Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fine line between the lost and living...

So I recently ran into a young Gen Y friend (that’s if Gen Y includes 33 year-olds…if not, than he’s Gen How…I guess). In any event, with no real address to speak of, no stack of technical devices (with the exception of his...drum roll...flip phone), no online portfolio of his life's history, with the exception of 6 Facebook posts from 2014, and no one to call “employer,” he has certainly opted for the road less traveled.

However, for the past four years, he has been trekking cross-country and back, via a 1987
Oldsmobile. He has spent most of his time interviewing underground musicians in remote towns “still doing their own thing”. In fact, he's writing a memoir with the hopes of shedding light on what he refers to as “the last remaining musical specimens on earth”. Oh…he’s also taught himself to earn a quick living as a pastry chef, and he’s written and performed more than two dozen country western heartbreakers in five different cities. And needless to say, yes, he’s become a student of auto mechanics.

As he spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder when I’d last plucked at my guitar or how long my passport had been expired. Or if my life depended on it, would I ever be able to even change a tire? His enthusiasm for…more or less, everything…was intoxicating.

His life, in a word, is remarkable.

However, with little warning but a four word text message [How did the interview go?], his light flickered. His glorious notes from the road were punctuated with the most unexpected and tragic sigh I have ever heard. He ran his fingers through his long, outgrown hair and I could practically feel the heat radiating from his cheeks. Then he tucked his flip phone into his back pocket and like a steam train pulling into the station, he completely fizzled out.

I watched as he contrived a one man show of coughs and fidgets--a gesture made, no doubt, in defiance of his sudden self-consciousness. I think he worried that his excitement for his stories had suddenly superseded the content. Like he had said something foolish and regrettable. Like he thought it best to stop talking altogether.

“In other words,” he said, “I’m lost.”

I was baffled, to say the least, but, I was also growing numb with disappointment. My mind had been racing along the terrain of the adventurous undiscovered, right along with him, goose bump after goose bump…only to be abruptly shifted back into neutral. Truthfully, he broke my heart a little.

We said our goodbyes, but the conversation continued…for me at least. In fact it gnawed at me for days. I was so very frustrated, so sad. You might even say I was “weepy". Hm. Why didn’t he see in himself, what I saw? He had no idea that he was more passionate about the very vein of existence than anyone I’ve met in three decades; that he embodied the curiosity of the universe; that he was more open for business than the NASDAQ; that he had found purpose; that he was among the very lucky few that are not just existing, but really living.

Did it bother me that this gifted and kindhearted soul, who lifted my spirits and hijacked my heart, did in fact, seem a bit lost? No. It bothered me that he thought being lost was a bad thing.

It seems the formalities of our world have left very little room for the informalities of the dreamers; the artists; the philosophers…those whose curiosity about the world is so intense, it is their very life force. So I ask, when did this happen? When did an insanely enthusiastic hunger for a connection to the world; a yearning to discover with both the heart and the mind; to stop, pull back the lens and expose the view; to have the guts and grit to walk straight down the open road…get tossed in the land of lost?

What if John Muir called it quits. Yep...just said, "ok that's enough, time to get a real job." Then turned around and went home because he lost his way in a canyon while fighting for the preservation of beauty; of life; of the earth. Would Yosemite Valley be the Yosemite Mall of the Valley? And, Charles Shultz, my favorite lost “underdog” of all time - what if actually listened when he was told that because he was poor at sports and got record-breaking low grades, he would never amount to anything; when Disney flat out rejected his illustrations. In the book The Other 90%, Robert K. Cooper states,"He (meaning Shultz) resigned himself to the bottom run of mediocrity, or worse. But, against all doubters, he believed in his heart that he had one natural streak of genius or talent: drawing". What if he actually accepted his "lost-loser" label and stopped searching for his gift to the world...his genius? Charlie Brown may just be another kid with a block head that no one ever even knew existed. And, an estimated 350 million readers would be denied the most unlikely champion of all time.

Heck, what if we’d shoved Bruce Springsteen under the boardwalk, told him he was lost, and made him go find something else to do. Something tame and neat and respectable by the folks who were all settled-in.

"Bruce I know you like playing the guitar and all, but you seem lost. You know Radio Shack is looking for a floor manager. They have great benefits, and a predictable career path. No surprises. Maybe you’ll find yourself there. “ Would he have then made the great lyrical misstep that would have robbed three generations of The Boss? (Tramps like, we were born to work at Radio Shack?)

