Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 - The Year of Do

So this is the New Year, and I don't feel any different.

We're just over a week into the New Year, which means most of us have already abandoned our New Year's Resolutions, if we made them at all.  I heard a non-proven statistic that 88% of New Year's Resolutions fail, most in the first month.  That has to be pretty close to accurate.

I've never been one to make New Year resolutions.  Instead, I like to theme my upcoming year.  Last year I deemed the "Year of Frugality".  For this, Jess and I took a 10 day vacation to Hawaii, completed a couple of sizable, "necessary" house projects, purchased a new van, yes a van, and I quit my job.  Seems about right.  But it's a New Year and time for a fresh start.

This year I've themed 2015 "The Year of Do".  Now, that can be somewhat ambiguous as it can mean a whole host of things.  It can mean do good, like volunteer or pay it forward for strangers.  It can mean do nothing, and sit around all day.  For my scientific purposes, it will refer to doing stuff, stuff that I want to do.  Yes, that is still somewhat ambiguous, as maybe I want to sit around all day doing nothing.  Let me explain through a parable.

In the summer of 2009, I had the chance to head with a few buddies on a road trip to Chicago for a long weekend.  The Minnesota Twins were playing the Cubs in interleague play at historic Wrigley Field, and we had tickets to the Friday afternoon game.  We also had a friend who lived in Chicago we could crash with for a few nights.  The plan was to hit up the baseball game on Friday and spend the rest of the weekend taking in the sites and sounds of the city.  We took off on a Thursday afternoon and made the 7 hour trip from the Twin Cities, stopping in Eau Claire for ice cream.

Before we left, one of the guys, let's call him "MRF", sent out an email to some of his work contacts in the Chicago area to see if anyone had any leads on tickets to the Saturday afternoon Twins-Cubs game.  It was 2009, so smartphones were still relatively new to the world of tech.  At the time MRF, who works in advertising and is pretty media savvy, was wielding a flip phone.  Probably a Sanyo.  To our amazement and humor, this phone essentially became our key to the city for the weekend.  Coincidentally, MRF and his wife Melissa welcomed their first baby, a boy named Fitz, a day before Gus arrived.  Maybe they'll be able to recreate this trip in 26 years.

Our long weekend started off with a perfect Friday summer afternoon at the ballpark, which included a Twins win and cynical admiration of a mock turtleneck.  At some point during the post game festivities, the flip phone informed MRF that one of his contacts had some extra tickets for the Saturday afternoon game.  The only catch was we had to meet up with them prior to the game for brunch to pick up the tickets.  So we did, and after forcing ourselves to get up bright and early, we allowed them to buy us drinks and brunch.  We then enjoyed another Twins win from complimentary seats 20 rows up behind the visitors dugout.

During the game, more communications transmitted to the flip phone.  Would we be interested in stopping by a high rise condo downtown for some drinks?  Sure, why not.  After milling about in Grant Park, and getting a courtesy shave compliments of Gillette, we rode the elevator to the 33rd floor of a downtown condo building to admire the skyline views from floor to ceiling windows.  On our way back down we stopped by the building patio to play a couple games of bag toss whilst being treated to hot dogs and popcorn provided by the gracious condo association managers.  That night ended the only way it could, with one of our compatriots, let's call him "Snead", crooning "Piano Man" at a karaoke bar while the rest of us encouraged others to join in the longstanding Johnnie tradition.  Failed attempts were made to order delivery from Gary's Pizza.

While this story is probably only enjoyable to the six of us who experienced it first hand, there is a broader message that prevails and pertains to my 2015 theme.  During that trip, we found ourselves in some unbelievably incredible situations because we accepted some seemingly spontaneous invitations.  Offers were made, and we accepted, and we had a great time.  Coming back from that trip, I made a note to start taking people up on their offers, and see what adventure might await.

Remember the last time you ran into somebody you hadn't seen in a while or met someone new, and one of you offhandedly made the comment that you should get together sometime; maybe for coffee or drinks, or a friendly game of Foosball.  We all have these encounters, and our invitation for additional interaction is a mere cordiality that we feel the need to extend, while both knowing there is really no way it will ever happen.  I've been guilty of this before, many of times.  You get to an awkward ending of a conversation, and naturally, we go for; "hey, we should get together sometime."  The response is usually, "yeah, we totally should."  End scene.  You may run into that person in six weeks, or six months or six years and have that conversation again verbatim.

