If you could write a brief note to your 13 year old self, what advice would you impart in it?
At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?
Merriam Webster defines Adult as “fully developed and mature”. By that definition it’s hard to think that we’re ever really “Adult”, right? I mean seriously, fully developed, and mature? I strive to mature day-by-day but where can I find the fully developed mark?
As young “adults” most of us speed through life as invincible and feel that obtaining a certain age in life grant us adulthood. But it doesn’t. At 18, I graduated High School and found myself in U.S. Army Basic Training. Was I now an adult because of the possibly of being in harm’s way? No.
Months later, as I was carved tightly into a hill receiving mortar and AK-47 fire in the jungles of Panama, was that the point of adulthood? It really wasn’t.
How about when I got married at 19 or I bought my first house at age 23? Nope, neither.
I believe those accumulated moments, and many more like them, were points of maturity during the journey we call life.
What I can tell you is that I do clearly remember the point in which I realized that I was living. Why? Because I started to identify real fear and responsibility. I was in my early 30’s and boarding a flight, by now I’ve used several modes of military and civilian transport, but this commercial flight was ominously different. Instead of feeling excited to experience the feeling of flying, I felt real anxiety for the first time. There was pressure in my chest and the thoughts of sheer flying pleasure was replaced with a single question, “What if I don’t make it?” I remember a few years earlier flying through massive turbulence in a puddle jumper, small plane, on its way to Roswell, New Mexico. The plane’s sudden drops and tilts didn’t bother me and as a matter of fact I physically acted like I was on a roller coaster, laughing like an idiot. In this new reality, the plane had merely shut the doors and my chest was tight. What was going on with me? What had changed? Why was this flight so different? In short, it was a baby. A little girl. My daughter was less than a year old. She flipped a switch in my brain. She was giving me reason to care about my next breath and helped me understand the wonder and fragility of life. It took years to fully understand and embrace those feelings, Let’s just say I’m stubborn, but I’ll never forget that day. On that day, my eyes were opened to something in this world more important than my very own life and or vanity. That reason. That girl. Now, that young lady was the point when I started to realize what living life felt like. I hope that’s as “ADULT” as it gets.
If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the top three things that would be useful for them to know?
1) Brevity 2) Levity 3) Drink!
What is your untrainable superpower?
I believe grit would be my superpower, but it wasn’t bestowed upon me by a glowing crystal or far away planet, rather it had to be infused into my soul.
Merriam Webster defines grit as” courage and resolve; strength of character”.
Grit, in the 1980s’ could be encapsulated from a line of the movie Remember The Titans, “Water makes you weak”. My coaches’ need to push their players past their boundaries was not followed by a Gatorade and a snack. This set me up nicely for military service which measures grit through rigorous training. The military allowed me to continue pushing my body past it is perceived limits just to prove to myself and others that it could be done. Primarily ego-centered, no doubt.
Later I was given the opportunity as an Infantry Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army, I needed to be the sheer epitome of harsh resolve for others. This was the hardest of tasks and no because grit was paramount for me, but because a great number of the young men I was training would be on the battlefield in a few short months or weeks and grit could keep them safe and/or save their lives.
Grit in Corporate America takes the form of perseverance and problem-solving. Grit is mostly mental, not physical, and it finds itself manifesting in everything you do, and not only during business hours.
Grit is my superpower because I was lucky and/or stupid enough to embrace it at a young age.
Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?
No. My wife Julie and I were on different points of the political spectrum. I was more of a moderate conservative and she’s a progressive liberal.
It took Donald Trump to become the Republican Presidential candidate for me to really start digging into my soul for the answers to very easy questions that I made complex. It pains me to say that it took the possibility of a TV show host, racist, possible tyrant – and the Republican contingent losing their collective spines – for me to actually start the reflection process.
I was privileged enough to have a mindset we were all equal and that anyone can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. What I blinded myself from was the ability to realize that not everyone was born with boots or straps. Equity is not granted just because you were born in the United States and unfortunately basic human rights like healthcare are just out of reach for those who need it most. It took a tyrant and a very strong and smart partner to help me answer questions I never really asked and now my eyes are more open than ever.
What I blinded myself from was the ability to realize that not everyone was born with boots or straps.