Life Changing Moments (and Weekends)

This past weekend I spent 3-nights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula living “off the grid” as much as this pretty city boy could. My brother-in-law has a hunting compound he’s built with a friend on 100-acres. No running water. No electricity. No Wi-Fi. This “weekend in the U.P.” was the alternative to Cub Scouts for my son (10 years old). Prior to the school year he said he wanted to play saxophone and take lessons, and he wanted to play indoor soccer (as well as fall and spring outdoor soccer), and he still likes playing baseball (another spring activity). And he wasn’t in love with Cub Scouts, except for the father-son overnight camping trip at the very end of each school year.

So I said, “hey, if you don’t love Cub Scouts and the badges and field trips or Pinewood Derby, and uniform inspection stuff, and you only like the ‘boys weekend’ we get to have while camping, how about you quit Cub Scouts and we’ll figure out a weekend to go camping, just you and me.”

Gonna make a long story short. I brought this up to my oldest brother-in-law who said, “you ought to come up to my place in the U.P.” And so I said that sounded great. And before I knew it, three other brother-in-laws and their sons thought it sounded great and suddenly it was “a thing.” A big, huge “boys weekends” with uncles and brothers and cousins and adventure.

So much can be said about this trip, I could write many boring blog entries (or maybe a journal …maybe I should), but the highlight was being with my son for 4 straight days . . . just me and him. I missed my wife and daughters (regardless of what the next few paragraphs imply), but at the same time, um, how do I put this? The three of them are strong personalities, and as my father observed recently, they easily overpower my son.

This weekend. My son had the power. He had the freedom. And the clip below happened at the end of a very long hike through the woods and we suddenly, not knowing it was even there, came upon a place where everyone was hanging out and cliff jumping into the Sturgeon River (which I think some call the “Grand Canyon of Michigan”) and that’s what my teen nephews were really hoping to find. My nephews were all in, without hesitation, and my son had much hesitation. First he was not going to do it because it looked scary. Next it was because he didn’t have a bathing suit. But ..it wasn’t me who eventually convinced him to jump – he convinced himself. He hemmed and hawed. I told him only, “hey, your shorts will dry and, ya know what else,  we make you take swim lessons and be on the swim team and you know how to swim, so I think you’ll be fine.” (Full Disclosure: I was scared for him and wasn’t at all disappointed if he’d decided not to jump).

And then the best moment came . . . not below where he actually jumped (I’ll call that the third best moment …”third?” you ask …just wait). The “best moment” came when he watched his cousins make their way to the big rock and he said, “Dad, ya know what? Why not?” And then he stripped off his shirt and baseball cap and made his way to the cliff.

You can watch the whole video (you’ll see my nephew jump first), but my son’s jump comes at the 1:07 mark. Oh, and if you watch to the end, you’ll see him dump an old lady into the rapids. Pretty funny. But she was an athletic lady and laughed about it. Very cool.

I’ve watched this about 50 times and I can’t stop smiling. It was my son’s moment. Had this been a Cub Scout event, he would’ve been forced to wear a life vest and listen to instructions on proper jumping techniques and waited in line for his one jump (he jumped a second time) and, inevitably, one of the trouble-maker boys at Cub Scouts would’ve jumped in early or pushed someone, or cut in front of my son in line and, heck, who am I kidding, probably the entire thing would’ve been ruined because one of the boys would’ve jumped early and been taken down stream by the current and it would’ve become a rescue mision. I get it. Cub Scouts can’t treat everyone the same and “throw caution to the wind.” And if this had been a family event (with my wife and daughters), my showtime-child would’ve put on a show and my older-child would delighted in trying to scare my son (something she’s very good at), and my wife would’ve insisted I be in the water to help the kids if they got in trouble (for the record, from where I was filming, I also could’ve jumped in if my son had gotten in trouble I was pretty much ready to David Hasselhoff Baywatch in there in a moments notice. Plus, both my teen swimmer/diver nephews were in the water, so it wasn’t like I was totally throwing caution to the wind) and my wife, love her as I do, would’ve immediately become a cliff-jumping expert and been giving all sorts of advice and warnings and tips and . . .

What I’m getting at is this. It was my son’s moment to shine. Just me and him (and the cousins and Uncles, but cousins and Uncles are mostly just cheerleaders).

