All posts by wePhilistines

a soulsearching wanderluster with a thirst for good whiskey and better music.

3/23/2020 – A Renewed Perspective

“Your principles can’t be extinguished unless you snuff out the thoughts that feed them, for it’s continually in your power to reignite new ones… It’s possible to start living again!  See things anew as you once did – that is how to restart life!   

 ~ Marcus Aurelius, “ Meditations”

This morning when I was trying to figure out what to write, this Aurelius quote that I had previously jotted down in my notes stuck out to me. Now seemed like the perfect time to reflect on it.

I don’t have to tell you how crazy the world is right now. In fact, many out there are looking for anything other than another reminder of how serious the situation is. And in the midst of all this, understandably, I have been completely knocked off my metaphorical horse. I’m sure you have to, to some degree.

Most of 2020’s theme for me has been about focus, determination, and most importantly, discipline. That discipline has been channeled specifically into routine. This is the first year of my life that I’ve been able to truly realize the power of routine, and the effective outcomes that it can yield. But for the last 2 weeks, I’ve been struggling.

My whole normal routine, the thing that had acted as the stabilizing anchor to my change in behavior and mentality in 2020, has been completely broken. 

All the things that I normally do every day in the order I do them? Kinda pointless.  The way that I usually do them? Kinda not relevant. Finding motivation in a quarantine with a total societal stoppage has been a lot more challenging than I could have possibly imagined.

And I think that’s how my perspective is shifting through this crisis so far. Not that “everything is pointless,” but rather that even though everything has changed, on the other hand, nothing has changed. We still need to get up every morning, feed ourselves, dress ourselves, clean ourselves (admittedly a little more frequently than before), and care for our own lives in some fashion or another. 

Reduced to life’s most basic needs, none of that has changed. If I want more (like health & fitness goals, or professional accomplishment, etc.), I can still achieve it. And I still need a system, a routine, to reach for and accomplish it. Perhaps the system I was using yesterday no longer applies to the system I need today. Fine. Time to take a step back, reevaluate what I need, and structure a plan, a new plan, to continue reaching higher.

So that’s what I’ll be committing to doing this week. I’ll be reevaluating my daily routine and short term goals to find a daily routine and mindful focus that is more suitably adapted to the world’s current situation. I hope you will too.

3/16/2020 – The Loudest Voice in the Room

The last week has been quite the wild ride, no? But instead of the crazy roller coaster ride that takes you up and down and all around, this is more the kind of roller coaster that just takes you straight down.

I didn’t really know what to write this morning (which is why I’m late sending this out). Coronavirus panic and concern has been unavoidable. There isn’t a social media platform or news outlet that isn’t completely plastered with news, advice, statistics, and general content related to this global pandemic that has suddenly gripped the entire world and awakened us to a new reality. You just can’t seem to get away from it, and it is becoming obvious: Things are going to be different now.

I spent some time yesterday reflecting back on just how surreal this whole thing has been over the last couple months. Particularly in the last week, the havoc has been remarkable. Financial markets have been decimated (my stock portfolio is basically toast), the travel industry reeling, the service industry and all its employees suddenly not sure how bills will be paid, all sports industries canceled indefinitely (it seems in retrospect that this component seemed to suddenly wake americans up better than anything else. Leagues like the NBA should be commended for such quick movement, while other organizations like, say, our President and his team, should be ashamed for their incompetent, and even reluctant inability to take action.), and so much more have all been thrown into a dreadful uncertainty of what the foreseeable future looks like. It really is a crazy thing we are going through right now. A true black swan event. Something that I certainly have not seen in my entire life, and in fact the successful investor Warren Buffet even said it took him 89 years to see something like this happen. It is unprecedented.

As I’ve watched and read and listened to people talk about and dissect this worldwide crisis that is playing out before us, I’ve paid close attention to people’s response mechanisms with a passively observant curiosity. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it until yesterday, as I reflected back upon the last week. Two things struck me:

Firstly, I was struck by how little we still know, and how that is currently affecting us as a people. Not that the scientific community “doesn’t know anything,” quite the opposite (in fact, if you’re looking for a really good central resource, check out this Google Doc my friend Marcus put together, pulling info mainly from Johns Hopkins, instead of the conjecture being passed around on Facebook). I’m more referring to the eventual outcomes of the disease and this “containment phase” we must endure, and the fallout of the economy and residual effects to communities worldwide. It is strange that such a faceless villain can wreak so much disruption, and leave us with such a heavy sense of unease and uncertainty.

