Finding awesome in the garden

I’m an early riser in general, even on the weekends. It’s just me and my coffee for the first hour or so on most Saturday mornings. Sometimes, I’ll use the time to write and reflect; but more often, I take this unhurried time to learn something new or find inspiration in the stories of others. My favorite place for doing so is TED.com, whose simple tagline is “Ideas Worth Sharing.”

This weekend, I found a TED talk called “The 3 A’s of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha. In 17 minutes, Neil tells the story of how he overcame adversity and disappointment through attitude, awareness and authenticity. Please take a little time to watch the video below, as only he can do his own story justice.

I’ve spent much of this weekend cleaning up the garden I’ve so woefully neglected since August. As I filled yard waste bags and tore out cold-damaged annuals, I had plenty of time to roll the concepts of attitude, authenticity and awareness around in my mind, internalizing and understanding them more clearly with each revolution. I kept asking myself, Why did I give up on the garden this year? Continue reading Finding awesome in the garden

Just below the surface

One of my favorite plants in our garden is a witch hazel shrub that grows along the back fence. In the decade we’ve owned the house, the witch hazel has grown more vibrant and beautiful each year, full of flowers in late winter and dense, lush foliage throughout the spring and summer. Its flowering in February and March is an eagerly anticipated signal that winter is coming to a close.

Continue reading Just below the surface

Hidden

There are things in life that you can walk past a thousand times and never give them more than a passing glance, taking them as a mundane given in your visual landscape. The sculpture above was one of those things for me. Located on the back corner of Foellinger Auditorium on the University of Illinois quad, facing a group of magnolia trees I have grown to cherish, the sculpture is one of the two Sons of Deucalion and Pyrrha pieces by the late sculptor Loredo Taft. But for me, it was simply another inanimate, nameless statue until today.

Continue reading Hidden

A wish for tomorrow

Tonight was one of my two nights each week where my son and I have the evenings to ourselves because my wife teaches a night class at a local community college. Our father-son nights have always been a uniquely satisfying time for us, when we are able to give each other an undivided attention that doesn’t happen during the rest of the week.

Our evenings usually end with me sitting on or kneeling next to his bed as he snuggles into his pillow, both of us recounting how we have enjoyed the evening and each other. Invariably, he will make a profound statement or ask a question that has no easy, thirty-second answer. In these moments, I am struck by his young wisdom and challenged to comment or answer in a way that is honest, yet understandable to someone just past his seventh birthday.

Continue reading A wish for tomorrow

Wanting to know who I am

I walked out of the office tonight to perhaps my least favorite kind of weather. The temperature hovered just above freezing. Sheets of large, heavy raindrops marched through the illumination of street lights, buffeted on an increasingly strong wind. My lack of umbrella was practically inconsequential. This was the kind of weather that comes at you from all angles, mocking protection from above.

 

My path from the front door of my office building to the parking garage can’t be more than a few hundred yards, but by the time I arrived at my truck, my shoulders were hunched, my hair glistening with nearly frozen moisture. I hopped in the driver’s seat, plugged my iPhone into the truck’s stereo system and hit shuffle.

Continue reading Wanting to know who I am

The quest for real real

It’s Saturday again — time my weekly mental calisthenics over to TED.com.

Today I listened intently as Joseph Pine talked about the challenges of the authenticity-focused modern economy (full video embedded below), an economy whose goal is to provide authentic experiences for consumers, instead of just providing one-size-fits-all goods and services mass produced from basic commodities. Pine’s focus is on the business as the provider of this experience, but he draws on Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This advice perhaps applies as much to us as individuals as Pine applies it to businesses. After all, we cannot achieve individual authenticity without being true to ourselves and being who we claim to be to others. Who are you to yourself, and who do you think you are to others? Do they see you that same way?