And this is why the weekend was life-changing. Not sure if I made a point or I just sound like I’m saying life would be better if I didn’t have a wife and daughters (which is not my point), or if I sound like I’m foolishly putting too much stock in a fun-filled getaway weekend and, no, Don …life isn’t a nature trail and cliff-jumping and bonfires and fishing. No. It’s not. And I get that. But life can be less complicated. And I can be nicer. And I should be happier. And I should remember what matters and when I see my son, just enjoy the fact I have a nice, optimistic, gentle, kind, semi-serious son who occasionally has pretty intense temper tantrums (don’t worry, readers-who-don’t-know-my-son . . . everyone knows this quirky thing).

It’s life-changing because it reminds me, hey, I don’t need to and shouldn’t want to change my life.

I need to live my life. To the fullest. Every day. Every minute. Now come ‘ere and gimme me a hug.

Enjoy the vid.

Final thought. The cliff-jump was the third-best moment. The second-best moment of the weekend was when, on Sunday, my son said, “Dad, this is probably the best experience of my life. Maybe Maui. But probably this.”

#ChokedUp

I Do What Tim Ferriss Says

Because I do whatever Tim Ferriss says in his podcasts, I ordered the Mizzen+Main “Beckett” blue gingham dress shirt and used promo code ‘TIM’ and got a Henley shirt for free. And I knew I was responding to an ad. I knew it. I know it. But I trust Tim Ferriss so much, I’m actually taking ice cold showers daily during Lent (and noticing a distinct difference in my body fat and early day energy). I’m putting almond butter on celery at night before bed to enhance sleep and make my mornings better. I’m doing his slow-carb #4HourBody diet.

And I bought the shirt he told me to.

Is this what early stages of becoming a “stalker” looks like? I guess when Tim Ferriss finds me sleeping in his bathtub after having broken into his home, then everyone should worry.

Why the shirt? Well, it’s a bit pricier than what I normally pay for my dress shirts (Express 1MX almost exclusively with an occasional J. Crew  dress shirt thrown in for flavor), but he swears it can be worn over and over and over again, doesn’t need dry-cleaning, and doesn’t need to be ironed. And he claims it’s stretchy and made from material that’ll keep me cool. So, if I pay a little more for the shirt, but save on dry cleaning, and if it lasts for more than a year with regular wear and tear, it’s probably worth the higher price tag. We’ll see. For the price, it had better look like, and wear like, a nice shirt and go with suits, slacks, and blazers. I trust his endorsement.

And in my day job, I sell endorsements. I utilize the personalities on the radio stations I represent in Detroit and have them talk about certain products or brands. And it works. Why? Because people trust people they like. And when it’s deeply personal and genuine, there’s an energy and honesty that can’t be duplicated in any other way.

Tim Ferriss, to me, is always looking for a time saver, shortcut, or money saver. His message, the way I hear it, is a) take whatever it is you do and b) find a way to do it in half the time it normally takes you. And when you do, you’ll have more “me time” and be happier. If I can spend a little more on a shirt and spend less money and time at the dry cleaner – bam. I’ll be happier. One less thing to worry about. Not to mention all the articles that say how toxic the dry cleaning chemical is and how it shouldn’t be against the skin and that, upon returning home from the dry cleaner you should try and rip open the plastic bag outside or in your garage because, otherwise, you’ll loosing tiny particles of chemical poison into your bedroom/closet air and, with my lung thing …well, one less thing that could cause me a lung seizure is a-OK in my book.

So, yes. I hope this shirt is awesome. And, I’m a victim (probably a bad choice of words) of trusting a celebrity who endorsed something.

Stay tuned for a shirt update whence it arrives.

Follow me at @donkowalewski.

One of my favorite Tim Ferriss interviews follows…

A Christmas Tree Saved is a Christmas Tree Earned

We started a new tradition last year. We went to a tree farm in northern Michigan and chopped down a tree and brought it home. Tied it to the roof of our van, we did. I didn’t have string, so I borrowed some “line” from my father-in-law. It was “rope” now that I look back.

We’ve always gotten a real tree. Usually we go to a tree lot in the suburbs of Detroit and pay way too much (ahem, $90 anyone)? But it’s all about the charm of letting the kids run around and hide in between the trees and stuff like that. Then we pay too much for a wreath, etc. So, we thought we’d save some money (half, actually) and hit a tree farm. The kids still had a blast and the only complaint from last year was that I walked, saw in hand, half a mile into the tree lot before I found the perfect tree and then I had to drag said tree a half mile to my car. Oops.

This year wasn’t much different. Maybe I only dragged this really big Douglas Fir about a quarter-mile. I was noticeably less out of breath. But this year, I didn’t have “rope.” I had brought a roll of my own twine.

