December 23, 2006

Angels Part 6: West

The goal of any motivational speaker is to find a mix of stories and anecdotes to support a specific group of messages to instill in people an inner, deeper feeling of empowerment. I realize that sounds as if I’m simplifying what I and other colleagues do. To some degree though everyone has the ability to inspire. Some do it professionally, some do it on amateur level. This column, for instance, is an active way for those who read it to think about things in their life.

Passive inspiration, inspiration just by watching and paying attention to the signs and coincidences in life, is equally if not more powerful than listening to some joe standing on stage and talking about tragedy and triumph.

Recently several good career occurances happened in my life. The timing of these instances are quite coincidental but all, in a large way, are in great tribute to one person in my life.

About four years ago my friends and I tried to start an on line blog. I got the idea from the student radio station at the University of Missouri who wrote a hilarious blog about the idiosyncracies on life. My friends and I attempted the same. At that point I was not a very good editor or organizer of this e-zine.

A short time later, my friend Chris West started sending us daily thoughts over e-mail. Here are some of them:

A few days ago I was driving on I-794 in downtown Milwaukee.
Though I was not using the I-43 North ramp that shoots off of 794,
I did glance at a construction sign beside the ramp, since it's always
nice to have warning of future construction concerns.
The sign read "Ramp may be closed starting April 12."
What? "May be closed?" That officially tells me nothing.
I mean, am I really going to take an alternate route if
there's a chance that my usual ramp is open, and I can check
to see if it's open? Certainly not. So effectively I'm going to
do exactly the same thing as I would have before, only this time if the
ramp is closed, I'll think "Well, they said this might happen."
Thanks for preparing me for that letdown Wisconsin DOT. Next
time let's be a bit more definitive with your closings.

Wanting to write and wanting to write on things that were more related to basketball, Chris then switched his attention to college and Wisconsin High School basketball. This was the incarnation of Chris West Basketball Hoops (linked to the left and mentioned before). After one year of doing it, and with a close readership, Chris felt very happy at his hobby. He was also very dedicated.

That summer Chris was contacted by the editor of a large sourcebook for college basketball. Essentially it’s THE preseason guide to college basketball. Soon after that he was quoted by other bloggers who had been writing for a while about college basketball. Then he was interviewed on a radio show. During this fantastic second season of his blog, he was also quoted twice, once in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and once in the New York Times.

I marveled at his success. At the same time Chris’ blog was taking off I was the keynote speaker at the GLACURH Conference at UW La Crosse. I realized, as I waited nervously back stage, that what had gotten me there was similar to the way Chris received so much attention. Do what you love doing, regularly, taking every opportunity to make the most of it.

As both the one year anniversary of this blog is approaching, and with all the other good success I’ve had since remembering and practicing Chris’ same diligence, I’d like to take time to honor Chris for being a passive inspiration in my life.

Even a few weekends ago, Chris and my friend Kosta arranged for a dudes weekend where at one point Chris played host for dinner and a place to rest our festive persons. Throughout time Chris has always done these simple things to ensure that our group of friends has stayed in contact, or to show his support for one of our successes, or even to show the joys in being a kid (the purchase of a Turbo arcade game which is now in his basement brings to mind that you can always spoils yourself).

He is a seasoned writer. He is a good friend. And he is an inspiration to my writing.


PS And to all of you who are enjoying the holiday season, celebrate with gusto and passion, buy a gift for someone whom you haven’t seen in a while, and welcome the ne year with excitement and hope!

December 04, 2006

Complete Randomness

The other day someone said to me "Wow, I can't believe that it's December." Not an uncommon phrase (or thought for those of us who work in education). That did get me to think though about how often and under what circumstances we say these little time epihanies. Taking an anecdotal sample of my own life, I've said the following phrases at least this past year:

-"I can't wait for six months from now."
-"Is it May yet?"
-"I can't believe NACURH is over."
-"I can't believe NACURH is in six months."
-"This week is going to be rough."
-"Thank God, this week is over."
-"Wow, remember what last year at this time was like?"

Upon review and dissemenation of these phrases, we use them in one of two contexts:

Relief or Anticipation

Furthermore, either of these can be positive or negative, but for the most part, that's it. You're either looking back at something and reflecting what your thoughts are now that everything is passed. Or you're looking forward to something (good or bad) and projecting how you think it will be. What's super interesting about this is that we say these things in the present moment, when strangely it seems, that the present moment is neutral. We do the same when we reflect, we think of the last moment before the 'chaos' started and try to remember what we were like at that moment. Equally, when we project, we look to that moment when said event will be passed, and wonder how we could even get there to begin with.

All the while this phenomena is going on in our head, time is still moving, at a continual pace, without our interference (unless your Hiro from Heroes). It's kinda like time saying to us "Hey it doesn't make a difference what you think, I'm gonna keep moving."

And yet, despite how many times we say these chronological conundrums, we still are shocked by the passage of time. Why does this surprise us? What power do our brains have to alter our own reality long enough create what feels like a temporal pause? And is this good for us? Is this constant going back and forth between relief and anticipation good for stress levels or atitude or our own sanity?

It's like being in a car. Which do you like better? Driving on one long road, continuously, with no stops (maybe the occasional slowing down to avoid collision); or driving street to street, light to light, making full stops, waiting a few seconds, then cruising toward your next stop? Personally, I'm a fan of that distance driving. The continual need to cruise. This then gets me think of something I once heard on a science channel, related closely to a maxim of my grandmother.

Traveling is supposed to cause you live longer. I'm sure there's tons of health benefits associated with traveling, mentally and physically (perspective shifts, relaxing moments, exciting moments, meeting new people, etc.). But what if, for some strange reason, that's really related more to the fact that you move against time and space? That the goal is NOT to stand still (and I know that this is impossible since we need to sleep, sit, and rest every once in a while...I know this because my Sim character whines at me when he doesn't get to do that).

I'm not suggesting to be erratic or impulsive either, I'm just saying, what if we're meant to be constantly moving from moment to moment, at an even pace, slowing down or speeding up, depending on the context of what's going on, taking it all in as it comes?

Who knows? But I can't believe it's 1am already.