Fearlessness, Jealousy

Read the title of this blog? How do these feelings tie together? I’m going to keep this short because I want you to use your time here (visiting my blog) to watch the video below. It’s 2-minutes and 45-seconds, and worth watching if “jealousy” is something you feel from time to time and then feel guilty about feeling jealous.

What’s that old Bible saying? “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods (and wife).” And then something quick follows regarding “fearlessness.”

covet [kuhv-it] 1. to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another’s property: to have an inordinate or wrongful desire.

Are you spending too much of your mental energy on coveting, jealousy, and envy. I am. Me! A guy who has a blog, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, and every other social media where he regularly posts things about himself, but only the good things, with little regard about how that makes others feel (possibly “envy” because, let’s face it, even if we don’t 100% intentionally do it, posting anything on social media is usually a bit of a brag).

My thought for the day is this …when is jealousy, envy, and coveting a good thing? What if I stopped obsessing about my friend’s giant lake house and boat that I don’t have? What if stopped seeing pictures on Facebook of friends traveling to amazing, exotic places and wishing that was me and being jealous of them. What if could learn to stop brooding about the accolades and awards my peers at work are getting (and I’m not)?

But instead, what if I started envying my friends and their honesty, their works of charity, their work ethic, their spirituality, or their ability to make and keep friends?

I guess I’m asking, can I turn envy and jealousy into a asset? Skip the next paragraph if you’re not into long, boring stories.

Today, my youngest daughter will perform in Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This whole thing (her being in the cast and trying out) is completely on her. She’s not yet 10 years old. We’re not stage parents. We’re not pushing her or making her sing in front of us and demanding better and better performances. Nope. A few months ago, she saw her older sister perform in the 7th and 8th Grade production of The Lion King and she said, “I want to do that.” So we researched some places who might be looking for kids to audition, we found Project Daydream, and our little 9-year-old prepared sheet music (on her own) and rehearsed an audition song (truly, mostly on her own) and amidst a group of teenagers all trying out, she walked in there (fearless) and just sang and got invited onto the cast.

That is true fearlessness. Never did, “I’m too young,” or, “I’ve never done this before,” enter her mind or come out of her mouth. She got it in her mind that she wanted to “do that”, and did it. In the meantime, she’s been coached on singing, she’s gotten two small solo lines in a song (not just the chorus), they asked her to be young-Cinderella (at the opening), and I think she has one or two other parts.

Fearless. She sees some people are better than her and have more experience. She sees others who are not. But each night she comes home from rehearsal full of joy, smiles, and a light of optimism and energy.

I covet that. I’m jealous of that.

Actually.  I need to be like that. We all do.

Today, I’m going to make jealousy and envy an action item and a powerful force in my life, rather than destructive. How about you? Are you jealous I’m doing that? Don’t be. Do it with me.

Thanks for reading and thanks for attending my daughter’s performances today at 10:30 and tomorrow at 6:30. Information here.


Be a Beacon

This morning, I sat through a fascinating lecture by Bob Kernan of jacapps (an app developer) and I sorta made a spectacle of myself during the Q&A (I swore I would play it low-key). That’s not really the point of this blog. You know why I blog, right? Because I think my blog can be a place to pull little lessons about life from the little moments in our life. Maybe I’m blogging just for me. But maybe you like it, too.

OK. So after the lecture, I got into a nice, long conversation with a former co-worker who I haven’t talked to in ages (but she complimented me on how thin and healthy I look, so of course I wanted to talk with her more just in case she had more nice things to say about me). I’m joking. I talked with her because it was nice to reminisce and I wanted to hear what she was doing, these days. She had quite a tale to tell.

The lesson for myself I took from it was (a) smile, (b) go into a room with a positive attitude, and (c) be grateful. Be in the moment. Every person in that room was a competitor with everyone else, but take away our business cards, and you quickly realize we’re all mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, members of our Church, volunteer coaches, and hundreds of other every day, normal things.

I put on my Uncle Jerry hat (recall he’s the guy that made everyone in his life feel like #1), and suddenly the meeting was better, as was the conversation afterward.

The lesson is, we should all keep living and doing the promises we made to ourselves the last time something inspiring happened to us. Like, for me, it was when my Uncle Jerry died earlier this year. I told myself, when I’m stressed and knee deep in the drudgery, I really do need to take a deep breath and realize . . . hey . . . I just took a deep breath. I’m alive. I woke up on this side of the earth/ground. I can choose to be negative, gossipy, and think about all the ways everyone around me is an idiot or a jackass, or I can choose to be the opposite of those things.

