LOL – one of the problems with writing a blog about gratitude that I share openly is that there are occasionally times when I’m really thankful for something specific but I’d rather not share it with everyone. I swear, its not trying to be selfish, it’s just that sometimes the thing I’m grateful for is something that doesn’t need to be shared with everyone.
Today is totally one of those days. There’s been a ton to be thankful for including safe driving in the first snowy weather, playing games with the boys, and great books, but the one I’m most thankful for is one I’ll keep to myself today.
Hope everyone is having an awesome Tuesday and finding much to be grateful for this evening!
On our drive back from “Up North” yesterday I had a little quiet time. Part of the drive includes zero cell coverage. During that same part of the road trip the boys each had their own things going on. Dominic doing homework and Gavin was reading. I popped in an earbud and fired up an audiobook. I finished The Wim Hof Method (I’d highly recommend it!) and went back to the fiction I had been reading intermittently, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
After seeing how much Becky and Gavin enjoyed it I decided to add it back to the rotation of books. In my second reading I caught so much more of the action and found it to be an even more fulfilling experience than the first time around. All the details that I didn’t quite put together the first time added a rich complexity as the plot unfolded during the second reading.
What really caught my attention yesterday was a leadership lesson I’d forgotten from the first time I read it. The lesson itself is relatively buried but shined like gold when I read it this time.
Long story short (& without spoilers), there’s a point in Ender’s training in which he moves up to controlling a ship. He then moves up into having a squadron. After a while he grows into an entire fleet. At first he continues to act the same as before, attempting to control the battles himself, thinking in all directions at once, and taking action alone. He quickly finds that he needs others to help him and he cannot rely on his own abilities alone. Once the team of leaders are in place he has to trust them, coach them, mentor them, and give them the space, freedom, and flexibility they need while also giving them the direction, vision, and strategy they also need at the same time. In doing so he learns to let go of control in order to maintain control. It’s an interesting study in delegation. There was also a lot more which I won’t get into at risk of spoiling the story for others.
This concept is one I’ve struggled with often in my career. I like to do things myself. Seeing the way he grew reminded me of own career path and helped me zoom out to see what great would really look like. As with many times when I look across the wide expanse that is the distance between who I am and who I am called to be this is one of the lessons that could help me reduce the distance a bit.
I’m thankful for that advice I got long ago to read a combination of business/self-improvement, biography, and fiction. Initially I had my doubts on the importance of fiction, but days like today remind me of their ability to help us see something from “real life” in a very different light. Today it helped me grow.
Usually when I am talking about stillness I’m thinking of it as a moment in which my brain and soul have peace and quiet. There’s not outside stimuli causing me to lose focus. Stillness, in that meaning, is when I am able to pause and think, learn, and relax.
The stillness that created an awesome experience today was quite a bit different.
When Gavin and I would post while hunting we usually did so in a spot with only one small tree stand. This meant that he’d go up to the top and I’d figure out a way to get comfortable next to him. Sometimes that would involve sitting at the base of a tree, standing on the ladder, or standing right next to the tree.
On one of the drives today I stood by the tree and kept my hands on the ladder – largely to keep myself anchored and still. I was doing my best to not move at all and that’s crazy difficult for me to do! Gavin also struggles with sitting still so we were both totally out of our element. That said, we were obviously doing a pretty solid job of sitting still.
From behind me I hear a couple of birds start flitting about around us. Suddenly, one of them landed on the tree not two inches from my hand! I watched it and did my best not to too smile to big and scare it away. A few seconds later and it flew up… and landed on the barrel of Gavin’s gun! I almost laughed out loud when I saw that! If Gavin needed proof that he was capable of sitting still he certainly got it.
Several minutes after the birds had flown off I heard them start making their rounds back in our direction. I could hear the beating of the wings getting closer… and closer… and closer… and suddenly I could feel the wind from the bird’s wings on the back of my neck! He landed right on my shoulder! Again it took all the self control I had to not laugh out loud at the sight of me standing there with a bird on my shoulder. When it flew off it must’ve decided it wasn’t through with me. He flew from my shoulder to a branch and then right onto my hand. Sitting atop my glove he looked right at me and just sat there for a bit. Once he’d thoroughly checked me out he took flight again and went back to the branches.
What an incredible experience!!! I remembered Dad telling me stories like that back in the day but I didn’t quite believe him. After today I think he may have been telling the truth.
Stillness, both literal and metaphorical, has led to some profound experiences in my life and I’m very grateful for it.
