Paintball

I haven't played paintball in years. When the first game started today I expected my mind to request things of my body which it could no longer do. By the end of the first game, after taking out at least four of the seven bad guys, my expectations had been shattered. 

I am certainly not as explosive as I was years ago, but that's not what I was worried about. Especially in the wooded field, it was the endurance I really needed. I like to play the flanks, moving fast and low. Many times, investing the energy into covering ground rather than confronting the enemy head on pays off big, as it did today. By the time I start sending rounds down range, the angle I've got leaves the opponent mostly defensless. 

I guess I just don't see the wisdom in trench warfare. If the path is blocked, find another way. Water does this splendidly which, coincidentally, is why it's so destructive. It always finds a way through. 

When life blocks your way, be the water.  

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Sabbath

Doing a daily blog has been a struggle but so far I've stuck with it; I know I'll be glad I did someday. BUT, I am no longer doing one on Sunday. Even though I don't consider this blog work, it is a task I don't want taking away from resting with my family. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

 

Can you kill?

I had the privilege to take part in mock interviews for high school seniors today. They are all part of the Avenue Scholars program and are taking college classes as well as attending their respective high schools. Today they were given a taste of what real job interviews are going to be like, with professionals various career fields there acting as potential employers. 

The questions were the standard type: What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses; what have you learned about yourself in the last year; why are you the most qualified candidate? I always hated that last one. I never said I was the most qualified candidate. 

Seeing those young adults getting ready for the real thing brought me back a bit. It has been almost ten years since I've had to put my best foot forward in front of a potential employer. It reminded me of how uncertain you are when you've never had a career job; how untested. You say the things you want to believe; but do you really believe them? 

I loved being able to offer advice to the kids: firm up the handshake a little; speak up; never say your weakness is perfectionism; etc. Things got really interesting when I posed a scenario question to them. Actually, this was the first scenario question I was asked in my own job search as a college senior. These are asked for a few reasons: some are to test your decision making skills, others to see if you can take someone's life if necessary. This one was the latter. 

You're on duty; uniformed patrol. A "help an officer" call goes out; your partner is in trouble. You arrive minutes later only to find yourself on the other side of a large fence and there's no way through or around. Your partner is unconscious, defenseless, and still being assaulted by the suspect... with a bat. What do you do?

The responses were much the same as mine were:

Student: "Climb the fence."

Me: "It's too tall and there's barbed wire at the top." 

Student: "Call for backup."

Me: "They're 30 minutes away."

Student: "I'd drive through the fence."

Me: "Concrete pillars too; won't work."

Student: "I'd tase him."

Me: "Can't do it through the fence and they're out of range."

Student: "I'd shoot him... like in the leg or somewhere to make him stop."

The student who said she would shoot to wound was wincing as she said it, as if the thought of shooting someone hurt her. It indicated she hadn't thought much about having to hurt some people to save others. I stopped the scenario and explained that officers never shoot to wound; it's either deadly force or it isn't. Her response was that she wanted to help the officer but not hurt the suspect. 

Every cop knows the answer to that scenario: Shoot the guy until he's not a threat. You have to be willing to kill someone to be a cop; many civilians don't get this, I mean really get it. They've never thought about these types of things and I don't blame them. Most will never have to deal with them, thankfully. 

This is why I created Police Academy. Thanks to smartphones and body cameras, the reality of police work is becoming much more real to a world that doesn't know how to deal with it. It's not pretty; people get hurt; people get killed. It almost never works out nice and neat like it does in Hollywood. When a cop takes someone to the ground, they can't use just enough force to overcome the resistance. They use "violence of action" to end the situation as quickly and safely as possible. People see it and think it's excessive because they don't know any better. 

I didn't know better when I first became a cop. Yes, I knew I might have to shoot someone, but I had no idea how rough being a cop would be. How painful handcuffs, getting tased or pepper sprayed were. How hard you have to take someone down or how easily you can get killed if you give someone even the slightest chance to slip out of your control. I know now.

I hope to share what I know with our country, with as many people as possible. Ignorance and prejudice are tearing us apart. Only the honest truth will bring us back together. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Order or Chaos?