After that weekend in Chicago, I wanted to put that conversation to task, and I want to do it again this year.  When someone says we should get together, or do something, I'm going to say, "alright, when are we doing it" and actually get it on the books.  Sure, it might seem a little bizarre at first, and those initial encounters might be awkward and some will end up being total flops.  But you might just have a great time, one that you'll recount five years later.  You'll never know until you put yourself out there.

Now there must be limits, and you obviously can't say "yes" to everything.  You have to weigh your options, time & financial commitments, and of course your personal safety.  Odds are it won't be like taking a Bud Light from a stranger and ending up play ping pong with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I actually would suggest that you exercise extreme caution when any random person offers you a drink and asks if you're "up for whatever happens next".  Be smart and think about the long game.  Don't channel your inner Peter Gibbons on a random workday morning just because you want some spontaneity in your life.  Or do if you've been meaning to give that job double-barrels for a while.

The flip side to this would be, when someone tosses out that halfhearted invitation and it's not actually something you're interested in being a part of, just be frank and decline.  The last book I read was called The Year of Living Biblically, and it was about a guy who tries to follow the words of the Bible as literally as possible.  In the book he quotes a Bible verse about frankness, and channels it into an encounter he has when out with his wife.  His wife runs into an old college friend, and after making chit-chat, the friend suggests that their families should get together sometime for a playdate.  The author, following the good book, says "thanks, but no thanks", since he really has no interest in the suggestion.  His wife was obviously furious with him, but he recounts feeling surprisingly liberated.  Side note, I'd add this book to my recommendations of parental reads as the author has a young son and his wife delivers twins when he is completing his year.  It's got some good commentary about parenting and religious belief.
I'm a list maker.  I like to make lists so I can complete things and check those items off the list.  My bucket list is an ever evolving list that started as 30 things to do before I was 30 and has now morphed into 40 things to do before I'm 40.  I've only completed about a third of it, and still have a few empty spots that need to be filled in if you have any suggestions.  I've scribbled things out that I don't want to do anymore and added things that I now want to do as my life has changed.  For me, writing things down helps me stay focused.

I've started to make a list of things I want to do with my kids too.  Some of these are long-term goals (family bike across the States), some are things I'd like to do this summer (camp), or even next week (dress up tea party).  While doing something always requires more work than doing nothing, especially when small children are involved, I've found that magic moments with your kids don't just appear out of nowhere.  You have to put in some effort.  And despite that effort, it might end up being a big bust anyway.  I have realized that the more time I spend with my kids, the more opportunities I'm going to have for parenting fails.

Case in point a couple of months ago.  I was about two weeks into staying home with the kids.  We had been cooped up inside for the better part of that time thanks to some unseasonable cold (if such a thing exists in Minnesota).  Determined for us to spend some time outdoors, I bundled up the kids to take them on a hiking adventure over at the Saint John's Arboretum.  When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted with 25 mph winds from the Northwest, which brought the balmy 20 degrees down to a less than pleasant -5.  We were outside for about 2.5 minutes before I ordered everyone back in the van, and we returned home defeated.

What I recognized that day was that despite my intentions of planning an Instagram worthy family experience, not all of our adventures will be epic.  In fact, the more adventures we have, the greater percentage of those will be fails, it's really simple math.  But if we never try for those epic memorable moments, then we'll obviously never have them.  On our Chicago trip in 2009, we just got really lucky with an overabundance of Instagram worthy moments.  Too bad it didn't launch until 2010.            

So if you really want to do something, do it, and make an idiot of yourself in the process if you need/want to (JHJ, if you're reading this, book that damn flight to Ireland already!).  It might seem like a lot of work, you'll definitely will be pushing your comfort level, and it might end up being a bust anyway.  But at least you tried.  You made the effort, and you can't fault yourself for that.  Don't live vicariously through others.  Live vicariously through yourself.    

With the right resources and the right people,
you can do just about anything.

Parenting Fail?  Yeah, maybe.
Havi didn't seem to mind though.

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