Halftime

Believe it or not, it's halftime. The craziness that began 2012 has't stopped for 6 months and now you are on the down hill side of this calendar year. Everything that you said, "This will happen in 2012" that hasn't, only has 26 weeks left to be accomplished.  The way this year will be remembered hangs in the balance and you've been given a moment here at halftime to make sure that you don't let 2012 slip through your fingers. Let's think through your performance in the first half. You took some good shots, you push hard on some of the new ideas that you'd been tinkering with, and you even exploited those that stood in your way and made their defense look weak. But, you also took more time to get to the goal than you needed, your pace started great but was dragging by the time the end of the 2nd quarter rolled around, and you allowed others to walk all over you when it came time to block their blatant attempts at accelerating your defeat.

So right now, in this slow moment between halves when everyone else is sipping Gatorade and reliving their one highlight moment of the first half, this is the chance that you've been asking for to clean the slate from what was and take command of what's to come. It's right now that you can lock in on the strategies that worked in the first half and get rid of the ones that didn't and the ones that held you down. Right now is all that matters because right now is all you have.

This year won't be won out on the battlefield, this year will be won the place that all great victories are won: in the moments of preparation and commitment in the in between.

Hustle now or forever hold your peace.

Whole Soul

This quote was shared with me this weekend by a very good friend, Randy Brandoff. We then discussed the things that we are respectively are interested in and that we do very well. Now it is on us to live out the rest of the truth in this quote and put soul into it. "The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it - every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have."

- John D. Rockefeller

Where Were You?

"Sorry I'm late, some plane hit a building in New York. Don't worry, it will be a made-for-TV-movie by the holidays." said Coach Lance Lowry as he arrived for my 8am handball class at Texas A&M. Little did we know how different the world would look when class ended 40 minutes later. Coach Lowry arrived at 8:10 (CST) for class. I remember this exactly because for an 8am class, everyone pays a lot of attention to the 10 minute rule. If the professor doesn't show after 10 minutes, everyone walks. But he did and we had a full class on the technic one should use to strengthen their weak hand returns. When class was over, I walked up to the gym's juice bar and grabbed a banana and a smoothie. I sat down in the lounge area with the intention of finishing some homework. But, there in the front of the room was of a big screen TV tuned into CNN.

As I sat down, the first tower fell.

It was not going to be a normal day.

I walked over to the Memorial Student Center and used a land line (I didn't have a cell at that point) there to call my family and talk briefly about what was going on. As I walked through the halls, TV from classrooms on rolling stands were being positioned for people to gather around.

Then the second tower fell.

I logged into to the main webpage for the school to see if there were any announcements about changes in schedules, or the all important, classes being canceled announcement. Nothing yet. I checked a couple more times throughout the morning, but ended up going to my 2:10 Economics class.

I did not want to be there.

"I know you don't want to be here," began my frequently rather grumpy professor. "But you know what, those evil people that took down the towers today, they didn't want you to be here either. They wanted to mess with the life that you have as an American and change what it means to have the freedoms that we have. Don't let them. Live the life with the freedom that you've been given as an American and don't give those terrorists an inch. Now, onto the ways in which a demand curve indication of marginal utility..."

I knew a couple people that were in the Towers when they got hit, but they were on the 16th floor and made it out with no problem. I filled up my truck with gas because I was worried about the prices increasing the next day.  I went over to a friends house and had burgers that night by the pool.

Now, a decade later, I live in New York. I live just over a mile away from where the Towers stood. I can see One World Trade rising from the still gapping hole in the ground when I walk out my front door. I wasn't a New Yorker when the Towers fell, but I am now. And this morning, I took full advantage of my proximity and the gorgeous sunrise to reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same in the 10 years since the world stopped turning.

President Obama didn't have any remarks this morning. He felt, and I agree with him, that the Psalmist summed up what needed to be said perfectly in the 46th Psalm:

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

When I grow up....

