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Oliver “Olie” Moore

Olie

On Tuesday July 18th I received word that the young child of an old squadron mate of mine had perished. Oliver, known more appropriately as Olie, was born with two rare genetic conditions Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (22q13 deletion) and a partial Trisomy 9 (9q34 duplication).  He is one of only two children in the world with this extremely rare combination of genetic disorders and is one of the 1,100 known worldwide cases of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. He also possessed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), and had been undergoing treatment for quite some time.

The Leukemia required chemotherapy and many clinic appointments, inpatient hospital stays and unfortunately many unexpected emergency room visits. Based on the medical evidence (which obviously does not apply to every case), Olie would not have long to live, as his body was not responding well to the treatments.

Due to my lack of being on Facebook, I did not know much about Olie’s journey until the middle of last year, and it was not until the earlier part of this year that my friend Adam connected me with Olie’s father Chris, as the family was starting a fundraiser.

On the 16th of July the decision was made to cease treatment for Olie as it began to be futile. He was no longer getting better, and there was no longer a reason for the child to suffer. Family gathered together and then during the early morning hours of the 18th of July, Olie would close his eyes and go to sleep for one last time. I would find out a few hours later, and upon receiving the information I sent Olie’s father Chris a brief text message (I would have rather called, but I knew a short text would be less intrusive for the family during this time) with my condolences. What I received in return is my reason for sharing this blog today:

“Thanks Jason. I’ll miss him dearly, but I’m very thankful his suffering is done. SERVING HIM HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.”

I think the last part of Chris’s words deserve repeating:

“SERVING HIM HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.”

That is what life is all about. Moments like these really make you think about all of the silly things you fear, worry about, and lose sleep over.

If you feel that your ability to serve others is lacking, I challenge you to change something in your life this weekend, or at least starting on Monday of next week.

Wishing you the best as you continue on with your own PROCESS.

Convicted: The Positive Definition

To be “Convicted” can be a positive thing. When you look at the word you may first see it with a negative connotation, as in being convicted of a crime. But that is not how the word is reflected into my eyes, and I hope to convince you of the same.

My first thoughts are, “purpose, passion, and values.” Honestly, that is what I see. Because of all of the false hope in this world — perhaps it has been your own family that has let you down — you have not been able to witness “conviction” and all the good surrounding it. You deserve to surround yourself with people who possess the conviction to do amazing things that will make the lives of others around them better.

Everyday I wake up convicted with a sense of purpose to find a way to make someone’s life better. Truth be told, I actually try to make 3 people’s lives better each and everyday, and I don’t count my wife and 2 daughters in that equation because to me that is already a given. I may not do it perfectly, but I will give it the energy it deserves. It’s too bad all husbands and fathers don’t see it that way. This world would surely be a better place.

Whether I need to call an old friend to cheer him or her up, or if it is a patient that I will see in my clinic that needs a little more direction. Or maybe a coworker who feels like she is not giving her children the lives they deserve needs me to listen to her, if even for just a few minutes.

There are people everywhere who need our love, our compassion, and most importantly our time. You may not have an hour, or even 10-minutes to spare, but perhaps all they need is 30-seconds. Just enough time to know that someone else cares. I am convicted to look for those little differences that I may be able to make. I urge you to do the same.

Pick up the phone. Write a letter. Walk down the hallway. Ask someone to go to lunch. Donate one of your precious Saturdays. Be creative, and be convicted to make someone else better.


Thanks for following along. As part of my little venture I am building up my NUTRITION and EXERCISE page, which you can find on my HOME page. So far I have uploaded a few documents that may help you in your pursuit of better health. A simple way for me to give back to all of you. There are a few INFOGRAPHICS that are easy to print and hang on your refrigerator, your mirror or at your desk. Remember, it is the little changes that can have a huge impact. Take a look. I will keep adding more as the days go by.

What your name means to you: The Finale

February 12th arrived and that is when Jim and Karen, the owners of the cabin Chris was hiding in, arrived to tidy up their home. This was the first spotting of Chris since he was seen by someone at a gas station on February 7th. Chris held them at gunpoint, tied them up and then took their car.