And that leads me to the second thing that has stuck out to me: our behavior in that unease. Through conversations with friends, silent observation on social media, and the rest of the cacophony sounding off on the subject, 2 response patterns seem to emerge the most obviously:

  1. Defiance and denial. This behavior is marked by those who minimize the danger and refuse to adjust behavior. Things like “We’re all gonna get it anyways” and “It’s no different than the Flu,” and similar statements are frequently expressed.
  2. Total panic, overwhelming stress. Doomsday prepping, irrationally buying toilet paper, getting worked up to the point of exhaustion, are all common for this behavioral response.

Obviously neither of these are healthy, nor are they responsible. Neither of these behaviors are well informed, well researched, or well balanced strategies. But they seem to be the loudest. It begs the question:  Why do we rush to assess judgment in uncertainty?

I’m sure there is a psychological explanation available in this somewhere, that people have an instinctual need to comfort themselves in confidence during crisis, even if it is constructed from a false sense of security. But I’m no psychologist, so I’ll spare the speculation.

But there’s a less obvious third behavior that remains patiently silent. Waiting, watching, collecting information, self-educating, this person doesn’t make declarative or ignorant proclamations on social media or amongst friends. In contrast, they cautiously prepare while also maintaining a cool head by not allowing emotion to get the best of them.

Unfortunately this third person doesn’t use the soapbox approach by trumpeting their thoughts outward, so they get drowned out by the other two response types. It is the unfortunate reality of modern life, and it often feels like there is a severe lack of reasonable thought out there. 

So how do we address this? How do we find a way to bring more reasonable thought to the forefront and fade ignorant behaviors to the background?

In times like these, I think it is important to take an honest accounting of our own behaviors and assess. In the last few weeks, if you’ve behaved like one of the first two behaviors, don’t feel any shame, just change your behavior. It’s not even a difficult change:  If you’re not an expert, just quiet your desire to speak up, and make room for those who actually are experts. It’s that simple. Don’t contribute to confusion, panic, or ignorance.

And if you are someone who has been patiently observing and educating yourself, keeping quiet, keep doing what you’re doing. And perhaps try your best to gently let others know what they are doing or saying is not really helpful in as peaceful a communicative effort as possible. Be an example of patient confidence in a world of chaos. Show people a better way.

As a species, we need to get better at living with uncertainty. We don’t have to immediately possess the answer to everything. Arrogant confidence is not a strength, it’s a weakness.  It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” it’s okay to acknowledge gaps in understanding or skill, in fact it is crucial to success. It is imperative we learn how to shut up and wait.

We’re going to eventually get the answers and the security we seek, and we’re going to get through this together. We just need to maintain composure, be patient, and make room for wisdom to be the loudest voice in the room.  And no, that wasn’t a social distancing joke ;-p

3/9/2020 – Remove it, Change it, or Accept it.

“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here-and-now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”    

~ eckhart tolle, The Power of Now

The last couple of months, I have been doing a great deal of reading. Not everything has been focused on Stoicism or business, in fact some of the books have been Sci-Fi novels, and I’m even about to finish the whole Harry Potter series in the next few days. 

But I’ve also been slowly crawling my way through Eckhart Tolle’s “the Power of Now,” usually whenever I’m needing something a little more introspective and personally challenging. And for me, challenging it has been.

If you couldn’t deduce from the title, the book is heavily focused on “living in the present.” While the concepts in the book are nothing new, the presentation is a modernization of buddhist ideas with a flavoring of christianity to create a modern zen for the modern mind. Over the last 30 years, it has been a very successful book, selling over 3 million copies in 30 languages, even being recommended by Oprah.

Personally, it has been teaching me how little I truly “live in the present” (I kinda hate that saying, but it is the easiest way to capture the concept), but I’ll save that topic for a later writing.

I don’t fully identify with everything I’ve read in “The Power of Now”, but one thing I have really appreciated has been the simplicity with which much of the fourth chapter’s strategies are on staying present. A simple example is the quote atop this reflection. It truly and simply captures the only 3 solutions one has when one decides to take responsibility for their own life and do something. 

