Day 944 – Thankful for an Unforgettable Lesson From an Amazing Teacher, Mr. Cerveny

Throughout the course of the day there have been several moments in which my thoughts were pulled in the direction of teachers.  My boys have been so blessed to have so many wonderful teachers at Summit Elementary and Logan Middle.  In thinking of their teachers I can’t help but wonder what lessons they’ll hold onto forever from them.  I’m not talking about class room learning, but life lessons.

In my senior year of high school one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Cerveny taught me a lesson that I wouldn’t fully comprehend until much later in my life.  Even though it took me a long while to fully get it I still remember the conversations in which he taught it so clearly.

Ron Cerveny

One day in class Mr. C told us that he could predict with 100% accuracy if we would be successful and happy in the career path we were pursuing.  He would be happy to offer up his opinion if we would like to hear it, but we should make sure that we really wanted to hear it as he didn’t sugar coat it.  He promised 100% honesty in his response. This offer really intrigued me as I had a laser-like focus on going to school for engineering.

After class I asked him if I would be successful and happy in my career path.  I waited with baited breath for him to tell me I was wrong so I could add a chip on my shoulder to motivate me while I pursue my dream.  Nothing like someone telling me that I can’t do something to inspire me to do it (not always a positive trait!).  Alas, he told me to think over whether or not I really wanted to know the answer.  He reminded me that he would be honest and straight forward in his response.  I agreed and headed off to the next class.

The next day I hunted Mr Cerveny down and asked him the question.  “Will I be successful and happy in my engineering career?”  He again politely reminded me that he would be honest and asked if I was sure I wanted to know his opinion.  Once I confirmed my intentions he shared a simple answer that blew my mind.  “No.”

I was shocked!  Even though I’d expected to hear a “no” from him it still left me floored.  Most of life until that point I’d been told I could be anything I wanted and do anything I could dream.  This was the first flat out “no” I’d heard in my choice of career and it left my head spinning.

Mr. C then went on to elaborate.  He shared that I could be successful at it, but it wouldn’t be something I would be happy in.  I was capable, but I really wouldn’t enjoy it.  He shared that I would fine more joy in working with people.  He was sure to explain that it wasn’t something that I could not do, but rather something that I wouldn’t find my purpose and joy in.  After discussing it for a while I explained that I was happy to be the first person he guessed wrong about, and thanked him for the time.

When doing the rough math, this conversation was had over two decades ago, but it still sticks with me after all these years.  Mr. Cerveny was an awesome Physics and Science teacher and I remember some of what he taught us, but that conversation is the one that has been burned into my brain.  As time has gone on I’ve realized he taught me a couple of very valuable life lessons.

His honest response was so refreshing.  It was difficult to take, but the brutal unfiltered truth was exactly what I needed to hear.  In some ways I look back and think of how angry or emotional I could have been at the response, but it wasn’t like that at all.  He was saying it that was because he cared for me and wanted the best for my future joy.  As opposed to sugar coating something for me to feel good about right away and potentially (and almost inevitably) regret, he chose the difficult path of tough love.  Mr. C chose the toughest action out of his concern for my well being for the long run.  I didn’t get defensive or angry about it as I knew he cared for me and was doing what he thought was best for me.

Over the past twenty plus years I’ve remembered this lesson of his and lived into it in a way that would make him proud.  He’s inspired me to take the tough road.  Also during that time, more often than I’d care to admit, I’ve not followed his lesson.  After making that mistake I think of him, I see him shaking his head in disappointment.  In those moments I should be stronger and draw from the same reserves he did to have a tough conversation out of my love for the other person.  In either situation I think of him and his first lesson often.

The second lesson I learned from that experience with Mr. Cerveny has taken much longer to sink in.  Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I should do it.  In addition to honesty he taught me one half of the equation of grit.  Grit is pushing through challenges for long term goals and dreams.  It is equally parts Perseverance and Passion. I can be incredibly stubborn when I want to be and have proven that to myself time and time again.  The part that I learned from Mr C was that if I wasn’t truly passionate about something that stubbornness and perseverance would only make me more frustrated.

If I didn’t follow my dream, the one I was really passionate about and not the one that I thought society wanted me to follow to be “successful,” I only would have become miserable.  What Mr. Cerveny said hit the nail right on the head…  I could have been an engineer, but I most likely wouldn’t have enjoyed it.  When looking back at my college career I took very little joy in the classes related to it and moved in different direction quickly.  While I didn’t listen to him at first, eventually the message got through that I should go with my passions and strengths, working with and helping people.  Sure, I could have been an engineer or a navigator in the Air Force, but my path is more aligned with me and the purpose I feel pulled to.