Not long after, he gave up on the car and then stopped a man who was driving a truck. He then took the truck on a short joy ride and then gave up on that idea after realizing he was not going to get anywhere.

While the details of Chris’s nearly week-long stay in the cabin cannot be fully explained (he had little food according to the couple that owned the cabin), we can surmise that he likely slept little, became somewhat delirious, and thought about all of the mistakes he had made. There was no way to turn back at this point. He had ruined people’s lives and destroyed families. But knowing Chris, he would never choose to spend the rest of his life in prison.

I began to wonder about his mother Nancy. I had yet to reach out to her, but I could only imagine what she was going through.

February 12th was already here, but what I described in the preceding paragraphs above happened later in the day, while my part of the story happened much earlier.

The director of the course I was in had granted us the morning off to study for our written exam. I will be honest I did not use it to study, but rather to spend time with my then 3-year-old and 11-month-old daughters. That time was something I could never get back, and I had missed enough time with them at this point.

So I stayed home with them and my wife headed to the gym to swim. I decided to start a load of laundry in the basement, while setting the girls up to play in the living room.

It was around 900am in Wisconsin, and in California Chris was still yet to be found.

While in the pool swimming, the manager of the gym came to my wife and interrupted her with a surprise, “There are some people out front waiting to see you.” She replied with, “Can I get dressed first?” And the answer to her question was, “No, you need to come now.” So out of the pool she went.

As all of this was happening, I was still in the basement. Before I could get back upstairs, I heard someone pounding on the back door. As I rushed upstairs I was worried about the girls. Almost instantaneously my wife yelled my name. As I opened the door from the basement into the kitchen I was grabbed and slammed against the wall. My wife had tears streaming down her face.

Seven US Federal Marshals had stormed our home. They had their rifles drawn, and there were 4 black SUVs lining the perimeter of our snow-covered yard. My wife begged them to put the guns away. My girls were just a few feet away in the other room. The officers began to raid the house, room by room. Everything was searched. For some reason, they appeared to believe that a 300-pound African American man was actually hiding in my home. My wife and I were separated into different rooms and the barrage of questions began. I had evidence of my limited interactions with Chris in my journal and they had evidence in the phone records that they had on me.

They occupied our home for about two hours, and I seemed to build instant rapport with them. Then they helped us push my wife’s car out of the snow. I will be honest, I remained a little startled for the rest of the day. Off I eventually went to school for a couple of hours of lecture. While there, a lot was happening in southern California, but I had no idea until I returned home.

The day the officers come to my house to look for Chris, he finally gets spotted and then corned into another cabin. I became glued to the TV. And there I was again. That picture that was once on his Facebook page from his LAPD graduation. Eventually they would cut me out of it, but I could still see my hand on his shoulder.

The events that filled the rest of the afternoon were exactly what I had expected. Those working the scene knew that Chris would not let himself be caught. Using some specialized equipment, and then basic things like fire, they destroyed the cabin. There was speculation as to whether or not Chris shot himself in the head first (which I believe he did). His driver’s license, LAPD badge, and some other items were found next to his body. He could not run or hide any longer.

I had finally lost my old friend. He obviously was not the person I once knew. To this day I still don’t understand. People that I have met and shared my story with don’t believe that he was ever a good man. And I get it. I did not write this blog series to defend him in any way. This piece was my way of finally sharing my side of the story. It has been eating away at me for the past 4-years because I have continued to wonder if I could have done anything to stop him from going down a dark path.

Why did his name mean that much to him? Was there something else? I guess I will never know. And what can we gain from this?

For starters, life is all about choices. Every single day that we wake up and breathe, we have a choice as to what kind of an attitude we will have. We get to decide if we will smile or carry a frown around. We decide if we will lend a hand to someone in need, or if we will walk by like we did not even see the person next to us. We get to decide if we will leave chicken leg bones on the windshield of someone’s car (like someone did the other night to my wife’s car) or if we will simply place them in the trash. We decide if what someone says about our good name needs to be internalized or if we can just let it go with the wind.

I can never get my friend back, but I have no excuse to keep on living and to make other people’s live better each and every day.

Thanks for hanging around. The next series of my writing will be quite different than this last adventure. Have a great weekend and remember that it is ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS.