Did you know not all twine is made equal?

Well, I mention I’ve always bought “real trees” to demonstrate I’ve tied many trees to the top of my vehicle over these past 16 years of marriage. Never had a problem. There’s not much to it. Three lines are all I’ve ever needed. One at the base. One at the top. One around the middle just for good measure.

But with inferior twine, well, it’s a different story.

About a 1/2-mile down the highway after leaving the tree farm, I heard a “whoosh” and looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a fat Christmas tree bouncing and rolling down the right lane of I-127. And behind that tree, dozens of car (turning into a hundred cars) all slamming on their breaks. Me? In the blink of an eye? I became that a-hole that backs up traffic for miles. I pulled over to the shoulder and while everyone was backed up, merging into the left hand lane to avoid my tree, I backed up a few hundred yards back to my tree, put my hazard lights on, then ran into the highway to retrieve my tree.

My bad luck was slightly muted by the fact there was a snow-plow guy who pulled over to help and he put on his flashers. Truth be told, this guy was too helpful and not at all afraid of the cars whizzing by at 60 or 70 m.p.h. just a few feet from my vehicle (with my family inside) and me climbing all over my car trying to get the tree back on. He even kept kinda stepping into the right lane of the highway. He was far too confident that everyone would be paying full attention and not texting and driving.

Me? I wanted to tie the tree on at the minimum level needed to drive, slowly, about a 1/2 mile up to this house/driveway just off the highway. He wanted to make knots worthy of Boy Scouts or sailors of the 1400s.

He and I tied 6 lines to it and then I insisted we “get off the road” and I bid him farewell. I proceeded to the driveway, as was my plan, and then used the rest of my entire roll of twine to secure the tree (which was now on my roof fat-side/bottom-side forward). But when a guy stops and is helping you and puts himself in harms way, I wasn’t about to ask him to turn the tree around.

Three lines is usually all I need. On this day, after the incident, I had about 17 ties going across and around the tree. Gulliver himself wasn’t as securely tied down.

And I made it home, but all I could think the entire way home was, “if this tree flies off my roof, can I be convicted of manslaughter?” And while I slowly drove 65 m.p.h. in the right lane, I kept seeing other people coming from tree farms and their trees were secure in a netting type bag.

The lesson here? Maybe it’s worth the $40 to just buy it in the neighborhood or maybe I need to learn to tie knots.

All I can say is this …the tree has earned it’s place in our living room.

Things I Did: Weekend Writing Wrap-Up

There was a point in my life where I’d have thought a blog entry like this was superfluous, unnecessary, and excessive (just like the two words I used after “superfluous”). I’d have also thought a blog entry like the one you’re about to read (or not read) is an exercise in arrogance. The great thing about getting older is you wise up and realize, who cares, and before long I’m going to be standing in a restaurant yelling at people about why rap music is what’s wrong with America and kids these days (that actually happened at a radio station event I went to this week).

Without further ado, here’s some stuff I wrote this week that’s available for public consumption (and I only wish I could share with you a script I’m writing, but …I can’t …yet). I hope you’ve bookmarked this blog or that you follow me on Twitter at @donkowalewski, or that you look at spunkybean every now and then. But just in case you have a busy life and it doesn’t revolve around me, here’s my weekly digest.

The Bachelor Juan Pablo, Sharleen Quits: As someone commented on Facebook …”weel you assep’ diss rose?” I really hope the women of America are paying attention to what an international heart throb looks like after a few weeks.

American Idol Rush Week Top-15 Girls Perform: Malaya! Malaya! Malaya! Can this awesomely cool nerd win over all of America’s hearts? Can her ridiculously amazing voice trump the pretty faces of a few other ladies? I’m not kidding you. I’ll vote for multiple times every week.

American Idol Rush Week Top-15 Boys Perform: At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’s an Idol-worthy male performer, but it’s soooooo early. We have no idea who’s about to unleash a torrent of talent on our televisions. I love the quirky Alex Preston, but he lacks mainstream appeal. It would seem one of the Country boys should be the odds on favorite, but they lack a certain boyish charm.

American Idol Rush Week Results (Top-13 Revealed): American Idol and Fox gave us one of the most disjointed hours of television I’ve ever witnessed, and even though at the end of the show I was happy with just about everyone in the Top-13, somehow during the selection and reveal process, I felt anxious and angry and like my favorite show was being torn apart at the seams. Too much estrogen in my diet, obviously.