Crazy! My internet coverage must not have been good enough last night to upload. Here’s my blog post from yesterday today 😁🤷♂️
Almost all of the daylight hours were focused on hunting today. The weather cooperated incredibly well (sunny, no wind, and fairly warm) even though the deer didn’t (except for the big buck that my brother in law got early in the morning). All said there were many miles walked, tons of outdoor time, and lots of joking. This was my first time out on opening day in a very long time (over 25 years?) and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to get back in the hunt… see what I did there? 😉
With all of the awesomeness of the hunt, you know what I am the most thankful for today? Climbing a tree. Yup, 100% for sure, it was climbing a tree. For reals!
At one point Gavin and I were waiting for others in the group. Gavin went up in the deer stand, but there was only room for one. Seeing as I didn’t have a gun and I wanted to stay near Gavin I had to find someplace for me to watch from. In an instant I saw my answer. Near the Gavin’s stand was a huge oak tree with some low hanging branches.
Next thing I knew I was swinging myself up a branch and up the tree. For a moment I questioned my ability to get up in the tree but then figured why not? Funny how my mind can sometimes question my ability before I had attempt something. I need to remember to shut that little voice down more often.
I continued up the tree until I found a perfect little perch. I sat there, relaxed, and looked over at Gavin. He smiled at me, I smiled back, and I kind of felt like I was his age again. There we were, two kids out in the woods, climbing trees.
The sun popped out while I chilled on my branch. At one point I even rested my head on the branch above me and almost fell asleep. The entire time up there was so peaceful and relaxing in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. It was exactly where I was meant to be in that moment and I savored every second of it.
The entire day has been full of outdoor awesomeness and I’m grateful for each and every second of it. While all of it was awesome, climbing a tree was special in a crazy kind of way that I appreciate greatly.
Seven years ago today I shared a video on Facebook that cracks me up and makes me smile to this day. I’d just gotten back from a run in the morning and got a huge “Good Morning!!!” from Gavin. He was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready for action! Hearing his little 5 year old voice was wild. The voice may have changed, but the personality is totally still there. For some reason I wasn’t able to find the video in my library but it is shared to my FB Timeline if you want a dose of high energy guaranteed to make you smile.
The memory from three years ago was from our first day in New Zealand. To be sure, I’ve got a pretty good hunch that I’ll write more about NZ over the next few days. Tonight I was thankful for a completely different memory related to this trip.
Becky had left for New Zealand a few days before us for her conference – the reason we decided to take the trip down there. That meant that I was taking the boys to another continent on the other side of the world solo. Initially I was nervous, but by the end I saw it as one of the best “boys only” adventures the three of us have had together.
We got to the airport in Minneapolis very early and it ended up being even earlier than I’d planned. To help us burn a couple of hours we ended up touring the entire airport including visits to the highest numbered gate of of each concourse. Along the way we did pushups and goofed around on the moving walkways, ate junk food, watched jets, and laughed a ton.
By the time we got to San Fransisco we were ready for more adventuring! We spent the entire waiting time doing more of the same in San Fran. At one point Gavin was leaning on a spinning chair and was literally spinning in circles using the chair! Next thing we knew we were on a flight halfway around the world.
The adventure of getting there was one that I’ll never forget. The boys and I still joke about it from time to time. It was one of my favorite parts of our trip to New Zealand which feels weird to write, but it’s 100% true. The memories we made of having fun in the airport are ones I’ll hold deep in my heart for the rest of my life. We were on an adventure and enjoyed every moment of it (all 30+ hours of it!).
When I sit down to write there are usually a few themes in particular that really stick out and I choose one or two of them to go with. Other days I see so many things that I go list style. Once in a great while I’m in a bit of a funk and it takes a while to find the bright spots to focus on. Most days are very easy to pick out and some involve a little struggle, but usually in a good way.
Some nights have more of a philosophical tone to them or I’m continuing to work thoughts out in my head while I learn through living. Sometimes it’s a specific memory that has brought back joy through one of several different ways.
Nights like tonight are a bit different. There’s not a specific incident or thing that really jumps out – there were many throughout the day that brought great joy. There’s not a thematic feel to it that would necessitate a list. I’m in a fantastic mood so it’s not that I’m unhappy and struggling to find gratitude. There hasn’t been a crazy deep insight or a philosophical idea that’s taken hold or been re-embedded. Nothing like any of those.
When I boil it down I have a deep sense of well being and living into my purpose today. There were many times in which everything felt right – I was lined up in the right place doing the right things with the right people and at the right times. Everything seemed to be in tune – even the things that didn’t go well or as planned all seemed to work out exactly the way they were supposed to. Everything seemed to fit. Cosmic harmony or something like that?
