, what I could not have predicted back in 6th grade was that my ability to solve X to find Y correctly was the difference between doing the math right and maybe saving a life, or doing it wrong and ending one.

I spent almost a decade working on an ambulance. I started as a volunteer EMT, became a firefighter and advanced to working as a paramedic for both a 911 service and a critical care transport ambulance company. There are still days I miss that time in my life. The adrenaline, the sense of tangible purpose, the lights, the sirens, the vehicles, and the authority all were very intoxicating. Even the uniform made me feel important.

One of my paramedic instructors, Rodney Ray, was unwilling to let his rowdy bunch of young men in our paramedic training program get out without being competent. Competence was not a nice thing to have, competence was a requirement. The stakes were too high and he reminded us of that on a regular basis. For as many times as we laughed about the silly, the bazaar and funny calls that we went on, he made us focus on the small percentage of calls where we could make the biggest difference and had the opportunity to insert ourselves and turn around the condition of a patient whose health was crashing right in front of us.

And this is where algebra came in. This part of paramedic school was daunting for everyone, if for no other reason than most of us hadn’t thought about algebra since we took it in 6th grade. But all of a sudden we were doing drug calculations. Rodney wouldn’t let us use calculators. He demanded that we be able to do the math with pen and paper, and then in our head. Solving X to find Y.

Imagine it’s 3 a.m. and you’re jolted from a dead sleep with a pager screaming at you and a dispatcher telling you that there’s a man in an acute health crisis, complaining of shortness of breath. You arrive to find a man struggling to breathe, ashen, pale and looking panicky. The phrase we had for this look was FTD. This man was Fixin’ To Die right in front of you. Your blood pressure goes up just looking at him, as well as your heart rate. His wife and family are looking scared and lost. The time is now, you must act.

You administer oxygen, take vital signs and determine pretty quickly that he is in acute heart failure which is allowing fluid to build up in his lungs. Patients in “acute CHF” report the feeling of drowning, and not from water that’s on the outside but the water that’s on the inside. This is one of those few small percentage calls that field personnel not only can but MUST intervene to stop a dramatically downward spiral into becoming a life-ending event.

Listening to his chest I could hear crackles, and his breathing was labored. He can barely whisper “I can’t catch my breath”. Yeah, me neither right now. It’s time to go to the hospital and we’re not messing around. See, this was rural New Mexico, and we had a 45-minute drive ahead of us, and I would need to administer medication and route.

We quickly transferred him to the gurney out to the ambulance, in the back and then we were on the road. My drivers were always conscientious but the ride still sucked. It was bouncy in the back of the ambulance as we raced towards the hospital. The back of an ambulance rocks like a porta-potty might be if you shifted your weight back and forth from the inside. With the results of tipping it over being just as dramatically bad.

Now here’s the math part. Remember it’s now 3:45 a.m., you still have bed head, your heart rate’s up, so is your heart blood pressure. It’s just you and the patient in the back and he’s not getting better. It’s time for you to do your math, show your work. Solve X to find Y.

Drug dosages are based on milligrams per kilogram so for every kilogram that someone weighs, they need a specific number of milligrams of the medication. But this leaves you with two problems: 1. You need to know what the patient weighs in kilograms, not pounds. 2. You need to distinguish what the concentration of the medication is to see if it is so you can determine how many milliliters are going to produce the correct number of milligrams that you’re going to administer to this patient’s IV. Milligrams, milliliters, kilograms, pounds. Find X to solve Y.

I’ve never been more grateful for Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans forced me to show my work. He would threaten to give me a zero on any out for a test where I didn’t show all my work even if I got the answer correct. It was at these 3 a.m. hours that my ability to do the math and show my work really shined.

First I had to guess my patient’s weight, and because I’m an American I naturally think in pounds. Then I had to convert the pounds to kilograms, (2.2 lb to kilogram for those interested). Then I had to figure out how many milligrams I needed to administer by multiplying those by the kilograms by the dosage, and then how many milliliters to administer based on the number of milligrams per milliliter in the drug dosage.

And did I say it was 3 in the morning?

Show your work. I could never have projected in 6th grade that algebra and Mr. Evans would have such a profound impact on so many people’s lives. Mine especially. But this is like anything else. We have all suffered through some difficult time or educational experience or life circumstance where we really didn’t want to do all the work that was necessary. And what we couldn’t see at the time was that the profound lessons we were learning that would serve us in the future.

Remember, the time that you invest in parenting is “showing your work”. There are many days that you can’t see if practical application of reminding your kid to take out the trash, asking them to pick their stuff up, demanding that they are on time (like they said they would be) has any particular long-term benefit. But this is us “showing our work” as parents.

It’s not likely we’re going to be the ones who are in the ambulance at 3 in the morning, struggling to figure out how much medication to give someone else, but when we show our work the benefit shows up for them when they’re 30 and struggling to figure out what’s next when they lose their job, when their heart is broken and they don’t know what to do about it, when they feel like they’re in over the head and all alone. When we show our work the beneficiaries are our kids.