After all these years I am still in awe of how much that one conversation has stuck with me.  Pieces of this lesson have been taught to my boys already and one day I look forward to sharing the full story with them as they start to choose their paths in life.  I am so thankful for that unforgettable lesson from an amazing teacher.

Mr. C – thank you so much for all you taught me.  The physics stuff was a blast, but the life stuff was truly awesome.  Whenever a question is asked about teachers who made an impact your name and this story are brought up.  Thank you for the tough love and brutal honesty, thank you for still building me up in the process, and thank you for helping me find my path.  I appreciate you greatly!

Thanks!!!

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Day 943 – Thankful for an Incredible Handmade Wedding Gift From Todd

Last night Becky and I spent much time sharing memories from our wedding day. While most of our conversation focused on the wedding and reception itself we did talk about the next day a little as well, including the gift opening. I’m still in awe of how giving so many people were. At that point in our life we didn’t have much and it was a great help to us.

When I went to bed last night and woke up this morning I went through my normal routine. This involves taking off my glasses and turning off the lamp in the evening and then putting on my glasses and checking the weather on my phone in the morning. Some nights I read in bed for a while before putting down my book. Regardless, there’s been a constant every day at home for exactly 17 years now. I have a beautiful handmade nightstand that was created for us by Becky’s Uncle Todd.

This beauty is there for me twice a day like clockwork and still looks perfectly new. Some days I catch myself just looking at it for woodworking inspiration. The craftsmanship Todd put into is nothing short of awesome. It’s sturdy yet elegant, perfect in its functionality.

Do you know what is the best part of it to me? The memory of the smile on Todd’s face when he gave them to us. It was readily apparent that he’d put much energy and love into creating this beautiful gift. How much more precious is a gift than when you know someone crafted it themselves specifically for someone?

Todd – thank you for a beautiful, thoughtful and functional gift that has been used every single day I’ve been home since our wedding 17 years ago!

Thanks!!!

Day 942 – Thankful for a Snowy Day 17 Years Ago Shared with Family & Friends

Our marriage is almost old enough to vote and buy lottery tickets! Seventeen years ago today there was a crazy blizzard in Westboro, WI as Becky and I exchanged our vows. How fitting that today’s weather included some snow flurries?

In addition to thinking about all the years Becky and I been together and all the experiences we’ve had and memories we’ve created I’ve been reflecting a lot on one of the greatest sources of strength, support, and love we have… our friends and family.

Remembering our wedding ceremony I keep thinking back to everyone who attended and were there for us on that big day. A church filled with many of those we love. So many friends and family driving from near and far to share in that special day with us. In addition there were many others who were there with us in spirit.

Today I’m thankful for everyone who was there with us in person on a snowy day so long ago, those who were with us but not present, and all those we’ve been blessed to befriend and become family with since. Your love, friendship, and support lift us always and we are so thankful for all of you. Thank you for being part of the magic that has led to the past seventeen years of marriage, we appreciate you greatly!!!

Thanks!!!

Day 941 – Thankful for the Courage of Mentors to Say What Needs to Be Said

Today I am so thankful for the courage of mentors to say what needs to be said.  I’m blessed to have an excellent mentor who does a great job of coaching me through the tough times as well as during the good times.

Throughout the past week we’ve had several conversations that must not have been the easiest to have.  When I put myself in their shoes the topics are difficult and I can also be defensive when receiving criticism, regardless of how constructive.  Put those things together and it must’ve been tough for them to say what needed to be said today.

From the conversations we’ve had my eyes have been opened to things I need to do differently in the future as well as thought processes I need to re-focus.  In some spots there was feedback that cut deep and I could hear the hesitation in their voice.  They pushed through their discomfort and said what needed to be said to help me keep growing.  I’m so thankful for their courage to speak from the heart and share their thoughts and feedback as it will help me be a stronger teammate, leader, and person.

Thanks!!!

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Day 940 – Thankful for Taking Time to Think and an Old School Supper

Funny how I sometimes forget the power of pausing to think as opposed to charging right into action. Over the past couple of days one of my mentors has done a great job of reminding me to take time to breathe and think.

In making space in my busy day I’ve found new solutions that I’d previously run right past in my rush to get things done. I’m finding solutions to challenges and seeing and preparing for future challenges. Long story short, I will accomplish much more over the next couple of weeks and months based on the time I’ve spent in thought. Funny how much more clearly I can see the world when there isn’t “noise” all around and I make space.

