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Unleash Your Inner Awesomeness

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In sporadic periods of my life, I’ve felt awesome. Good examples include when I broke the four-mile record at Illinois College, holding my daughter in my arms, marrying my wife, and other similar awesome events. However, for the most part, I’m not awesome, nor do I feel awesome.

I’m actually pretty introverted. I’m not a big self-expression guy. I don’t wear loud clothes or have a huge personality. But lately, I’ve been thinking it might be worthwhile to embrace my inner awesomeness.

Undoubtedly, being awesome holds an abundance of self-expression and personal growth opportunities waiting to be unlocked.

I’m reminded of the television show, How I Met Your Mother. One of the leads, Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris, has a line that is trite and silly but also has a kernel of truth to it, When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead! True story.” To be fair, I’m not sad, but you can easily substitute sad with any other emotion.

For me, being awesome is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and embracing the awkward, the silly, and the downright ridiculous. It’s about defying the norms and societal expectations and giving yourself permission to be authentically you. By doing so, we grant ourselves permission to explore uncharted territories and discover hidden talents and passions. It’s like a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery, where you unleash your inner awesomeness and let it shine for the world to see.

For many years, I was chained down by self-doubt. It still has a good foothold with me. But I know what I need to do to break the chains and be more vulnerable and open to new experiences.

Unleashing my inner awesomeness means having fun and not taking myself so seriously. To do that, I’m breaking out of my comfort zone by trying new things such as writing here regularly. Whether it’s trying a new hobby, taking on a challenging project, or engaging in conversations that push boundaries, embracing the unknown can lead to remarkable personal transformation. Moreover, being awesome is not limited to grand gestures or extraordinary achievements. It can be found in the simplest of pleasures and everyday moments. It’s about finding joy in the small things, appreciating the beauty in the ordinary, and living life with a sense of enthusiasm and gratitude.

I’ve always embraced my likes and dislikes, quirks, and certain point of view. Right or wrong, it’s me. What I haven’t always done is present myself that way and be me 110%.

Doesn’t the world need more individuals who have the courage to be unapologetically themselves, to shine their light brightly, and inspire others to do the same? I think so. I want to be one of those awesome people.

I challenge you to embrace who you truly are! Embrace awkward dance moves and indulge in guilty pleasures without fear. Let’s make this world brighter moment by moment!

As Gene Simmons once said, Life is too short to have anything but delusional notions about yourself.”

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February 2024

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I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Some are just one-offs because I like the guest and want to hear more from them, or I hope to get some unique insight into their personality or creative process. Most of the time, I have a list of podcasts I like because of the host, the guests, or a combination of both. Podcasts like Smartless, Inside of You, Literally! and many more are fun distractions when walking the dog or driving in my car. They are literally famous people interviewing other famous people.

Also, as a fan of University of Illinois athletics, I listen to several podcasts covering the Illini, such as The 200 Level, I on the Illini, The Illini Inquirer Podcast, Keeping in Orange and Blue, and others. I like the insight and observations I get with these, and they enhance my enjoyment of watching Fighting Illini sports.

I have other fun podcasts in my queue, such as The Incomparable (geeky media), Seeing Red (St. Louis Cardinals), The Town (Hollywood happenings), and Three Sides of the Coin (KISS) that scratch a particular itch.

1It’s a name for God. I looked it up.

However, recently, I learned that producer Rick Rubin has a podcast where he talks to various people from all sorts of backgrounds. I found his podcast called Tetragrammaton1 and immediately downloaded episodes. Phil Jackson, Owen Wilson, Will Smith, John Mayer, Marc Andreessen, Adam Mosseri, and so many more caught my eye. Knowing how much of a professional wrestling fan Rubin is, the first episode I listened to was his conversation with Paul Heyman.

Heyman is one of the best conversationalists on the planet. He is quick, eloquent, and knowledgeable. They spoke for three hours, and Brock Lesner and Roman Reigns were at the forefront of the discussion. However, it was the conversation about storytelling that made me stop several times and relisten to a section.

My favorite moments comes at 2:46:47 in the conversation. Rubin and Heyman are discussing influences and inspirations from films. Heyman is electric in how he describes the restaurant scene in The Godfather. He describes perfectly what Michael is thinking and feeling via Pacino’s acting in the scene. It is my all-time favorite scene in all of cinema, and Heyman nails it.

Michael Corleone sitting in Louie’s restaurant in the Bronx having been told by Clemenza to come out of the bathroom blasting and he doesn’t come out of the bathroom blasting. He sits back down and now Solozzo is talking and he’s talking in Italian so to the audience, who doesn’t speak Italian, it’s just noise. [Italian sounding words]. You’re sitting going Oh my God I don’t know he’s saying but whatever it is it’s heavy’ and he’s laying it on and he’s talking faster and harsher and angrier. Now the trains coming in and you hear that noise and the camera is shaking ever so slightly and Pacino’s eyes are going left and right because he’s saying, Do I pull the trigger? Do I pull the trigger? If I don’t pull the trigger is he gonna kill me? If I pull the trigger my whole life has changed. I’m a gangster. I’m no longer just a soldier. I’m not a hero.’ This is a war hero. He’s a war hero, this kid, and he didn’t want to get mixed up in the family, and his father doesn’t want him in the family business, but if he doesn’t pull the trigger right now this guy across the table and the dirty cop to his left who broke his jaw are gonna kill his father. He has no choice. He better pull the trigger, but can he pull the trigger? He’s not a gangster. They’re not threatening his very life at this very moment. What does he do? What does he do? And his eyes. And you read his emotions because he’s not sure what to do, but he knows whatever he does this is the defining moment of his life and nothing will ever be the same after this because they’re gonna go kill his father or he’s gonna go kill them. Either way nothing’s gonna be the same and then he gets up and he shoots them both, but it’s the moment before that matters. It’s the emotions that are displayed.

