The Art of Making Hard Choices

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Many years ago someone asked me in a job interview what I want to have happen upon my death.

I told the interviewer that I wanted the devil to call G-d and say “you better take him, because we can’t handle him.”

What I learned that day was the guy behind the desk was a man of significant faith and he thought it was inappropriate for me to speak about the devil in such cavalier terms.

Since I realized it was unlikely I would be offered a position and was certain I didn’t want to work for him I added my standard question/answer about why the devil went down to Georgia and not LA.

That didn’t go over very well either but I was ok because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I didn’t want to work there.

Life is always easier when the choices we have to make are easy but ease isn’t always available because life is filled with big decisions that are made harder because you can’t determine which decision is the best to make.

The Art of Making Hard Choices

Many years ago my family and I went on a day trip with my in-laws.

Since we had a Honda Odyssey that would seat everyone we figured it made sense to all travel in one car. It was a nice idea that lasted for all of 20 minutes.

Why?

Because my in-laws managed to find  a way to make me so angry with them I drove them back to their house and told them to get out of the car.

As you might imagine my wife and children were not happy and the ride down South was ugly. I was the only one who wasn’t crying and if I told you I didn’t second guess my decision I would be lying because I did.

But it didn’t happen in a complete vacuum.

Five minutes before I decided they had to go I pretended to have a bathroom emergency and pulled over at a gas station so that I could try to calm down.

I remember the moment vividly because I called my dad and said I had a question for him.

He asked me what I needed and then I shared my side and said, “I need your best advice.”

Dad laughed and told me that he couldn’t tell me what to do.

“This is your decision and I have confidence you’ll figure it out.”

“Dad, there is an art to making hard choices. I was really hoping you had figured it out and could help me.”

“Jack, try not to splash paint in your mother-in-law’s eye while you are painting and remember sometimes the best precedent you set is the one you don’t take. But don’t forget to establish clear boundaries either.”

He was laughing as he hung up the phone but I understood why and I made the best decision I could which is why they got kicked out of the car.

A Father’s Advice & A Man’s Choice

Why did I think about that story today?

Because I am in the midst of this transition I keep talking about and it is filled with some decisions that are more challenging in nature than whether to wear black or blue slacks.

And because last night my son asked me for some advice about a few things and I realized I couldn’t give him the kind of black and white answer he was looking for because sometimes it doesn’t exist.

But it didn’t stop me from thinking about what sort of advice and counsel I should give him. That Emerson quote above came because it fit my search for answers about hard choices.

“It is a reminder that the big things we try to do/achieve start with small steps and or gestures.

How Can I Make Better Choices?

The 17 long time readers know I don’t carry many regrets around with me.

That’s because I see little upside beating myself up about what I could have done. Doesn’t mean that the few regrets that I have aren’t substantial because they tend to be huge.

Those are the ones where I sometimes shake my head and wonder why I didn’t make a better choice. But I also know that some of that regret comes with the benefit of hindsight.

I can see what happened and pretend that if I had gone the other way it would have been better for me.

But even though I don’t spend much time wondering and worrying about what I could have done I still like to think about ways to make smarter/better choices.

Remember I am the dad who talks to his kids about working smarter and not harder whenever we can.

And that is how I came across a TED talk Ruth Chang gave about How To Make Hard Choices.

I thought it was interesting which is why I embedded it into the post and am sharing the excerpt below with you.

“So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be? You might decide to be a pink sock-wearing, cereal-loving, country-living banker, and I might decide to be a black sock-wearing, urban, donut-loving artist. What we do in hard choices is very much up to each of us.”Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices

I like the idea of using hard choices as another tool to identify who we are and who we want to be.

How about you?

The Crossroads Approaches

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Midnight approaches and I am back at the computer listening to Johnny sing Hurt and I Hung My Head.

The music eases my mind but there are no answers to be found within.

They say that if you want to make an informed decision you need to find the balance between the facts and you know and the things your heart says.

Tonight I get the sense that the crossroads of my life approaches soon and that I will be required to make some significant choices about what direction I choose to go in.

I don’t believe we only have one of these moments because I am certain there are multiple times that they appear. But the thing about them is that we don’t always recognize the moment they arrive nor do we always notice when that moment has passed.

All I am certain of is that I have done my best to open my eyes and expand my awareness so that I recognize them when they appear.

The Choices We Make

Perhaps I am mistaken about this moment and its magnitude. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened but I doubt it.

It might be premature.

Could be a few days or a week. Might even be a month but it doesn’t matter because the crossroads is coming and the time to make some big decisions approaches.

