Your Story

Ever considered your life as an epic journey or story?  Have you ever wanted a live a great story?  Maybe deep down we all want to live a great story, but get sidetracked along the way.  Hope this video inspires you today to get out there and create a story worth reading.

Collective Challenge Day 17 (the check in)

Day 17.  We are past the half way mark in our Collective Challenge.  I took a few days off for two reasons.

1.  Since we are refraining from the news in the hopes to break off some of the negativity of the news cycle and quiet things down a little, I didn’t want to become just another source of noise for all of you.

2.  I started my first fully online class last week and a big part of the class is online postings, and that consumed a lot of my time.

During one of the online conversations (the folks in class are all over the country, from Vermont to California) I shared that a group of us were collectively trying to avoid the news.  They found it interesting and wondered how it impacted me.

So far, despite my initial discomfort with changing my routine each morning, it has been a great experience.  I feel less negative about things: life, the state of the world, my own community.

How is the challenge for you?  I wanted to hear from you to see if this little experiment is working.  Keep it up, just a few weeks left.  You can do it, you are going to make it.

P.S. Yes I still watch football, just not the news about it before or afterwards.

Collective Challenge Day 9 (a new week, a new opportunity)

For those of you keeping track there was no post for Day 8.  I took the day off to rest because I was tired.  I hope each of you took the day off, rested, and are ready for the upcoming week.  Taking a day off, a day to yourself is important.  This rest is not only important during this collective challenge, but important in our lives to maintain ongoing balance between our work and our life.

Recently at work, a few people from another department were heading to lunch together and saw me in the parking lot.  They shouted out to me.

“What is the deal with that SKOOK sticker on your back window?  We noticed some members of your team have it too.”

“It is a long story, come and find me later.”

They found me later that day.

It all started a few years ago.  My team and I spend a lot of time in the car driving all around New Hampshire.  Just north of Franconia Notch there is a road sign.  It reads: Skookumchuck Brook.  To give you some perspective it is just under 100 miles from my house.

Over the years it became a ritual when you passed that sign to stop, snap a photo, send a message, or call the team and yell “SKOOK!”  SKOOK was our way of saying, “hey, I am 100 miles from home, but working hard, finding opportunities, and most likely putting in extra hours to make this happen.”

Everyone who received the message would chime in with encouragement and sometimes a little taunting, and it became a little club, or almost a subculture.  We would notice the times of these messages: 6:00 AM meant someone was on the road around 4:00 AM, 6:00 PM meant that someone still had a few hours until they were home again.

Striving to be a SKOOK on the team meant you thought about each day, how to make a difference, and how to maximize the opportunities right in front of you.  Being a SKOOK required a little more effort, a little more dedication, but the reward of knowing that each of us was giving their all to a cause larger than ourselves made it worth it.

After about a few years of this, I was searching the web and found a website that sells SKOOK stickers.  Apparently Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (the Coal Region) has a nickname: SKOOK.  And they sell merchandise!  And from that moment forward we have stickers on our cars.

There is another week before us.  We have a choice.  We can let the time pass by like any ordinary week, or we can try to be a SKOOK.  We can make the choice to see each day, each hour as an opportunity to make things happen.  An opportunity to make a difference.  Let’s get out there and earn our stickers!

Collective Challenge Day 7 (Week 1 Recap)

Week 1, done.  Just three weeks and three days left.  Today seemed a bit harder than normal to stay away from the news.  I had gotten into the habit of spending Saturday mornings getting caught up on the news and happenings in the world.

During this week I found myself spending more time in silence, especially in the car.  When the particular podcast I listened to was complete, I couldn’t switch to the radio or news. Instead, I just shut it off.  It was strange at first, but as the days wore on, I found comfort in the absence of noise.

Silence is important.  It gave me time to think, process, and just let go of a few things.  As I was reflecting in silence, I remembered a book that I read by A. J. Jacobs, “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.”  A.J. takes on different experiments with his life and one that came to mind was when he decided to “unitask” (only doing one thing at a time) because in his words:

“I’m trying to do this because I realize I have a problem focusing.  My brain is all over the place.”  Chapter 8 – The Unitasker

I related to his words and the need to be less scattered and more focused.  And this challenge has helped bring some of that.  In my attempt to also be healthier this year, I have been trying to bring my lunch to work each day, and take 15 minutes or so to actually eat it.  This “lunch-time” has also been a great time to either watch a video on or just read.  Coincidentally,  A.J Jacobs was on the front page this week and I watched his talk and he spoke about the importance of silence.  His talk appears below.