 

What your name means to you: Part II

You are back for more. I am guessing I was a little rude in leaving you at the edge of your seat. But for good reason as this story has some key points that I don’t want to gloss over. Or maybe this is the first you have seen of this story. If so, I urge you to go back and read Part I first. The main character truly lost sight of his “Why” because he became too focused on one thing, and one thing only: HIMSELF. To grow you do indeed need to focus on yourself, but you need to focus on giving to others if you want to take your personal growth to a new level.

Back to February 7th. That was a busy day for me. I was already 4-weeks into a 6-week OBGYN rotation. Long hours, a few deliveries, some surgeries and little sleep, with two young children at home and a wife that was already sick and tired of me being a medical student after so many years of not having to go to school. Now my time would be consumed in a different way. My mind was racing at an all time high as I tried to put all of the news I was receiving into perspective. I could not turn on my phone, the radio, the TV or my computer without something about Chris popping up.

After receiving all of those unexpected phone calls, and then talking to one friend who seemed to have some important information, I asked a classmate to look up my name and Chris Dorner’s name in one GOOGLE search. I crossed my fingers that it would come up empty. I wanted to remain out of the picture.

Surge enough, my first look at the evidence. I was startled as I saw picture after picture of Chris and the manifesto; some of the same pictures that I had at home. The words in the manifesto that he used to describe his anger and his plan for revenge; they were beyond disheartening. I was sick to my stomach. I called my wife right away and told her to get home with the girls and stay put. Within minutes of my call, a news van planted itself outside of our home. And our landlord was supposed to come to the house today to do some work. Oh great! A camera was set up on the sidewalk. I could only imagine what my neighbors in a small and quiet suburb of Milwaukee, WI, were thinking. Eventually I would make it back to the house myself to witness this madness.

Many more phone calls kept my phone busy. I locked myself in the house and it was time to watch the news. Chris had achieved exactly what he desired: chaos. As I went from channel to channel, it was all about Chris and the destruction he was causing. And then right there before my very eyes, I was on TV. Chris in his police uniform, me in my khaki’s with one of my arms around him as I congratulated him upon graduating from the LAPD police academy on March 3rd, 2006. It was just a few hours after I had come out of surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon. I did not want to miss his special day.

The knocks on the door started coming. I glanced out the window and before I could get up to answer the door, my wife blocked my pursuit and told me to stay put. She did not want me talking; at least not yet. A young 20-something blonde was requesting my story. My wife took care of that. For now I was to remain mute.

Everything was still a blur. After all, we were still on day 1. This would carry on for several more days.

Chris’s words to me from 4-years ago were ringing in my ears. His extreme anger about his good name being ruined kept echoing. I could not block it out.

So why was he so mad? Back in 2008, after Chris had returned from a deployment to the Arabian Gulf (LAPD had allowed him to fulfill a Navy Reserve obligation) he was assigned to Harbor Division in a southern part of Los Angeles, near San Pedro. Not a good area (then again, it is LA). During a night of patrol, he and his partner came across a schizophrenic gentleman and his father outside of an ATM machine. After an exchange of words, Chris’s partner kicked the man several times until he fell to the ground. The man never fought back. The entire thing was caught on camera, at least the voices and sounds, but nothing of a visual perspective, as the camera lens had been covered up by a third police officer’s hand.

For weeks Chris internalized the event. He was disgusted with himself for witnessing such a heinous act by one of his superior officers, and not saying or doing anything about it. Eventually he would come clean. He would cross the thin blue line of the LAPD. He would break the brotherly code. He knew what happened was wrong and he wanted to tell the truth. And that is when the demise of Chris Dorner began.

What I am telling you is all true. I listened to the tapes from the courtroom after Chris was subpoenaed. He was assigned an attorney who was very familiar with LAPD. He was placed on probation. His life was taking a major turn. His mother spent thousands of dollars in court fees to try and bring justice to a man that was only trying to do the right thing. A man who was trying to live up to his good name. A name that would no longer be innocent. That was 2008. That was the last time I saw Chris Dorner with my own two eyes.

