Legends with caveats: Keep showing up

On a recent podcast, Joe Rogan calls Lance Armstrong "a legend with a caveat," putting him in the same category as Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson was a highly productive, highly influential writer with one helluva daily drug routine.

I recently re-watched Alex Gibney's Thompson biopic, "Gonzo." I was having a bad day. Maybe it was more of a bad week. I needed a reminder that even the great ones slip sometimes. Sometimes, they slip far. They make mistakes. Things don't always go as planned. But if you keep showing up, things turn around.

So, I decided to keep showing up. I guess if it worked for Thompson, who finally quit this world when his body wouldn't let him show up anymore, and if it's working for Armstrong, who might have been a cheater but he was the best of the best at it for a long time (I bet if you took away all the cheating, he'd probably still be the best of the non-cheaters over that same period), it can work for a bad day. Or week. Or month. Or year. Or decade, it seems.

I think I like this concept of "legends with caveats." It brings to mind the image of the flawed hero — also important in that everyone has flaws — but without the pressure of being a hero. A legend? We should all be remembered. And we should all have caveats.

The best way to be remembered? Keep showing up.

Happy New Year: Highlights from the blog

Last year I wrote a fairly epic post wrapping up what was a fairly chaotic year.

This year was much less chaotic and much more growth-oriented. Last year, we landed in a new city in December. We've had a year to explore the city and move to an apartment that better suits us as people. I got a small ebook out to the world. I ran my first half marathon.

And 2016 is going to be a great year, if things go as planned. Yeah, we're so planning that we're not talking about anything. So there. Here are some of my favorite posts from 2015 – posts that I need to come back to every now and then to remind myself. Maybe they'll be useful for you, too. Happy new year.

You CAN control your next step
Bring conversation back into your life
Know what you're good at, know what you're bad at
Stop looking for what's next
Love people, even if you think they're wrong
Perform life as an act of love
Be your own cause
You have a right to work hard. It doesn't entitle you to anything

Christmas family activity: Tim Ferriss talks to Jamie Foxx

Looking for something for everyone? Take a few hours, sit around the computer, and listen to Jamie Foxx on Tim Ferriss' podcast. Listen to it at normal speed, too, or large chunks will be lost on you.

Foxx talks about networking before social media, how to imitate Kermit the Frog and how to slide from Kermit to Sammy Davis Jr., and, most important in today's world, being adopted at seven months old by a grandmother who, as a religious black woman from south of the tracks in a rural Texas town, taught tolerance and how to cross lines. He also talks about fear and controlling your own narrative. There's so much in it.

Two examples stick with me from his grandmother, and I'm paraphrasing because it's been a while since I listened to it and I'm too lazy to actually look up the quotes.

(1) When a pastor, in the 1970s, preached "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," she stood up and said, "Hold on. Stop with that. God makes sissies, too." She ran a daycare, and forget the word that you might consider unenlightened, look at the sentiment: Homosexuals are also God's children. That's radical in some communities now. Imagine what it was 40 years ago.

(2) This is an extension of the first. Foxx described asking her, 10 years later, what she meant. She said you have to open the umbrella of religion all the way. If it's raining and you only open the umbrella a little bit, you only keep yourself dry. If you open it up all the way, you can keep more people dry. Same thing with religion. You can either accept a few people under the umbrella of your worldview, and you suffer from that. Or, you can open that umbrella up and let everybody come under the love.

I'm going to steal some notes from Ferriss' show highlights.

