Success, My Brother Joe, Angels and Homework.

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My siblings and I attended a Catholic grade school that was run by an order of nuns who didn’t tolerate any nonsense —- Period. They’d have given Navy Seals a run for their money

Even my mothers voice quaked a bit when one of them would call the house. My brother Joe and I would sit on the steps and listen to my mother say Yes sister, yes sister. I’m sorry sister. We’ll talk to HIM sister. 

HIM? A sure sign it was me or him. We’d start doing a quick inventory of what sort of trouble we’d caused in the past twenty four hours.

When Joe was in second grade his teacher told my parents that he wasn’t doing his homework. Everything had gone along fine for the first few months of the school year and then mysteriously he stopped turning in his homework.

Naturally worried mom and dad asked for an explanation. Was he sick? Did he not understand what he was being taught? What was it?

His explanation? He’d pray each night that an angel would visit our house and do his homework.

Easy-Peasey lemon squeezy, right?

To the best of my recollection he was told that while he could continue to beseech the gates of heaven for help, he had to start carrying his own water.

Why am I telling you this?

I am privileged to work with people who are committed to improving their lives and their careers. They define success in a lot of different ways and when things get a bit too much and life is a bit shaky, I tell them the story about Joe, the angel and the homework.

I tell them we are all looking for an angel to do our homework. Some of us stand in line twice a week hoping that the lottery ticket we purchase is going to wipe away all of our woes and then we won’t have to deal with life and all of it’s surprises. Some of us pray. Some of us daydream.

I remind them while successful people may call upon angels for inspiration, and guidance, they don’t turn over the keys to the condo.

There’s a lesson here. Of that I am sure.

We are always going to hear the siren song of the easy way until we realize the easy way isn’t easy at all. It just causes us more misery and many of us, like Joe, made it through second grade and went on to bigger and better things He got past hoping for the angels to make him look good and became a successful architect He and his wife Susan have raised two prolific writers and a mathematical genius who gave them four very cool grand kids.

The angels must be pleased.

Have a happy holiday. See you in January

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It Begins With a Dream

Saturday was a gorgeous day in a string of gorgeous days we’d experienced over the past week. I decided it was time for a visit to my local farmers market.

Apparently so did everyone else.

The place was packed – Like wall to wall packed. I drove around for five minutes before I found a place to park. Then I had to walk a block to the venue.

As I was approaching the market I heard music. Not recorded music. Live music. A voice and a guitar. Huh, that’s new, I thought.

I came over a small rise and saw a sea of people all angling for the best spot to get their onions and tomatoes.

In the corner was a young woman sitting on a stool, oblivious to the throng around her. She sat with her eyes closed playing her guitar and singing. When she finished one song she took a drink of water and launched into the next song.

I noticed something. No one else was listening to her play. They were pushing, shoving, waving to friends and neighbors and floating past her. No one seemed to notice, much less care.

While I watched her perform I noticed the crowds reaction didn’t appear to phase her. She wasn’t playing for anyone but herself. She knew that one day, in some way, maybe someone else would notice and then a whole bunch of someone else’s would find her message and find that her style resonated with them. She was living her dream and it was her dream. No one else’s. You could tell by the look on her face that it gave her great joy.

We talk a lot about joy and passion and stuff like that but I wonder do we really tap into who we are and what we’re doing in our own unique way?

I’m driving home and thinking about all the times I stuffed my dreams in a neat receptacle and followed the flow of the crowd. I mean, it made me some money but it didn’t feed my soul. Being a child of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I realized, much to my chagrin, that I’d sold out.

I fell off the tracks when I didn’t immerse myself in my dream. I kept it at arms length. That way, it couldn’t challenge me. It couldn’t laugh at me. I stood back and poked at it, refined, made excuses for it but never asking it to dance with me.

I was an observer, not a participant.

That was my ah-ha moment.

I’ve taken a step back and paused. For someone who’s been working since he was twelve years old that’s a damned hard thing to do. It’s not in my DNA.

For the past six weeks or so I’ve been on a conscious journey to get back to my roots, back to where the dream began. It’s getting back to where I started. A kid sitting in a park, writing poems for people. Someone who believed in the shear joy of life and everything it entailed. Someone who got excited and all jazzed up about the smallest of things that caused other people to whisper about his sanity.

Someone who is happy and fulfilled.

Someone who drinks in the small things in life and unpacks their joy.

In his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, author Joseph Campbell shares something called The Hero’s Journey. It describes our journey from the known into the unknown and creates a new known. That journey, the journey each of us makes a dozen times or more in their lives is a journey fraught with danger, perils and dissappointments.

It’s also a journey filled with amazing discovery and unbridled joy.

I don’t expect you to be as jazzed as I am, but if you are – Welcome to my dream.

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone, And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
J.R.R. Tolkien