You see, to these folks, life is an open door. And, they don’t close it and call it a home …they move through it and they find the world. They follow an innate drive to question and, to our great benefit, they still find being human a worthwhile experience to explore. They have a language all their own; they make it up as they go. They find wonder in a disconnected world suffocating on its own principles. They don’t seek to find where they’ve been, they seek to find what they have never known. And yes sometimes they get lost. Why?

Because, my friends, they dared to take the journey.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Inspiration Interrupted...

So why was a conversation with a guy who makes $6.35 an hour more unshakably unforgettable and potentially life-changing than an afternoon spent with a world renown, multiple best-selling, shrine-in-my-closet to, spiritual guru? Beats me…but it was.

On second thought, I’ll give it a shot.

I think, like the modern day spin on many basic human needs and experiences (ie. food, clothing, shelter) inspiration…has also…gone a little commercial. It seems we are programmed to expect the most profound guidance and insight out of the biggest, best-selling; and brightest “superstars” on the planet – the authors, the talk show hosts, the enlightened, and the “world-renown self-helpers”. These are the folks who have it all figured out, right? These are the ones we trust to reshape our minds, redirect our lives and help us to avoid the dreadful drive of a downward spiral.

And, often, they do. But I must say, I know what I’m looking for when I pick up one of my little words of wisdom treasures. (Mind you, I have read Seat of the Soul twice since last blogging.) And I am always inspired – but in a way that I am familiar with – even upon the very first read.  In fact, the word itself, “inspire” means to breathe. So these books, to me, serve as a sort of spiritual refreshment; a gentle reminder to relax, breathe... and observe my existence…especially when I am hyper-focused to the point of madness. In those moments, I look forward to nesting in the soft, rhythmic explanations; the ones that will illustrate, once again, that there is a parallel universe – one where we can actually choose the outcome: love or fear. And no matter how blocked or congested our lives or mind, there is always room for growth.

Time and time again, I am brought back to where I’ve been before. Like sipping from the very same chalice of serenity in the recurring afterglow of chaos…. and, believe me, it’s a good thing.

But is a reminder to breathe, truly, the all-encompassing experience of inspiration?

What about the kind of inspiration that is unfamiliar – the kind that brings us some place new? The kind that doesn’t just comfort what ails us, but rocks our world with a vision not only for the future...but the present. One, that until that point, had never even graced our dreams? The kind that does not show us how to transform, but that simply transforms us.

The kind that is, altogether, unexpected.


I had prepared for nearly a month straight to meet my guru-someone I had admired, followed and considered a mentor-from-afar, for nearly a decade. It had finally nailed the interview and I was dually excited on both a personal and professional level. I knew that on that day, my whole world was going to change.

And it did.

I was on time, on target, and primed for the most special of all meetings and the abundantly inspirational moments I would soon live. Ones I would savor for the rest my life.

Unfortunately, it felt like I was the only person who had showed up.

I would say that I was correct in a singular prediction. This was new territory. What happened next was an unraveling of my very first “deceased” conversation – an exchange that combusted into a pile of ashes before my very eyes. I flubbed and squirmed, scraping as many thoughts from my tongue as I could,  and awkwardly plugging the silent holes – but the ship kept sinking. And the guru seemed to have fallen asleep on the life raft while I drowned alongside.

Perhaps it was a just an off day. I suppose even gurus get tired. Maybe I had expected entirely too much. Or, perhaps…I had simply been looking in the wrong direction.

I left feeling was not only but like I had depleted my last gram of energy, but like I had spent my morning, literally, trying to raise the dead.  Inspired? No. I was expired.

But then something miraculous happened. In the days and weeks that followed, while licking my wounds and wrestling with the gremlin of overwhelming regret, I experienced another unusual "meeting". Only this certain someone, was about as non-guru as one might imagine. A simple man, with a simple dream, and a simple life. Admittedly. I did not prepare for him. I showed up, with a simple nub of a pencil, a simple notebook, and simply no expectation whatsoever.

And…yet…to my delight, I was tasered by a conversation they did not want to end. This encounter was, in fact, alive! A friendship, a kinship… blossoming before my eyes. And an outpouring of life wisdom I will never forget. Not because I will re-read or revisit the words in a best-selling book- because that my friends, does not exist- but because it is literally now, embedded into my very existence.