The operative words there are “take responsibility,” in that they underline the consequence of action. If no action is taken, misery and negativity will continue to be endured in an undesirable situation.

Have you ever felt like you were stuck in an intolerable situation? Ever felt hopeless or powerless to make the type of impact you know you’re capable of?  Ever just hate the situation you’ve found yourself in?

Well your options are quite simple. You either do something about it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you will continue to be a victim of your circumstances, you’ll continue to be unhappy, and you won’t be in control of your own being and, subsequently, life.

If you do decide to do something about it, however, you have 3 simple options, according to Tolle:  “remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

The passage goes further into detail about those three options and various related strategies (so I recommend the book if you’re looking for more on the topic), but the very next thing after this quote is just as important:

“If you take any action – leaving or changing your situation – drop the negativity first, if at all possible. Action arising out of insight into what is required is more effective than action arising out of negativity.” 

Negativity can be a powerful motivator of action in itself, but if it is the key ingredient, it will come at the expense of growth. 

I think this is a powerful lesson that everyone can benefit from, and I am grateful to have it to meditate on this week. I encourage you to do the same.

It’s a Thing You Learn Every Day  

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

~Tim Ferriss

Last week I was speaking with a friend, hashing through some things they were frustrated with in what seemed to be stuck in a lack of progress. One of the core issues discussed was the mind’s desire to control, and the difficulty in letting go and trusting outcomes to arrive positively through patience. It is something I identify with extremely closely.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve decided to commit to something, I commit to it wholeheartedly, with all my effort and energy. An admirable trait to be sure, but there is a darker side of that coin: an almost obsessive propensity to want things to be perfect, even if they don’t need to be. That intensity can have a lot of unintended consequences, particularly when it comes to working with other people.

Have you ever worked on a group project in school? Ever notice the way personality types quickly emerge once the work starts? There have been too many articles written on this very topic to count, so I’ll spare you that rabbit hole. But if you think back, I’m sure you can remember some of the best and worst team projects you’ve worked on previously and the people you worked on them with. 

There’s the analyst or researcher, willing to do the book work. There’s the organized planner type. There’s the communicator, who volunteered to do most of the talking during the presentation. There’s the team player, a generally agreeable, well rounded person okay with whatever responsibility the group needs from them. There’s usually a creative type. You also undoubtedly encountered the slacker or procrastinator that just didn’t seem to care that much, nor did they volunteer for anything. There’s usually also a leader type, for better or for worse. That was usually me.

The thing about being a perfection-obsessed alpha type who usually assumes the leader role is that you typically have a hard time letting go of responsibilities and allowing others to drive. That’s a recipe for really bad teamwork, and one that took me a long time to learn. I grew up playing team sports, but mainly baseball, which is actually a 1 on 1 chess match masquerading as a team game. So I didn’t really learn to start trusting and relying on teammates until I got promoted into a Manager role at the call center I was working in at 30. It didn’t take me long to realize I couldn’t just get on the phone and make sales for my employees. I had to trust that they could get the job done so I could focus on other responsibilities.

One of the things that really helped me work through this subtle neuroses was the point where I learned how to differentiate what I could control and what I couldn’t. It is still something I haven’t quite mastered, but the better I get at it, the easier my life seems to get.

As I discussed these challenges with my friend, I conveyed the importance of this concept using “The Serenity Prayer,” a memorable mantra authored by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the early 1900s:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It sounds so simple when it’s in a cute little poem, but in practice, this is extremely difficult for some people (like me). My friend, familiar with the Serenity Prayer, responded with:

“I’ve been trying to remind myself of this, but it just doesn’t seem to get through to me” they said in a discouraged tone. 

This made me think of the Tim Ferriss quote above.

“You know, if it is that difficult, it probably means it’s the thing you need to work on most,” I suggested, trying to avoid sounding like an asshole by quoting Tim Ferriss.

“Let me show you something,” I said, retrieving my daily planner. I paged through the last 2 weeks, showing how I have been starting every morning by writing down a quote by Cato (the one I wrote about last week). I then showed my Google Calendar, where every day at 2pm, I have an alert set to remind me of that daily focus again.

“This isn’t a thing you just learn one day. It’s a thing you learn every day,” I said reassuringly.

All productive, ambitious individuals have things they are working on to improve. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t getting the quick results you desire. Instead, find ways to remind yourself and repeatedly force yourself to keep at it. You’re only really stuck if you give up.