Things I Do: Persist – And finally, I’m linking back to a little something I wrote here on this blog (it was a slow week). But I read about persistence and someone at work posted a cool graphic about persistence and it all seemed like something worth sharing. It seemed like something worth examining further, or at least a topic worth pointing out. Sure, I’m in sales and it’s what I do for a living. It’s how I feel my family. Type of sales comes in a variety of forms, and I’m currently back to a more cold-call type selling (at least if I want to long-term, sustained existence). I had a nice 12-year run as a more transaction-type, inside seller. Though I’m not really thinking about my sales, as much as I’m thinking about all of us and everything we do in life. The very existence of this blog should tell you “Don wants to be a writer.” So after almost 7 or 8 years of blogging, having ghost-written two books, launched a pop-culture website, and now working on a script, I guess you could say, though I’m not throwing my entire existence into the endeavor, I’m writing …and it makes me happy. Would I love to be J.K. Rowling and appearing on Oprah? Sure, but that would be the happy accident of it all. I mean that. And who knows …maybe that will happen one day and when it does I’ll just say the secret to my success was persistence.

Now, I wrote so much (this was meant to be very brief), my coffee got cold. See you when next I blog about something.

Things I Did: Started Taking Melatonin

melatoninAs I’ve documented on this blog, I was having some sleep issues. Mainly, I’d wake up multiple times at night and have trouble going back to sleep and turning off my brain. Small worries would clutter my brain and then as minutes turned into hours, I’d invent things to worry about.

Some nights, I’m pretty sure I got less than 3 hours of sleep.

Multiple people suggested I try a Melatonin supplement. It apparently sells like hot-cakes at pharmacies and the thought behind it is, as we get older and as we all work in dark offices and under fluorescent lights, our bodies get messed up and lose their sense of daytime versus nighttime. Personally, for the better part of 4 years and these past 3 jobs, I haven’t had a window. Sitting in my office cubical, there’s no difference between 8:30am and 8:30pm.

It’s been about 30 days. I take it 20-minutes before bedtime (per the instructions) and for the first few nights, I didn’t notice anything happening and then …bam. Suddenly, my nights were like spending time at a drive-in movie. I had the most intense and vivid dreams, and I never dream. I read vivid dreams happen when you hit deep sleep.

So my conclusion, based on my dreams, and that I don’t drive to work feeling like a zombie, is that it’s working. Maybe it’s a placebo effect. Maybe some other circumstances and the addition of exercise to my routine, have helped me start sleeping again, or maybe some good things happening at work …who knows.

But it might be the melatonin.

Things I Did: Marketing Monday

This is not bragging. This is about being proud of a client who was wiling to take a risk and felt confident in me, my ideas, and my radio stations. And this blog entry is a significant departure from what usually gets blogged about around here. This blog entry is born of working with new clients, recognizing in them what true passion looks like, and realizing, hey …I have that, too.

For too long I wanted this blog to be silly and entertaining, but I found it difficult to write because I don’t actually spend my daydreaming moments thinking of jokes for Letterman’s monologue or writing books about vampires. I tried to bend to a reality where if someone asked me what I would do if money was not an object, I would have a great answer and it would be anything but what I was doing during my day job. Turns out, leaving my chosen profession – radio advertising sales – for 6 months in 2013 showed me I actually love my job, love radio, and I loved me doing that for a living.

So here it is. Is it a risk sharing success stories or philosophies on my blog? You bet it is. Because I might make mistakes and sometimes I might be wrong. But for 16 years, each time I made a mistake, I got better.

To my clients and future clients, I will put my heart and soul into creating for you the perfect radio and marketing plan.

So, here’s what I know, today – great creative will get results. What makes great creative on radio? Something that cuts through clutter and sounds different, but yet sounds familiar enough that it, essentially, is an extension of a conversation the listener might’ve just been having. Or it completes a thought the listener had. Or talks about something they were worried about.

It’s the best feeling in the world when someone trusts me, trusts my knowledge, and believes as strongly in their business as I believe in mine.

Congratulations to Macomb Children’s Dentistry on a great start to 2014 and letting me be a part of your marketing efforts. Here’s the 30-second commercial currently making phonea ring and then something a little extra we did together with “Suzy’s” help.

The radio commercial …

The office tour courtesy of Suzy.

