Loss and the Erosion of a Human Being

Feelings of loss permeate my existence. They often lie just below the surface of my conciousness, occasionally jumping out like flying fish that pop out of the ocean. Problem is, the feeling does not disappear back into my subconscious. And there are more fish than ever swimming around and popping up inside my head.

Loss seems connected to every facet of my life right now. Each one seems to have eroded a little piece of me. And although I’m working on rebuilding myself (the topic of a future blog post), I’m missing pieces. I’m incomplete, which makes rebuilding all that much harder.

What kind of loss has worn on you? Here’s a brief list of what I’m struggling with on a daily basis:

Loss of energy; loss of time with my boys; loss of our two daughters; Grandma Frances; Grandpa Rick; our families in New York (we’re currently living in Wisconsin); loss of my youth; financial stability; loss of intimacy; loss of the relationship my wife and I had before we had kids (dates, holding hands, long talks about something other than survival, romance). Until recently, I had lost my dream of making the world a better place.

Something I often wonder about is the loss of innocence. I still remember when I lost mine as a child. It happened on four separate occasions – all of which involved my father. Am I contributing to the loss of innocence of my boys?

I feel so burnt out. Every week, a little more so, making the week before somehow seem more bearable. I feel hopeless that I will never accomplish some of my big life goals.

But then I realize: these are only feelings, and they’re based in fear. Fear of more loss, which equates (at least to a degree) fear of failure. These fears are a poor representation of my reality. Whether these negative perceptions become my reality is up to me, because FEAR is really False Evidence Appearing Real. This is an acronym I’ve learned, and it’s true.

But knowing this doesn’t make the fear magically go away. I am afraid of loss, and I’m connecting all of the losses in my life to my current situation, fearing more loss.

I’m having trouble getting things done. Goals that, for the most part, should be easier to accomplish. What makes it worse is that these goals, once accomplished, will put me and my family in a better place.

My wife says I’m being hard on myself. She’s right. But you know what? It’s up to me to do these things. There’s nobody else who’s going to do it for me. My family is depending on me and I feel like I’m failing.

I’m struggling. Why is it so hard to admit that?

Beyond all of the emotion, all the exhaustion and the pain, I realize the biggest loss would occur if I gave up. I refuse to give up, and so should you. As long as we’re breathing we can change our lives, we can help others do the same.

So after this fairly depressing article I have something to ask of each and every one of you:

Please don’t give up.

And remember, you are not alone…

Do You Have Spirituality in Your Life?

It’s been almost two years since Daddy Brain posted its first article.

Way back when, one of my goals was to write blog posts about spirituality. But the only one that resembles a spiritual post has the word schmuck in the title, so I’m guessing there’s more to explore.

Many of the issues I’ve written about – including discipline, yelling, hitting, manifesting reality, and giving kids a voice of their own, have a spiritual component. These articles touch on treating our children, ourselves and others better and living life with integrity. And as difficult as these things may sometimes be to do, they’re even more difficult if we don’t have a spiritual connection.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and sell you on any type of religion or spiritual practice. But I do want to ask:

Do you have spirit in your life?

Notice I didn’t say religion, because religion does not automatically include a living, breathing spirituality. Do you feel a connection to Universe, God, Wakan Tanka (Native American), Buddha or some other form of spiritual practice? Have you ever?

These questions are crucial for two reasons:
(1) Being tapped into spirituality reminds us that there’s something (or someone) bigger than us to help us through our lives. In the mayhem of each day, it’s easy to forget that we’re constantly supported. It’s easy for our sprit to get buried. But spirituality helps center and ground us. And if we acknowledge and trust this support – life flows easier and goals are attained more readily.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have to do our part. A great example is the joke about the drowning man. Have you heard it?

There was an old man sitting on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into his house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came by and the people on board said, “We have to evacuate, you can’t stay here!” The old man replied, “No, God will save me.” So the boat left.