2/24/2020 – And Remove All Doubt  

There’s an old saying I’ve been thinking about recently. It is often incorrectly attributed to Abe Lincoln or Mark Twain, but the actual author is unknown. It goes like…

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”

~ unknown

In my readings on Stoicism lately, a quote with a similar meaning from Cato the Younger was the focal topic (though not quite as humorous). I have been trying to meditate or use these words as a mantra as much as possible. It has a slightly different angle, but similar purpose. Here are those words:

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.”

~ Cato the Younger

Anyone who knows me well has undoubtedly seen me dig my heels in on something at some point, and if i’m being honest, such moments will not be included in my lifetime highlight reel. My opinionated nature is something that can embarrass me or get me into trouble from time to time. But those passions have also led me to some of the most satisfying moments in my life as well, as the commitment and effort driven by my passion makes the victory that much sweeter in the end when the path isn’t easy.

As I’ve begun lately to commit to the effort of self improvement, finding a more graceful middle ground of these two extremes without dimming the fire has been at the forefront of my mind. Over the last month, I have focused simply on shutting my mouth and listening more, but that is only part of the equation.

In another recent reading from “The Daily Stoic,” the topic was “You don’t always have to have an opinion,” and the central idea was learning the discipline not to give control to your opinions, particularly negative ones. This is accomplished simply by observing an idea, acknowledging its existence without assigning it any personal meaning. It is a strange exercise, and one that goes against every modern human instinct, but it is surprisingly beneficial, as it allows one to collect more information and learn more than is possible when one quickly wades into battle with an opinion.

But when combined with Cato’s words above, it has proved to be a powerful combination of self-analysis and evaluation of my words and how I use them. When I combine the importance of delaying the selection of my opinion with the evaluation of whether or not I am *actually* changing anything by speaking the words in my head, a sobering humility is the first result. This discipline forces you to place an actual value on your thoughts, and to censor yourself if that value is not greater than the value of silence.

But there are also other unexpected outcomes. You begin to really listen a lot more. And you begin to collect much more information. You suddenly have more space to analyze the words of others, and you are often able to pull out truer motivations than what others’ words are even directly conveying on their own. 

Another outcome is the leveling up of one’s contributions. The self-regulation of one’s contribution sharpens ideas to a point where only the best efforts are offered, enhancing the efficiency and output of the quality of work at hand. Everyone benefits from this practice, in multiple ways.

In today’s world of always-on, extremely loud, and overly aggressive in-your-face opining on display at every social media platform or publication available, this discipline may be more valuable now than ever before in our history. And while I may only be at the beginning of this practice, I know this work is worth the effort, even if I fail often. 

Or, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote as advice to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald: 

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

May we all be so eloquent, so as not to remove all doubt.

2/17/2020 – And Not to Yield

“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

~ ulysses, by tennyson

Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t go out partying, I didn’t plan a big day with a bunch of activities, I didn’t even do anything outside of the ordinary. I made breakfast, read the news, went to the gym, did some grocery shopping, and followed that up by meal-prepping for the upcoming week while the NBA All-Star game played in the background.

During most of the day, I couldn’t help but sift through the normal thoughts one has during these semi-meaningful arbitrary milestones that we set for ourselves like birthdays. How am I doing? Am I working toward what I want? Am I where I thought I would be? Am I where I should be? Am I loved? Do I love? Do I have passion? Am I still curious? Am I inspiring myself appropriately? Is this still interesting?

At some point while I was wandering the aisles of Whole Foods and pondering these thoughts, the quote from Tennyson above crept into my head and stayed there the rest of the day until I had a chance to sit down and reread his poem, “Ulysses” (also known as Odysseus, of Homer’s “The Odyssey”). I previously read it at some point in college, but had found the old english vocabulary to be boring and therefore indecipherable for my underdeveloped brain. 

But this time around, I found a lingering resonance that I can’t quite define.

The poem takes place after Odysseus/Ulysses has returned home to his family, and he finds himself, for lack of a better term, bored. He has become part of the experiences that have shaped him during his adventures abroad, and he longs again for the great unknown, the call of the wild. He decides to leave his ruling duties to his son, and to rally his crew again for one last voyage at sea, with the final two lines of the poem offering a defiant refusal to bow to age.  