Life has a way of creating the illusion of both chaos and order, depending on the day or even the moment. In fact, who really knows if one or both are illusions? I mean, the reality is there may be an order to things that no one can see. Or maybe it really is true that chaos is always at the helm and our sense of control is just a figment of our imagination. Who really knows? 

My personal experience is that, when life rips all sense of control away from me, I've always found a new path; often one I would never have seen before. The momentary (if it isn't always there) chaos shakes things up, allowing me to see the world in a different way. The same components are still there but I can see them in a totally different way. 

So the idea that there is order, even when things seem completely out of control, could be real. Maybe the perceived chaos is simply order taking the reigns to redirect us, inspire us, or open our eyes to something we wouldn't have otherwise noticed. I know, crazy talk right?! This is what happens when I start a daily blog; eventually, the martian thoughts hidden in my brain come to the surface. 

Either way, whether there is no such thing as order or no such thing as chaos, the ebbe and flow of life is what keeps it interesting for me. Without it I would be really bored if I'm being totally honest. Change spices things up, keeps me on my toes, gives me the opportunity to learn new things and flex muscles that atrophied long ago.

I see change as opportunity. What do you see? 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

What Are You Worth?

"You're fired!" 

Too many people have heard those words from their boss, often without any warning. The loyalty companies used to show their employees, and vice versa, isn't what it used to be. I've seen many people go through the phases of getting new jobs, growing comfortable and confident in their career, just to get shafted without warning by their employer. Every single time, I see two truths play out. 

Truth #1: Employers Are Usually The Problem, NOT The Employee

When a company decides to let one of its employees go, it was either a hiring error or a communication error. Just last night I had a conversation with some close friends about problems in the workplace. Sam (made up the name) loves her job and has been a linchpin employee for years. Her work environment was awesome; that is until the owner of the company made a bad hire. 

The new employee actually has a reputation with enough negative influence that people won't come to work for this company while she's still working there. That's not to mention the fact that this company is losing some very good and experienced labor because they have had enough of the problem employee. The frustrations from the original staff, including Sam, have been thoroughly communicated to the owner, but he has yet to fire the person responsible for the problems. This was a hiring mistake, no doubt, and now it's a firing mistake (because it should have been done long ago). 

The more common problem I see is an employer who fails to communicate its expectations clearly. The employee works hard at what they think their employer wants, while the employer privately observes what they perceive to be a lack of performance, right up until termination day. The employer incorrectly assumes the employee knows what is expected of them. This assumption allows them to feel justified when it comes time to speak the words "you're fired;" after all, they knew they were underperforming, right? Instead of addressing the issue by communicating clearer expectations, the company decides to start over with a fresh victim. This shouldn't be. Either the company hired the wrong person or they didn't communicate their expectations clearly enough. Either way, the fault rarely rests with the employee. 

Truth #2: Our Identities Are Tied To Our Jobs

It never fails: in the tough times, in between jobs, people doubt. We doubt ourselves, our abilities, our self worth, even our identity. When a job offer is made; things start looking up. As time goes on, our confidence builds. We get more comfortable in the new career. We start dressing like we belong in the professional world again, with a new bounce in our step, a firmness to our handshake. Introductions start to include a legitimate company name and title. The swag returns. 

Then something terrible (at least it seems so in the moment) happens. For one of the two reasons listed above, we get canned; tossed to the curb like a dirty rag. Every part of the identity we built upon our career crumbles. The house search is put on hold, the car payments start to fall behind, and the bank account drains right along with our ego. Fear and doubt begin their terrible reign. 

Occupation is like a self-worth gauge for most people: it shouldn't be. Yes, there is a real and valid correlation between being reliably employed and being a good and reliable employee; but as I mentioned above, the human beings employing us are often the real problem. Job or no job, you are the same person and have the same value to your friends, family and to the world. The fact that you aren't employed just means the value inherent within you isn't being extracted. 

