Grateful for the worst year of my life

Standard

2013 has, in large part, been one long year of looking deeper and more intently inside myself – exponentially more so than any of my other 37 years. Why? I guess life has its own perfect way of knowing when to nudge you and say, “Yo! Time to stop and breathe!” Doesn’t mean you have to listen. Lots of people choose to ignore and focus, instead, on the noise around them. And that’s typically been my pre-programmed reaction — Nevermind. Head down. Keep going. Wait for this to pass. But this time, life pushed back harder and louder. To the point of being deafening to anything else.

When I was in college I read The Celestine Prophecy. The book couldn’t have found me at a better time. Lots of life changing events swirling around me, notwithstanding my blue hair. True, it was a fuzzy period, but one thing I took from Mr. Redfield was to pay attention to “coincidences”. 17 years later and its Eckhart Tolle’s words that found me at the right intersection.

Amazing how life or God or karma or fate (whichever you prefer) works, right? Inviting or debilitating, challenges are put before you just when you need them most. And so, after all of my inward reflection this past year, I wanted to outwardly share (some of) what I took away from it.

I’m sharing, mostly, because writing is cathartic for me, but also because maybe someone else will read and connect with this post and, hopefully, feel better about their situation.

On Being Present

Right at the top of life’s lessons from 2013 was the recognition to spend more time in the present moment. Maritza had been nudging me to do the same for years and I was too busy to even hear it. But when life inserted itself, I was reminded of how moved she was by Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. So I spent time reading and watching his teachings and there was monumental impact.

During some dark times of his own, Eckhart found salvation in the majesty of being present. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before… don’t dwell in the past… you can’t control the future. Everyone’s past is filled with hurt and betrayal. Everyone’s future is filled with uncertainty and fear. These are the realms where the idle chatter of your mind will turn on you. But the one thing you can control and find comfort in is the present moment, by turning your attention away from your head and toward your body.  How? Try this little exercise. Relax your face – sounds weird, but do it… look down, close your eyes, lower your cheeks, drop your tongue, close your mouth. Now follow your breath, in through your nose as it fills your lungs. As you breathe out, reflect on this new stillness you feel. Next time two breaths, then three. Before you know it, you’re meditating. And in that rooted quiet, you’ve found the present moment, where nothing can possibly be wrong. The world stopped ending, right? Phew.

For me, there’s yet to be an experience where being present hasn’t served me well, but the biggest payoff has been in the time I’ve spent with my boys. Being a parent is hard. I always have a million excuses to be impatient and take the stress of my day out on these little whining, messy people.  So they chucked a lego at my face and knocked their chocolate milk on the floor. What if instead of reprimanding them (again), I remained present with them? What if, instead, I paid attention to their hug, as they smiled up at me? And then with one breath, I’m able to reflect on how this moment will be gone by the time I breathe out. I find a gentle voice, I hug them back and I appreciate the moment we’ve shared together.

Bonus: If you liked that exercise above, here’s a good, quick article to digest: http://www.fastcompany.com/3023459/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/12-tools-for-more-mindful-living.

On Showing Compassion

There is no greater character trait that I consistently try to work on than being compassionate. But I have some obstacles to overcome. For one, I have always found safety in sarcasm. It’s my way of defending myself, making you laugh and making you feel shitty about yourself, all at the same time. I’m human. I can be a douche like the rest of us. And two, I have historically been quick to judge others. From strangers I’ve never spoken to, to close friends and family. It’s an ugly and embarrassing characteristic, to the point where I’ll catch myself doing it and verbally tell myself “stop.”

We all have our demons, our struggles and insecurities that have shaped us. Going back to Eckhart, he talks a lot about being consumed by the endless string of judgements your brain creates, about yourself and others. These help you identify who you think you are, as well as who others around you are and what they must be thinking. They help you make sense of the world, so as to cause as little disruption as possible to your perceived reality. With practice, whenever I remember, I’m trying to judge less and empathize more.

Next time someone gives you the finger as they slam on their horn and cut you off, consider what horrible set of circumstances must have gotten them to the point of losing their mind because you didn’t use your blinker as timely as you should have. I know it sounds like a stretch, but with practice, you’ll move from feeling personally attacked, to feeling sorry they were so upset. Then imagine how much compassion you can achieve for those who are truly struggling. And on that note, I’ve been looking to find ways to donate mine and my family’s time to the needy. If anyone has any volunteer services that allows young (3 and 5 years old) kids to participate, please leave a comment.