Things I Did: Slept

I probably shouldn’t jump the gun and claim I’ve conquered sleep, already. It’s only been 2 nights, but I might be onto something. Here’s what I’m doing…

Step 1: Planning a bedtime, sleep time, and a wake-up time that gives me 7.5 hours of sleep.
Step 2: 1-hour before my pre-determined bedtime, I stop looking at laptops, iPhone or iPad screens. I will watch mindless TV, however.
Step 3: I bought a sleep mask to create “total darkness” in my room.
Step 4: I make sure all devices are out of my bedroom and the only “glow” comes from the two bedside alarm clocks. But I think I’m going to remove mine because my Casio wrist-watch is sufficient to wake me up at my wake-up time.
Step 5: Drinking tea during my 1-hour pre-sleep ritual.
Step 6: Get into bed a minimum of 10-minutes before my pre-determined bedtime. Do some reading, meditating, praying, or close-up magic.
Step 7: Lights out. Sleep mask on. This happens at my pre-determined “sleep time” (which is different than “bed time” …yes, I’m a 4-year-old, again).
Step 8: When my alarm goes off in the morning at my pre-determined “wake-up” time, I’m getting outta bed without hitting the snooze bar and I immediately exercise for 30-minutes.

I have to say, friends …the first night, I awoke twice (not sure the times because I didn’t look at my clock) yet was able to get back to sleep. Last night, I woke up once, but got myself back to sleep. And yesterday and today, at work, I felt like a 25-year-old with boundless energy, clarity, focus, and an addiction to Instagram. Truth be told that Instagram addiction isn’t new because I felt younger …I love Instagram whether I’m a sleep-deprived 40-year-old who feels 50, or a well-rested 40-year-old who feels like he’s 25, again.

You were all waiting to hear this, right? Well, some of you could probably care less, but I’ve spoken directly with 12 dudes since my initial blog post, by phone and in person. Some offered advice. Some simply said, “when you figure it out, tell me.” Another guy (M.M.) said, “I thought that’s why they invented AMC or The History Channel …I drag myself down to the couch, flip on the TV, and sleep there.” Wise sage W.K. said he flips the TV on in his bedroom and sets the sleep timer while watching old sitcoms and that’s how he gets back to sleep. Then, there’s been at least another dozen dudes who’ve exchanged emails with me about this, or shared articles and links, so I know I’m not alone.

I share because I care. I share because, well, when I blog, it’s writing and I like writing and as weird as this sounds, when I don’t blog for a few days, I stay inside my own head mulling over idea after idea saying, “I should write that” or “that might make an interesting blog post.” Just explaining why I’m blogging about this and, essentially, airing out my oddities and problems, it helps. I wouldn’t blog about this, probably, except that when I initially emailed a few close friends, the response was overwhelming.

Turns out sleep deprivation might be a combination of turning 40, having a family you’re responsible for, dealing with and waking up to a little bit of your mortality, noticing you don’t have much in your savings account, and having to deal with the fact you (I) don’t have a vast fortune and sprawling estate like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, or that Facebook guy. But W.K. said something else (I mentioned him above) …he said to count my blessings, realize how much I do have, to practice completely clearing my mind, and to look at it this way …how many unproductive years and days and hours did I waste in my 20-something years? Same question regarding my 30-something years. And then do the math and think about all I didn’t do, yet all that I did do, and I was doing these things at a snail’s pace in my 20s and 30s as if I had a million vampire years ahead of me. Now, he pointed out, I can take this opportunity to find clarity and looking at the next decade, or two decades, if I vow to stop wasting time and focusing on the useless and pointless stuff I did in my 20s and 30s …just think how much you, me, and he can pack into 20 years.

Seriously. Think about it. But not if it keeps  you awake at night. I used to play in 3 simultaneous Fantasy Football leagues. I played video games like it was my job. And all these years later …whether I had or hadn’t spent the time doing those things, I’d be right in this same spot. Now, think about if I had spent the hours I used drafting players and researching free agents to, oh, write a spec script for a sitcom and then figure out where to send something like that? Would I be happier? You bet your Emmit Smith for Michael Irvin trade deal, I would.

40 isn’t old.

Losing sleep is actually bad for you …this Mens’ Health article says too many sleepless nights can cause brain damage. Gulp!

Oh, and I’ve mixed in 30-minutes of exercise each day.

It’s been a good day. Lots of support. Lots of sleep (for two nights, anyway). And lots of time ahead of me.

And because I’m a hypocrite, I’ll still Tweet my random thoughts, cool articles, and links to things I’ve written, which is in stark contrast to W.K.’s advice. But, oh well …that’s the part of life I really, really like. I’m at @donkowalewski if  you care to ‘Follow’ me.