That's right, I said it; a job is just a value extractor; that's why we get a paycheck. The employer is paying for the value being harvested from us. They need our intellect, education, skills, our very hands and feet, to accomplish their business goals. Just because they failed to target the correct assets within you doesn't mean they aren't there. Being unemployed just means part of our inherent value isn't being utilized at the moment. Getting a job simply activates the skills and abilities already contained within each and every one of us. Value is intrinsic. 

So whether you're in between jobs or just struggling with self-confidence, don't forget to remind yourself: "I am valuable, I have something to give to the world, I am who I am, and who I am is good enough!" 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Soccer Weather

The weather this morning was perfect for the workout I had already decided on.  Instead of going for a mind-numbing jog or doing bodyweight exercises in the basement, I headed to the fields I grew up playing soccer on.  It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've gotten any touches on the ball and I figured I could get a workout in while re-familiarizing myself with my favorite sport. 

It was cold, cloudy, and the wind was howling: perfect soccer weather.  Actually this is what I hated most about playing soccer in Nebraska.  The season is in the spring, which is usually windy and rainy; not such great weather for soccer.  However, considering I grew up playing in this weather, stepping onto the field today brought back the memories.  Suddenly my body felt alive, young, ready for action.  

It quickly became apparent that I'm actually not any younger or ready for a real soccer match.  Boy do I suck!  A couple of sprints down the field set my lungs on fire!  But that's exactly why I went out there today.  Gotta start somewhere, right!?  

As I think about how far I've fallen from my peak physical health, I'm reminded of the mantra Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine taught me: "Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."  I may not be any good anymore, but every day is a chance to get better, not only in soccer, but every area of life. 

Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Cheers to Rest

Ok, so today was actually the day of rest. I slept in, tried to get productive after breakfast, and then slept some more. Apparently I've been putting sleep off too much for about the past, oh... ten years.  

With my task driven, Type-A personality, it's hard to not get much done with a whole day.  But I have come to accept that not getting things done is better than wasting the day trying in vain.  I knew going into this Monday that I would be distracted for a good part of the day watching the kids.  When it became apparent that my body needed much more sleep, I figured it wasn't such a bad option. 

People are constantly trying to cheat their body's need for sleep in an attempt to get ahead, burning the wick at both ends.  In the end, there is no substitute, no quantity of caffeine, no secret herb that can do what the right amount of sleep does for one's body and mind.  You can supplement your energy level with these things for a time, but there are always consequences, and they're usually not worth the initial gain.  Time and again I've worked too hard and too long to get the job done only to be laid up for the next week due to sickness or injury.  The time gained up front is never worth the losses on the backside.  

So here's to those days, however few and far between, that we actually seize the opportunity to find quality rest.  Cheers!

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Moments to Remember

I woke up just as I was grasping the reality that I would never see my little girl again.  I can't explain the dream really; I just know my daughter was dead.  It's a familiar feeling, but one I can live without ever experiencing again, which isn't very likely.  It took me a few seconds to realize it was all a dream, after which I immediately got up to give my little girl a hug and prove to myself she was ok.  As unpleasant as the dream was, it did help me remember what I hoped to accomplish today: staying mentally focused on the present and enjoying the moments with my family.

I took everyone on a little road trip to Kansas City and we all had a great time.  If you have kids between two and twelve, Legoland Discovery Center in KC is awesome.  After the lego shenanigans, we went back outside to let the kids and dog run around for a bit.  At first it seemed a little too chilly and breezy for our tastes.  Kate and I normally would have packed everybody up and headed home within minutes.  

We would have missed out on the amazing open grassy areas, the fountains, the waterfalls, and the warm orange sunlight covering it all in the most picturesque way.  The kids wouldn't have been able to explore, to run, to challenge daddy to a few races (which I won of course ;), or throw coins in the fountain.  When our impatient, future focused brains tried to pull us away, I remembered to focus on the moment and make the best of it.  I thought to myself, what's the rush?  If this was your last day, what would you do?  So we stayed.  It was the best decision I made this week.  Miley, our Jack Russell, couldn't agree more: 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Speed Writing

I must apologize to all five of you who read these posts. The last week or so has been very difficult for me to get in front of the computer and write for my journal. I never thought it would be so hard to put something down on paper so simple as a journal every single day. This is a habit I needed to create and, as described in the initial blog, I think it will be good for me if nothing else.