Just months before this event I even drove with him to see his newly purchased home in Las Vegas. He planned to stay there on his days off, and then to live at his mother’s home during his assigned work days. He wanted to keep his personal life away from his work life as much as possible. Many police officers do exactly this, and for good reason.

At this point he had killed 2 people in Irvine, CA. A young lady who just happened to be a coach at the university I attended, and whose father was Chris’s attorney. That was Chris’s revenge for someone failing to protect his good name. And the other individual was her innocent boyfriend/fiancée that happened to be in her car with her the night of the Super Bowl, in the parking garage at their apartment.

The story was starting to come together. And it was getting worse by the minute.

No one could find Chris. He was becoming a master of disguise. A driver’s license left near the San Diego airport. A video from a sporting goods store showing him purchasing scuba gear. Another video showing him throwing military gear away in a trash bin behind a building in National City. An older gentleman with a boat who had reported being accosted by a man that fit Chris’s description, with Chris asking the man to take him to Mexico. According to the man, Chris finally gave up and left the area.

At this point there was no clear-cut answer. The authorities wondered if indeed he had gone to Mexico or if he somehow got away on an airplane. The state of California was on high alert, and other states were beginning to join in the action.

Chris would eventually kill 2 more people. But this time he went after those in uniform. While Chris was evading the authorities, I was trying to evade the news outlets. I was offered plane tickets to appear on some big time shows. I could not see the value of putting myself in front of the camera. I knew he was not going to stop because of me urging him to do so.

One of his friends from his college football days went in front of the screen, and after watching him sling a few words, it just made me feel worse. Whether I am right or wrong, I saw the gentleman showcasing himself, trying to look like a hero with his nice tailored suit and the mountains of Salt Lake City in the background. But then again, it is television. I just wanted Chris to stop and turn himself in, but I knew he would not do that. Anyone who read the manifesto knew he was not going to do that. He was going to kill himself before he let someone catch him.

I began to be followed by some reporters each day during my walk to school. It made for quite a long week. I wondered for a moment if Chris had left the state and was headed my way. But that idea did not last long after his truck was found abandoned and lit on fire on a mountainside in Big Bear, CA. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s department, with the aid of other organizations from the surrounding cities and counties, would lead the effort to find this old friend of mine. They would search home after home and come up empty.

What they failed to realize was that one of the very cabins that they had indeed searched, or that they at least thought they searched, had a newly minted murderer within its walls. And through a window he was watching their every move, as the window looked directly upon the control center. This would go on for approximately 4 or 5 days (I can say I truthfully don’t remember). And my situation in Wisconsin was not getting any easier.

I promise I will only keep you hanging for a little while longer. As we take a break at this point in the story please reflect on what your name means to you. It should have never gotten this bad for Chris, but then again I can only speak for myself. Chris had a right to be upset, but he had no right to kill innocent people. We can all agree on that. His ego became his obstacle, and once the dominoes were falling there was no turning back.

I have beaten myself up rather harshly over the past few years because of this situation even though I was out of Chris’s life for the 4-years preceding these events. I have kept wondering if I could have done anything to help him. I felt like I tried, but then again do we ever really know how hard we have truly tried when it comes to making a difference in another’s life? How do we actually measure that?

I will be back soon. Have a blessed day.

What your name means to you

I never would have imagined, not in my most horrific of dreams, that a friend of mine, one of my closest, who just happened to be both a Naval Officer and an LAPD police officer would transform himself into a murderer. I am guessing you are a little intrigued now. Trust me, I wish I were making this up. I wish I could go back in time and fix all the damage that occurred. You are about to join me on a PROCESS that went totally wrong.

Many of you who know me, already know about Chris Dorner, or at least know about the time he made national and world news during the night and week following the Super Bowl in 2013. He wrote a manifesto, not just a short note about his pain and depression, posted it on-line and then began his rampage.

I cannot make up the relationship we had with another because he wrote about it in the manifesto. And while there is actually another Jason Valadao (I have seen his Facebook and I have never had an account as of this writing), it is definitely me that he was referring to. A special paragraph in the manifesto that I will never be able to erase from my memory.