Tonight Becky’s out for work so the boys and I are fending for ourselves. After cruising through the fridge to see what we had for leftover possibilities I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the ham & Easter eggs from this weekend. Within seconds of seeing both ingredients I’d already combined them in my head into an old favorite… ham, egg, cheese, and miracle whip broiled sandwiches. My mom used to make these for us way back in the day and she’d make different flavors for each of us. The smell wafting out of the oven has me drooling already! Simple, easy, tasty, and nostalgic. What else could I ask for?

Thanks!!!

Day 939 – Thankful for a Bonus Round with My Old Buddy Adversity

Wait a minute, am I really thankful for adversity today?  You’re dang right I am!!!

Most often when I’m thinking about things I’m seeing them as pictures and movies in my head.  Kind of like living metaphors in my brain that help me process what’s going and determine the appropriate strategy moving forward.  Tonight at yoga the movie reel started playing and it reminded me of exactly what I am thankful for today.

So there I am in an old video.  Kind of blurry and hazy, like trying to watch network TV via a 20′ antenna as a kid in northern Wisconsin back in the early 80’s.  The scene is a boxing ring.  This isn’t a normal boxing match though, this is an old school bareknuckle fight.

I’ve just successfully won a tough round against my old buddy Adversity.  It was a tough one and we both landed many blows, but I definitely took the round.  The bell just rang and I turned to go to my corner to take a seat, rest up, clean up, get a drink, and prepare for the next round.

As I’m walking away I feel a tap on my right shoulder (the camera view is towards my back and all you see is a hand reaching out to tap me on the shoulder).  Instinctively I turn to see who it was and POP, POP!!!

The jerk of a buddy of mine, Adversity, had snuck up behind me, tricked me into turning around, and then let loose.  He hit me with a couple of quick jabs, one to the nose and one to the mouth.  Blood immediately starts running down my face and I feel a tooth suddenly no longer attached to my gums.  Stars are floating around me everywhere for a moment.  What I can clearly see is Adversity staring me down with a mischievous smile on his face.  He reaches out a hand and gives me the “Morpheus bring it” gesture from The Matrix.

I spit out the tooth off to my right side.  I brush the back of my left hand across my nose and mouth and fling the yuck off to my left.  I turn my head and crack my neck.  I interlace my fingers and crack my knuckles.  There’s a gleam in my eyes that is one part crazy and two parts determination.  I smile and charge forward to go into a bonus round with Adversity.

The funny thing is that even though it was a shot I wasn’t expecting, I still am thankful for my old buddy Adversity.  When I’m struggling with him there are so many ways that I  am joyful through the frustration.  I know that through all of my battles with him I’ve always won because I will persist.  Any time I engage with Adversity I am reminded to be thankful for the many family, friends, and teammates all around me who will support me, strengthen me, and will help us all be successful.  Each battle with Adversity leaves me stronger than I was before.  I learn from each experience and become a better person for having fought through it.  Adversity reminds me I’m still alive and still learning.  All of the dreams I have are beyond Adversity, it is the wall I must crash through to earn what I want.  When facing Adversity I am more often engaged in the moment, in the present.  Each battle with Adversity leaves me stronger and for that I am thankful.

Hey old buddy, I wasn’t quite ready for you so quickly, but now that you’re here…  Let’s have some fun!

Thanks!!!

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Day 938 – Thankful for Perfect Spring Track Weather and the Right Message at the Right Time

It was just last week that I was thankful for walking barefoot on the soccer fields.  The weather that night was fantastic and really felt like Spring had sprung.  Then we had some weird weather including unseasonably high temps and rainy cold days.  There were a few times I had to pause and remember just how perfectly Spring-ish the weather was last week Tuesday.

Tonight Dominic had a home track meet.  Sitting on the bleachers and walking the around the event was amazing!  The sun was out, the temp was perfect, and sky was a beautiful blue.  It was a perfect Spring night.  Spending the time outside in the fresh air was exactly what the doctor ordered.  In between events I was on my phone cranking away on several work related projects.  It didn’t even feel like work due to the incredible weather!  I am so thankful for the perfect Track weather today.

Also today I was again amazed at the ability of the universe to nudge me in the right direction when I need it most.  On my drive to Rochester today I stumbled across a wonderfully written audio blog post.  The post was insightful, dovetailed perfectly into my current situation and inspired me to keep the right mindset throughout the day.  There were more than a few times when the memories of the post ran through my head and helped me stay focused in the right ways.  Today was so much better due to living the advice from the blog post and I’m thankful for it!

Thanks!!!