You see, there is a feeling, a moment, that I have often heard described as “embodying the curiosity of the entire universe”. The moment when we are not preparing to transform, or seeking to transform, but when our cells are in the middle of transformation. This moment, this meeting, was one of those moments.

Inspired? I'd say so. Not only to breathe, but to be re-born.

Not only have I since submerged myself back into the most instinctual world I know - the often inexplicable vortex of storytelling…by I have re-emerged, once again, with a fresh view. It seems the simple, low burning fires - the, slow, the steady – the ones that we walk by every single day..have something pretty fiery inside. I realized that the true leaders of the world, not only inspire but transform. And they are not necessarily signing autographs or standing behind the podium, but may be a simple someone, with a simple message, looking up from the crowd.

But it is undeniable. We live in an inspirationally dichotic world. There are moments and people that are expected to inspire & then...there are those that simply do. I think the best we can do is to stop pointing the the same direction...all the time. We can open it as wide as possible, without any expectation whatsoever, and just let the entire spectrum of light fill our minds. And yes, inspiration may happen when face to face with a world re-known, best-selling, shrine-in-your-closet-to guru. But keep in mind…

inspiration, the kind that strikes at our core, and changes us forever, is as unpredictable as lightening. It simply strikes...

when you least expect it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Imperfect Plan: Dairy Queen, The Debt Ceiling and The Gettysburg Address.

In a world where we now sweeten our morning coffee with an instantaneous flood of adoration - or lack thereof – where we can wake up as a rock star and by the time we finish our banana nut muffin, be shifted to the status of broken down has-been - it seems more important now, than ever before, to not only to embrace our imperfections....

… but to, perhaps, hope for them.

It’s like this… if you searched for the definition of the word “perfect” you would find a number of meanings - Ideal. Unspoiled. Flawless, etc. And, you would also find what I believe is the meaning of perfection in its very purest form: finished.  So a meal can be perfect. A cartwheel can be perfect. A haircut, can even be perfect. But a person – a living person – by definition, is not finished. Not perfect. And yet we hold so tightly to the perceptions of perfection – as if hoping, one day, to be frozen solid, in full bloom.

But wait - if a sunflower is frozen at the moment of full bloom…the moment of perfection, it can mean only one thing. It’s finished, right? Never to bloom again.

Crap. Now what?

There is no better example of an imperfect journey to greatness than the road taken by Abraham Lincoln. And even as he touched his final destination, his ideal place, he kept growing, learning - not from his accomplishments -- but from his flaws - time after time, after time.

In the middle of the American Civil War, he didn’t stand up and say, “This is going great. Carry on.” No. In approximately 2 minutes and 242 words, he said, more or less, we’re way off track here. And in doing so, he presented the entire country with an opportunity to fight for something much greater than soil. It was, in fact, a second chance to truly establish a way of life where all men are created equal.”

Abraham Lincoln saw imperfection as a rebirth of freedom. And in that moment he gave meaning to a seemingly meaningless loss and disregard for human life.

…which, of course, brings me to the debt ceiling debacle.

Ok, who didn’t perk up a little at the debt ceiling count down. I’m not going to get overly political here, I will just say this – It may have taken an entire decade of erroneous decisions to shake the headboard, but, we’re finally awake. Not sure if anyone who watched it didn’t get out of bed yesterday, rolling up their sleeves. (I bet even the poor, poor billionaires are perched on the edges of their Malibu beach chairs. Oh, be right back I have to vomit. Oops, sorry, did I say that?)

But think about it. If  President Obama had addressed the nation and said “We’re doing just great. It’s all good, we got this,” - then we’d all tune out and hit the road for hot fudge sundaes. Nope, he said, more or less…we’re pretty screwed. So what do we do? We focus. We say – enough. Now we stop taking a single day, or dollar, for granted. Now we are inspired to check in on our neighbors; reclaim our lives; our future. Now we understand the power of our own voice, and we never silence it again. Now, we know…we have unfinished business. And now we have no choice but to connect with our greatest intelligence...

…. and not just the drive-thru lady at Dairy Queen.

So remember...the next time you want to climb to the mountain top and scream “Look at me, I’m perfect. “ All you are really saying to the world is: I’m finished. So don’t hope for perfection, hope for a really juicy flaw. This is when you will defrost the petals and see that, the sunflower has not died, it is not finished… it is simply melting back into the earth; so it may plant itself and bloom once more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"...You are Braver Than You Believe..."

There is reasonable fear and then there is crazy fear - the unforgiving thoughts that are followed by an out- loud mumble: that’s just crazy.

Yet somehow, crazy or not, these self-defeating ways of thinking seem to spring from behind, when we least expect it, and wrestle our minds all the way back to third grade. Suddenly we are found sleeping in a fully lit room - huddled under our Snoopy sheets, in full blown panic that the nightmare in the closet is about to unfold.

But the question now is, how long do we hide from the ugly one-eyed fiend…with purple fangs?!

Should we ever...really...expose the most tender and uncertain parts of ourselves, to the world? And if so - who do we trust enough to show our particular brand of crazy; the places that scare us most; our weakest of moments; our monsters in the closet.

Who, exactly, will catch us….when we are frightened to a the edge of the bed?


The conversation, as many of ours do, started in the middle.

“What’s wrong?”


“Are you sure?”

“Ok, I am afraid to die alone. “

“Why are you saying that?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I just am.” I said.

“No, I know that is coming from somewhere else. Did something happen?” she continued.

“Well I don’t have any children, Jerry is older than me, I am the youngest of five…it’s not looking good. I don’t want to grow old…with new people. I don’t want to die with some nurse in the room, I have just met, pointing to the exit sign.”

“You will never be alone Mo,” she said.

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes I do.”


“Because you will be with me.”

You guessed it! 1989.
Lisa. Joan. Mo.
And in that instant, a small concern that in recent years had grown into a startling, sweaty, afraid-to-open-my-eyes-in-the-middle-of-night fear – as if fleeing from a burning building – left my body, never to return again.

I often think of that conversation. I often tell the story of it. It was like hearing a song, for the first time, that moves you in such a way you know you have just discovered a “you gotta hear this” favorite.

I think that’s how it is when you meet a kindred friend too; like a song that gets into your heart on the very first chord. One that you play when you need to escape from it all; when you crave to remember who you really are: who we all want to be on some level: Robert Plant. And you flip back your hair, grab your air guitar – with your best friend, your side kick, your partner in crime – your Jimmy Page….right by your side…and rock out.

Yeah, our friendship, is kind of like that (but, of course, much more like the chick-rock-fantasy version…Ann and Nancy.)

So, today I decided to take an old favorite off the shelf, and rather than sit and listen to it by myself – I would like to say “you gotta hear this”.

Her name is Joan and I have known her for twenty-six years. She is a photographer. But not just any photographer. She is the type of photographer that catches life at its most vulnerable – before the say cheese, and after the flash – the lip-synching in the mirror moments that we don’t intend for others to see, but that we deeply, desperately hope that they do.

She lives for a glass of good red wine and she wears camouflage clothing with no apology. She forgives me every time I smash granola bars into the floor mat of her car and she has been stuffing “thoughts on life” post-its in her purse since the day I met her. She is the type of friend that will give you her last nickel; even if she knows it will end up in the land of broken lives (a.k.a.Caesar’s Palace nickel slots). And she is the person that reads every word of every sentence I have ever written and whether it blows her mind or numbs it, she tells me that “words can’t describe how much I love it.”

Joan is the only free spirit I have ever met that has absolutely no awareness of it. She is a born non- conformist who has never said the word non-conformist. She just doesn’t know how to not let her own light shine, and for that I admire her dearly.

And she is the person that when my brother died fifteen years ago, stopped her life entirely - which at the time was 3000 miles away from mine - and flew to my side – where she held my hand for seven silent days - as I melted into a voiceless puddle.

“Promise me you'll always remember: You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”
-Christopher Robin to Pooh

She is my best friend, and she has contributed immeasurable amounts of joy of my life, and for that I love her dearly.

Fast forward to 1996, when I apparently tried to bring back the "Betty Rubble". Joan never said a word.

On my journey to finding a future filled with purpose and joy, I suddenly realized that yes, there is a voice inside of us that says “Change. Grow. Explore.” It tells us to pay attention to the signs along the road and trust that they will lead us to our greatest potential . But today, the voice said something else.

“Stop Looking.”