• What is automated dialogue replacement (ADR)? [08:13]
• How did Jamie break into music? [09:32]
• How did a then-unknown Jamie Foxx got into Puff Daddy’s parties? [09:57]
• Before social media, Jamie had a unique way of staying connected with people, which involved comedy shows, cue cards, and text messages [11:59]
• Why nobody leaves Jamie’s house without performing [16:56]
• How Jamie learned the nuances of performing on both sides of the tracks (literally and metaphorically) when he was a kid [23:59]
• Life lessons Jamie learned from his grandma [33:38]
• Jamie’s parenting style [41:27]
• What Ray Charles told Jamie was possible if he could play the blues [43:15]
• What’s on the other side of fear? [50:42]
• Why do some standup comedians lose the ability to make people laugh? [01:17:15]
• Jamie talks about how social media has taken away the power to control our own narratives [01:34:51]
• What would Jamie teach a class of 9th graders? [02:07:22]
• Advice Jamie would give to his younger self. [02:15:04]
• The time Jamie told Mike Tyson jokes but didn’t realize Mike was in the audience. [02:23:55]

There's so much more in there. Give it a listen.

Bella: 4 lessons from a 3-legged dog

One afternoon, a man, let's call him Bill (since we didn't ask him his name), was driving down a country road in Georgia with his wife. Eh, let's call her Christine, since we like names. They saw a dog — a small black Lab mix — in the road, looking thin and dragging a leg. They had some crackers in the car, so they gave up their snacks and went back to whatever they were doing.

Through their errands and their dinner, Bill and Christine were, separately, thinking about the dog. When, on their way home, they got back to the spot where they'd seen the dog, they stopped and spent time looking for her, but couldn't find her.

For more than a week, they thought about the dog, and kept looking for her.

***

For a while, Mr. J and I were having coffee weekly. We missed a few here and there, and you know how that goes — suddenly, you just let it go. But we've been back at it about every two or three weeks. He asked if I was fre for coffee one Tuesday recently, and he asked if he minded if his wife, Miss B, came along. It so happened my own wife, Miss J, was off work, and so we grabbed our bikes and set out to meet Mr. J and Miss B.

We got the bikes outside but when I went to close the door, there was a little dog I hadn't seen before sitting in the doorway with a leash in her mouth. "Who are you, and why are you bringing me a leash?" I asked.

Miss J asked what I was talking about, and I said there was a three-legged dog in the stairwell. That's when Bill walked out of the apartment upstairs.

***

About 10 days after they'd seen the dog, Bill and Christine were driving down another rural country road. Christine was on the phone, and for whatever reason, Bill looked to the right, and there, sitting in a ditch, was the dog.

"I'd been given a second chance," he told us.

He put the dog in the car and brought her to a veterinarian. She had over 40 ticks on her body along with several hundred fleas, and at 22 pounds, she was way too skinny. And she was still limping on that leg. The vet got her cleaned up, but was heading out of town for several weeks. He sent her home with Bill and Christine, clean, and with her shots.

***

One of the Yankee traits I'm always going to have is a desire to be on time when I make plans with people. But one of the things I love about Southerners that drives some Yanks nuts is the ability to tell a story. Most of my errands I make sure I have 10 minutes of padding around. Some errands, I make sure I'm prepared to spend an extra hour.

I pulled out my phone and texted Mr. J, since this was one of those times someone was telling a story. We were going to be late, but we were going to enjoy this story.

***

Now that the dog had a home, she also gained a name: Bella. Over the next few weeks, while Bill waited for the vet to return, she continued to drag her right hind leg around, but never once complained audibly. She put on some weight. Despite whatever her previous life had been, she came to enjoy being around people.

When the vet returned, he discovered someone had shot Bella. The bullet was still in her leg, and she had enough nerve damage that she couldn't feel the leg, which is why she was dragging it around. He decided the best option would be to amputate the leg.

***

When we met Bella, she must have been about 10 days or so out of surgery, based on how much fur had grown back on her right hindquarters. She was up to 40 pounds, though she could probably use another 10; I'm sure she'll get there. She's moving around great on 3 legs, bounding up and down stairs with a leash in her mouth. She wasn't shy at all about meeting Miss J and me.

Bill, for his part, was so happy to have found her that second time, and was generous with his story and with sharing her for some smiles.

***

What can Bella teach us?