To be honest, I was terrified that I might be on his hit list. That his kind words about me were just another trick embedded in the madness he was creating. After all, we had not spoken since 2009, and that is when the transformation began to take place.

As Chris said to me on those few occasions that we actually did speak, “My name has been ruined. LAPD is lying. If I lose my good name, then I will have nothing to live for.” The reason I remember what he said so well is two-fold: 1) he was so adamant, and 2) I wrote it down in my journal. Little did I know at the time that my struggle to try and maintain a friendship would pale in comparison to the events of 2013.

Chris and I had never had an issue during the 7-years prior in our relationship. Not an argument, or even a hint of being cynical with one another. We were brothers for all intents and purposes. A strong bond that I never thought would break. Or so I thought.

Chris held a conviction so strong that innocent people would eventually die because of his rage. This man that once found $8000.00 on a desolate highway in Oklahoma while in flight training (the local news made a video about it), and turned it in. A true servant-leader. Someone who set the example for young men, especially those who grew up without a father, or who struggled due to the color of their skin.

Chris had changed before my very eyes. And 2-weeks after my first child was born in late 2009, I would have my last conversation ever with him. He believed all of his friends had sided with LAPD and were out to ruin his name. I never stopped thinking about him, but I kept my promise and ceased contacting him. He told me he would call me when he was ready to talk again. He spoke to my wife for a few minutes as well that day. He said he wanted to see the baby before we moved to Wisconsin. That never happened.

And then I received the surprise phone call on February 7th, 2013. Well, that would be a lie. I actually received around 50 to 60 surprise phone calls from various news stations (mostly in southern California, but also from New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C.). And then a single call from a close friend in Orange County, CA, whose wife had just seen a picture of Chris and I on the television set…

Stay tuned, this story has just begun. You might be wondering what this has to do with personal growth and the PROCESS. Trust me, it has everything to do with it.

Advocating for yourself and others

I will warn you now…this one is a little longer than my previous posts. If you don’t have the time to read it, I will never know.

Back in 2012, March 8th to be exact, I returned to my wife’s postpartum room at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 24-hours earlier my 2nd daughter Siena was born. She delivered stoically without a cry, but she was full of life. And today she would fail her initial hearing test.

The nurses claimed it was most likely due to a mechanical error. We were not too worried after hearing those words. The next day they reran the test, and she failed again. And again we were told and reassured that it was most likely just an error, as 6 infants had failed the same test the past week. Finally, the screening technician explained that it could be the machine or could also be due to amniotic fluid in her ears.

She was then on her way to radiology for a kidney ultrasound, as often times hearing loss is related to various syndromes—single diseases often seen in clusters with others. Nothing remarkable was seen on the scan; still no explanation at this point. I was beginning to become somewhat stressed.

As we prepared ourselves for discharge from the hospital, we were told to follow-up for a repeat test in 2-weeks. Again, it was a little stressful worrying about what could be wrong with our new baby. Of course, I had to miss the appointment due to being at the bottom of the medical school food chain.

I received the hysterical and sobbing voicemail from my wife—Siena had failed again.

So then another appointment was to be made, but not until 6-months later. Hell no! That was not going to work for me. Not now. Not later. My first thought: what is happening to all those people who have no VOICE? Those families in our position who just don’t know how to ask the right questions? My purpose was staring me directly in the face, and Siena’s PROCESS was something I needed to fight for. If I didn’t, who would?

I was angry and I decided to call a mentor at the medical college. He then made a phone call to his Otolaryngologist friend—an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. He requested that we bring Siena in for an evaluation later that day.

When we arrived, I provided him with our insurance paperwork to pay for the visit. He quickly snatched the forms out of my hand, ripped them apart, and threw them away. He did not want us to pay for the services, but rather that I “pay it forward” and do the same for someone else throughout the days that would follow.

He could not find anything wrong “physically” with Siena’s ears. I was not really sure at the time what he was actually looking for, but there were no missing ear drums, the ear canals were patent, and there was no fluid. Everything was normal. He told us not to fret, and that we would not be waiting 6-months for another evaluation.

We would see an audiologist about 10-days later. The ENT doctor had been a man of his word. He was intentional in his practice. His PROCESS was laid out in front of me.