For more context for those of you who have not seen The Godfather, this is the scene he’s describing.

By all means, listen to the podcast. The whole thing is a master class in story and feeling. It’s well worth three hours of your time.

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Hot Tubs and Steaks

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Last year, my extended family decided to head back to Florida for a much-needed getaway to recharge our weary souls. We were last at the Marriott’s Cypress Harbour Villas in March 2020. As you might imagine, from the date, it ended up as far away as possible from relaxing. Back then, we were constantly worried about catching COVID and had little information to draw from regarding transmission as well as the ramifications if anyone was diagnosed with it.

Luckily, we made it home safely. And then remained there for almost a full year. Returning to Florida this year with high hopes of warm weather, a little bit of fun, and relaxation was exciting, but it turned into an excellent start for 2024.

From the moment we arrived, the gentle breeze and swaying palm trees welcomed us, instantly transporting us into a world of serenity. However, what truly stood out during our stay were the sparkling pools and inviting hot tubs waiting just down the path. Thoughts of snow and ice back home were quickly abandoned.

We spent hours relaxing in the hot tubs and heated pool while sipping cold beverages. Florida in January provided just enough of the sun’s warmth to enjoy the water. The hot tub provided comforting relief that revived our spirits - we lost track of time as we relished in a therapeutic embrace of the water and each other’s company.

While the sun and pool were undeniably inviting, our most memorable vacation moments were those shared with family. We relished a morning brunch and evening meals engaging in lighthearted conversations and laughing together - moments that allowed us to reconnect while strengthening the bonds that time and distance had weakened between us.

Our time in Florida allowed for moments of introspection and reflection, giving me time to contemplate what had passed these last few years and the possibilities that lay ahead. I saw our trip as a catalyst for personal development and renewal.

This Florida retreat gave us a much-needed respite from daily stressors and allowed us to immerse ourselves in morning walks and books. From afternoon showers, gentle palm leaf rustle, and the serenity created by simply getting away - everything felt peaceful, reminding us to enjoy the time together. We played pickleball, watched some college basketball, and forgot about our troubles for a little while.

Our Florida vacation was much more than a simple vacation - it was an extraordinary journey that enabled us to rejuvenate, reconnect, and find inner peace. Every moment spent poolside served as a reminder of the importance of self-care and nurturing our relationships.

As we reluctantly packed up to depart Florida, we carried a renewed sense of purpose and determination to bring its spirit into daily life. Even with plane cancellations and an unexpected drive home from Chicago, everyone in the family needed the time away.

Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things and kick off the new year with energy.

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January 2024

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Some Kind of Wonderful

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I’m a terrible long-term planner. I’m actually very good at setting goals and absolutely horrible at creating steps to achieve those plans. It’s all in the execution and traditionally, that has been my downfall.

I’ve decided this year I’m going to make a change. (I have said this in the past, but this is the year… dammit).

Without a doubt, this is going to be a detailed and complicated process. By the time I’ve written this, I should have at least come up with quarterly and yearly plans. I might have even drilled down to month-by-month goals and steps. If I’m super lucky, I will have already involved my wife in these tentative planning sessions and she will have chimed in with better and more accurate dates, events, and plans.

As we are a few days into the new year and well past the craziness of the holidays, it is a good time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. The new year usually brings new unknown challenges, and it is always good to go in with a plan. Although I think it was Mike Tyson who said, Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Really, doing this should help me understand what’s coming up, see where things are, and where they might be down the road. It also should help me not get punched in the mouth that often or at least get back up after getting smacked in the face.

Traditionally, I’m poor at having this foresight so when the unexpected happens, I flounder. This year’s plan is designed to change that. No matter what areas I need to keep on top of, such as financial planning, trips we want to take, graduation parties, or just figuring out what is important over the course of the year, I’m going to plan for them now.

Maybe a bit surprising to some, I have elected to attempt to use a paper calendar. I have attempted to use a paper calendar in the past and have failed at it on more than one occasion. I want to use a paper calendar for planning. I’ll still have my electronic calendar for things, but I’m going to attempt a hybrid model. Wish me luck. I am not looking forward to any kind of personal budgeting. I am not particularly good with numbers. Thankfully, my wife is better at keeping things on track. However, I’m woefully uninformed about our household finances. This year I want to get a better handle on all that.

Another part of this long-term planning is vacations and time off over the course of the year. We don’t travel much for a variety of reasons, but I’d like to try and make some plans along those lines and see what might make sense. I think it would be worthwhile for us to plan a few trips to see friends and family.

I encourage everyone to take some time to look ahead and see what the coming year holds for you. My goal with this plan is to help me understand and keep focused on the important things each quarter, month, week, and day.

For far too many years, I’ve been a passive participant in things happening around me. I want to have more say, and the only way to do that is to take some control and ask to be included in those plans.

For the other planners out there reading this, it may seem like old hat, and I get that. For the passive non-planners… why not take inventory, set some goals and some steps, and make 2024 something wonderful?

We all could use something wonderful this year.

Let’s make it happen.

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