A little while later, the water was up to the second floor when another rescue boat came. Again, the old man was told to evacuate and hop on board. The old man again replied, “God will save me.” So the boat left.

An hour later the water was up to the roof and a helicopter flew over the old man’s house, dropping him a ladder. The pilot yelled down, “grab on and climb up! I’ll get you out of here safely!” Again the old man refused to leave stating that, “God will save me.” The helicopter flew away to save others.

Soon after, the man drowns and goes to heaven. When he sees God he asks him, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God replied, “You dummy! I tried! I sent you two boats and helicopter — what more do you want?”

I’m sure you’ll agree the point is obvious — we simply must take action.

(2) If we do not live with spirit on a daily basis, who will teach our children to? I’ve known people who are not comfortable with formalized religion, so they forgo cultivating a true spiritual life. This was my problem for a very long time.

Living with spirit does not necessarily mean praying on one’s knees every day, going to church, or sitting in the lotus position (if you can get into it) and chanting. But these are options that work for people.

On a practical level, “living with spirit” is being kind to others, helping others, doing what’s right (not what’s convenient), living with integrity and being honest. It’s being mindful and as centered as possible (deep breaths are helpful with this).

Our children are depending on us to teach them these qualities.

And remember, you are not alone…

Little Acts of Love, by Paul Peterson

I came across a wonderful article at one of my favorite blogs, paulpetersonlive.com. I was so moved by Paul’s message, I felt it was important to share with you:

Last night our family took a friend of ours to Cracker Barrel for his 30th birthday. Our friend is from Honduras and speaks broken English (though he’s getting better all the time). My Spanish is limited to what I’ve picked up by watching Dora the Explorer with “The Ladies”. We have a good time together. I probably amuse him with my lame attempts to speak Spanish. I’m such a gringo.

While we were ordering, I slipped our waitress a slip of paper that said, “My friend had a birthday. Let’s go crazy!” They did! After dinner they brought him some peach cobbler and sang a rousing and VERY loud “Happy Birthday!”

I watched my friend. His eyes were wide with multiple emotions ranging from fear to amazement. When they were done and left he looked down at his cobbler for a long time. I saw him biting his lip. I was biting mine too. So was Sherri.

We sat with tears in our eyes. Silent. Hesitant to talk for fear we start bawling.

After a few minutes my friend looked at me and said, “No one has ever sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me.” He went on to say that this year even some of his closest family has not called and wished him a “Happy Birthday.” He said, “I will remember this day for 50 or 60 years.”

I have thought much about this experience. What is it about a little thing (an evening, a dinner, a song) that can make adults cry and create a memory that will never be forgotten?

Here’s what I’m thinking, we know we are to love one another. Often we look for the BIG ways to show our love, and because we can’t find or afford the BIG ways we put our love on hold. We live with the knowledge that we should… but we don’t. Consequently we live unfulfilled Christian lives.

MAYBE we should stop waiting for the BIG and start doing the little, and in doing so we may just find that LITTLE is big.

What LITTLE thing can you do for someone today to show them you love them?

Remember this, what may seem “little” to you may be HUGE to someone else! Go for it!

And remember, you are not alone…

Can a Smile Transform Your Life?

I’ve seen this commercial a few times now, and every time I see it I wonder:

Why can’t I be more like this dad? Why don’t I smile more?

Look, I know the guy is probably an actor, but it’s a valid question. Most days I find myself struggling in some way. Issues like exhaustion, finances, work, my family’s health, and isolation have a way of taking their toll. We all have our own struggles, but I am tired of mine all to often defining how I act – especially because how I’m acting is not true to who I am.

I have been stuck in reacting vs. responding for far too long.

No matter what the situation – is fretting, stressing or lamenting going to fix anything? Or make it worse? I’m determined to adopt this habit of smiling (and enjoying life more) into my existence.

In many ways, I’m setting a good example for my boys. But I have room for improvement on this one.