Those were a long 10-days. We became very impatient. With a 2-year old daughter at home, our attention span was limited. The day finally came for the test. This time was a little different with a bunch of wires and equipment in a small, dark room. It took much longer than the 20-minute tests done previously. It felt like an eternity—3 long hours. My eyes were unwavering. I was watching the audiologist like a hawk, trying to calculate her reaction to every waveform coming across the screen. I knew something was wrong, but how bad could it be?

My wife and I had no experience with hearing loss. No family members to relate to. But we were never in denial. We believed the results, one after another. As the audiologist broke the news to us, our hearts were crushed, our spirits destroyed. What the f#!*% were we going to do? The lady kept talking and we kept sobbing. Emotions were running at an all-time high.

Siena had hearing loss in both ears that would require hearing aids, and possibly further intervention, and we were told that she perhaps would never talk coherently, and lose all of her remaining hearing by the age of 7. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. This was my worst nightmare. The most troubling thing for me is that there was no defined reason (at least at that point in time, but we would learn a lot more later) as to why she did not have normal hearing.

She would be fitted that same day for hearing aids, and they would arrive about 2-weeks later. We got home and I was a mess. I walked the neighborhood alone, and then stopped at my friend Jared’s apartment, sobbing while I knocked. I was ashamed. Two grown men displaying little testosterone.

Siena went on to get those hearing aids. We needed to use athletic tape to keep them in place because of her small head. We would press forward. The PROCESS was in motion. Siena’s life was now evolving, and she would require a little help for something most of us take for granted. Now it was time for acceptance. We could not change what had occurred during embryological development in the womb. This was our baby and she was our gift. A mere coincidence that the translation of her middle name to English meant “Faith,” because it was what would ultimately pull us through.

Advocacy was now a part of me and I would forever have my life and eventual medical practice changed. The message: DON’T WAIT. Action saves the day. If you don’t take action when needed, then odds are nobody else will either. Be an advocate for you, your family, and even for that person you may not know. Early intervention, whether for a baby or for an adult, can make a huge difference.

Is there something you should be advocating for today? If so, get to it.

Fear: just an idea

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A few weeks ago I started ruminating over the “manifestation” surrounding the idea of FEAR and how it limits our success. I say “manifestation” because FEAR is something we wholeheartedly create. It is not a real thing, but rather just an emotion or idea. I have battled with it my entire life. I am not ashamed to tell you. I am willing to bet you can relate in one way or another.

Whether coming back to the aircraft carrier at night in the back of an airplane with someone else in control and with rough seas and a pitch black sky, or a friend asking if I want to try out his motorcycle on the open road. Those have always been intense moments of FEAR for me. For some of you, those are just thrills, and there is no FEAR involved. When it came to chemotherapy and radiation to try and crush the cancer beneath my skin, there was a little FEAR there as well. But that FEAR had to do with the fact that I felt like I had not truly lived by that point in my life.

FEAR has kept me from fulfilling some goals and dreams — now that is what I am ashamed of. These FEARS that I created kept me down while others kept climbing up the mountain. They kept me out while others ventured to do more. They kept me back because I wanted a guaranteed return on my investment. No matter what my self-imposed excuse was at the time, the result was always the same — I kept myself from enjoying the adventure and living out THE PROCESS.

I once read that it is better to learn from the mistakes of others vice our own. This may or may not always be the case, but the point I am after is that I want you to learn from my mistakes and crush your FEARS, rather than letting them crush you. And today, with 13-minutes to spare in my schedule I watched a TED talk by Tim Ferriss (one of my favorite people) that was done in April 2017 (he has another from 2008), and it is about destroying FEAR. I urge you to check out his books, podcast and TED talks.

If my BLOG does anything for you today, let it be a little spark of motivation to conquer a few of your self-imposed FEARS. Don’t just set goals for these last 6-months of 2017, set up a list of FEARS to overcome, and check them off one by one. It may be as simple as lifting up your head and looking at the person walking past you on the street or in the grocery store and simply saying hello. Believe it or not, that is a FEAR many people have.