On Giving Up Control

If compassion is my life’s perpetual journey, then going with the flow is my albatross. When you own your own company, you get caught up in not only being entitled to form the control, but it’s expected of you… from making sure you stay in business, to dealing with pissy clients and delinquent vendors. No sweat, right? Then you walk in the door at the end of the day… Screaming kids. Wife who’s had her fill of the little aforementioned angels. Letters (plural) from the IRS. Dog that wants you to take her back out in the cold rain to watch her drop a load. And don’t forget the migraine you just got from all of the above. And you’re supposed to just receive this all and shrug it off? Yes, or so I’m learning to embrace.

Accepting more and expecting less.
Laughing more and yelling less.
Breathing more worrying less.

There’s a quote that goes well here … “There’s complacency in always being right. There’s peace in simply being happy.” And while I believed it when I wrote it, I have a long way to go until I’m practicing it, routinely. But 2013 was the year I became aware of it’s importance.

On Being Appreciative

I watched a TED Talk once where a psychologist recommended that part of his recipe for being happy in his own skin was to spend a few minutes each day appreciating and thanking one person. Coincidentally (there’s that word again), he also preaches the benefits of being present, and the benefits it has on your brain.

Below is my list of people and things to feel blessed about during 2013. I’ve tried my best not to justify anything written in this post, but I want to make special mention to say that lots of people I didn’t mention here, I’m equally grateful to have in my life. It’s just that, for this year in particular, the list below deserved separate acknowledgement.

For Ionut. A business partner I sometimes feel I don’t deserve. Also one of my best friends.
For Beth & Jim Haessig. They listened to and grounded me at my bleakest, which provided the foundation for me to take the steps to piece my life back together.
For yoga. The practice. The people I meet through it. The mind-body-spirit connection it continues to teach me.
For the expression “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” It followed me, incessantly. I’ll be returning the favor in the near future.
For Paul. For listening, never judging and caring, genuinely.
For Mike. A soul that, like everything else in my life this year, appeared at just the right time.
For Kirtan.
For Mom, Dad and Sis. For always loving me and wishing me the best, even when their own lives weren’t perfect.
For Jason and Brody. For being so unequivocally adorable. And for always making me laugh.
For Maritza. For everything, but mostly, for her open heart.
For God. I’m not sure who it is, or if it’s even a being. I’m not even sure what my level of faith is. Maybe it’s just the good (growing) inside me, and for that, I’m humbled.
For the life I’ve been given. For all of the chances things could have gone horribly wrong, but for some divine reason, remained in my favor.

Note: In the course of writing this list out, both Mike and Paul, neither of whom I’ve had any contact with for weeks, both text me to check in on me. Signs. Pay attention to them.

Could it be?

Standard

Two years and 3 months since my last post. Where does time go? I suppose, in my defense, it went toward having a 2nd son, Brody, and starting a digital agency, DXB.. Those couple “minor” events have caused a slight hiccup in my free time to write. Even as I type this post, a cold sweat is breaking out thinking about all of the other things I should be doing. But I can spare the 15 minutes, no?

2013-02-09 13.24.59

Brody.

I think I’ve sworn to myself (and whoever happens to stumble upon these words) in the past that I’ll begin writing feverishly again. Every day! OK, maybe every week. Once a month? Truth is, that  promise will wax and wane, probably until I’m retired, exhausted and bored; with nothing left to do but piss in a bed pan and write incessantly.

But what happened today that I’m back here? I read this post and got jealous of others and angry at myself. Then I darted off to MyGreenerGrass, dusted off my posts, gave them a read-through and thought, let’s take another crack, eh? Sadly, I couldn’t even remember the username and password to log in and write this post. Luckily, I’m a creature a habit, and with a few guesses I was in. (Note: hackers and thieves close your eyes.)

So, onward. See ya soon, maybe.

A few bad Partsearchers..

Standard

Back in 2006 I left Accenture to join a company called Partsearch Technologies. It had the world at its fingertips.

I think part of me took the job because I hated my life and career at Accenture by that time. I shed most of my 20s working for the tech consulting titan and I had had enough. I would have rather been selling ice cubes to penguin farmers in Tibet than to have to work another day there. But another part of me took the job at Partsearch because I was completely blown over by the business concept – selling parts for just about any device out there – from projector lamp bulbs to refrigerator doors, and 16 million other parts in between, Partsearch could help anyone fix or replace any part to just about any consumer good. It was one of those game-changing ideas in an industry stifled by major players unable to communicate with the consumers who needed the parts or the technicians that made the repairs. Partsearch was a revolutionary solution to bridge all gaps. Sky’s the limit.