That said, I am currently on the interstate dictating this blog into my phone (I promise I will edit it when I get home). I have thought about the possibility of doing this in the past but discarded the idea because I didn't think I would be able to avoid editing it as I went. I thought about what would happen if I sent a post that I had dictated without even looking at it for editing purposes. I think we all know how that would turn out. Actually, they might be more interesting if I did that. My inspection reports always seem to attract more attention when I don't edit my notes...

 Septic Siri... SEPTIC!!!

Septic Siri... SEPTIC!!!

After careful consideration, I've decided to dictate now while my brain is still working and edit when I get home. Welcome to my first blog post "written" at over 80 miles per hour. 

So I guess I will just talk about what is on my mind at this point. I am constantly being reminded of how important it is to focus on the present moment instead of being lost in useless mental chatter all the time. This week especially, as I was traveling from one construction site to another, I caught myself in almost a manic mental state. My thoughts were jumping from one topic to another and back almost constantly for no reason at all other than that I wasn't telling them where to go. 

Just before dictating this I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode where he and his guest are talking about raising kids. Josh, his guest, has a young son whom he is teaching to meditate and understand his inner self (it's not as woo woo as it sounds). He also talked a lot about understanding and learning from his kid by being present when he is with him.  This is something I think most parents struggle with these days with all of the easily accessible distractions we have. I know my wife and I both often choose to get on the hamster wheel (Facebook, Twitter, E-mails, etc) instead of interacting and engaging with our kids. Sometimes we just need a break, and that's fine, but I think more often than not, the distractions are what wear us down. 

Our kids need us to lead and guide them in this life. If we aren't there mentally when we are with them, what message is that sending? I have known this for some time and have been struggling to focus on those moments when I'm with my family.   The podcast I just heard put things into perspective for me. Listening to this man describe his relationship with his son showed me what mine can, and I hope will, be like with my kids.  

Josh talked about when his son was a baby, he would just sit there and look into his eyes and if something started to distract him, his son's gaze would bring his attention back to him. Now that his son is older, he does the same thing by gently grabbing Josh's face and pulling his dad's focus back to him. The few times where my son or daughter and I have really focused on each other's eyes have been such powerful moments for me. A few times I have glanced over as one of my kids was staring at me, waiting to see if I was paying attention to them. Those moments are heartbreaking for me as a father, because I know there are many many more where I didn't even notice them waiting for me to look; waiting for their hero to notice them, to connect with them, to be proud of them.

In about 30 minutes I will be home where I can look into those big blue eyes and reconnect with my two precious babies. Then tomorrow my family is coming on the road with me for a short trip just so we can spend the day together as I travel for one more day this week.  I hope I will be able to keep my mind from running away with the distractions of life, to stay focused on them as we spend the day together.  

It's amazing how the most important things are often right in front of me as I search, strive, and worry about what may or may not come tomorrow.  I am often reminded, as I was today, that this very moment is the only one I am promised. It's up to me to make the very best of it; to enjoy it, to feel it, to cherish it. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Smiley People

Over the past few days I've been surprised by how many joyful, vibrant people I've run into.  Two different cashiers at two different Wal Marts had me walking out wondering why they were so happy.  The guard at the gatehouse this morning made me laugh when I was hardly awake moments before.  Then tonight, a Qdoba employee's sunny disposition lifted me up at the end of a long day of work. 

In each encounter, those people were able to see the lighter side of me, a side that doesn't come out when I'm working very often.  All it took was a small effort to go beyond the normal "how's the weather" routine.  I guess it struck me that, more often than not, we go through our day focusing on the task while ignoring the people right in front of us.  It reminded me to focus on the people I meet every day; to bring out their lighter side.  Something to work on tomorrow...