It told me to open my hands and trace my lifeline backwards – to remind myself of the beauty that I have already seen; the happiness that I have already felt; the love that is ingrained in every inch of my past. It reminded me that although the inspiration for my journey came from a very dark and despondent place, that there was always someone waiting at the edge...and...

– that I was never… really… alone. 

With gratitude for the dearest of friends,


Friday, May 27, 2011

Why We Don’t Care if Michelangelo Shopped at The Gap

[I tore this story from a page my past – but its message, as potent as paint thinner, I believe.. is legacy...]

I attended a rather uninspiring marketing conference some years ago. In fact, aside from wresting the urge to yawn, I’d spent the better part of two days, gazing at the tips of my shoes. About noon on day three, I decided it was time slip through the between-presenters-crack and head out for an early flight. As I stood to gather my bags and mugs and flashlight pens – a fluttery British accent, called out from center stage.

“Please don’t leave,” he said. “This is my very first public speaking engagement. And, well, I don’t want it to be my last”.


By the deafening chuckle that ensued, you would think he had taken a giant ostrich feather and tickled the entire audience under the chin. It actually did seem a bit funnier when I realized that he was not exclusively speaking to me, and that, in fact, several people had stood in hopes of catching that earlier flight.

Hm. Well he’s telling the truth, I thought – which, I must admit, is a daring way to start your very first speech. I dropped the bag next to my chair and plopped back in it.

This better be good blue jeans.

What proceeded for the next fifty minutes was a finely choreographed waltz-of-words. This young Brit swept the doldrums so deep into the outfield – they didn’t return until at least 9am the next morning. He was a complete natural. He had the trifecta of public speaking – a progressive topic, passionately delivered, with a healthy dash of comic timing. He held the attention of over four hundred marketing managers - whose average age was his, times two, plus three – right in the palm of one hand.

And, I, for one, was very glad I’d stayed.

During the break for lunch, almost needless to say, he was swarmed by a mob of conference goers. Would he be writing a book? Where could he be found online? Nearly every attendee wanted more.


In the lobby coffee shop, there was a gathering of a different sort. A table of red-faced businessmen, were saluting the crowd (now encircling the young man), with the backs of their heads. They’d flipped their ties over their shoulders and were now sipping down a few $14 bottles of Pellegrino and punctuating each sentence with a flail of their arms.  Doesn’t he own a suit? Why do these kids today think the rules don’t apply to them? If I were his supervisor, I’d fire him on the spot! Obviously they had not listened as he explained that he is self-employed research consultant. And, frankly, I’m not sure if they even heard a single word of his ingenious retail revelations.

It seems these “supervisors” were pretty miffed at the fact that this marketing whiz-kid could inspire an audience of their peers, gaining oodles of admiration and respect - perhaps even enlisting the first several hundred sales of his new book - all the while, dressed in a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

As I stood in the middle of this dichotic scene – freethinking, entrepreneurial blue jeans guy, with a mosh pit in tow, to my left, and twelve piping hot messes in suits, to my right – one and only one vision came to mind.

The Sistine Chapel. Yep.

Picture this. It is Rome, 1512. Michelangelo has just breathed in the first full view of the Sistine Chapel. He is quivering with humility – as he is overwhelmed by his own creation. He warily opens the chapel door because, he knows…the moment has arrived. It is time to share his gift with the world. A small crowd gathers outside. Moments later, an onlooker climbs to the top of a large stone and shouts, “Great painting but where did you get those shoes?”


It is 1903 in Kitty hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright is running alongside his brother Wilbur;   his imagination bursting through a cloud as the magic of cast upon the world...for the very first time. Suddenly he stops and says,“Darn it all, I forgot my tie! Sorry Wil, I’ll be right back.”


It is 1975. Harvard University. A young man has been glued to a keyboard …for three days straight. He is driven by one and only one thought:  a design that had blossomed in his own mind will change the face of humanity forever. With certainty, he knows, that the future of the world is sitting on the edge of his desk.
Hm. Have you ever wondered...if in the midst of this unforgiving intensity...he was wearing a sweatshirt  from The Gap?

In your wildest imagination, have you ever wondered what any of these people were wearing? Silly question right?

But, do you know why?

Because what they were wearing meant absolutely nothing.

What they were creating meant absolutely everything.

You go blue jeans guy.

Genius comes from within,