About the best way I can describe it is using a short part of the Dan Brown book, Origin. He uses the example of the noise of a toddler banging on a keyboard to show what chaos sounds like. Think about it, the piano is making noise, an annoying, ear splitting, heart rate increasing, chaotic noise. ( I suddenly feel like the Grinch and all “the noise, noise, noise!!!” ) By contrast he then shares a skilled pianist playing a beautiful piece. There’s an order, beauty, structure, and timing to it that causes it to bring joy and stir our souls. Both sounds are made the same way, but one is incredibly pleasing, the other hurts to listen to.
What I’m thankful for today is the continued feeling of the keys being played by the hands of a skilled pianist rather than the violent pounding of a toddler. Everything lined up and was in place the way it should be – good, bad and otherwise. Everything was as it was supposed to be.
Tonight was the last session of an anti-racism series through our church. The series in of itself is something that I’m very grateful for, but that’ll most likely be a blog topic for a later date. I’ve got a lot of thoughts fermenting in my brain before I’m ready to write that one.
In part of the discussion someone mentioned a line of thought that reminded me of some excellent advice from a while back. While I don’t feel it appropriate to get into the details the concept itself is what is truly important.
If someone has an idea different than mine I have a tendency to do my best to talk them into my idea. I mean, c’mon, it’s MY idea and viewpoint, so it must be right… right? When I do my best to make my point over and over and over again how often does it actually cause lasting change? Not often. Not only that, but it seems like the other person is much more likely to dig their heels in and push back.
Why doesn’t it work? Because I’m typically making a ton of assumptions and taking it 100% from my perspective.
The excellent advice that really stuck in my head was the concept of seek first to understand, then to be understood. Instead of immediately springing into action and sharing my opinion I need to remember to act with true, heartfelt, and honest curiosity. “Tell me more about that.” “Why do you feel that way?” “How did you come to this perspective?” “What do you feel is truly at the heart of the situation?” Those are the place to really start the conversation.
Odds are that their answer is different than the assumption I’ve already created in my brain. I don’t fully understand their situation and most likely never will completely. By learning more I can sometimes find that the core issue is something much different than I thought. I need to remember to ask and listen intently if I am to truly learn.
Additionally, I’ve just gone through an anti-racism workshop series, read a couple of books, and listened to some podcasts. My brain is primed to see a specific issue first because it has been top of mind. Instead of immediately assuming racism I need to learn more to see if that is truly the issue. Maybe it is, but maybe it is something different. Maybe it’s an issue of safety, socio-economic challenges, or something else.
If I just dive in and attempt to assert my viewpoint it will not only not move the other person, it will most likely further open the divide between us. By taking time to understand first I can at least make sure we’re both looking across the same canyon before finding a way to build a bridge to the other side.
Whew, that just went way longer than I expected and also didn’t cover the detail I can see in my head as well as I’d hoped it would. Long story short, the concept fo seeking first to understand and then to be understood will be top of mind as I interact with others moving forward.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been off of work to work on a personal project. Part of that focus has included going through my blog posts from the past few years in search of a couple of specifics. Sure, I could’ve used he search feature but that wouldn’t have been nearly as enlightening or successful in my search. What this meant was that I spent well over six hours combing through my most recent 1,000+ posts.
Over the past three and a half years there have been so many adventures – oh my goodness! Seeing all of the work trips, vacations, and road trips was pretty wild. There were a steady stream of events with the boys as they grew from Cub Scouts to Scouts, from elementary and middle to middle and high schoolers. So much time outdoors, on the water, playing games, up in the workshop creating, time with friends, and having fun. There were many pics of sunsets, sunrises, bluffs, storms, snow, lightning, and the moon. Inspirational moments which had come and gone. Memorable moments that I’d kind of forgotten or didn’t realize were as recent as they were.
What really caught my attention was the wonderful reminder of how important and integral gratitude is to my overall joy. There were clearly days when I was struggling or frustrated, but with the distance of time the wounds had healed and I’ve become stronger as a result. Focusing on gratitude forced me to find the upside in those difficult times and to ask myself two of my favorite questions:
How can I be grateful for this adversity?
What can I learn from this?
In reading post after post it was wild to see how this habit is finally starting to form and shape my mental process. In connecting the dots afterwards I can see why my brain gravitated to Stoicism as it has – there were so many of those types of thoughts brewing before I even knew it was a thing. As I’ve continued to read, research, and focus on it I can see those tendencies becoming stronger.
Throughout those 1,000+ posts I became even more grateful for this journaling practice that I stumbled into by accident. In almost each of the posts I could remember the days more clearly thanks to the post priming my memory. Due to it being focused on gratitude each post, even on a bad day, reminded me that it is up to me to remember a specific day as good or bad. In choosing gratitude for my daily “journal entry” my history is more optimistic. Trust me, I remember much of the crappy stuff that had happened on those days as well, but thanks to the filter of gratitude my first impression of the day was positive. Even if it were tough I was still able to grow from it.