And remember, you are not alone…

Being Grateful, Even When You’re Down

Picture 6Sometimes the struggles of the day weigh me down.

From the time I leave the house until the time I get home I feel so isolated. My goals, so clearly defined, seem so far away from accomplishment — leaving me feeling like they may never manifest.

It’s important to remember that these are just feelings. Whether it is truth or not is up to me.

So it’s time to remind myself what I’m grateful for — to shift my focus off what I don’t have, to what I have been blessed with.

I am grateful for:
– My two healthy boys, Max & Joss, who love me even though I’m not perfect
– My beautiful wife, Kara, who believes in me even when I perceive things as hopeless
– Having a job to support my family
– My family in NY, including the handful of friends that have become brothers & sisters
– My home
– Grandma Frances
– Paul Chang
– The CD player in my car, which allows my 1.5 hour daily commute to be enlightening
– Bagels and Dunkin’ Donuts French vanilla coffee
– My boss
– The ability to run 3-miles and feel good (mentally and physically)
– Hope. For without it there would be no chance for improvement
– The gift that the Universe has given me to write and express myself
– My wife’s Italian wedding soup
– My cat
– My Moleskin notebook
– Ghostbusters (the original)
Zig Ziglar
– The Sedona Method
– Slim-cut shirts and jeans
– My blog
– My laptop
– Honets Tea
– Depeche Mode

What are you grateful for? Do you let the important people in your life know how you feel?

I’ll never forget something Muhammad Ali once said, “what you are thinking about, you are becoming.” I’m doing my best to let go of my negative feelings. The more I think negative, the more it will creep into my reality.

Screw that! I’m thinking positive.

And remember, you are not alone…

A Fresh Look at Goals: for Parents, Kids & the Family (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about methods that help us define and develop goals.

Once you’ve clarified what they are, the next step is breaking each goal into down into manageable steps, so we can set out with a plan on how to accomplish them. This plan may need frequent adjusting. This is not only OK, but a healthy part of the process.

As we move along and things clarify, we sometimes find that part of a plan simply does not work. This is NOT to be considered failure, it is a mini-success because with the adjustment in our plan we align ourselves more closely with the end goal.

Ultimately, if we take steps on a daily basis (no matter how small) we can attain our goals. It’s important to remember that we may not reach our goals on the intended date. Some things are out of our control. And if you’re a parent, lack of time and energy are real obstacles that may hinder rapid accomplishment. Fear not, it’s still possible, as long as you become crystal clear about what you want and how you’re going to get it.

The good news is that if we do this ourselves, we wind up teaching our kids how to do it, too. It’s a winning situation for everybody.

Here’s snapshot of what my mentor, Zig Ziglar, says about the goals process. His fantastic book, See You At The Top, goes into great detail about this subject (see a full list of recommendations at the end of this article).

1)     Identify EXACTLY what I desire
2)     Spell out exactly why I’d like to reach these goals
3)     List the obstacles I need to overcome in order to get there
4)     Identify the people, groups and organizations I need to work with to get there
5)     Identify what I need to know (learn) in order to reach these goals
6)     Develop a plan of action
7)     Set a date on it. When do I expect to get there?

One additional thought. If this all seems overwhelming, that’s normal. You can’t possibly answer all of these questions all at once. If you’re just starting the process, you may not be able to answer any. But if you allow yourself to believe that you can do this, you will. If you believe that you can’t, you won’t. In other words, your perception will create your reality.

SPEAKING OF KIDS
It’s never too soon to help our kids learn to set their own goals. By this I do not mean us setting goals for them, that’s different (and also necessary).

For instance, my son Max is in kindergarten. I shouldn’t expect him to be able to answer the following: “So, what are your plans to get to college?”

But I can help him set some goals for the coming school year. Any extra-curricular activities he might want to partake in (ie: swimming or track and field…) I also like to discuss future goals with both him – from career to family plans. I do this with my 3-year old, too. It helps my boys develop their frontal lobe, which is so important in decision making and problem solving.