I’m going to lie about the numbers, but I know I remember hearing something along the lines of 50% growth year-after-year for the first 5 years in business. We were included in the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies on June 21, 2007. I came in at year 5… the tail end of the “golden years.” We had moved to a fancy new office up Park Ave. There were parties and nights out on the boss. Tickets to Yankee games. The softball team, our uniforms and beers after the game (sometimes) were company-sponsored. Car service home if you worked past 10:00 PM. We even had our own game room (my doing) equipped with a 42″ plasma, Xbox 360, Wii, foosball and couches. Nice, eh?

Today, Partsearch sent its staff home and closed its doors, indefinitely. WTF. I’ll tell you wtf.. a few bad apples…

The walls started coming down in 2008 with the hiring of several executives that took a fragile company and brought it to its knees. Poor decision after poor decision left this once darling of the parts and eCommerce industry in shambles.

So today I started a group on LinkedIn called Partsearch Alumni. Hopefully it’s used to help the jobless network and land on their feet elsewhere. After 24 hours it has almost as many members as the original Partsearch company group, but I guess that makes sense, given the circumstances. And now all of the people I consider friends, are scrambling to find another home because a few schmucks ran the company with their eyes closed. Suffice to say, those assholes will get the good ‘ol reject when they apply to the group. I’m sure they know who they are…

What a mess. Good luck to you all.

I am a pushover

Standard

Some of my posts will have nothing whatsoever to do with work-life. This is one of them.

My son (and wife) has a hectic schedule. Monday mornings he’s coaxed (read: yanked) out of bed by Maritza at 6:40 and plopped in the backseat of her truck with some cheerios and re-runs of Yo Gabba Gabba, Finding Nemo or Cars. He’s escorted down to my in-laws where he’ll spend the next 3 days and 2 nights in Little Havana. They stay over because Maritza works nearby  and doing that drive 5 days a week would surely have her committing vehicular homicide, especially in Jersey, especially prego. That bit will soon whittle down to Mondays and Tuesdays, as Wednesdays will be reclaimed by Grammy Melone. Then Thursday and Friday he wakes up with Dad. We have waffles and an organic protein shake. Yes, it’s OK for him to drink it, promise. Then gets dropped at school where he spends the rest of the day (well, probably the first 5 minutes on the bowl.. mmm, protein shakes) learning, playing and exchanging germs with 20 other miniature people. He likes it. But the quivering lip that he throws my way as I hand him over to Miss Monica in the doorway leaves me broken-hearted for most of the morning. Each day it gets easier, though.. mostly for me, but for him, too.

So tonight, he wanted to sleep in bed with us. This is a nightly routine. He cries. He pleads to do anything but sleep.  He calms down. We talk. We read books. We count the stars from his Turtle lamp. Then after 20 minutes of bending and twisting my body to fit in his midget bed to rub his back and “help him fall asleep”, I wake up to him in my face, nodding with puppy dog eyes and whispering, “I go Mommy bed now, Daddy?”

And so here I am, typing away with him snoring between Maritza and I, and it’s perfect. I guess it’s a bad habit, but it’s too hard to say no. I think about when he’s 17 and the thought of snuggling up isn’t all that appealing. So I’ll savor it tonight, maybe tomorrow and possibly a few more nights down the road.

I’m in love. I can’t imagine having a daughter… God help me. G’night.

I heart people that suck

Standard

When I was a kid, I was the guy in my group of friends that would plan stuff — parties (mostly at my house and behind my parents’ back, of course), New Year’s Eve in NYC, football games over Thanksgiving break, renting beach houses down the Jersey shore. Lots of fun, but the planning and coordination that went into it was awful. Imagine.. trying to gather a consensus and then motivating a group of 15 dudes. I was lucky if one of them responded to me prior to the day of the event. And if someone did reply, most times it was to bust balls. In the end, things tended to work out and we had our good times but I reached my limit by the age of 26 or 27. Who the hell is crazy enough to put all of their energy into something so aggravating for a bunch of momos? Actually, I still run a men’s softball team, but that just about caps out my patience with my friends these days.

Growing up, I thought my friends were going to be the biggest challenge I faced in terms of planning and coordination. Not even close. And, at least my friends I could punch when frustrations peaked. No, people in the corporate world suck ten times over. How so? Good question.