What I also found interesting were the recurring themes that mirror my values and the types of things in life I value most. Time with family. Focus on growth and being better. Faith. Thought followed by action. Friendship. Keeping a growth mindset. Gratitude. The beauty of nature. Physical activity. The importance of stillness. Learning from past mistakes. Dreaming big. Living while I am alive. So many of the same themes, over and over and over.
While it was a different project that led me to dive into my old blogs I couldn’t help but temporarily lose sight of my goal as I drifted into reading an old blog that was off topic. In a very tedious task I was able to find significant amounts of joy and the feeling of growth and progress. To have my mind flooded with so many memories was an awesome experience that I will not soon forget.
If you already journal, be sure to look back once in a while. What an amazing feeling to see where you’ve come from and how you’ve grown. If you don’t do any journaling I’d highly recommend it. The treasures I’ve found through it are mind blowing. To be able to go back over five years and have highlights to remind me of the day have kept my memory strong. By focusing on what I’m grateful for I’ve taught myself to look for more of what brings me joy (not happiness, but joy specifically).
I took today and tomorrow off from work to focus on wrapping up something I’ve been working on for over three years now. In doing so I needed to make sure that I could focus 100% on the task at hand and not be distracted. This is not something that is easily done for me.
In case you haven’t noticed, I have “Shiny Syndrome.” When I see something shiny it catches my attention and my thoughts race away from what I was doing to the shiny thing I now see before me. In a flash my focus is completely shot and it takes me a while to get back on track.
Staying at home would have led to way to many potential distractions. Same with being up in my workshop, there are far too many things to draw my attention away. I considered even renting a place for a day or two and then realized that may be a little too extreme (though it remains on my list of options if necessary). Instead I opted to drive to the beach and parked the car there. All I brought with was my laptop and phone (the phone was only to be used for music and as a mobile hotspot and I largely stuck with that). I killed the engine, slid into the passenger seat, and made myself comfortable.
The hours flew by in a flash. Every so often I’d glance up and take advantage of the wonderful view. In those quick pauses I’d close my eyes for a moment, let my brain wander a bit, and then went right back at it for a while. Next thing I knew it was time to head back home. When I took a quick assessment of progress I was pleased to see that I’d made it further than expected.
While the task itself was mind blowing, I am truly grateful for acknowledging one of my many shortcomings and then finding a way to work with it. Just a hunch, but I’m thinking I already have an idea of what I’ll be thankful for tomorrow… but none of it would have been possible without the focus starting today.
Shiny Syndrome, you bring much excitement to my life and I’m grateful for you. That said, thanks for taking a vacation today. Please stay away tomorrow too. I’ve got work to do. 😉
One of the silver linings of this year has been an increase in hiking in Perrot State Park. The extra open weekends have provided ample opportunity to get out to some excellent WI State Parks. Perrot is only a short drive from our house and is a true gem on the Mississippi River. Over the past handful of years we’ve typically counted ourselves fortunate for getting out there one or two times each year. This year we’ve been blessed to head there for some hiking no less than half a dozen times.
Today what I’m thankful for is a little different. It’s not just hiking in Perrot, rather seeing the changing of the seasons. There’ve been four times this year when I’ve taken pictures from roughly the same vantage point atop Perrot Ridge. The trail we typically take winds us up the bluff through the woods and then carries across the spine of the ridge. At the apex it opens into a beautiful goat prairie with incredible vistas of the Mississippi River Valley. Atop that ridge I usually pause to snap a quick pic to enjoy and soak in just how different the view is given the variables of that precise moment.
Today was particularly wild as it looked very similar (though more gloomy) to when we took our first hike there this March. Here’s the progression of pics:
What really caught my attention today was the contrast between July and today. Our hikes started in the tail of winter. They continued into summer. As winter comes again we prepare to keep going. In that cycle we’ve seen no leaves, luscious vegetation, beautiful fall colors, and now back to no leaves. The leaves and beautiful fall colors will come back again, year after year after year.
For many this time on Earth feels like the winter. It can be gloomy, can feel barren, and can be cold. This too shall pass. The times when we are down test us. Can we find the positive in anything? Can we stay optimistic? Can we utilize the opportunity to grow and close the gap between who we are and who we are called to be? This is a season like any other. It will pass. When it does the reminder of it will make the sun feel all the more bright and life all the more vibrant.
Hiking through Perrot has reminded me of this. I will continue to hike all the seasons. I will find ways to appreciate each of them for their own unique qualities and opportunities. There is beauty in all seasons.