The moment in which I look at the present and peer out at the future and try to determine what the best course of action for my children and I will be.

When it happens I’ll do my best to do as Gladwell says and pick a course based upon deliberate action and instinct and hope that it works out half as well as I think it might.

I suppose you might say my mind is already made up about a few things and all that remains is for me to make the decision to take action.

And I will do it because I can live with being a man of action. I can accept making mistakes and adjusting on the fly whereas I cannot stand to watch life pass me by.

If our role in life is to serve as a painter than I choose to be the man who takes the brush and splatters the canvas with colors and deep brush strokes because it is better in my world to paint than be painted.

Life is about the choices we make.

A Battle Of Wills

I suppose part of what has me lost in deeper thought is the sense that this particular moment at the crossroads is going to be punctuated by a battle of wills and that my choices are not likely to be supported.

But the sense I get is that the opposition isn’t based upon fact or reason but upon fear.

I am not a fan of making choices based upon fear because far too often such choices are guided by surges of adrenaline that push us to run without thinking.

That can be effective for eluding lions and tigers but it is not a great way to make more complex decisions.

Adrenaline surges aren’t going to be useful for trying to encourage me to take a different path. I choose not to walk

I choose not to walk down the paths I already know because that is moving backwards and I see no reason to believe the scenery will be prettier or more exciting than it was the first time around.

It is time to take the road not taken because there is more opportunity for growth and progress. More opportunity for a happier and healthier dad and that has bigger benefits for my children than old and grumpy.

Into The Future We Go

It is time to move into the future and find out what lies behind door number one. See you all on the other side.

500 More Ways To Have Better Sex & Earn Money From Blogging

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I knew a man who once told a woman that he knew if they were trapped on an island with no one but each other he didn’t care because he was certain they would never get bored of each other.

Three days later they found his body on the banks of the Cuyahoga river. A large black purse lay next to it and

A large black purse lay next to it which I suppose is why the older couple that found him thought that perhaps it was the murder weapon.

Midway into their call to 911 they were shocked to see him roll over, dust himself off and stand up.

“Have you ever tried to catch a Pepper Pike? Those suckers are tough but what do you expect, anything that can survive the burning river is going to be a bit harder to handle.”

He paused for a moment and then told them the best places to catch one was in the Heights but made a point to say they still didn’t compare to capturing the mighty Gefilte, king of all fish.

Five Songs

  • The Living Years- Mike & The Mechanics
  • Something The Beatles
  • Baby, Now That I’ve Found You Alison Krauss & Union Station
  • Take The Long Way Home- Supertramp
  • Dazed And Confused- Led Zeppelin
  • Immigrant Song- Led Zeppelin

The more observant among you will notice there are actually six songs and not five in the bullet points above.

If you ask me why I’ll tell you I don’t wear a sweater because you are cold nor do I do things as other people do.

For example, when you say that is an exaggeration and that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time I’ll shake my head no and demonstrate how I jump into them both legs at once.

Is is unorthodox?

Yes, but it is damn effective and let me tell you it really impresses the ladies. Except when you accidentally trip and fly face first into the wall or door.

That doesn’t impress them, however it does make them laugh and if you play your cards right that laughter is useful. Make a girl laugh and you never know where the damn long and winding road John, Paul, George and Ringo told us about can take you.

When I wrote 500 Ways To Have Better Sex & Earn Money From Blogging 982.3 people complained that I didn’t provide 500 items they could use.

One man called me a dunce so I called him a dimwit and suggested he take a look at the word count of the entire post.

He did so and told me that it was more than 500 words so I pointed out that I under promised and over delivered.

Since he never responded I took that as proof of my victory over his provincial outlook and small minded manner.

Make More Money From Blogging

I need to focus on making more money from blogging because I have an evil neighbor who is playing his music so loud it feels like I am standing next to the speaker.

This shlemiel thinks that blasting the neighborhood with elevator music is a public service but he has no idea who he is dealing with.

Not only am I willing to hire a marching band to perform in his driveway from 3-5 AM five days a week I am ready to revisit How To Use 5000 Pounds of Bananas To Terrorize Noisy Neighbors.

They probably don’t know I am the guy who beat Inigo Montoya in a sword fight or that I once was the Captain of The Revenge but then again these aren’t things you typically share with people you aren’t particularly close with.

Six Songs

  • Kashmir- Led Zeppelin
  • Candy- Iggy Pop & Kate Pierson
  • Calypso- John Denver
  • Ain’t No Grave- Johnny Cash
  • Save the Last Dance for Me- Michael Bublé

The more observant among you will notice there are actually six songs and not five in the bullet points above.

If you ask me why I’ll tell you I wanted to see if the people who noticed there were six songs instead of five above noticed there were five songs instead of six here.

I walked out the door and set off for adventure all those years ago never imagining that life would be as entertaining or as tough as it has been.

Fought the monsters I could see and a few I couldn’t and though I didn’t win every battle I never did lose the war.

Midway through it all I wrote the story here and included the words below.

“Submit to possibility and potential and watch what happens.”

Who knew that would be taken literally. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride began shortly thereafter or maybe it started before it, I’m no longer certain.

What I do know is that when I told my kids life is filled with magic and mystery I did so because if you go through it with blinders on you miss out on both.

How This Ties Into Blogging and Money

Part of making a few bucks from blogging is tied into making sure you have eyeballs reading the words you put on the page.

You who have just finished reading this post are a part of the eyeballs I referred to.

Maybe you hung out because you thought this was too crazy to ignore or maybe it is because you were entertained. Doesn’t matter to me why because it is more important that you did.

Not every dad blogger writes about diapers or basic parenting. Some of us used to do those things when the kids were young, but now they are older and the tales we tell are different.

Now we see glimmers of a future that we couldn’t before and we are pushing to enter because the next chapter of life is almost ready to start.

Dumb Bloggers & Silly Fathers

makemistakes
The man looked at me and asked a series of questions about my experience and then followed up with a request to share my two biggest weaknesses and my greatest strengths.

It is not the first time someone has asked me to answer these questions and I have several answers I can give but I pause intentionally because I don’t want it to appear too polished.

Even though my answers are authentic I want to try to lend more gravitas to them so I take a deep breath and share a story.

He nods his head and moves on to the next set of questions and I wonder if my answers were sufficient or if he is simply on autopilot.

Fifteen minutes go by and I am certain he is happy with my answers or this would be over but that doesn’t negate the sense that he is not all there and I start wondering what would happen if I answer with movie quotes.

Perhaps we can revisit the whole greatest strength and biggest weakness bit so I can act out this scene from Real Genius:

Chris Knight: So, if there’s anything I can do for you – or, more to the point, *to* you – just let me know.
Susan: Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?
Chris Knight: Not right now.
Susan: A girl’s gotta have her standards.

I choose not to find out whether he is impressed by my ability to quote from movies and or share song lyrics that might be relevant because sometimes silence is the most useful resource we have at our disposal.

Hard Decisions & Easy Choices

I am stuck in traffic and thinking about the interview I just finished.

The bottom line is it went well and I am confident I have a very good shot at securing this position but I am still unsettled because even though I need the work this doesn’t feel quite right.

At best it is a bridge, just something to get by with and though there is no shame in that something about it bothers me.

The radio is off and all I have are my thoughts to keep me company when my mind decides I need to hear Everybody’s Talkin by Harry Nilsson.

For a moment I consider taking the next exit and heading to the ocean, if traffic isn’t bad I can be at the beach within 35 minutes.

Traffic is at a standstill so I have time to wonder if when I get there I’ll find a boat so I can make like Max and set sail for where the wild things are.

I would be happy to declare it time to let the wild rumpus begin.

My phone buzzes and I see my son is calling but I don’t take the call. I’ll be home soon enough and we’ll resume our conversation about the current middle school madness.

He’ll tell me about his frustrations with some things and I’ll remember that sometimes it is hard to be a teenager.

When he tells me what his friends advise him to do I’ll remind him it is easy for others to provide easy choices for how to handle our hard decisions.

“Be careful about taking advice from people who don’t have to live with the consequences of their advice.”

No Risk, No Reward

Somewhere in the midst of our conversation I’ll share the Teddy Roosevelt quote from above and supplement his words with my own and some from other people wiser than myself.

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When he asks me why I would contradict myself by sharing a quote dismissing quotations I tell him he needs to find the voice inside his head and heart and listen to it.

I tell him that it will help him figure out what the right thing to do is and that sometimes it means he’ll make a mistake.

He tells me he doesn’t want to cause more issues for himself and I tell him I understand but there is truth to “no risk and no reward.”

“Who says that dad?”

“Dumb bloggers and silly fathers.”

What Are You Going To Do?

I am back in the car trying to find that inner voice I spoke with my son about because I need to get a better handle on what I am doing.

People say to listen to our hearts and intuition and swear we can’t go wrong but I am having trouble buying into it.

Fear has crept inside my head and that little demon is doing his best to rally the troops. They want to release indecision and insecurity from their cages but I am fighting it.

Life is much easier when they are incarcerated.

The road doesn’t provide an epiphany or any revelations just the reminder that I can be the hero of my story and that I won’t know what could happen unless I take a chance.

What I fear most is letting fear push me into taking the easy path and going to down a path I already know so I remind myself that is unacceptable.

That inner voice cheers my decision and I think about explaining how I came to a decision by debating with a voice no one else but me can hear.

That ought to go over well.

Except the thing is, it really doesn’t have to be understood or approved by anyone other than me because this is one of those moments where I have to answer to myself.

One of those moments where I need to look in the mirror and know no matter how it shakes loose I did what was required because I am unwilling to live with the regret of not having taken a shot.

How Do You Recognize Windows Of Opportunity?

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The first step into your next adventure.

Some people say what is meant for you won’t go past you and others say that you cannot rely upon anyone or anything you cannot call on the telephone or get a cup of coffee with in person.

My own faith lies somewhere between the two because experience has taught me to do my best to act as the conductor of my life while life has proven that sometimes shit happens.

Even if I didn’t have my personal list of odd and unusual things that have happened to me or people I know I would still be cautious because the Internet has made it simple to watch and witness the bizarre, impossible, improbable and unusual.

Don’t believe me?

Ever watch any of the Failblog videos?

Fathers & Sons

I am a sentimental guy which is part of why I enjoy thinking about the past but I am also pragmatic and recognize that you can’t look backwards if it prevents you from moving forwards.

That doesn’t mean I have never spent a moment shaking my head about decisions I have made because it has happened more than once.

And though I want to say it won’t ever happen again I can guarantee there will be more moments where I wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Let’s all hope there are fewer of those and more moments where I smile because I look at what I have done and know I nailed it.

A couple of days before our seder I sat down with my dad and had a short conversation about the present and told him about my plans for the future and had to laugh because there was this Cat Steven’s Father and Son moment.

Or at least I thought it was going to be, you know one of those times where your parent looks at you and says ‘I told you so’ but I was wrong because it didn’t happen.

He smiled at me and said he was confident I’d figure it out.

I thanked him for the support and explained in detail about I feel like I blew some big opportunities several years back and why I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

‘Dad, you want to know how I know this bothers me. I am not sleeping and I never have trouble sleeping.”

How Do You Recognize Windows Of Opportunity?

Later that week I got to enjoy moving over from the son’s chair and into the dad’s seat because my son had questions for me.

My answers to him mirrored much of what my own father had said to me. I told him I was confident he would figure it out and that sometimes it is impossible to know what will happen in advance.

He asked me if that meant I would make us move and I said it might but I didn’t tell him how strong my desire to do so is.

I didn’t see any upside in doing so. He is a teenager and he doesn’t need to hear all of the stuff that bothers me about staying and why I would prefer not to.

One day we might discuss it, but not know.

So what we focused upon was trying to figure out how to recognize windows of opportunity, those moments where we have a chance to do something that might change our lives.

The funny thing is when I was younger I worried far more about taking one of those leaps because I liked being in my comfort zone and didn’t see much need to shake things up.

Might not have ever changed if life hadn’t happened and things hadn’t forced me to look for a new approach, but they did and I did.

Now I hate looking back at the moments where I didn’t take the chances I should have and do my best to ensure I don’t miss out on future events because of that fear.

Sometimes Change Is Good

I feel unsettled now.

Some of it is because the situation feels an awful lot like a poorly packed suitcase.

It is hard to carry because if you jostle the bag the contents inside slip and slop around making it unbalanced and awkward to move.

Some of it is because I have an idea about what I want to have happen. I see glimpses of a future that looks like it could be very promising.

What I can’t quite make out is if it resembles the echoes of the future I have thought of or if it is something entirely different.

Can’t say if one is better than another, I just know they are possible as are multiple other options.

I try not to get aggravated at the idea of staying but it is hard because doing so feels like a lie and a sham. Life here hasn’t been easy or rewarding for so long now I just don’t want to stick around to make it happen.

Doesn’t mean I can’t or that there haven’t been happy moments because both are true but I do believe that it doesn’t have to be as hard to make the changes and improvements I want.

Scratch that, the improvements I need.

Want Versus Need

Maybe what scares me is I think I see the opportunity to secure much of what I need and a handful of what I want.

The fear isn’t getting those things but missing out on them because of missing another one of those windows of opportunity.

Makes me wonder if maybe I should have had my blogging privileges revoked so I could pay more attention.

Maybe the thing to do is stop wondering and just accept the words of smarter men than I.

Einstein miracle