April 2009


There are certain memories in a dad’s life that will always be locked away for safe keeping.  I had one of these last week when I took my 3-1/2 year old daughter on her first fishing trip.


Outfitted with a Scooby Doo fishing pole and a Mystery Machine tackle box (which was full of bubble-blowing toys), we went to Lake Lanier to seek out my little girl’s inner Bill Dance.    The area we went to consists of a parking area with a cove used for fishing on one side and a sandy beach for the sunbathers/swimmers on the other side.


Mom and baby sister went to the beach side while the little angler and I climbed down the bank to fish.  It was about 87 degrees, so I knew that I would not have much time before the fisher would become the fish.  Olivia watched intently as I tied a little jig head onto her line and was excited that she got to pick out the color jig she would use.  Her casting still needs some work, but she can reel in the line like a pro.  Every time her bait came back, she would say, “Hey, I didn’t catch a fish.”


Altogether, she probably did 10 or 15 minutes worth of fishing before she decided she wanted to go swimming on the other side.  She spent about an hour and half on the beach side building sand castles, picking up shells, and playing in the water.  Apparently beaches are more appealing than fishing to a 3-1/2 year old.


Later that evening, exhausted from the day’s events.  I asked Olivia what her favorite activity was.  Her reply was, “Going fishing with you, daddy.” 


Totally worth it.


I’m sure you did a lot of things last week.  I bet you completed a lot of tasks that were related to your career, furthered you education, improved your home, or allowed you unwind from the stresses of your life.  How many of you created a memory that will last a lifetime?



By the way, I have no idea who the kids portraying Napoleon and Pedro in the photo are.




My wife and I went on a mini-vacation last weekend.  We did the typical vacation thing… walked around in a bunch of shops without buying anything, slept in (until 6 am – we were on Pacific Time), and went out to eat for every meal. 


Our first night, Sara was in the mood for sushi.  I don’t know how many perfectly good restaurants we passed by in search of this one particular sushi restaurant, but by the time we got there, I was starving.


We finally found the restaurant that Sara… I mean, we were searching to find.  The restaurant was called Sushi Samba.  It was a combination of Brazilian, Peruvian, and Japanese cuisine.  This was great because as hungry as I was, I kept thinking that a Brazilian/Peruvian/Japanese restaurant would really hit the spot.  This had to be way better than those other restaurants we passed with their delicious smelling brick oven pizzas, juicy filet mignon, and completely recognizable seafood. 


Don’t get me wrong.  We are culturally diverse when it comes to dining.  I’ve enjoyed sushi for several years and I think using chopsticks is fun, but I was hungry… really hungry. 


Our server, who I could barely understand, came to our table as asked if we wanted to start with something unintelligible.  I had no idea what she asked us, but since I was starving I said, “Sure.”


Wrong answer.


I looked Sara, “What did I just order?”














This conversation was followed by a second conversation in my head.  How in the world do you make a soybean appetizer?


Even though I am originally from the state of Tennessee, which has to be one of the highest producers of soybeans, my culinary experience with them is pretty limited.  I know they were in those quasi-burgers we had in school and I’m pretty sure soybean oil is found in lots of tasty foods, but that’s about it.  I was thinking they would be cooked and crushed up with some cilantro, onions, and peppers into a dip and served with some tortillas.


Dream on, Wolfgang.


What came out was a large wooden bowl heaping with cooked soybeans (still in their shells) garnished with sea salt and a lime wedge.  I could not hide my disgust when the bowl hit our table.  It was like Randy Travis when he became fixated on Adam Lambert’s black fingernails.


This cost seven dollars?


I grabbed my chopsticks and ate the first one.  It tasted about how you would expect a soybean cooked in its shell to taste.  Not bad, not great.  The problem was the texture.  Since it was still in its shell, it was sort of like eating a straw hat (with sea salt and lime, of course).  Sara gave up after the first two, leaving me to attempt to finish the whole bowl.  Since I paid $7 for a bowl of beans, I felt compelled to finish it but with every bite I kept thinking, “This can’t be right.” 


About halfway through the bowl and after eating enough roughage to regulate a herd of elephants, I decided to throw in the towel.  The rest of the meal was very enjoyable.  The sushi and sides were great, but the whole experience was tarnished by those beans that, if woven together, could have pulled a tractor out of a ditch.