Part of the lecture was about beacons that track your phone via Bluetooth. Basically, when you walk in range of a beacon, it spots you and starts talking to you. But all my co-worker (L.R.) could think about was the song You Can’t Be A Beacon, If Your Light Don’t Shine and while it might seem silly, I’d never heard the song before and it perfectly captured my mood and why I try to make every conversation, every meeting, and every opportunity something interesting and useful.

Risk Taking

Am I a risk-taker? Are you? Do you want to be a risk-taker? Do I? Was I a risk-taker at one point? On a scale of 1 to 10, with “10” being the riskiest most fearless person and 1 being the least, where do I fall on that spectrum. At one point I balanced a writing-blogging hobby-slash-side-business and a salsa hobby-slash-business and a full-time job. Now I don’t. Why? Too busy? Too scared?

Great video here from Ramit Sethi. I like his message and don’t let the website fool you because it’s called “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” as if it’s money, money, money and no work and passive income and all that crap. He gets it. In his eBlast today he talks about his youthful fantasy that being “rich” meant walking into a car dealership and pointing to the most expensive car and saying, “gimme that one.”

That isn’t necessarily “rich”. It means you have cash, sure, and there’s a comfort with that. But “rich” is something else.

Oh, and his other message . . . have fun. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake and then course-correct. Have fun. Be joyful. Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you a tale of joyfulness I can’t wait for you to read.

Fear, Loathing, Hesitation, and Whining

I’m not a firefighter.

I’m not a cop.

I’m not serving in our military and I’m not deployed to a war zone.

I’m not a tight-rope walker.

Why do I bring this up?

I listened to Tim Ferriss’s recent Podcast titled, “How to Overcome Fear – Lessons from Firefighter and Luger, Caroline Paul,” and something really struck me . . . my “fear” is not real fear. Do you “fear” things that, truly, shouldn’t invoke fear and the natural biological reactions that usually accompany a dangerous situation? I remember one time, when my first-born was really small, I was out for a walk pushing her in a rickety stroller, and a stray pit-bull approached us. This thing didn’t look like it was doing well – it was trotting, but limping, and sat down. Then got up and started walking, again. It came right up and started sniffing my daughter and I tried to spin the stroller around and put myself between the dog and my 1-year-old. The pit-bull didn’t like this and my quick movements made it angry. The pit-bull stopped and barked. I grabbed my daughter out of her safety buckles and lifted her over my shoulder. She started crying. She was afraid. I was afraid. Dogs, I’ve been told, sense fear. The dog got excited because, now, the toy (my daughter) or meal (again, my daughter) it wanted was being taken away, and was making noise, and I was making quick, jerky, defensive movements. I tried to remain calm, fully aware that acting and being excited would be seen as aggressive. The dog started jumping on me. Kinda playfully. But kinda aggressive. Pit-bulls are full of muscle and strength. I spotted a fenced-in yard about a hundred feet away. I began slowly walking towards this yard with my daughter on my shoulder (still crying …the dog definitely startled her), and leaving the stroller in the road. The dog started barking more and more (I think it was barking, “give me the baby and no harm will come to you, old man …and I’ll only eat one leg …I promise.”) It was walking and barking a few feet behind me. My plan was to throw my daughter over the fence and then jumped the fence, myself, in hopes the standard chain link fence would be tall enough to foil the dog’s pursuit. The dog’s barking turned to angrier snarling as I got to the fence and moved my crying daughter from my shoulder gently to the ground in this stranger’s yard. Snarling. Barking. Then it was my turn to hop the fence and when I quickly (quick movements don’t keep a dog calm) jumped onto the fence to throw myself over, the pit-bull saw this as aggression and bit my leg and jumped at the fence. His jaws didn’t lock. He loosened his grip to try for another chomp and because I was falling over the fence, my leg went flying and I fell over (almost on top of my daughter sitting on the ground crying). The dog was angry. Barking. Snarling. Jumping on the fence. I grabbed my daughter and went to this stranger’s back porch to catch my breath and calm down and . . . and I really don’t know what else. If that dog had jumped the fence, these people weren’t home, and I was trapped in their yard. Luckily, the dog ran back and forth along the fence. Barking. Jumping on the fence. Then it ran quickly around the perimeter (smart fuckin’ dog) trying to find an opening or get a better view, but the fence was enough. I knocked a few times on the homeowner’s door wall (or sliding glass door for those not from Michigan), but they weren’t home. I calmed my crying daughter and pulled up a chair at their patio set.

And waited. 

The pit-bull eventually got bored and slowly walked away. When it was out of site, and was out of site for 5-minutes, I hopped the fence. Got the stroller and put my daughter in it. And then I very, very (very) quickly got the two of us home. Quite an adrenaline rush. Quite a lot of fear. Quite a feeling of helplessness.