“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

While I read and reread the lines of Ulysses to make sure I was pulling as much meat off the bone as I could, and organizing my thoughts for what I thought would be a triumphant and defiant topic here in this column, I had my Spotify account on shuffle in the background. On my third read-through, the soft, delicate tones of Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” began playing. I stopped thinking, stopped reading, closed my eyes, and relaxed in my chair, listening as the gentle piano notes danced lightly around the room, filling the air.

As the composition progressed, drifting from the serene innocence of the opening to the dramatic ascending notes immediately following, then to the peaceful rolling motifs blissfully drifting around seemingly without direction in the middle of the song, until the melody quietly slowed into its wispful, melancholic yet satisfied end, I found myself experiencing emotions I had never let myself feel in the song before.

I felt the bliss and insecurity of innocence. I was lured by wonder. I felt the weight of helplessness, of being completely out of control. I felt the sting of pain. the bittersweet melancholy of love lost. I felt the release of healing. I felt the breathlessness of love’s first spark. I settled into gentle comfort. I felt cautious, and hesitant. The pull of curiosity. I felt the gentle confidence of true beauty. I felt hope.

I sat still as I allowed these emotions to wash over me, unsure of what it was I was experiencing, but trying to remain present nonetheless. Amid a fog of confusion, the song ended and I wiped the tears from my eyes. 

I looked at my notes on “Ulysses” and tried to make sense of how this poem could lead to the emotional experience I had just had with “Claire de Lune.” 

I am still not totally sure of what this experience is significant of, nor do I think these two works of art relate to each other in any way. 

But as I look back on my 37 years of life, I find great comfort that I can find such identity and resonance from a piece like “Ulysses,” knowing that though I may not have the accomplishments I hoped to have by now, I still possess a dogged determination to strive, to seek, to find, and that I am not yet ready to yield. Not any time soon. 

And yet I also find comfort that I can derive such passionate, emotional identity and definition from a piece like Claire de Lune, a song I’ve heard a hundred times in films or shopping malls without more than a thought of its recognizance. And yet, suddenly I can be moved to tears when it inexplicably decides to reveal itself to me in an intimate moment.

And as I grow through my experiences, and I continue to marshall the strength not to yield, I will continue to be increasingly open to these emotions that for most of my life I have avoided. For I am only recently realizing that they make me strong, not weak. Where the strength of my convictions and ambitions offer the form, my emotions and vulnerabilities offer the color, and together they weave the most beautiful tapestry I am only just now becoming aware of.

I am not yet where I want to be, and I am still learning who I am. But I know that I have a lot of life left to explore. And for that, I have hope.

To strive, to seek, to find.

The Virtue of not Actually Feeling any Better

Every morning i wake up, since the beginning of the year, I’ve been reading from “the Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. It has been a useful way to begin each day with a thought, quote, or idea that I can attempt to carry with me throughout the day and give me something to chew on & think about.

February’s running theme and focus has been on “passions and emotions,” two things i’ve never been short on. Perhaps the easiest way to see my emotions get the best of me is when I’m playing sports. Sometimes my tunnel vision in the competition for a W is so intense that I completely forget about my manners, and i say or do things i regret later. Or perhaps it is when I’m driving and I have to endure the insufferability of hapless, oblivious drivers with no respect for concepts like flow of traffic, or merging appropriately, or focusing on the road instead of one’s mobile device.  All of these things get me quite worked up. But obviously these minor things are indicative of a greater battle I have been fighting most of my adult life with managing anger. I’ve gotten better in the last couple years, but anger is a devil that one never completely vanquishes once it has a hook into your emotions.

One thing I’ve noticed lately in particular is that little inconsequential things have been getting to me. Like not even anything worth speaking of. So small, I can’t even articulate a proper example accurately. It might be something like my phone taking an extra couple of seconds to execute whatever command i’ve just issued it. Or missing a yellow light when I’m not even in a hurry to be anywhere. But these little things happen, my blood pressure faintly and momentarily spikes, and I inexcusably might let a quick, unnecessary obscenity fly. There’s no reason for it, and it means nothing, but for half a moment, a mild form of tourette’s appears to take over, and the anger monster makes a brief appearance before disappearing back into its prison cell of domestication. 