  1. Yes’ers aka Ass-Kissers – Their only response is ‘Yes’. They promise the world and come through maybe 10% of the time.
  2. Flakes – Sort of like Yes’ers but don’t even extend themselves that much. They give you a luke-warm  response and then peace out at the worst possible time, leaving you to fail miserably.
  3. Commiters Anonymous – This is the guy that you ask for confirmation on something and they cannot bring themselves to give you a concrete answer. Like getting a guy to decide on a wedding date.
  4. Ghosts – You send this sub-human emails, call him, ring his doorbell, hold his Grandmother hostage. Nothing. No response. He may not have an answer, but dammit man, just say “I don’t know right now”.
  5. Snooze Button – Motivating this person to do anything requires you to threaten his job or his life, whichever gets his attention first. And even once they’re awake, it will be the final second when they deliver. Oh, and don’t expect any surprises.. you get exactly what you specified and what you paid for, and not a smidgen more.
  6. Disorganized Snooze Button – After you motivate the snoozer, he forgets what you were even talking about. These guys are still doing the same amount of drugs they did in college.
  7. Disorganized Type-A’ers – This guy expects everything done yesterday, but then you send him a single question and it takes 10 follow-up emails and 3 weeks for him to answer you. And then they bitch you out for missing your deadline.
  8. Excuse Me? – Last but not least.. the stall-tactic / my-neighbor’s-Mom’s-friend-just-had-surgery-and-I-had-to-water-her-cactus / excuse-happy guy. For every request, every deadline, every misunderstanding, it’s never their fault and if it is, the dog at their homework.

I’m sure there’s more but these are the people that I dream about physically harming. It’s inconsiderate of your time and effort. And I am constantly disappointed. My guess is that they were raised by buffalo, or maybe really really old cavemen. Maybe we should all lower our expectations but that sounds kinda terminally doomsday-ish.

But here’s the silver lining. For every jerk mentioned above, the margin for you to impress someone, simply by paying attention, abounds. Think about the mechanic that not only schedules your car to be fixed and actually fixes it that day, but calls you as soon as it’s ready and changed your oil for free while he had it because he noticed the check engine light was on. He’s immediately your mechanic for life, no? Shit, make him your best friend while you’re at it.

Point is, with 6 billion plus on this planet and a lot of them sucking, it’s easier these days to stand out as being someone people can depend upon. Take advantage.

No

Standard

I’ve caught myself saying ‘No’ a lot lately. But these are good No’s. Sometimes I’m answering others, most times I’m answering myself.

“This is just how we’re used to doing it.” .. No. Adapt or go away.

“It’s too much to think about right now.” .. No, Mr. Stall Tactic.

“Maybe I should go get an Xbox game, instead.” .. No, dummy. Aren’t you 34? (answer to that: not really)

“Are you worried about missing work when we go away?” .. No, work will always be there.

“Can you send me your latest resume?” .. Nope. If you really need one I’m not interested.

“Should it be perfect, first?” .. What?? WTF is perfect? No, man.

“Is their opinion really that important?” No.

Most of these things are time-sucks and distractions from what matters. Start saying ‘No’ and get moving.

Note: Just about the only thing I consistently fail to say no to is this boy, and his heart-wrenching smile…

I stand no chance..

Double Rainbow Mania

Standard

In case you’re not one of the 5.3 MILLION people that have seen this video, watch it and enjoy. And if you have seen it, watch it again. It’s well worth it. Then go watch the Double Rainbow song/video which is soaring beyond 3 million views.

How much the internet has changed our lives? A lot. HungryBear9562 filmed a video about a double rainbow (almost a daily occurrence in places like Hawaii) then proceeded to wet his shorts out of mere appreciation for nature. Even 5 years ago, very few of us would have shared in this guy’s hysterical, emotional (yet, sober, so he claims) outburst, let alone discussed it with friends and family around the world. Even Jack Johnson got in on the Double Rainbow jokes at his concert I attended in Jersey last week, where he quoted HungryBear during a jam session, “Double rainbow, it’s so intense.” Awesome. It made my night.

So think about this video, or any of the other memes (Numa Numa, Leeroy Jenkins, Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Star Wars kid, etc) that have floated around over the past few years, and how many people know about and obsess over them. Now, think if you had a truly great product you wanted to promote and the capability the internet could provide you with to share it. I mean, if Silly Bandz sales can reach $100 million in a few months after being promoted with a simple Facebook page, imagine (no offense Silly Bandz guy) a product with real potential to affect people’s lives for the better.

E-Commerce and E-Marketing are nothing new. I guess it just blows me away to think how lives can change in the blink of an eye because of this technology and the viral nature of society when we find something we can all appreciate, dumb or otherwise.

Thanks for the inspiration, HungryBear.