There are too many young adults that have not idea how to set a goal, or what to do with their lives.

OUR GOALS
I’d like to take a deeper look at the kindergarten to college analogy. ANYBODY who tried to look at this scenario as a point A to point B endeavor would be completely overwhelmed. Here’s a way it can be broken down:

Kindergarten (where I’m at) to College (the goal)
the step-by-step approach to accomplishing my goal:

– Section it off by grammar school, middle school, high school and college.
– Now break it down by grade (year): kindergarten, grade 1, etc.
– By semester
– By month
– By week
– By day
– By class

You get the idea. Each step leads us to the ultimate goal, but it’s much easier to build upon if you start from the “by class” goal. Now it’s manageable – a small enough bite that you can actually chew on it, instead of choke on it.

FAMILY GOALS
Family goals could be anything from spending more time together, taking a family vacation, helping each other get in shape, fixing up the house, etc…

Sometimes an individual’s goal becomes a family goal. For instance, my son Max wants to be a NASCAR driver.

This is his goal. But since he’s only 5, it’s my job (and my wife’s job) to help him attain it – making it a family goal.

My first step is bringing him to a kart race to gauge his interest level. Once he sees exactly what kids’ kart racing entails (this actually exists for kids his age), what does he think?

My responsibility is to help both boys set goals that are realistic and attainable (but not necessarily easy). I can’t expect Max to drive a full-sized car right now, but there are karts he can drive, or he can play a driving game on the Playstation, etc…

If we make goal setting a way of life for ourselves and our kids, we can all expect more fulfilling and less frustrating lives.

Is it easy? NO.

Have I accomplished everything? Hardly.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It’s a long road, but the sooner we get on the better off we’ll be.

And remember, you are not alone…

For further reading & listening:

Zig Ziglar
– See You at The Top (Highly reccomended book)
– Goals (audio CD’s)

Jack Canfield
The Success Principles
(also available on audio CD)

Brian Tracy

A Fresh Look at Goals: for Parents, Kids & the Family

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to the same old daily grind.

This is true whether you’re a kid or an adult. Fall is the start of a new season, and with it comes opportunity.

You might be wondering – opportunity for what Daddy Brain? Raking up the leaves?

Nope. It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at goals ­­– for ourselves, our kids and our family.

Gaining a clear picture of our goals is a huge step in attaining them. If we can “see them,” then we can move toward them. Think about it as if you were driving cross-country in your car. It’s the middle of the night. There are no street lights. No headlights. Not even a dashboard light (hey, this is starting to sound like a Meatloaf song).

Tough, right? How can we reach our destination, let alone see ten feet ahead of us, under these circumstances? I think you’ll agree it’s much easier to see with headlights. Now add a GPS and you’ve got both short term goals (headlights) working in tandem with long-term goals (the GPS), all focused on that final destination.

Very powerful.

It’s the same with goals. We can’t truly begin the journey until we can see where we’re going (which makes clearly defining our goals an important goal in and of itself). Depending on where you are in life, this could take some time.

According to Jack Canfield, “one of the easiest ways to begin clarifying what you truly want is to make a list of 30 things you want to do, 30 things you want to have, and 30 things you want to be before you die.”

Brian Tracy puts it this way:
“Imagine that 5-years from now your whole life has been made perfect in every respect. Every aspect of your life. All your dreams have been fulfilled; every goal has been achieved. What would it look like if 5-years from now your life was ideal in every way?

Where would you be in five years?

Who would you be with?

What would you be doing?

How well would you be doing it?

How much would you be earning?

What kind of home would you live in?

What would be your level of physical fitness?

What would your family be like and your relationships?

How would your children be doing?

If your life were perfect 5-years form now in every respect – what would it look like?”