By most accounts, this seems like a victimless crime. There’s usually no one around, and the moment passes and I move on. But I can’t let go of why I allow this to happen. Perhaps it’s just a side effect of how hard I’ve been focusing on getting back into shape with extreme diet and exercise (seriously, I’ve never worked as hard in my life at watching what i eat and working my ass off in the gym as i have in the last 45 days), and moments of low blood sugar yielding short bouts of “hangry” are breaking through like some sort of micro seizure. Or maybe I’ve just been experiencing moments of weakness a little more frequently lately.

When the calendar flipped to February, I was both wary and excited to see that “Emotions” would be a theme. Excited, because i relished the chance to focus on improvement, and wary because growth is rarely comfortable. I am enthused by the opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength, but aware that such a mission will be painful.

Just two days ago, the topic for the day was “Did that make you feel better?”   …Rather than recap it, I’ll just quote directly:

“The next time someone gets upset near you — crying, yelling, breaking something, being pointed or cruel — watch how quickly this statement will stop them cold: “I hope this is making you feel better.” Because, of course, it isn’t.”

On my first thought after reading this, the theatre of my mind played this scenario out and I laughed out loud at how much worse saying something like this would likely make things. But on the 2nd reading, I felt shame. Shame of the knowledge that this piece was specifically for people like me. Why? Because a logical examination of this behavior yields only one result: that losing your cool simply does not accomplish anything. And if it does not accomplish anything, why should it make one feel any better? If I look back, I can’t say that behaving badly has ever made me feel better. In point of fact, it has always led me to regret something.

But the best part of this learning process is the strategies and tactics for improvement you gain when doing the work, and for this topic, the latter half of the writing suggested the following:

“The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout… just ask: is this actually making me feel better?”

The answer will undoubtedly be “no.” I won’t feel any better in that moment. And the shame won’t suddenly evaporate. But I will be using this new tool, this strategy to improve. And I’ll suddenly be aware. And I’ll be doing the work. And that will make me feel a little better.

2/3/2020 – One play at a time

The Monday after the Super Bowl. The day of the year with the most unplanned absences in the American workforce. Also known informally as Super Sick Monday. While many fans don’t make it into work the day after the big game due to too many frosty beverages, or perhaps they are too stricken with grief due to their team’s loss on the world’s stage, Super Sick Monday is probably an appropriate hangover for a season that monopolizes our Sundays for 6 months out of the year.

But before we all hang up the cleats for 6 months til the next season, I want to spotlight something that inspired me a few weeks ago. It was in the Chiefs that just won yesterday’s big game (sorry to any of you grieving Niner fans!), and it was their leader, Patrick Mahomes’ determination to put one foot in front of the other that shone more than a bright light on his athletic ability, but also on his ability to inspire greatness in his teammates.

You probably remember it if you were watching. The Kansas City Chiefs were facing the Houston Texans in a divisional playoff game that got off to a shockingly unexpected start. On the 6th play of the game, Texans QB Watson connected with receiver Stills for a 54-yard bomb down the field for a touchdown. On the very next play set, frustrated by an inability to generate any positive offense, Mahomes and the Chiefs were suddenly shaken up when their punt was blocked and Houston scooped the ball up for an easy defensive score.

A couple play sequences later, Houston was punting back to KC when kick returner Tyreek Hill dropped the return, allowing Houston to recover the ball and score again on the next play. A few plays after that, Houston kicked a field goal for another score.

Suddenly, in a matter of a few minutes, the Kansas City Chiefs were down 24-0. No small margin in the NFL, the Chiefs were now facing a bleak outlook. It would now take 4 trips down the field to catch up, assuming no more scoring from the opponent, neither of which Kansas City had been able to accomplish thus far. Their season appeared to be over before they could even get a chance to get anything going against a Houston team that had stepped into the game and punched the Chiefs right in the mouth at the opening bell.

But something interesting was happening.

Patrick Mahomes could be seen on the sideline encouraging and rallying his troops. He was walking back and forth shouting messages of positivity to his teammates, instructing them to put everything they had just experienced behind them and forget about it. 

He wasn’t sitting down, hanging his head, lamenting about how he could have such poor luck right out of the gate of this playoff game. It wasn’t his fault that the last 2 touchdowns scored were due to mistakes by his teammates in plays where he wasn’t even on the field. It would have been completely understandable if he had been filled with anger at his teammates for their lackluster play thus far in the game. But was that his response?  No.