It might stink to be in the position, but you can rely on the kindness of strangers. Bella must have been able to find some food and some measure of safety on her own, but she came out to ask for help at least twice — Bill and Christine gave her crackers once, and the other time, she might have been in a ditch, but she was visible from the road. Remember that when you think you're at the end of your rope, someone not only can help you, but will. You just have to be willing to ask.

You can complain, but nobody's going to listen. Bella had a bullet stuck in her leg, and she couldn't feel the leg to tell when she was putting weight on it. If that were me, I'd probably be screaming to high heaven about it. She didn't even whine with pain or look longingly at the leg. There was something visibly wrong. Either it was going to be taken care of or it wouldn't. Remember that when you've made people aware of a situation that's troublesome to you, either it's going to be taken care of or it's not. If you keep complaining about it, you're just going to make people dislike you.

Be happy with what you have. Bella has 75% of her limbs, and she's running up and down stairs, carrying a leash, looking for a walk and some petting. She's probably never going to get that leg back (I suppose there's a chance for a prosthetic, but even then, that'll just be for balance — she won't ever feel it), but she's looking forward and doing what she can with what she has. I'm sure you can do the same.

Take someone for a walk. You'll get some good oxygen, some exercise, and you notice a lot of things if you're willing to walk and use your eyes.

Know what you’re good at, know what you’re bad at

Last week at our local 1 Million Cups event, we heard from Ted Dennard of Savannah Bee Co..

The company has been around for a while now, and has grown greatly thanks to Dennard being willing to step back and admit what he's not good at. This is him:

A photo posted by Savannah Bee (@savannahbeeco) on

Dennard told us he graduated college with a degree in religion and philosophy, and went on to become a beekeeper. "Is there any money in that?" people would ask him at networking events. "Now that you mention it, no!" he'd reply.

So he started bottling honey. And making labels. And putting labels on the bottles. And fulfilling orders. And then remembering to get his bees to the right place for the one week a year they could make honey from tupelo, or another place for the week a year they could make honey from sourwood or whatever else.

And then he bought a giant warehouse, and the bank gave him $150,000 to fix it up. He didn't realize that amount of money goes very quickly.

When the company started to grow, Dennard realized he couldn't do everything. So he went back to the stuff he knows well, and hired a CEO.

Savannah Bee now has five owned-and-operated retail stores and has products (honey, honeycomb, honey-based products like lip balm and lotion, and mead) distributed all over. The company recently landed a seasonal distribution deal with Target for this year, so look for products wherever you are.

All this growth over the past ten to fifteen years because Dennard knew he was good at beekeeping and bad at business. Remember to take stock of where you are, and not only what you need to improve, but whom you need, as well.

Pick your road, and allow others to pick theirs

skateboard-331751_1280

You might be pretty good at life. You may have taken a very short road to get there.

Others might be struggling, or taking a long road to get where they should be.

Remember that it is yours to help or not to help, but never to impose that help or withhold it. When I say yours, it is your place, your prerogative, your responsibility, your right. We're all on the planet together, but we all have our lone roads to travel.

Hopefully we pick up a few good companions along the way.


This post is brought to you by Amazon. Click the banner above to shop as you normally would; it doesn't cost you any more than it would, and they give me a small percentage on the back end.

Give a crap, but don’t. Or, don’t give a crap, but do.

boy-145743_1280
This is one proud looking kid and turtle.

I've been reading Mark Manson on not giving a fuck almost daily. It's a good reminder of two things.

First, sometimes, you need to not give a crap. Maybe even most of the time. It will allow you to charge through life.

Second, sometimes, you need to give a crap. Maybe even most of the time. It will allow you to do everything you do with excellence, and subsequently to be proud of it.

The trick is knowing what's worthy of a crap, and what isn't. Now's not a bad time to re-evaluate what you're giving a crap about. How about it?

This post is brought to you by one of the kings of not giving a crap. Go get The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time by Hunter S. Thompson today.

Working the tools: The gavel (cutting out the excess)

bring-back-the-study
Via Leading Change in Freemasonry on Facebook.