He goes on to raise more questions before he mentions that the 5-years are going to pass. No matter what. “And if you’re crystal clear about what your life is going to be like in 5-years, your chances of making that a reality go up about 1,000%.”

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll examine what to do with these goals once we’ve defined them. How to take our goals, set a plan of action and attain them? We’ll also take a look at family goals &  how to teach goal setting & accomplishment to our kids.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related links:
A Fresh Look at Goals: for Parents, Kids and the Family, Part 2

For further reading & listening:
The Daddy Brain Book Guide (has many recommendations on the subject of goals)

Zig Ziglar
– See You at The Top (Highly reccomended book)
– Goals (audio CD’s)

Jack Canfield
The Success Principles
(also available on audio CD)

Brian Tracy

30 Days to Becoming a Better Parent

Picture 1My friend and fellow dad, Chris from Dad of Divas, is running a special free program for dads.

“I am embarking on an ambitious effort of providing some insights into parenthood and sage wisdom that has either been shared or that I have researched in regards to parenthood, and what it takes to be a great parent.”

This is a great opportunity for us to gain a better understanding of ourselves while making some improvements, too.

If you have a minute, click this link and join us.

And remember, you are not alone…

The Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated

There’s something I needed to be reminded of today:

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Simple? Yes. Easy to do? Not always. But the rule holds true whether we’re dealing with our spouse, our kids or our coworkers.

Sometimes it’s hard…
…like when we get caught up in trying to accomplish a short-term goal (a manager looking to “save” money by not giving a valued employee a raise), we sacrifice the long-term (his/her productivity goes down costing the company much more than the aforementioned raise).

Quite often it’s a matter of letting go of the need to control a child’s actions, a spouse’s health, keeping your company in the black, etc.

If we’re having the need for control, it’s easy to get frustrated when things don’t go exactly as we’d like. This often results in lashing out towards the very people we want to help the most. When this happens, we could be pushing that person (or situation) in the complete opposite direction of our desire.

But if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and try to get an understanding on THEIR POSITION, we just might be able to offer an empathetic ear and give them the support they really need instead of trying to control them.

Something Jack Canfield, speaker & co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, said has stuck with me:

“High intention, low attachment.”

I think this is great advice. But how do we have low attachment to someone’s health or our future? I think part of the answer is that “low attachment,” does not mean not caring. It’s more about letting go of anxiety and the need to control.

This is something I struggle with every day.

And remember, you are not alone…

Get Motivated by Successful Failures (Part 1)

Picture 1Some of America’s greatest success stories almost didn’t happen.

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team? Following this rejection he went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having no imagination and no original ideas.

Even The Beatles failed. Before they became “popular,” they were turned down by Decca Records who claimed, “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

One of Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything, and that he should go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.”

What would have happened if these people would have listened to the criticism?

Whether the criticism spurred them to greatness or not, one thing is for sure: the deciding factor in their success was not their talent. It was their ability to get back on their feet – sometimes countless times and try again.

You can do the same.
How? By learning each lesson you need to learn from your “failures,” and trying again – as many times as it takes. Do the work that needs to be done, as best you can each day. No matter how daunting. Step-by-step, day-by-day, you will get closer to your goal until it is attained.

These successful failures are perfect examples that anything is possible.

Do you listen to the critics? Are you your OWN worst critic? If so, you may be denying the world your greatness. Not to mention your family, yourself and your bank account.

You do not have to settle for less than who you are. No matter what ANYBODY says.

If Jordan had settled for less, the Knicks might have actually won a title. Scotty Pippen would have had to score a LOT more points to create the Bulls legacy. And Dennis Rodman would have fallen into obscurity instead of becoming the greatest (and weirdest) rebounder in the league.

What if Edison would have listened? We might all still be sitting in the dark.

Whether you succeed or fail is up to you. It’s your responsibility. What do you choose?

Don’t forget, your kids are watching.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Get Motivated by Successful Failures, Part 2

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