In his post-game interview, Mahomes explained that he was encouraging his guys to “go do something special” and take it “one play at a time.” He knew there was a lot of football left, and he knew how good his team could be when they were at their best.

2 plays later, The Chiefs scored their first touchdown. On their next possession, they scored again. Then they forced a Houston fumble and scored again. On their next possession they scored again and took the lead, 24-28. But they weren’t done. They would score 2 more touchdowns before the stunned Houston offense could do anything. By the end of the game, Kansas City would put up 51 points in a commanding victory.

Asked after the game, wide receiver Sammy Watkins admitted thinking they had already lost the game before they turned it around, saying “A couple of times, I was like, ‘This is over.'”  But his teammates Mahomes & Kelce encouraged him and made him believe. They showed him there was a plan.

And what was that plan? What do you do when the deck is stacked against you and clearly the cards are not falling your way?  The solution is simple: One Play at a Time. You don’t dwell on the past, and you don’t dream about the future. You stay present, keep your head down, and you focus on what is immediately in front of you. You go to work.

Mahomes knew if he could get his teammates to focus on that simple instruction, they were talented enough to come back and win that game. He remained confident in his team’s abilities, he knew they had prepared appropriately for the match-up, and he knew that nothing had really changed if he zoomed out and took a bird’s eye view of the entire game. If they took it one play at a time, they could do something special.

And now they truly have. Congrats to the Kansas City Chiefs on winning their 2nd Super Bowl. They have a special player in Patrick Mahomes and we all hopefully have many years ahead of us getting to watch him showcase his leadership skills both on and off the field. One play at a time.

Patrick Mahomes displays leadership in Super Bowl win

the new motivation

**i’ve been writing a Monday morning motivational email for a little over a year now as a sorta “positivity message” to focus or meditate on throughout the week. The small group I’ve been sending it to have offered positive feedback, so i’ll be sharing them here now going forward**

It’s been a few months since i put out this weekly motivational.  I decided to take some time away from writing these after what was, admittedly, an epically frustrating end to my 2019. Coming from what was supposed to finally be my big moment, professionally, 2019 went from all things pointing straight up and to the right, and resulted in a total collapse of everything i had poured myself into the past 3 years.

The purpose of this is not to talk about the past, but to focus on the future. But to summarize: the small but successful company i built for the family i work under got consolidated into a larger corporate entity, which was then captained by poor leadership, resulting in calamity. then, just days before a new product launch and in the middle of HUGE contract discussions with major retail companies around the country, an ignorant (and inaccurate) political news cycle affected my entire industry segment, which led to a premature shutdown of my product/project/division.  Needless to say, i was incredibly discouraged the last 3 months of 2019.

——

“I understand that everyone goes disappearing

Into the greatest gray

That covers over everyday,

And hovers in the distance”

~counting crows, “up all night

——-

That lyric segment is from a song i really love called “up all night.” it’s a song about disillusionment and realization, and beginning to understand that eventually autopilot just doesn’t take you to new destinations. And that’s where i’ve been the last few months. In a sort of hazy gray. Not a deep, dark black. I’m stronger than that, and i’ve been through much worse in my life. But i’m not sure i ever really knew what this song was about until recently.

But the frustrating circumstances (i wouldn’t quite call them failures. Let’s call them “unsuccesses”) of the end of 2019 elucidated a few defects in my armor, which i may never have paid any mind if i had gotten everything i had wanted last year, and hit the home run that i was so close to hitting.

firstly, i had no specified discipline in my game. Just raw determination. I was often working 80 hour weeks, flying all over the country to deliver sales pitches, staying up all night in weird hotels, sometimes in airports, making phone calls at all times of the day and weekend, with little-to-no social life. I allowed personal relationships to deteriorate, i stopped participating in my favorite hobbies, and i buried myself in what seemed like the workload equivalent of 10 men. Some might look at that with admiration, but i can tell you it was foolish.

what it made me realize was actually something i’ve already written about in this very column, but clearly hadn’t realized i wasn’t doing enough of:

Passion without discipline is wasted.

the last 3 years, i burned with passion. But i eventually burned out. Sure, i could have been supported better by my organization, and perhaps that support would have fueled my passion a little longer. But i now realize that i would likely still have landed right where i am now. eventually.

second: much of what i was doing, wasn’t as much for myself as i thought, if i’m being honest with myself. It was also for others around me. and what i failed to account for is that much of that audience was not really receptive to my message (these emails, but also my general message & behavior/mentality/culture). Regardless of how altruistic i wanted it to be, the driver eventually became the accountability of “i have to get this motivational out this morning or people will wonder what happened,” instead of “i want to get this done, because I need it for myself” (and if i’m completely transparent, there was also an aspect of aspirational embodiment i was hoping for. Of speaking the version of myself i wanted to be into existence).

i wasn’t feeding myself. I was feeding ego. I thought my message could be a rallying point for the things my company lacked, so that became the focal point.