So far this week has felt less stressful, and the large sense of impending doom around the world seems to be slowly lifting away.  It is January and here in New Hampshire it is going to be sunny and 50 degrees today.  Let’s see what week two brings.

Collective Challenge Day 5

At this point, we have this first week in the bag.  Only a few more days left in Week 1 of our collective challenge.  Enough about me, I would like to hear from you.  How are things going?  How does your world feel?  Are you feeling better?  Worse?  Stir crazy?

Did you find a way to be generous?  Was there a creative way that you inspired hope to someone else?

Are you starting to dream big?  What is that thing you would really like to do?  This one can be hard.  Our lives periodically seem to adjust into autopilot and just cruise along maintaining what we already have.  What did you want to be when you were growing up? Was there something you wanted to do?  Someplace you wanted to go?

Keep up the challenge, you can do it!  Don’t be afraid to share your progress, it may just encourage the rest of us.

Rocks, Remembering and Reflecting

Piles of rocks or stones (Cairns) are found all over the world.  They have marked graves, guided travelers and become shrines for worship.

Lately it seems like they are the favorite way to mark trails when you hike in the winter so you do not lose your way.

Stones seem to have a similar importance for me, my family and a few close friends.  We find ourselves making cairns when we go to the beach.  We also have a habit of collecting stones that mark events in our lives.  That walk, that hike, that special occasion typically ends with someone getting a new stone.  Yes we are the kind of people who give stones as gifts.  

During this season of being thankful, I find myself reflecting on events, people, and memories that have positively shaped my life.  It is easy to reflect when times are good, or when the season encourages us.  It becomes much harder when the storms enter our lives.

On my desk at work is a small wooden box.  The box contains a pile of stones.  There is a stone for each of my children.  There is stone for my wife, our marriage, and that great walk on the beach.  There are stones for other important occasions as well.  This cairn is a daily reminder to guide my path especially during hard times.  Remembering the positive can be hard, but having a tangible reminder each day helps me to stay on the path.

In the midst of a storm, it is all too easy to focus on the chaos, what might go wrong, or how this storm is too big for us to handle.  When the storm comes (and they always do) just picking up those stones seems to connect me to what is important…what really matters.

As you reflect on what you are thankful for, I encourage you to find a stone or some other tangible way to remember those events.  And may it become a way to mark your path.

Happy Birthday…(to Me)

Yes it is true.  Today is my birthday.  Another year has passed. I am a year older and (hopefully) wiser.

You may be thinking: That is great Carl, but what does that have to do with us?  Did you just do this so we would say “Happy Birthday?”

Answer:  Keep reading, I will do my best.  And what is wrong with saying “Happy Birthday?”  I am not going to make you sing today, but that would be cool…anyway I digress.

Birthdays for me are a time to reflect.  A time to think about the past year and answer a few questions.

1.  Did I live my sentence this year?

2.  Did I accomplish my goals?

3.  Have I made progress?  Both personally and professionally?

4.  Why or why not?

This process helps provide focus and direction the goals for the next year to begin to form. So as you may have guessed, it starts with more questions.

What do I want to be?  This one requires a little explanation.  I have noticed an interesting thing as we age, we stop asking this question.  As if once you reach a certain age, the rest of the story is written and you cannot try something new, change your career, or take a new risk.  I was talking to a friend recently and we agreed that as we get older, our behavior should become riskier…skydiving here we come!

What is the most important thing I could improve to be more effective with my wife, kids, co-workers, clients?

What is my greatest fear?  I will try to remember to write more about this one.  We give fear too much credit and far too great a role in our lives.

I was fortunate to grow up living next to my great grandmother.  We would regularly go over and hang out, talk and play games.  One thing I remember about her is this little saying that everyone saw when you walked in her door:

We get too soon old and too late smart.

I am often reminded of this little saying as I reflect on my life each year.  It is funny to look back each decade and realize how much your perspective changes and how much “smarter” you may have become.  We cannot control the fact that we are getting older.  We can control the progress we make each year.

She also had one more saying hanging next to the first one.

The secret to a long life is eating fresh vegetables and fruits for 85 years.

Thanks Gram.  I am almost halfway there.