If you enjoyed this BLOG today, pass on my website to a friend, it is as simple as copying and pasting into an email or a text. All I am trying to do is the spread the word of personal growth to anyone who may need a little facelift to their sagging spirit. Stay tuned. There is a lot more to come. And I promise (not something I do often) that you will become better everyday by following THE PROCESS.

 

We Must Fail

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One of the themes within my own personal growth plan this year is the idea of “Failing Forward.” It has been of such great importance to me, that after reaching out to one of the charter schools in my local area I was able to set up a meeting with a principal that will be opening a brand new high school later this summer. After our meeting we agreed to start the school year off with a sort of town hall meeting on the subject, with parents and students, and we even discussed the possibility of making such a theme the school’s motto for the year.

My reasoning for making this a focus for my growth plan this year hit home for me when I started to analyze the lives of those people whom I consider to be successful. Page after page, as I dug deep into biographies, memoirs and other stories, I discovered this recurring theme of multiple failures, with little success, yet those successes were generally impressive. They were above and beyond the status quo. They tended to destroy barriers.

I then came across John Maxwell’s book Failing Forward and it was a surreal moment for me. He had written on the subject over 10-years ago and I was just now beginning to think about it. My chosen theme was not so novel. I thought I had this great idea, and then I realized that I was many years behind. After a brief moment of self-pity I got back on my feet. I failed forward. After all, I had never considered myself great with creating things, but I could finish a task with the best of them. Perhaps you are like me, or the complete opposite, it does not matter because we all will fail at one time or another whether we are creators, doers, or a mix of both. Don’t let someone fool you into thinking that they never fail.

Being a realist has been a constant for me, and it has always helped me get up after a fall. I realized early on that it really is not about how many times you fall down, but rather the number of times you get back up. And I have more times than I care to remember. The key here is to not focus on the failure. Think about it. You just simply fix or fine-tune the issues and then move forward. Put a little pep in your step. Lean forward. If you can accept the fact that you will fail, then failing forward will not be that difficult because you will know and believe that your next success is a mere few steps away.

The next time you see a colleague, friend or family member who is frustrated about failing, give them a few seconds of your time, and help him or her fail forward.

Have a blessed day! And as always, thank you for taking a moment of your time to share in a moment of personal growth with me today.

Plant Some Seeds

plant seeds

With the way the world works today we often forget where we are. We become so concerned about where we desire to be, that at times we have no idea what being where we currently are actually means. The context of our situation is out of place. Our idea of just how important and special the PROCESS is becomes non-existent. The PROCESS by which we arrived at where we are today gets overlooked, overshadowed, and overburdened by what we want in the future.

Look, we must set our goals and more importantly our vision, but we must also respect the ground under our feet. A misstep now could send us tumbling further away from our aspirations. To not appreciate the PROCESS, is to not really understand that which you desire. If you know what you want, then you must reflect on what you did to get to where you are now, because that reflection will indeed reveal the parts of the PROCESS that led you here.

You must take some time to plant some seeds at this current place. The seeds you have at your disposal have been on quite a journey. They have been with you through adversity, happiness, failure, and all those things in between. The seeds will surely flourish because they have already been through so much. They have indeed weathered the storm.

Take what you have learned along your journey and invest that knowledge into those who look to you for advice, mentorship, feedback, and love. Help somebody develop their own PROCESS. Help them to not make the same mistakes that you have made. Help them to see how important they are. Don’t hold on to the seeds any longer. Let them grow. Let them make another life better.

A Simple Smile

7-years ago this week, my 7 and 1/2 year old (the half is important!) daughter met her best friend on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had just miserably failed to win the ultimate prize on the TV show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? Yes, the actual show in front of a live studio audience. It was humiliating. The worst part, it was a dental/medical question, and I was about to start medical school only 5-weeks later. I would never live it down. But that is another story.

I was sitting in an isle seat with my then 6-month old on my lap, and my wife next to me. The gentleman seated across the isle gave me this look that screamed, “Oh great, another baby that is going to cry for the next 3 to 4 hours.” She ended up not muttering a sound the entire flight, but on a few occasions when the mystery man looked over she would smile back at him and it caught his attention. Eventually he asked me if I was in the military (the haircut gave it away) and then we began to exchange stories. After a little while it was if we had been friends for years. He was 73, I was 30. He a retired military officer, I myself with 10-years of service thus far. He was now a professor at the same university my wife had graduated from. One of his daughters a prior Navy physician, and I myself about to become one. He was on his way to visit his daughter and grandkids that had recently moved to Wisconsin from California. We had just moved to Wisconsin from California as well. Many things were lining up.