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Sleep Blogging

I'm so tired right now I can't think let alone type.  Up at 0500, home by about 2000, and tons of work in between.  I made it about half way through the day before I started to feel the scratchiness in the back of my throat.  Kate and the kids have had this crud for a while now.  Literally every time they all get sick, I start out feeling great.  Right when I start to think I'm in the clear, I get sick.  Every stinkin time!  At least it's not the stomach flu. 

The glass is half full, the glass is half full... whatever this sucks! 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

 

Self-Driving Cars

I love driving; so much so that I actually dread the day cars drive themselves.  Maybe “dread” is too strong a word, but I don’t get very excited about a future where driving is truly dead.  I mean, we’re already half way there at this point in America.  Hardly anyone can really drive their car.  You just have to watch any busy parking lot for 15 minutes and this becomes painfully obvious.  

Sometimes, though, I wish my car would drive itself.  Today was one of those days.  I was so stinking tired I just wanted to kick back and let the car do the rest.  Man it’s painful to be that tired, knowing that giving into the temptation to close your eyes could mean a fiery death.  A self-driving car would have been helpful. 

I suppose having one for those long road trips would be nice too.  It would be like having a mobile office, allowing me to get work done during all those otherwise wasted hours behind the wheel.  Shoot, an overnight trip wouldn’t be bad either.  Sleep on the way! Why not!?  I wonder how soon we’ll be there… Google?

Maybe it won’t be so bad after all.  I’ll be able to be more productive, or more asleep, while on the road and all the terrible drivers out there just won’t be driving anymore.  Sounds like a win win!  I can only imagine the day when cars actually obey basic traffic laws and don’t honk at you when they do something wrong.  Beautiful.  Heck, maybe the government could even offer a crappy driver stimulus package.  

“This is a public service announcement.  If you suck at driving, you qualify for a down payment on a brand new self-driving car!”  This ad was sponsored by Americans Against Dumb Drivers.  

Every boy has a dream.  

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Holes in a Box

I tend to be blunt, often preferring the direct path to the point over the “around the bush” route.  It’s not that I long for confrontation, I just don’t mind it.  It is easy for me to separate the topic at hand and the emotion involved.  It’s not personal. 

The challenge for me with the podcast is communicating the truth in a straightforward, no holds barred style, while not starting fires.  There will always be someone who takes things the wrong way, but I have to do my best to make it easy for people to be a part of the conversation.  Offending people won’t get us anywhere.  

Am I going to sugar coat things?  Nope.  Sorry not sorry!  I just have to be clear about my intentions and constantly remind myself: this is not about you, this is not about your opinion, this is about bringing the truth to your listeners.  

I must be the first to set aside my personal feelings, which are based on my very limited (in the grand scheme) life experiences.  Each and every one of us has a perspective, like looking through a small hole from the box in which we live.  If we aren’t willing to look through someone else’s hole, we will never see beyond our little slice of the world.  Every human being has a chance to see the world from a different angle. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

History Matters

Eastra, the goddess of spring, is where the name for Easter originated.  She represented fertility and renewal, and was often depicted with the hare, another symbol of fertility.  But the holiday, as it exists today, is really about a very different historical event: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

I have often found that people who don't believe in God or Christianity haven't even dealt with the historical figure of Jesus at all, as if he didn't exist.  I, for one, wouldn't be very confident in my spiritual beliefs if they ignored the most well known historical figure of all time who claimed to be God's very son.  I'm not a shrink, but I think that qualifies as denial. 

Happy Easter! 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Heart Attack

Today I woke up to my phone ringing even though it was on do not disturb.  The person calling would never call so early unless it was something serious.  I’ve been here before and I knew I had to answer.  The news: a close family member may have just had a heart attack.

I have been reminded all too often that tomorrow is never a guarantee.  My sister suddenly dying when she was only 17, my dad at 54.  In both cases, there was no warning and really nothing anyone could have done.  

The Lessons Always Fade

During those times I thought I’d never again take tomorrow for granted or say “goodbye” to a loved one without including, “I love you.”  Life has a way of washing away those painful lessons, while at the same time creating the ruts that keep us mindlessly trudging along through the mud.  We forget that life is fragile, just a vapor in the wind. 