Quick aside to dog-lovers and tough-guys . . . you can judge me for being afraid, but I was. This dog was big, had no collar, and was aggressive. Sure, some of you would’ve probably knelt down in non-threatening way and calmed the dog. Fair enough. But I was scared and had read and heard enough stories about stray pit-bulls mauling small children and old men, so I wasn’t going to channel my inner-Crocodile Hunter.

What’s the point of all of this? Well, sometimes I’ll sit and wonder why I’m “scared to make a tough phone call” and I think I’m not alone. If I was alone, and crazy about every-day bullshit “fear”, there wouldn’t be hundreds of articles about overcoming fear of public speaking, cold-calling, dating, opening a business, writing a book, or dozens of other things (my favorite …”fear of failure.”).

An angry pit-bull made me scared. But today, I’m going to start differentiating real terror and the anxiety that comes with it (like knocking on the door of a drug dealer’s house with a gun drawn like a police officer) and being slightly-uncomfortable about a conversation, phone-call, or project.


A Weekend Thought on Happiness


I went into the weekend with a plan. Here’s that plan.

  1. Wake up early and exercise hard.
  2. Enjoy coffee after the workout.
  3. Make breakfast for my kids.
  4. Clean the kitchen.
  5. Straighten up the house.
  6. Work on a “green screen” with my son.
  7. Get the Christmas tubs down so put Christmas into storage.
  8. Have a meatloaf sandwich for lunch.
  9. Help take a few Christmas decorations down.
  10. Surf the web and think of something to blog about.
  11. Get ready for Church.
  12. Go to church.
  13. Come home and eat and sit on the couch watching NFL playoffs until midnight.
  14. Drink two Manhattans.

I’ve read a hundred articles on what “successful people do to ensure the best weekend” and “tips to making the most of the weekend.” The key is always, “have a plan.”

I have a plan. I’ve stuck to it. I’m having a great Saturday. This isn’t always the case. Dang! I like this. I’m happy.

And I’ll leave you with this thought from Scott Westerman.

Scott’s Life Maxim #1: Happiness is not the destination. Happiness is the path. Purpose is the map. Passion is the fuel. You are the driver. Every road taken includes bumps and potholes. Why not decide to buckle up, take the wheel and enjoy the ride?

If You’re Not First, You’re Winning

Quote from Seth Godin

I told my eight-year-old (daughter) that I think she might be getting a new bike this summer … her 10-year-old brother’s old bike, actually.

“But it’s black and it’s a boy’s bike,” she said.

I told her that’s the downfall of being last (born), but sometimes being last is a huge bonus.

Yes, being our third and final child means her life will be full of gently worn clothing that’s about 4 years out of date handed down from her sister and, in the case of her “new bike”, it means a boys bike. However, I explained, she gets to do all sorts of things her sister didn’t do when she was 8-years-old.  My 8-year-old stays up until 9 o’clock sometimes during the week and until 10 o’clock on weekends – or later. She gets to watch PG-13 movies. She definitely gets more junk food. She has an iTouch. At one point in my life the words, “no 8-year-old needs an iPad,” came out of my mouth. I’ve relaxed that stance.

I’m not in love with the, so-called “winners” who say things like, “if you’re not first, you’re last.” These win-at-all-costs types aren’t approaching life in a healthy way. If you’ve never lost at anything, you’ve never learned anything or, maybe worse, you’ve never really challenged yourself.

My son’s soccer team (U10), earlier this winter, went undefeated in their division and won a trophy. Most games were blowouts. It was quite a thrill getting the trophy and being “champion.” I’m not saying that doesn’t feel good. But then, in the second session, the divisions were restructured and suddenly we met up with teams we couldn’t beat so easily …or we couldn’t beat at all. It was humbling. The boys got mad. They pushed and shoved and yelled at each other.

I loved it.

I told them …if you win everything and win easily, you won’t improve. But when you take on the best and your goal is to beat the best …only then will you get better yourself.

I started this blog talking about my 8-year-old complaining about a hand-me-down boys bike. Well, that’s a symptom of not-being-first. But being last has many other benefits to her life. And when competing, yes, make it your goal to win and come in first-place, but remember this, too …when you lose, you win. You earn a chance to improve. You get to see a benchmark at which to evaluate yourself. A chance to analyze and think about what went wrong and why you finished in second, third, or 514th place (that’s where I finished in the longest triathlon and ya know what, I felt pretty awesome about that).

I’m the fastest sprinter in my house and I can lift the most weight. My competition is my wife, my 11-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son, and 8-year-old daughter. Yay me! (sarcasm). I can win every time. But what should I do? Go to the park and time myself running the hundred yard dash. Do exercises and drills to make me faster and see if I can shave a half-second or a full second off the time. That would be positive. That would be winning. Will I ever be able to beat Usain Bolt? At 5’5″ and 41-years-old …um …no. There’s not enough HGH and chemicals that can reverse the effects of aging or make my legs longer. But the fact I’ll never be faster than Usain Bolt doesn’t make me a “loser”.

“Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.” -Bonnie Blair

Put yourself in a position to fail or to come in second place. Trust me, it will be your gain.

Coming soon on the blog …my take on P2 replacing email and Slack for team communication.

Follow me at @donkowalewski.

I Won Christmas!

I won Christmas. But not in the same way I usually win Christmas, which I usually measured statistically with measurable metrics like “most gifts” and “cost of gifts” and “percentage of list.” But not this year. This year, I measured it in here (pointing to my heart) and up here (pointing to my head).

We live in a material world and I try my best to fit into that world, worrying about (a) me, (b) myself, and (c) what other people think of me. I typically want other people to base their judgments on the things I have and the money they believe that I have. For most of my life, this worked out just fine. I walked around picturing everyone jealous of me.

Then, I approached 40 years old, then I turned 40, and then I went zipping right into my “40s” (the decade, not the beer bottles) and it all changed. I started to realize, nobody cares, Don. Nobody thinks about you and envies you as much as you hope they do. They have lives and families and concerns of their own.

I had to shift my entire world view. And with that came new (and probably healthier) perspective. Which brings me to my Christmas list.

My sister has laughed quite a bit about my Christmas wish-list. Everything on it was practical and boring (to the outside world). Usually my list is filled with items that make the outside world think I’m doing all sorts of awesome things …like dressing in high fashion and expensive clothes, or exercising and being awesome, or into expensive hobbies because I’m soooooo upper middle class. Not this year. My list, in a nutshell was (a) keep my feet warm, (b) help me sleep, (c) replace something I had and used up, and (d) drink – in style.

Guess what? When you ask for things, and get things, that enrich the lives of those around you, it’s actually way better.

My new world view is shifting to, if I get this, I can make Person(s) A happy by __________.

I got waterproof Bogs (slip on shoes) rated to 20 degrees below zero for walking the dog or for quick chores outside. This makes my life better by walking more. Makes my dog’s life better by walking more. Makes my wife’s life better because I don’t track dirt and mud into the house. Yes. I have running shoes. But on a 35 degree rainy day when the neighborhood is all puddles and wet grass, having these quick slip-ons is brilliant.

I got warm, boot high socks. I didn’t even know I wanted them, but my wife did, and they are cozy and warm and when it gets really cold (which I’m sure is coming soon), my feet will be warm (while walking that damn dog the kids wanted so badly …do you see them walking the dog? 10-9-8-7-6 …OK …I’m better).

I got a “#1 Dad” wallet, which means all my hard work in 2014 elevated me from “All American” to #1. Woo hoo! It’s probably because I bought this particular daughter a dog, come to think of it.

I got Bedphones. Hey. I have trouble staying asleep. I was trying to fix it by (a) reading in bed whenever I woke up (which meant a 1/2 hour or more of wakefulness in the middle of the night). Or (b) I tried heading downstairs and sleeping in front of the TV, which meant bad sleep in the glow of a TV (that’s horrible). I (c) tried getting up and making lists (of the things I was worrying about). That didn’t help. But I found the best idea was to have a few (boring) audio books ready on my iPhone. When I wake, I quickly pop in the headphones, set the sleep timer for 30 minutes, and then try like hell to stay awake and listen. But when the book is something like the epic “John Quincy Adams” biography and it’s detailing the letters he received from his mother about how to dress in public …trust me …it’s a cure of insomnia. Sorry, history buffs …it was interesting, but not that interesting. Ear buds hurt my ear canals, so I read about these Bedphones wish are soft and lay gently against my ears, but not in my ears, and I can sleep on my side or back and I can’t really even tell I have earphones on.

And lastly, I got a new sea salt block for grilling and cooking (which I love and love doing it for my family and I love when my wife says, wow, this tastes so good), and my Secret Santa at work got me a growler (32 ounce beer bottle) which I can get filled at local breweries. I’m not a “craft beer” guy, and rarely will I pick up a bottle of micro brew, but the style and flair of bringing a growler into a brewery and having them fill it up …OK …so this was the one gift that still screamed, “look at me …I do cool things. Envy me.” The growler is cool.

Can this non-selfish, and non-ego gratifying outlook on gift-receiving last into the rest of my life? Not sure. But for now, getting things that improve my life and improve the lives of those around me …it feels pretty good.

What if I really adopted the motto …help others in order to help yourself. That sounds like a pretty good resolution. And I’ll hope, maybe, somebody reads this blog entry and doesn’t see it as self adulation, but maybe they say, hey, me too.

Follow me at @donkowalewski on Twitter.