As the pilot called for the flight attendants to prepare for landing, this man handed me his business card. A simple gesture. But then he asked me if he could hold my little baby girl once we got down to the baggage claim area. My wife immediately gave me this stare of death. An old man wanted to hold my baby, and I was actually considering it. What was I thinking! He said he wanted to show his wife that he is an excellent grandfather. So I let him hold her. His wife remained in the car at curbside, so she never saw him holding her. My baby pulled away, but never cried. The perfect amount of stranger anxiety.

Over the next few years we would set up quick visits whenever he and his wife flew into town to visit their family. The Milwaukee airport was our rendezvous point. The friendship grew rather quickly. Our new surrogate grandparents. We had lacked “real” ones to offer our baby, so this was incredible.

The next 6-years would be such a joy. We would fly to California and stay with them when the schedule allowed, and eventually we would move back and it would be only a short drive between our homes. Then January 2017 arrived. Some reflux and then a piece of chicken caught in the throat, would eventually reveal Esophageal Cancer. The big “C” word. A word often synonymous with “cancel” as in to cancel one’s LIFE. One of the worst types of cancer with an 85% mortality rate at 5-years.

These past 6-months have been quite a journey – a real PROCESS. My 7 and 1/2 year old has not been smiling. Sadness has overtaken her. But today she got to see Grandpa again. He showed her his feeding tube (she had lots of questions), he told her a few stories, and he gave her a big smile. They were not outside chasing one another and kicking trash cans, but they were happy. Smiling with joy. 80-years and merely 7, generations apart, yet the best of friends. A smile had never meant this much to me ever before. What will you smile about today?

 

 

Don’t just stand there. Do something!

overhere2

You can either stand around or you can move and make something happen. Life should not be about what happens to us, but rather about what we do to make life happen. If our actions are purposeful with the correct intentions, then our odds of success will go up exponentially.

I am willing to bet that you have already made some amazing movements in your life or else you would probably not be reading this today. You have chosen to learn, to grow and to ultimately have an impact on those around you. You want to make a difference. Half of the time you don’t even realize the difference that you are making, and that is a great thing because it will keep you humble and will keep humility as one of the foundational pillars in your life.

You are someone who is willing to both accept and create change when needed. You can rationalize the value in taking one or two steps back to see the big picture, so that eventually you will take many more steps forward. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. Your actions are in fact leading you in the right direction.

The PROCESS is taking place right before your eyes. It will not always be a clear path. An obstacle or two may get in your way, and just standing there will not make them go away. You have a little bit of fear that you may make the wrong decision. But you soon come to the realization that DOING NOTHING, YIELDS NOTHING. Patience is a different story. This is not about hasty decision-making. This is about creating the life you want, by taking the steps you must take. It is about the PROCESS.

Set the example

Example quote

Do you ever take time out of your schedule to think about the example you are setting? If you have children your example is of extreme importance. They will copy your actions and especially your words, and at times you won’t even realize it. At work your colleagues will watch what you do and say. Your friends and family may do the same. Whether you like it or not, you are often under a microscope. Most of us are so busy trying to live our lives, that we do not reflect on the example we are setting.

Truth be told, our example will not be the best each and every time, especially if we don’t think about it, but if we strive to tip the pendulum toward setting a moral, ethical, passionate and empathetic example, then we will surely make a difference in the lives of others. People are watching. Others depend on us. Our lives have a profound effect on those around us, even if we don’t believe so.

Make a conscious action to get better each and every day. The domino effect that you initiate has the ability to change the lives around you. And who knows, maybe you, yes you, can make someone else’s life go from what may seem like the worst of circumstances ever to a life that feels fulfilled and full of hope. Give it a shot this week. Be intentional in your actions and words and think about the impact you might just have on the life of another.

The journey has begun

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