While this post will ring a little louder with Masons, I think it's important for everyone. Masonry is, after all, designed to make us better people.

In the first degree, one of the working tools we're given is the common gavel. It is used to trim the excess from our lives. It really is one of the hardest things in our lives: recognizing the stuff that is keeping us from doing the important stuff.

Taking Facebook quizzes instead of turning off the lights and getting to bed early enough for eight hours' sleep before your alarm goes off; binge-watching "Modern Family" instead of opening that biography you've been saying would inspire you to greatness; shopping for shoes on Zappos instead of launching that new business you've been talking about — these are the excesses we face every day, the things that keep us from reaching our potential.

Not to say that those things are bad, nor that sometimes they're a welcome diversion. Sometimes you need to zone out in front of the TV, and sometimes you wear a hole in the sole of your sneakers. Sometimes Facebook is the best way to be in touch with friends and family.

I've been starting to use my gavel more and more. I'm saying no to projects that aren't either fulfilling or worthwhile from a financial standpoint. I'm making progress on some projects that have been on my plate for a long time. I'm making sure I connect with people it's important I stay connected to. I'm writing more.

I feel good. I'm sure there's more I could do, but baby steps are so much better than no steps. Or giant leaps that don't stick.

Bonus: The Masonic Roundtable discusses balance.

Love, even their faults

sunset-hands-love-woman

This conversation first came to me in the context of Freemasonry, but I think it will translate well to lay terms.

The question posed to me was, at its essence: If people are doing something they believe is right but is diametrically opposed to my principles, how do I make them see the light?

My response was this: It's not your job to bring others to your view. It's your job to bring yourself to love people, even if you believe they are wrong in their thinking.

I think we'd all do well to attempt to uphold that ideal. It's not easy, and it never will be, but I think it's important.

Performing life as an act of love

This guy right here is a mixed martial arts fighter named Justin Wren.

This is also him.

Filming with Beyond Creative in Missouri today for a national Anti-bullying campaign in schools 🙂

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

And if you need a size comparison, he's the dude in jeans here, picking up that other giant fighter.

He's 28 years old, and is now fighting professionally for the first time in five years. That time off? It wasn't an injury. It wasn't a suspension. It was a time of building a life of love.

Let's look at more pictures. Like one of him tickling pygmy children in the Congo.

It's pretty easy to be the tickle fight champion when it's 2-1 #FightForTheForgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or showing the pygmy people photos of themselves for the first time.

Seeing pics of themselves for the FIRST time! #fightfortheforgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or having his hair done.

That's fun. Let's see video of that.

Or as long as we're sharing videos, how about the first time the people he's helping saw a white guy?

Wren quit fighting through what probably could have been his strongest years — his mid-20s — to start a nonprofit to help the Mbuti Pygmy people get clean water. Fight for the Forgotten and its partner, Water4, dig wells to draw clean water for a people who are enslaved. Workers go to the fields for oppressors to earn two bananas a day to share among families of four — it's just enough food to keep them healthy enough to work, and it keeps them coming back to work because they need the food.

These are people who are still using army ants to stitch wounds — they have the ants bite the wound, then break off the body, leaving the fangs in to act as staples.

Wren has suffered malaria, parasites and other tropical diseases. His organization employs 17 people full time, but has dismissed more than that to find the right people — people who can survive dense jungle for a month or two at a time, return to the U.S. for a couple of weeks to recover, then go back.

He's back to fighting so that he can raise further awareness, and he's a partner in a documentary on his journeys.

He was on Joe Rogan's podcast this week (he's been on before), and around the one hour, 20 minute mark, he renders Rogan pretty much speechless. It's really amazing listening to Wren talk with such passion and humility, especially while Rogan explains to him that in a few generations, he's going to enter tribal mythology. As a giant, white, hairy myth.


From Wren's Kickstarter campaign.

If you're looking for more love, you should also listen to Kevin Rose's discussion with Scott Harrison of charity:water, which I've mentioned before here.

Now, the question I pose to you is: Could you love anything this much?