Today I’m super grateful for Mr. Evans and Rodney Ray. The lessons are: show your work, you never know when the work is going to change lives.

Fighting Nazis, bad Bones and Just Getting By…

I cannot stand TV anymore. I used to like it. Favorite show of my youth? Rat Patrol! The fictional ongoing tale of WWII jeeps patrolling the Nazi-held Sahara. Our heroes were the four man team that was headed by the dashing actor Christopher George, playing Colonel Troy. He and his team would play a cat-and-mouse game with the super forces of the German Army in North Africa. But my relationship with TV has changed, and it doesn’t provide me with the enjoyment it used to, and it takes precious time away from my goals. I was reminded of that on Friday night. After a long day at an industry conference, I just want to wind down. Days of Meetups, meetings and conversation can be exhausting.

I flopped down on the bed and flip on the TV, hoping to relax over some mindless hotel cable TV. And the EXACT opposite happened. After scrolling through 100 channels of nothing-to-watch, I landed on a rerun of “Bones.” I remember thinking this TV show was OK. But the mindless plot, soulless characters and insidious advertisements made me go ballistic. Why would anyone waste their time watching this infuriating drivel?

But here’s the thing. I didn’t turn it off right away. I let it play, and watched it for, like 30 minutes before I turned it off. Now, to be clear, the show didn’t bother me AFTER 30 minutes, it bothered me RIGHT AWAY. But I just put up with it, hoping it would get better (but secretly knowing it wouldn’t). I was putting up with something that I had complete control over, “hoping it would get better.”

The feeling is familiar. Putting up with people, activities and situations that are unacceptable.

We all have places in our lives that feel unacceptable. And the BEST part of being human is that our all-powerful brain gives us warnings that something is wrong, and we should do something about it. Our brain is like a massive air raid siren saying “Hey! This is awful, let’s do something different!” But most of us ignore that feeling. We put up with that person or situation or circumstance and say things like “that’s just the way they are”, “I won’t have to put up with this forever” and “I hope this will change”, and put off making the tough call by saying “wait until I get a better job”, “it’s only 3 years to retirement”.

We put off the momentary discomfort of saying the bold thing. We don’t say or do what there is that would change the situation. And the cost? The cost is continuing to put up with the familiar, intolerable situation as is. Status quo. And the longer you put up with it, the harder it will be to change it. See here's the insidious thing: we get used to the intolerable. We get used to not having our way. We get used to having it be "OK" but no better we get used to being mildly disappointed. We get used to so-so. We get used to "Good enough".

How much longer are you willing to tolerate the intolerable? How much longer are you willing to feel that predictable energy drain every time you think about that part of your life? How much longer are you going to keep putting up with "more of the same" how much longer are you willing to be disappointed with different parts of your life? How much longer are you willing to not have Life be the way you want it be new?

Because I know that's not enough for you. You KNOW you are capable of so much more. You know there something better, you know that if you just got over your self or some of your circumstances, or if you just were willing to put a little effort in you could start on a new path.

Stop being the man who is just like everybody else. Stop putting up with things that are intolerable. Stop putting up with people who drain your energy. Stop putting up with things that don't work for you. If the cost of you having a happy and fulfilled life means that some people need to go elsewhere to comment or judge others, so be it. And good riddance. Time to move on.

One swing,. We get just one swing at this Life.You get one swing at making a life worth living for yourself. You get one swing at having your dreams. Why continue to have it be more of the same. Tomorrow is not the time, when you lose 30 pounds is not the time, when you get divorced is not the time, when your kids get out of school is not the time, now is the time! Don’t let the bad-reruns of your life take one day after another from the ticking clock of your life.

What Kind of Mailroom Kid are You?

This morning I’m packing up after a great weekend conference in Boise. It was an industry conference for bloggers that included inspiring keynote speeches and amazingly valuable workshops.

I was struck by the theme that I walked away from in this conference. Every speaker talked about different topics; everything from distinguishing your value, finding your niche, trusting the process, tools and techniques for getting your goals.

The underlying theme for me was leadership, owning your own role in the journey of your business. Almost all of these entrepreneurs were working for themselves and many had multiple employees underneath them.

This discussion of leadership for these entrepreneur/creators is parallel to fatherhood. My experience of fatherhood it is is that it is the most wonderfully excruciating Boot Camp for personal leadership that I’ve ever experienced. Just like entrepreneurship.

There’s no hiding to be AN involved and committed father, there’s no hiding from your unresolved issues. To be transparent, vulnerable, and really be there for your kids especially when they’re struggling, you will have to be strong in ways that you may never have needed to be before. Strong and gentle, strong and caring, strong and vulnerable, strong and consistent, strong in “service above self.”

