August 2010

Gearing up

Olivia had her first soccer practice last night.  My wife was so excited.  She went to a sporting goods store and bought her some pink soccer shorts, pink shin guards, pink socks, and soccer shoes with pink trim.  I think she was more excited about outfitting Olivia for the practice than actually watching her play. 

Sara was the captain of our university’s soccer team, so she actually knows about soccer (which is very odd for anyone not from Europe, South America, or Africa).  I know nothing about soccer other than it is incredibly boring to watch and I will never call it “football”.


From what I can tell, Olivia looks like a natural on the field… um I mean pitch.  She’s really good at dribbling (especially after taking a juice break) and was more interesting to watch than 95% of the World Cup games this year.  I think we’re going to have a great time this fall cheering her on to victory.  I know she’ll be victorious because this is one of those leagues that doesn’t keep score.   I guess I understand (the kids are all around five years old), but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep score in my head.

I can’t help it.  To quote former NFL coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game… Hello!”  I mean, why would you play a game and not try to beat the other team?  I just don’t get it.  I know they’re just trying to learn about the game and sportsmanship, but is competition really that bad?  But they’ll feel bad if they lose.  Well they eventually have to learn how to deal with loss.  If they come to accept it as part of the game early on, then maybe they won’t get so upset when they finally do learn that they don’t always get to win.

Ok, I’m being a little facetious here.  I really don’t think a five year-old soccer league needs to keep score.  Then again, I can’t help but wonder if those kids who participate in the “no loser” leagues are the ones who grow up to argue that student performance should not be reported to evaluate teacher performance.  I have had the opportunity to work with many recent high school graduates – many of whom obviously lacked the requisite skills and knowledge to earn a diploma.  There is an increasing air of entitlement amongst this group and a mentality that schools should award grades to students just for showing up, not for the knowledge they demonstrate. 

Oh well, it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game, right?  Funny how I’ve never heard that from the winner’s sideline.


I occasionally get messages from previous coworkers seeking counsel for their careers.  One such message came last week and the individual was struggling to discover their life mission.  I know “life mission” sounds a little corny to the uninitiated.  I write about the importance of a life mission extensively in my book, and want to spend some time discussing it here.  The reason is simple.  If you don’t know your life mission, you will not be able to make decisions that allow you to fulfill that mission.  If you don’t make decisions that allow you to fulfill your mission, your life will be a stressful, discontent mess.  Here is what I wrote to the individual…

Bottom line – Think about your gifts… not just your skills.  Many people share the same skills, but gifts are those things that put you in the top percentile and make you unique.  Now think about how you can put those gifts to use to meet the needs of others.  Sounds simple, but this is challenging.  Finally, figure out what you can do to apply your gifts to meet those needs.


Here’s the catch… if you can do this and find something that offers you a career, great!  Go for it!  If not, you can find ways of pursuing your mission outside your career.  Remember, you don’t have to let your career define you.  Your career may simply be one of the tools you use to pursue your mission. 


I have a toolbox in the basement.  It has various tools in it.  Whenever I need to work on something, I find the appropriate tool.  If I reached for a screwdriver every time I needed to cut a board, hammer a nail, tighten a screw, or sharpen a blade, I would be frustrated 75% of the time.  We sometimes think that a career should be the tool that we can go to 100% of the time to pursue our mission, but this just isn’t the case and we end up frustrated most of the time.


Discover your mission, use your career to facilitate the achievement of that mission when appropriate, but don’t be afraid to explore other avenues of achieving your mission.  Some of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life have had nothing to do with my career.

I just wanted to share this with the rest of you because I feel it is an important lesson.  One of which I have to constantly remind myself.  I have felt an incredible sense of accomplishment while teaching English in Belarus (not career related), by offering free tutoring to struggling students (kind of career related, but not something I got paid to do), and resolving conflicts in non-career related activities.  If I had ignored these opportunities and instead sought to fulfill my mission solely with my career, I would have missed out on a great deal of fulfillment.

We had a great vacation in Estes Park, Colorado last week.  I was worried that Sara wouldn’t be able to do as much hiking as I wanted to, but she was a trooper (and didn’t complain once during the hikes – unprecedented).  Either she’s getting tougher or I’m getting wiser.  Actually, I had more trouble than she did the first couple of days.  The high altitude (our chalet was at 8,200 feet and we hiked much higher) coupled with my asthma left me gasping for air a few times.  Here’s a few pictures of our trip…


The above photos are of Bear Lake, one of the most visited areas in the Rocky Mountains.  We got there early and it was rainy and cold – perfect for avoiding the crowds.  This area also served as the trailhead for the hike to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (below).


View along the trail to Emerald Lake
Wildflowers near Dream Lake


I am convinced that Heaven will have a Rocky Mountain section


Sara and me in front of Dream Lake


…and in front of Emerald Lake


After the crowds started  moving in we went over to the Bierstadt Lake trailhead.  This is a much less traveled trail, probably because of the elevation gain over a relatively short distance (I think I counted 16 switchbacks), but it has a great payoff when you get up to the lake and hike around it to see the mountains behind it.  While there were very few people on this trail, the ducks were very friendly.

The next day, we did some hikes along Trail Ridge Road – the highest continuously paved road in North America.  This will give you some perspective… We flew into Denver – the “Mile High” city at an elevation of over 5,000 feet.  We then drove through Estes Park to our Chalet at 8,200 feet (about a mile and half).  We drove up to 12,183 feet on Trail Ridge Road (just shy of 2.5 miles high).

To say we were ill-prepared is an understatement.  A sign along one of the trails said that a 1,000 foot elevation gain along Trail Ridge Road is equivalent to a journey 600 miles north in terms of climate.  At about 8:00 in the morning, we gained 4,000 feet (equivalent to a journey 2,400 miles north) in a matter of minutes.  Our first trail was the Tundra Communities Trail.  You would think with a name that includes the word tundra I would be wearing more than a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a light jacket, but I was coming from Atlanta where we were having the third straight week of a heat index over 105 degrees.

About two minutes into the hike, Sara confiscated my jacket, leaving me in shorts and a t-shirt in the alpine tundra.  It was about 35 degrees and the wind was blowing at a steady 30 mph.  I did not enjoy this hike as much as the others.


You know you are way up when the glaciers are at a lower elevation


There were many more hikes and many more adventures, but I’ll just post a few more pictures so as not to bore you.  I do need to add a bit of commentary on the next photo.  It is the formation of the Colorado River.  It’s hard to believe that this is the little stream that grows to become the river that formed the Grand Canyon.
Me… holding a small stone that was intended to protect us from the mountain lion that let us know he was nearby






The title of last week’s post and its topic compelled me to practice my song-writing skills.  I think you know which tune to use…

            Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Tony.

            He apologized but it was really phony.

            The people in the Gulf can’t fish for any food

            Because his busted well keeps bubbling crude.

            Oil that is… this getting old… killin’ the sea

            Well the next thing ya know, Tony’s pulling out his hair.

            The people started saying, “Get that moron out of there!”

            They said, “Stuck in the well is where he ought to be!”

            So he shrugged it all off and blamed it on BP.

            British Petroleum that is… big oil… lots of money

            (rhythm change – remember the ending theme song)

            Well now it’s time to say goodbye to Tony and his grin.

            The Gulf will probably never be the same once again.

            But they invited us to the pump with cheerfulness and glee

            To have a heapin’ helping of their low morality.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I won’t be posting next week as I’ll be vacation.  Check back in two weeks to see if Sara made it up the mountains.