But i’m done with all that. I’m doing this for me now. and i’m going deeper. if you’re reading this, it’s likely because

  1.  i know you were previously receptive to the message, or
  2.  you’re a dynamic individual who inspires, encourages, or collaborates with me, and people like that enjoy messages like this.

So let me start 2020 with a hint of the new discipline. It comes from a book that was recommended to me (i’ll talk more about it in later writings) by a good friend named jonathan, who has been hounding me for months to start writing these things again (thanks jstein. your words picked me up and dusted me off a number of times last year, a few times very literally). Here it is:

control your perceptions
direct your actions properly
willingly accept what’s outside your control

I am learning to accept what’s outside my control. I am learning to control my perceptions. And i am now directing my actions properly. It’s monday, let’s go get it.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

about 5 years ago, i began riding motorcycles.  it was a small piece of a rather pedestrian rebellion that would begin to reform how i viewed my life and how i wanted to live it moving forward, but i still consider it a very important part of who i have become and what i have accomplished in the years since.

honda cb 550i bought a 40 year old honda bike with the intention of restoring it and converting it into a “cafe racer,” a throwback homage to the classic bikes of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. the steve mcqueen era.  unfortunately it didn’t take long for me to realize that i was in way over my head.  my first crack at working on carbs and rewiring the electrical system in the bike was pretty miserable, and finally after one day going on a short ride to a nearby watering hole with some friends and getting stranded outside the front when the bike wouldn’t start back up again, i decided being part of the “built, not bought” crowd wasn’t something i had the patience or affection for.  i went to my local bike dealer, erico motorsports, and reserved a brand new moto-guzzi v7 racer.  she looked 50 years old and was every bit of apparent “vintage” that i wanted, minus the maintenance or authenticity.  but hell, i didn’t care.  i just wanted to ride.

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I have the best morning commute…

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eventually, after many mountain rides through the rockies and my first scary car accident (which i somehow walked away from, fortunately), i stumbled into a fun new event on facebook called the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.  it was an event that had started in australia where guys with bikes like mine (or cooler) would get dressed up in old-school dapper fashion and then go on a ride around town.  it looked incredible and i had to be involved. i found that some guy had volunteered to host, but then mysteriously ghosted everyone weeks before the ride, leaving the facebook group in disarray.  i emailed the foundation organizer in australia asking if there were any details and how to get involved, and he suddenly made me the ride organizer.  i was not ready for this.  my rides usually consisted of me picking a road and seeing where it went.  the pressure of planning a ride for a city like denver, even if it’s only 15 people, was more than i wanted.  i just wanted to dress up, show my bike off, and make some new friends.

nevertheless, i started emailing anyone i could find that had shown interest on the facebook page, and luckily, i found a couple guys who had done an unofficial distinguished gentleman’s ride the year before.  guys who actually knew what they were doing.  they agreed to help me plan the ride and route.

now, 5 years later, what resulted from that ride was something that has greatly strengthened my interest in riding on two wheels, and my local community.  every year in september, richie, spencer, justin, and i get together and plan out a new ride for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which has turned into a worldwide phenomenon benefitting research and prevention of men’s prostate cancer, as well as suicide prevention.  last year, denver was a top 15 fundraiser in the world, raising more money than hundreds of other cities in america, europe, and asia.  250 people rode and participated in the denver ride.  it is something that i am very proud to be part of, and this year i am seeking to continue the tradition.  if you feel inclined to donate a couple dollars toward preventing men’s prostate cancer and/or suicide prevention, please do so at my fundraiser page on the DGR website:  https://www.gentlemansride.com/rider/brandonmiq 

and if you’d like to get a taste of what the ride is like, have a look at this video i made of last year’s event: