Another year dawns. Isn’t it wonderful? The next 12 months hold so much in store, and like a painter’s blank canvas, we decide what we will fill it with.
It’s a wonderful thing to stand at the helm of one’s own life and to know that whether the seas are smooth or tossed, the helm in your hands. You determine your destination.
Where will you be one year from now?
We will all be one year older – but what else will you have to show? Will your life be richer, your relationships fuller, your experiences deeper? Former US president Woodrow Wilson is credited with the following quote. It’s powerful:
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which always comes to those who sincerely believe that their dreams will come true.” - W. Wilson
What will you dream this year? Will you do your dreaming in the safety of the night, or will you be one of the few “dreamers of the day?”
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of them minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men for they live their dreams with open eyes. To such a man as this, all things are possible.”
Here’s to dreaming something worth dreaming in the coming year. May you stand at the helm of your dream and bring it safely home.
One of the things I enjoy about having a personal blog is the fact that it is, by its very nature, completely personal. There are no “themes” and therefore nothing can be “off topic”. I write these entries for me, and today I write more selfishly than ever because more than any other post, this one is personal.
My older brother is one of my best friends. He and his amazing wife lost their baby boy one week ago today. He was born prematurely due to complications known to the medical world as “Hydrops Fetalis”. Excess fluid caused developmental problems with his lungs, heart, and lymphatic system. Fate also delivered another unrelated yet difficult challenge as my soon-to-be nephew also had a genetic anomaly that doctors call Trisomy 21. You and I know this by its more common name, Down Syndrome.
The first 30 weeks of her pregnancy were “normal”. The checkups went well and baby and mother were healthy and in good condition. Imagine our surprise when the day before Halloween my brother calls to tell me that his wife went into hard labor and they were fighting hard not to deliver the baby.
In the days that followed there were tests after tests which ultimately led to the independent dual diagnosis of Hydrops and Downs.
The next 3 weeks were spent in anxious anticipation, knowing that baby Holden could come at any moment. Because of his combinations of conditions, our little guy would have an uphill battle. Nearly 3 weeks to the day after the initial onset of labor, Holden decided he couldn’t wait any longer. He was born just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, November 19 2012.
Little Holden lived for about an hour before peacefully slipping back to live with the angels. I was there with a few other family members and close friends. It was tender and touching, yet heart-wrenching and agonizing. It was sweetest of sweet and the most bitter of bitter.
Now, one week later I’m left thinking on that moment, viewing it through the lens of hindsight. I’m amazed by the impact my little nephew made on the lives of so many people. The outpouring of love from family, friends, and even complete strangers has been moving. I feel inspired in a way that I never have before.
Some months ago my brother and sister-in-law began the name selection process and had been leaning toward the name Holden. Knowing that their unborn son would face incredible difficulties were he to live and that the family would face incredible pain and loss should they lose him, they chose a middle name that would be a source of inspiration regardless of the scenario. They named him Holden Strong to remind him and us that life’s victories only come after remaining true during times of hardship. It’s easy to be great if you’re never challenged – but to be strong in the face of opposition is what makes us truly great.
We laid little Holden to rest last weekend in a beautiful, small cemetery near the home we all grew up in. He’s buried next to his great grandmother – a spot selected by his 3 year old big brother.
My heart and perspective will forever be different because of 60 minutes spent in the presence of a noble and great soul. Thank you Holden, for leaving the world a better place than it was when you found it.
We love you and are grateful to have had you in our lives.
an angel came to earth today
we named him Holden Strong
he touched our hearts and changed our lives
we knew he could not stay long
for Father had need of his valiant soul
the strength his spirit bore
to further God’s work and do His will
on life’s far distant shore
to live worthy now is the task for us
to be noble and strong like you
and so for now our angel son
we temporarily bid adeaiu
until we meet at our Lord’s feet
we shall nobly carry on
until that day our stalwart son
like you we’ll be Holding Strong
Today is election day. Millions of Americans are on needles and pins awaiting the outcome. Without doubt, this has been one of the closest and move negative and devise elections our country has seen. The nation is polarized. Millions of people feel that the very essence of our country and our future hang in the balance.
Are they right?
This morning while contemplating this land-mine landscape I had a sublime moment of clarity. In that moment, a thought about the impending election’s outcome came to me. The thought was that “it doesn’t matter.”
I don’t say that because I’m a pessimist or because I want to be martyr. I don’t say it because I’ve given up and resigned myself to a fate imposed on me by anyone other than myself.
I say it as an optimist.
The outcome of this election, be it Romney or Obama, simply does not matter to me.
The question can be answered by asking its opposite: why should it matter?
Does the occupant of the Whitehouse change the amount of personal responsibility that I have to be accountable for my own future success?
Do the policies coming from Washington relieve me of the privilege of working, of striving, and of pursuing excellence in my chosen field?
Does the outcome of this election, even for one fleeting moment, take away from me the duty that I owed to myself, my family, my community, and my nation, to be 100% accountable to myself for the outcomes of my life?
Tomorrow morning I will approach my life the same way I approached it today – with eyes wide open and fully fixed upon my target, knowing that I and I alone have the power to choose how I react to the things that happen to me, and that I and I alone am responsible for the success or failure that comes as a result of my attitude and my abilities.
Do I have political stances and viewpoints? Absolutely. But regardless of the political landscape, I choose to be accountable to myself and for myself. I choose a path of prosperity and abundant success.
I once had a colleague (I’ll call him John) that had a tremendously positive impact on my career. I’ll forever be grateful for the invaluable lessons he taught me. Virtually everything I know about getting stuff done and reaching a goal is because of his example. In a period of just a few months I soaked up one of the greatest, life-changing nuggets of knowledge I have ever acquired.
How did I learn so much from him in such short period of time? It’s simple. I watched what he did, and did the opposite.
So what did John do? Not much. That was the problem. John loved to “think” and “analyze” and “discuss” and “plan” and “diagram” and a number of other things that, albeit are part of the creative and execution process, but simply are no good if they are missing the most important ingredient of all. Swinging the bat.
So what do I mean? What was the one life-changing lesson that John taught me? It is simple. Success comes more quickly when you get busy getting busy. This is a mind-melting concept to some but it’s so simplistically and powerfully true.
Start your project quickly and with as much momentum as possible. If you start well and maintain a steady commitment and keep pushing when it gets a little choppy in the middle, you’ll end up just fine. And what do we call an endeavor that ends up just fine? That my friend, we call a success.
Still not quite getting it? Let me try putting it another way.
Teh graet Geerk phlisphoer, Arstiolte is crdeietd wtih coniing teh pharse, “wlle beugn is hlaf dnoe.” Idneed it is. Vitraully all prgoerss in lfie cmoes from rolilng up yuor slvees adn getitng bsuy.
Tehre is brlliiance in excetuoin and geuins in imlpemetnatoin. Why? Beaucse a medcoicre plan taht is abslotuely brlliiant in excetuoin will baet even teh most brlliiant plan taht is medcoicre wtih its imlpemetnatoin.
Tihs is the cnocpet that Jhon sturggeld to udnrestnad. He opreaetd mcuh like a gneral cotnratcor who refuesd to braek gruond on a contsrutcion prjoect utnil he had evrey nial, shignle, pipe, adn peice of lmber assebmled adn stroed sceurly onstie at the contsrutcion stie.
Plaese dno’t misudnrestnad me, plnnanig is a trmeenduosly impratont part of the sucess of any vetnure. But so mnay poeple, lkie Jhon, use these detials as a crtuch to delaay lanuchnig. Almst liek a baesball plyaer who prefrs to stay in teh dugout adn neevr step up to teh plate.
The piont is taht excetuoin, eevn if imprfect, is teh treu igntion piont of laerning. Only tehn can you collcet data, anaylze yuor fndings, recalbirate, adn cycel thru teh itertive laerning proces taht is absoltuely nesecsary for sucess.
Will u hit a hoemrun evry time yuo step to teh plaet? Of cuorse not. So why deludee ourslves into thniknig taht by stnding on teh siedline we aer “prepraing” for our big win?
Prepare as best you can, then step up to the plate. The only way to get on base is if you are willing to swing the bat. The longer you put it off, the more you delay racking up the points that will eventually win you the game.
The paragraphs above that were replete with spelling errors – 97% of the words were wrong. Yet somehow the reader still understood 100% of what was written. Weird isn’t it? I guess you don’t have to have every last detail perfect. Maybe, just maybe, your batting skills get better the more you step to plate and actually swing the bat;)
In December 2011 I set a personal goal to “write more” in 2012. I had no idea at the time that my colleague @DanBischoff would use that against me in his pitch to participate in the NYC Midnight short story competition. Now that it’s over, I’m glad he did.
Please be kind, this is my first attempt at fiction…
As a point of reference, this was Round 1, Group 10 of the NYC Midnight contest.
Subject: Memory loss
Character: The captain of a ship
It’s nice to meet you
The clank of the spoon against the bottom of the ceramic bowl made an eerie hollow sound in his ears. Lenny smiled. He liked that sound.
He lifted the bowl to his mouth as he pursed his lips and drew in the last few swallows of pink-hued milk, then swished the milk around his mouth like a fine, aged wine. He smacked his lips and ran his tongue between his lower lip and cheek to dislodge the remaining bits of partially chewed cereal.
“Why does Cap’n Crunch always leave the roof of my mouth so sore?” he muttered under his breath, half complaining, half smiling. “Rita, would you like some?” he shouted from the kitchen, directing his question to an unseen guest seated in the front room.
“No thanks Lenny.”
“Suit yourself,” he replied as he stepped backward, accidentally kicking the old grey cat that had gotten underfoot. “Stupid cat” he grumbled as he bent over and filled the food dish with the crumbly dusty remnants of the cereal box. Lenny didn’t like the remnants.
It was Tuesday and Lenny always ate Captain Crunch on Tuesdays. Always.
Rita had been Lenny’s case worker for nearly two years, but according to the notes in his file this had been his habit for at least nine years. She suspected the tradition was much older than that – possibly older than she was.
Rita was an attractive woman in her early 30s. The high cheek bones, straight black hair, and dark eyes gave her an exotic look that complemented her mixed heritage. Iranian father, Venezuelan mother. Both immigrated to the United States in their twenties. They met, fell in love, married, and had two children. The oldest was her brother Ricardo. Three years later she was born. When she was almost three years old her father fell from the third story scaffolding at a construction site where he was working as a roofer. Four months later he returned from the hospital owing more money than he had ever made in his life. He was unable to walk, much less work. They were evicted four times in the next two years. Each time her mom cried, and the more depressed her mother grew the more her father drank. Two weeks after her fifth birthday Rita’s father died in the bathtub of their two-bedroom apartment. Slipped and bumped his head and drowned they said. To this day her mother stands by that story. It would be 20 more years before Rita found the state record and death certificate that read “suicide”.
Her older brother left home the day he turned 18 and enlisted in the Marines. Since then she had only seen him twice: at his wedding, and at their mother’s funeral. Military life suited him — she imagined that he liked the distance it put between him and his painful past. She couldn’t blame him. Those were the same reasons that led her to become a social worker. Rita had been with Malibu Mental Health Services ever since she graduated nearly eight years ago. She didn’t like change.
“If you’d wear some damned lipstick and work on the curb appeal you might not be single.” Lenny grumbled as he shuffled past her chair in the front room on his way to his bedroom.
Rita laughed. A year ago she would have had little patience for such a comment, but somehow now she almost enjoyed the little jabs he would take at her. What do you expect from a retired Navy captain?
“If you were a little more presentable I’d introduce you to my son, Matthew,” continued Lenny, “but he only dates the pretty girls.”
There he goes again. It was nice while it lasted. Lenny’s lucid moments where becoming fewer and farther between. Since Malibu Health first began contracting for the Ventura VA Hospital nine years ago he had occasional documented episodes of delirium and memory loss, but they were infrequent and generally short lived. That was nine years ago – a lot had changed in the past few years. It was alarming how quickly he seemed to deteriorate. Rita used to visit twice a month. Now she visited twice a week and even that wasn’t enough.
Several moments had passed since the old man shuffled into his bedroom. Rita had been caught up in her thoughts and glanced anxiously at the clock on the kitchen wall. It read 9:19 a.m. There was still plenty of time but she was growing restless. You just never knew how long things would take with Lenny these days.
“Mr. Penbrook, is everything okay?” Her voice mixed with the sound of the lawnmower creeping in through the open window. She had been sitting next to it for 20 minutes without noticing it was open.
“Yes, who is it?”
She could hear him moving so she remained in her seat. The old man slowly made his way down the short hallway. His thin white hair was still matted and his thick bifocals had slid dangerously close to the end of his nose. An arm of his glasses was suspended in mid air. He had shaving cream spread haphazardly in blotches on his face, glasses, nose, and pajama top.
“Can I help you ma’am” he asked innocently. She could tell by the distant look in his eyes that Lenny was gone to wherever it was that he went to when he left.
She smiled inwardly, somewhat envious. At least he had some place to go.
“Mr. Penbrook, my name is Rita Boulos. The agency sent me,” she said as she rose to her feet and approached him with her right hand extended.
He stared blankly at her.
That’s funny she thought, that generally works.
Lenny continued his blank stare for a moment then gradually broke into a wide toothless smile. She glanced down the hall through the open door of the bathroom at the dentures soaking on the counter before offering a closed-lipped smile in return.
“Rita my dear, it’s so good to see you. Come in. Would you like some cereal while you wait?”
He was back, at least for now. She began leading him gently down the hall knowing she would need to make the next few minutes as productive as possible. These days she never knew how long he would be present.
Lenny grew up in the small ranching town of Muleshoe in Western Texas. According to the last census there were about 5,000 living there, but during most of his growing up years the town was home to less than a thousand. Depending on Lenny’s mood, he described it as either a slice of paradise or a God-forsaken hell hole, depending on the day. Lenny’s father, Jonathan, worked for the Northwestern Railway Company and moved the family to Muleshoe in 1926 where he “raised kids and crops” on a small family farm. Lenny was the youngest of six children. Four boys. Two girls. His oldest brother died in World War II while fighting the Germans on the European front — a driving force behind Lenny’s enlistment in the Navy in 1949, just before the outbreak of the Korean War when he was 18 years old.
“It’s good to see you too, Lenny,” said Rita for the second time this morning. “I can see you’re not quite ready. Can I help you?”
He grinned and motioned for her to follow.
“I’ll get your suit while you finish shaving.”
It was 9:42 a.m. when they locked the door behind them and stepped out into the morning sun. Lenny’s cat was yowling and pawing at the door as they moved slowly down the sidewalk.
“That damn old cat is older than I am. I swear if I had known it would live half this long I never would have let Marjorie bring him home. I hope he wanders off and never comes back.”
Rita smiled as Lenny glanced over his shoulder and squinted to make sure the pet door was open and unobstructed so that Minnow could come and go at will. She nearly laughed out loud envisioning him standing at the helm of his battleship 25 years earlier, holding his cat in his left arm as he saluted his men. Somehow she just couldn’t picture him as a seasoned Naval officer.
“Don’t worry Lenny, he’ll be fine. I promise.”
They slowly climbed into Rita’s little blue car and pulled away from the curb. Lenny broke the silence with a question.
“How long was I gone this time?”
“Only a few minutes. You came back quickly this time.” Her answer was always the same, but this time it happened to be true.
Lenny nodded his head and made a low grunting noise. “I guess that’s good.”
Lenny married Marjorie Jenkins in 1956. Like many military families, they moved frequently. Lenny swore that when he retired he’d follow her anywhere she liked. She choseMalibu. In 1991 Lenny retired from the Navy and they moved to enjoy their retirement years in the temperate climate ofSouthern California. By now their only child, Matthew, was grown and gone. Matthew loved his work and never found time to marry. Lenny and Marjorie desperately wanted him to settle down and give them grandchildren.
Shortly after they moved toMalibu, Marjorie became ill. For 6 months they went from specialist to specialist as they watched her rapid decline. Finally the diagnosis came. She had a rare condition known as Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). Over the next 3 years Lenny watched helplessly as his companion of 40 years suffered. She died on St. Patrick’s day, 1995.
Matthew broke free from his work long enough to attend the funeral. Four days later when he returned to Chicago on a late-night flight, his taxi-cab driver fell asleep at the wheel and drove them head on into an oncoming semi truck. Both driver and passenger were killed instantly.
In a week Lenny had lost everything. It was shortly after Matthew’s funeral that the episodes started.
The plinking fall of raindrops on the windshield brought Rita’s thoughts back to the present moment. She made the final left-hand turn and merged onto the freeway.
“We should be right on time for Dr. Welch,” she said, suddenly feeling strangely uncomfortable. In her short career as a social worker Rita had seen more pain and suffering than many do in a lifetime. She cared about her clients, but not too much. It was her ability to maintain a safe professional distance that kept her sane. But with Lenny it was different, and that difference sometimes made her uncomfortable.
She glanced over and saw the familiar blank look on his face. He was gone again.
Lenny noticed her glance and returned it with a slight smile – the kind you give when being polite to a stranger. “Excuse me ma’am, but you look familiar. Do I know you?”
“No Mr. Penbrook. At least not yet. My name is Rita Boulos, the agency sent me to take you to see Dr. Welch. Do you remember Dr. Welch?”
“I know Lieutenant Welch. Good man, but a terrible sailor.”
Just last week Lenny rambled for an hour about his academy colleague, Lieutenant Welch, and how he became so violently ill on their first day at sea that he vomited all over Lenny’s shoes.
Lenny paused for a moment before saying, “Well Rita, it’s nice to meet you.” He then broke into the wide, toothless smile she knew so well. It was then that she noticed his dentures must still be soaking on the bathroom counter.
“If you don’t mind my asking – but I don’t see a ring on your finger. I have a son about your age. Good looking boy, almost as handsome as his father.” Lenny pointed at his own chest with his forefinger and smiled.
They arrived at the hospital in good time and rode the elevator to the fifth floor. Lenny was smiling brightly as he shuffled slowly down the hall, bracing himself on the wall with one hand and holding what he was now convinced would soon be his daughter-in-law’s arm with the other.
In 30 minutes they were sitting in the exam room when Lenny looked over, his eyes downward. He sighed and said, “It happened again, didn’t it Rita?”
“For how long?”
“About an hour this time,” she replied.
Lenny began to sigh again but was interrupted by the opening door. In marched Dr. Welch in his stiff white lab coat.
Without even greeting Lenny he began to speak. “We have the results of last week’s tests.” His voice sounded sterile and cold. “Unfortunately the tumor is inoperable. We could attempt surgical removal, but the likelihood of post operation survival is minimal, maybe 10% – assuming no complications. Even if we were successful, the procedure would likely kill the patient.”
Rita realized the doctor was talking to her, not Lenny. Dr. Welch had mastered the art of professional distance. She admired how well he did it and at the same time pitied him for it.
“The tumor has doubled in size in the past three weeks. We believe it is this rapid growth that has increased both frequency and duration of his episodes. At this point there is little that we can do other than suggest that he begin to put his affairs in order.”
“How long does he have?” She asked without looking up. The rain clouds had vanished and the sun coming through the window pane felt warm on her cheek.
“It’s hard to say exactly, maybe three months, maybe three weeks. It could go either way.”
“Thank you Dr. Welch,” said Rita as she stood to shake his hand. “I’m familiar the hospital’s hospice policies. I’ll check in with Peggy on our way out.
“I’m sorry Miss Boulos. This is never easy. I admire what you’ve done for him.” The words sounded robotic and rehearsed.
Dr. Welch left and as the door closed behind him Rita glanced at the clock on the wall. It read 11:58 a.m. Rita turned and looked at Lenny for the first time since Dr. Welch’s arrival. His head was bowed and his thick glasses were in his shirt pocket.
Rita rose to her feet and then quietly knelt in front of Lenny, gently cupping his face in her hands and lifted his face until his gaze met hers.
Lenny squinted for several moments. “Excuse me, ma’am, you look familiar. Do I know you?”
A tear rolled down Rita’s face and splashed on her left wrist. It felt cold.
“No Mr. Penbrook. You don’t. The agency sent me. My name is Rita Boulos.”
“Well Rita, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Lenny.”
A good friend and hero of mine was recently telling me of some particularly interesting difficulties he has been facing lately. I was stunned as we caught up and he told me his story – stunned by how it seemed like everything in his life was unraveling.
Just when the story seemed that it couldn’t get worse or harder – it did.
This friend of mine is a genuinely good man. He deserves so much more than what life is dishing out right now and in my attempt to be sympathetic I told him that.
His response surprised and inspired me.
“That’s alright Jake, this is my championship game.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You don’t win championships by taking it easy. They’re supposed to be hard. How else do you know what you’re truly made of – what you’re capable of?”
To my friend I say, “thank you.” Your perspective and wisdom has been inspiring.
Imagine the power of living your life playing each day at the level required in a championship game. There would be no more wasted time, petty bickering, or smallness of spirit. We’d be reaching new heights by sticking to the fundamentals of living nobly.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
Imagine what would happen in your life if you believed that?
I had often heard other people describe their automobile accidents with phrases like “it happened so fast” or “I didn’t have time to think”. Perhaps that is why I was perplexed, almost amused by the many distinct and separate thoughts that seemed to have plenty of time to roll through my head.
Could the amount if time it takes to wreck be tied to the number of wheels the vehicle has, and since I was on a motorcycle and had only half the wheels of an ordinary car, it double the duration of the event? Who knows.
The only thing I knew was that by the time I realized I was in trouble I was already out of control. I was no longer driving the motorcycle – it was driving me.
I fought to regain control of the wobbling machine. Even under the best of conditions I was traveling too fast – but considering the strong, micro-bursting cross winds that had been sweeping the county all day, I shouldn’t have been on the roads in the first place. It was my own fault I thought as the skidding began and I slowly drifted across the double yellow line into oncoming traffic.
I had just turned 25 that summer, and was among the freshly minted college graduates of Utah State. That summer I was finishing an internship building rockets – the kind that blast off and go into outer space. That’s what we did at the promontory plant at ATK Thiokol.
It was a sunny afternoon – Friday September 12th. I had already worked over 40 hours – today would be a half day of overtime. By 3:00 that afternoon I was homeward bound and looking forward to a scenic ride upLoganCanyon to see the vibrant fall colors with my girlfriend. I wonder who will tell her why I couldn’t make our date?
The motorcycle heaved and shook violently beneath me, jolting me back to the awful reality of the present moment. The bike was in a high-speed wobble, the kind that leaves skid marks on the pavement, not because of skidding/deceleration, but because it’s moving laterally, side-to-side with such speed that it sheers rubber off the tire walls, leaving black marks on the pavement.
I was attempting to scrub off speed using the transmission and light braking, and it was working – but not quickly enough to offset the shimmy. By now the skidding wheels of the bike resembled the panicked weaving of frightened water-snakes swimming desperately for the shore. The wobble was getting worse.
The Highway Patrolman would later tell me that the friction skid marks left on the asphalt were over a quarter mile in length – a fact which was later confirmed by a friend who took it upon himself to retrace my route and clock it with his car odometer. No wonder why I had so much time to think. All told, my wreck involved nearly a half mile of highway.
Fortunately it was an empty highway. The absence of oncoming traffic surely saved my life. The highway gradually curved to the right as I continued straight, causing me to drift unchallenged across the double yellow lines as the wobble grew continually worse. By the time I reached the far side of the lane, near the shoulder of the road the shaking had grown too violent. Like an angry, kicking mule it finally shook me free. This is it I thought. Good bye.
I braced for impact, a thought which seems funny to me now. At that speed how could you possibly brace for anything? I tumbled and rolled across the pavement like a rag in a washing machine. I clearly remember thinking that this is what a skipping stone must feel like when it is suddenly picked up from the shore and hurled violently across the water.
I do not know how far I tumbled and rolled once the bike went down, but it felt like an awful long time. I do remember two distinct thoughts. 1) Surprise that I was still conscious. 2) Wonder by the sheer force and speed at which I was tumbling head over heel and side over side, quite literally skipping across the pavement, and wondering when it would end.
When I finally came to a stop I quickly rose to my feet, fully expecting that when I turned around and looked down that I would see my own lifeless body as I began to float away. It seemed like a normal thought at the time – people simply didn’t survive things like what just happened. It was the sudden sensation of pain in my right hand that convinced me that I was still very much alive and considering what had just happened, I was in remarkably good shape.
I stood there for several moments, confused, dazed and covered in dust as I thought long and hard, trying to recall who I was, where I was, and why I was there. The answers to those question quickly came back to me when I saw the mangled mass of metal that moments ago was my motorcycle about 150 feet behind me on the shoulder of the road. I was lucky to have fared surprisingly well in the wreck. But whatever grace was extended to me was extracted double from my motorcycle. I scarcely recognized it.
My memories of the rest of the afternoon are fuzzy. It involved a ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance (a choice experience that I hope to never have again), painful scrubbing of the abrasion wounds to remove gravel and bits of denim, fainting once when I got up too quickly from the hospital bed, and a dutiful Highway Patrolman that waited in the lobby for over an hour so he could issue me a citation. The ticket read “improper lane change”. I guess he was right, I don’t remember signaling and it was after all, a double yellow line.
We often have the tendency to look at the past with our “what might have been” glasses and we often find ourselves wishing things had played out differently. This was one of those rare occasions where I thank my lucky stars for the good fortune of that day – because no matter how I play it out in my mind, the alternate scenario of “what might have been” would not have boded well for me. They say that we should be grateful for our past because were it not for where we have been, could not enjoy where we are. Well I for one am grateful that on Sep 12, 2003, my path left me on the gravely shoulder of an abandoned highway rather than as a skid mark on the grill of an oncoming semi-truck.
99 vs. 100. When compared side by side they are so similar – so close. The incremental difference between the two is so small that it approaches insignificance. Yet often in the final analysis it is precisely that last inch, that last ounce of effort and the last drop of self control that separates victory from defeat. It’s true – 99 is almost 100, but it is not the same. Nor will it every be, for they are worlds apart.
A commitment level of 99% will waver, falter, and fail. In the final 1% we find the genius, inspiration, and greatness that is never know by the timid souls who look longingly from the sidelines.
Tomorrow a new day will dawn and bring with it the gift of a new day. Will you wallow through 24 mediocre hour by living life at 99% of capacity – or will you hold on one second longer and give it that extra 1% that makes all the difference?
I recently had an interesting Google Analytics project come up that I thought may be useful to others. Let me set the stage with a little background information.
We use SalesForce as our CRM. SalesForce has a plethora (it’s always fun to use that word in a sentence) of reports natively available, but we found that some of the reports showing profitability of various marketing channels didn’t quite meet our needs.
The solution was to push additional data into SalesForce at the time of record creation to use as additional tracking fields. Simple solution, right? So we created tracking fields to store values for the following: medium, source, campaign, content, and term. If you’re familiar with utm tagging for analytics you’ll recognize that these are the five traditional manual utm tags.
At that point it is a simple process to capture the utm values from their corresponding URL parameters.
But, what about organic traffic that doesn’t come to your site nicely and neatly tagged? What about traffic that navigates away from the initial landing page (thereby losing the utm variable from the url), but later comes back and converts?
At this point, the only way to get to that data is with a little ninja/kung-fu coding. All the data is stored in the Google Analytics cookie. It’s merely a matter of parsing it so you can pull it back out of the cookie. Definitely not black-belt level coding, but it did take some trial and error.
A quick Google search turned up the following article on the utm cookie. Sadly it didn’t really help with my particular needs. Through a long process of trial and error involving setting my manual utm tags and watching the values stored in the cookie, I was able to identify what I needed.
The secret sauce is in the utmz cookie value ($_COOKIE[‘__utmz’] for all you fellow php programmers out there). This wonderful little cookie contains a single string value with a wealth of information, including all the utm tags that are either set by you through manual tagging, or by Google Analytics for organic visitors.
For example, if you used this URL (note the manual tags):
It would produce a utmz cookie value similar to this:
There are two important parts to this value.
Part the first – the integers:
The cookie value always begins with four integer values, delimited by a “.” (dot). It looks kind like a funky IP address. These represent timestamps, expiration dates, and visitor counts. For our purposes, we can ignore it.
Part the second – the value pairs:
Following the four integer values you will find value pairs (utmxyz=value123) delimited by a “|” (pipe). The value pairs vary, and there may additional pairs beyond the five we are interested in. The key five are:
utmctr = term
utmccn = campaign
utmcct = content
utmcsr = source
utmcmd = medium
This is where the code kung-fu comes in handy. There are several ways to access it, so pick your poison. I’m a php advocate, so I use something like this:
parse_str(str_replace(“|”,”&”,preg_replace(‘/^([0-9]+\.)+/’, ”, $_REQUEST['__utmz'])),$output);
This will create an array ($output) which can be accessed by index name of the parameter you want. For example, the medium value would be: $output[‘utmcmd’]
There you have it, Semi-Advanced Google Analytics embellishment. Using this convention we now have data congruency between Google Analytics and SalesForce.
Now isn’t that nice?
Even if you don’t live in Narnia, Hobbiton, Middle Earth, or a Mother Goose fairy tale – there will never be a shortage of “trolls” in your life. They come in many shapes and forms, but their behavior is always the same. They predicatively peddle their unimaginative, inflammatory, and belittling cow fodder of an opinion as if it was something of value. They delight in our stumbling – as if somehow our failures justifies their own smallness of character, giving a sadistic meaning to their selfish, smallish little lives.
You know these trolls. Ironically most of us are aces at spotting them in the lives of others. But do you recognize the trolls that are in your life? Do they masquerade as coworkers, mentors, family members, or friends?
The acid test of trollness is this: does being in their presence instill in you an internal longing to stand taller, think bigger, and be stronger? If no, then beware of the troll. Do not feed it with your time, your attention, or your valuable resources that could and should be directed toward feeding the greatness that lies within you.
Do not feed the trolls. Starve the rascals out – they have no place at your table.