Think of it like taking an entry-level wrong job and a big corporation in the mail room. If you see this job as a leadership path, you’ll be looking to learn grow and share places where you don’t know things so you can learn them and become better at your job and more valuable to the people around you. If you see it like a dead end job, something that goes on during your life between social engagements and the rest of your life, You might see the job differently. If you’re this second kid, you’re likely going to complain about the boss, in the job. You may even say things like “I can blow that off, they’re not expecting that much for me anyways” or “I don’t really have to do that, or if I’m not there nobody will notice” or even worse “they can’t make me and I don’t have to”.

If you’re this second kid, it’s like we are not moving out of the mail room, and just as likely that you will lose your job in short order. The impact maybe negligible but it’s likely the way you’re gonna walk through life and him act the way you do everything. But the impact of not coming fully into your leadership as a father Will have a profound impact on your family and kids.

If you ever run into aging parents, people who are involved and invested in their kids when they were growing up, there’s this patina of wisdom and peace about them. This is no accident, they didn’t just survive the time raising their kids they thrived in it. And it is because they embraced parenthood as a leadership path. Personal leadership, leadership of others.

Welcome to your path of leadership, it’s extraordinary to have you here.

Learning Trust and the Parable of Dude

I met Dude at a construction site in Alaska. He and I were stopped for 20 minutes waiting for a pilot car to lead us through the road work. It was summer, and I was on a late model BMW adventure motorcycle, fully loaded for my trip from Seattle to Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Wearing an armored, waterproof riding suit, long distance riding boots and a full faced helmet, I was the poster child for “prepared”. My route planned months in advance, reservations made, all contingencies considered and packed for.

And here’s Dude. At first glance I was sure he was a local, although we weren’t anywhere near a community. Riding a low slung Harley-style cruiser, half helmet, sunglasses, jeans, sneakers, t-shirt, a wind breaker and gardening gloves. I glanced over and said with disdain “Hey, how are you?” He replied, “Hey, Dude!” At that moment he noticed a mosquito that was meandering by. An Alaska-sized mosquito, slow, and as big as a hummingbird. He said “Wow, man, we don’t have mosquitoes this big in LA.”

I look at him incredulously. He had no luggage, no rain or warm gear, no map and an incredibly limited fuel range on a bike ill-suited (at best!) for non-pavement riding. He just got on his bike one day, I learned, and decided he wanted to see Alaska.

Before I could get into too much more of his story, the pilot car came by and lead us off through several miles of soft, deep gravel that doubled as the road during construction. I quickly left Dude behind on this difficult surface, sure I wouldn’t see him again. I even wondered if he’d get through this construction site without crashing his bike.

But Dude persisted. Every stop I made, he’d appear like a premonition. He’d wave and honk as he went by. The weather held, the road went from good to bad and back to good again. I started to count on the Dudes’s arrival and would shout “DUUUUUUDE!” as he rode by, hand raised like a spiritual leader acknowledging his faithful. But deep down I was angry. Angry because HE SHOULDN’T BE HERE. No one should just be able to hop on their bike and ride from LA to the heart of Alaska without doing “the work” that I had done. I had planned, routed, packed, upgraded. I “deserved” this trip because of all the work I did. I was waiting, in fact, for his imminent failure.

And then one day I got my chance. There was a particularly long stretch of road that was preceded by a HUGE sign as you left the last small town saying “No fuel for 150 miles, FILL UP NOW.” This was a huge sign, you could not miss it. I dutifully turned around, topped off my tank (which had plenty of range for that distance) and off I rode.

After riding about 100 miles, I stopped for a break to stretch my legs. As I was getting ready to leave, The Dude pulled in and rode right up to me. He said, “Hey, Dude! Do you know if there’s gas here? I’m super low on gas.” I stared at him. “Did you see the sign? The HUGE sign 100 miles back that said ‘no gas for 150 miles?’” He said he hadn’t. This was my moment. My moment to watch his “I just jumped in the bike for a 3,000 mile trip without planning a darn thing” scheme fall down around him.

And then I realized, what if Dude had it right? I spent all my time working HARD and planning and figuring. And Dude just trusted that it would all work out. And, more importantly, what if part of his path was to be part of mine? What could I learn from the Dude about how I operated in my life? It was a jaw-dropper. Trust, and it will be provided. Fall down, ask for help, and it will be provided.

I wasn’t there to help Dude, he was there to help me. And of course, I had an extra gallon of gas tied to the back of my bike. For longer stretches when I’d need the fuel. But I didn’t need it right now. I smiled, and said “Dude, I have gas for you, let me unstrap my tank and get you some gas.” We laughed as we filled his tank and then rode on our separate journeys.

I never learned Dude’s real name and shortly thereafter our paths did not cross again. I’ll also never forget Dude or the gift of Trust he gave me on a sunny summer day in Alaska.

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