Today I’m just happy to be here.  Tomorrow is wishful thinking. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

Head, Meet Wall

Two days with not much to show for it.  To be honest, today was pretty discouraging.  I tried to keep working through the fog but eventually I just realized nothing good would come from my efforts; I was just banging my head against the wall.  It’s a combination of many things: having to watch the kids this afternoon, a messed up back, and everyone in the house just not feeling 100%. 

I am learning to not force the issue when it comes to creative work.  I naturally hate leaving anything unfinished, so setting a project down when it’s nowhere near done is insanely difficult for me to do.  But this project deserves to be done right and I’m not rushing it.  Maybe covering the behemoth of Ferguson as one of my first shows wasn’t wise, but I’m willing to throw it out if it doesn’t turn out well.  

I can’t help but wonder how many people are even interested in Ferguson anymore.  It’s been a year and a half since Micheal Brown died.  But most people don’t know much about the Michael Brown shooting except for what they saw on the news when it was still bringing in the ratings.  By the time real information about the incident was made public, it wasn’t news anymore.  At the very least, Police Academy listeners will be informed on one of the most influential incidents in recent law enforcement history. 

Tomorrow is a new day, another gift, a fresh start. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing

More on Fear

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about my intro blog called Giving Fear the Bird.  He made an observation that I think is worth discussing, as I’m sure others had similar thoughts.  For those who haven’t read it, the post explains why I’m writing a daily blog: to help people get to know me as a person and to overcome my own fear of what others will think of my content. 

My friend noted his surprise at my writing about fear.  His initial reaction was based upon an assumption which is totally reasonable; that police officers aren’t afraid.  It makes sense, considering when everyone else is running away from danger, cops run toward it.  In fact, many officers long for the day they are thrown to the wolves.  Many are adrenaline junkies who love to see how close they can get to the fire without getting burned.  A little singed hair is always a good time, right!?  

I’ve been asked many times if I was ever afraid on the job.  I’ve found it somewhat difficult to answer in the past.  How do you define fear?  There were many times my hair stood up and I went into high alert mode.  My eyes sharpened, my muscles prepared for whatever I was about to demand of them, my hands readied for the quick draw (of any tool on my belt, not just the gun).  

I don’t remember feeling scared or afraid.  I was anxious for what might be coming my way, for what danger loomed inside that dark vehicle or back alley.  I was excited to win the encounter.  I was prepared.  To me, my adversary was woefully disadvantaged.  Yes, he had the luxury of making the first move, but I would decide the course of the battle.  This is what I was trained for. 

To be honest, those are the moments I longed for as an officer.  There are many careers out there where you can help people and stand for justice.  What separates law enforcement from the rest is the fight, the chase, the adrenaline pumping, high speed, toxic environment.  I loved those moments. 

Offer a cop the choice of running down a violent criminal or a public speaking gig, 95% of them will pick the bad guy.  They are wired and trained in a way that makes them look fearless in the face of physical harm, but they still feel many of the same worries, stresses and fears as everyone else.  Paying the bills on time, kids getting through school, fixing a broken marriage, or the failing health of a parent; these are all things cops deal with as much as anyone else. 

My friend realized the error of his assumption (that police officers don’t feel fear) before I even pointed it out.  He had the presence of mind to follow the logic that, if cops are humans, they must feel fear just like the rest.  He may not have ever discovered this false assumption had I not written that blog post.  While he had worked things out to the truth before I wrote this post, I wanted to be clear for those who haven't yet.  

ALL POLICE OFFICERS FEEL FEAR!

I won’t often claim to speak for every officer, but in this case, I can.  Some individual officers may deny it, but only for the same reason that it must be true: they’re human. 

The next time you meet a police officer, try to see the human beneath the sometimes cold, professional appearance on display.  Appeal to their humanity.  Have a real conversation.  Ask about their hobbies, their family, their interests.  Look hard enough and you will surely debunk all kinds of assumptions you didn't even know you'd made about the police. 

 

Do Good || Be Strong || Fear Nothing