After having desert and paying the check, a couple sat down next to us.  They also ordered the edamame.  Fools.  I noticed Sara staring at them.  Just as I was about to tell her to stop staring, she began laughing.  From watching this couple she learned that the proper way to eat edamame is to pinch the shell so that the bean squeezes out, then discard the shell.  What I did was equivalent to eating an entire bag of sunflower seeds… and their shells… and the flower stalks.


If you are ever in a restaurant and someone asks you if want to start with some edamame, think of me… and order the spinach/artichoke dip.



Tax day is almost upon us.  Most of you have probably already filed (and gotten a refund, based on the market’s performance last year).  I got my best refund ever this year (thanks largely to an 8 lb, 3 oz deduction), but I am not optimistic about the future.


With all the bailouts, stimulus plans, and funding of pork barrel projects, you and I will be picking up the tab for many years to come.  Whether or not you agree with the way Washington has been writing checks, you have to acknowledge the fact that our actions today will have significant financial implications for years to come.


I’m not here to point fingers at any particular politician, party, or belief.  I think we should instead consider why the government feels so compelled to “fix” the economy.


It really comes down to the average American’s sense of entitlement.  One of the most famous lines from our country’s Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.


That’s the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee of happiness. 


First of all, if we are to pursue happiness, then the onus is on us (get it?) to discover what will provide happiness.  If you’ve read much on this blog before, you know my position on this matter.  Money will not provide happiness.  Yet when people are not happy, our typical response is to throw money at the problem.  When that money runs out and the problem still exists, we throw more money at it (ever heard of AIG).


Our government is really good at collecting taxes and organizing a military.  That’s about it.  It cannot be all things to all people, nor should it be.  We should not be turning to the government to bail out businesses, provide universal healthcare, regulate financial services, or guarantee the liquidity of our investments.  Yet over and over again, when we face tough times, we expect the government to reach into its hat and pull out another rabbit.


Another problem that I don’t think we are considering is the issue of control.  The more money the government puts into an entity, the more control it gains over it.  Look at GM.  After giving the car maker tons of cash, the administration forced the resignation of GM’s CEO.  What about the AIG bonus fiasco?  After the ridiculous bonuses were paid, the government decided to heavily tax those bonuses.  I’m not defending GM’s former CEO or AIG, but doesn’t this seem to be going a bit far?


Now the government is saying that it will back the warranties on new GM cars and trucks.  What?  So does this mean that Ford owners will subsidize the cost of quality for GM vehicles with their taxes?


The more involved the government gets, the more complicated these scenarios become.  As individuals, we need to take personal accountability for our pursuit of happiness and keep in mind that if we turn to bailouts for happiness, we lose liberty.


Have you ever considered that it may be easier to succeed than to fail?  With all of the work and worry we put into our quest for success that may sound absurd, but think about it.  What the broad population considers “success” is usually nothing more than the sacrifice of our time and talent in a career for which we have no passion so we can rely on the security afforded by that career.  Or maybe we are in the right career, but for the wrong reasons.  Rather than using our career as a platform for our mission, we squander opportunities for real significance and choose instead to make selfish ambition our mission.


Face it – we are afraid of failure.  We think that if we fail, people will regard us as incompetent, lacking talent, or just plain dumb.  But consider the alternative.  If you have not experienced any significant failure recently, then I can speculate the following about you:


·         You chose to structure your life and circumstances with low risk in order to eliminate failure as an outcome

·         You lack courage

·         You lack faith

·         You are frustrated and bored with your career/life

·         You know that you should be doing more with your life, but constantly make excuses to justify inaction

·         You feel that you are full of potential (…but never seem to live up to it)

·         You allow pride for what you have to overshadow the possibility of what you could be


Why are we so afraid of what others will think of us?  Why are we so afraid of failure?  Here’s my theory:  If we are not pursuing our mission – if we are not doing what we were created to do, then there is a disconnect between who we are and who we know we are meant to be.  When this disconnect occurs, our defensive mechanism is to make other people think we are successful even though we are miserable.  We are not finding fulfillment in what we do, so we try to seek it in what others think of us.


“Wait a minute,” you think, “that’s not me.  I’m not held captive by what others think of me.” 


Oh really…  Then why do you feel prideful when you succeed in a career that offers no fulfillment?  Why are you afraid to step away from your standard of living so you can pursue you mission?  Why do you turn your back on the most important aspects of your life so that you can advance in a career you sometimes despise?


If you never fail, you are not getting anywhere close to realizing who you could be.  You are content to remain enshrouded in the safe harbor you have built up around yourself. 


Go out and fail some.  Then you can experience some true growth.