Last night, Annie and I went out with one of our favorite couples to The Smith in the East Village.  Our dinner conversation ranged from the insanity of extended families to politics to Bob Ross' Joy of Painting (happy little trees!) The discussion also turned to the lists that we all wrote down as kids about what we wanted out of life when we grew up. We all recounted the categories and the hilarity of the details that we went into when describing our expectations of the future.   My favorite was the description of the perfect husband though the eyes of a 17 year old: "He must be good looking (if at all possible) and not go bald." This morning, still relishing in the glow of the great dinner (think beer battered green beans, bacon wrapped apricots, and a culinary piece of perfection:"Stout Braised Beef Short Ribs."), I got to thinking: when do we stop writing down what we want out of life with the expectation that it is still something that can and should happen? When do our lists have more to do with this week's to-dos and less to do with the biggest ideas that we can imagine? When did the lists we make change from our dreams and goals to a detailed account of this week's groceries and bills that need to be paid?

My favorite book in the world is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Early on in the book main character, a young boy name Santiago, meets a wise king. The king exhorts the young boy to not believe the world's greatest lie:

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised. The King responded, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

At a certain point we all run into a brick wall on our way to achieving what we committed ourselves to when we had the innocence of a child. That brick wall, the first failure or set back of our adult life, is the end of their pursuit of the much larger vision they envisioned for themselves before the toils and responsibilities of "growing up" were upon them. That first roadblock is enough of a disappointment for the majority to stop, slow down, and put away their childhood lists. It is enough to convince them to believe the world's greatest lie.

But for others, like Santiago in The Alchemist, it is just the beginning of an incredible adventure up, over, around, or through that wall.  It is hitting that wall, and the next, and the next, that strengthens our resolve to go through this life with a resolve that we were made for the things of our dreams and the only thing standing between us and the life we've imagined is our own cowardice and willingness to turn our backs on the dreams of our youth.

Scrubbing with a Smile

In 2004, with just a semester left at Texas A&M, I decided to live in London for the summer. I showed up with enough money to last me a month, a work visa, and wide eyes. A couple weeks later, the money had run out and I found myself on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor of the Starbucks in Piccadilly Circus.  Tourists from America were walking over me to get their venti nonfat white chocolate mocha with whip (the most ridiculous drink in the world) and I was feeling a little blue.  This wasn't how I imagined my summer going. But, then the Starbucks UK Summer mix kicked on.  Jimmy Cliff singing "I Can See Clearly Now" was the next song that came on and a smile crept across my face as I put a little elbow grease into getting crusted spilt frappuccino out of the entry way tiles.  Here I was, in one of the coolest cities in the world, fighting for my next meal and on an adventure. That is something worth seeing clearly about.

When I was back in London two weeks ago, I went back to that Starbucks in Piccadilly Circus.  I walked in and ordered a ridiculous drink that only an American would order.  And, as I watched the new batch of Barista scramble to keep the orders moving down the espresso bar, I just had to smile. The next song on this Summer's UK mix? Jimmy Cliff singing "I Can See Clearly Now."

...Oh yes, I can make it now the pain is gone All of the bad feelings have disappeared Here is the rainbow I've been praying for It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshinin' day...

Success: Three Ways

I am fascinated by the path that people take to achieve their success.  There are few things that I love more than learning through the eyes of another and gleaning some wisdom from their story.  I recently had lunch with two gentlemen that I respect a great deal.  Their conversation was in a pretty rarified air, but since I had arranged the lunch, I was fortunate to be there soaking it all in.  As one of the gentlemen described a couple of his former business partners, he said something to the effect of: "There are three types of people that become successful in life; those that are smarter than everyone else, those that are luckier than everyone else, and those that have to work harder than everyone else.  Always assume you're the third."

It is so true.   I feel like I can segment each of my successful friends into one of those three categories.  There are absolutely my friends that from a very early age had the ability to quickly learn and rarely found themselves challenged by their studies.  Then I most certainly have my friends that have been extremely good at being in the right place at the right time AND knowing what to do when they got there.  And then of course there is the group that I've been a card carrying member of since my first lemonade stand, those that hustle.  This is group is less about knowing what card you have up your sleeve and more about always being proud that you were dealt into the hand.  The group that always has the best stories about how they have achieved the success that they have.  This is the group that, in the long run especially, I am excited to be lined up with.