Inspiration

Friday Thought : A Boy and His Dog

I listened to a great podcast recently, about a Boy and His Dog.

The boy, who had fallen on hard times, was selling his dog - his best friend - for a hundred dollars simply because he needed to eat. Being a writer wasn't paying any bills. Little Jimmy didn't really care, though. He wanted the nice dog, but for a better bargain. So Little Jimmy took advantage of the man and his plight and instead offered $25. The skinny kid sighed, knowing he needed to feed his wife and couldn't afford to feed his dog, and finally accepting $40.

Two weeks later, when a screen writer offered to buy that same dog for $200, Little Jimmy once again took advantage of the situation and refused to sell the dog for anything less than $15,000 AND a speaking role in the man's new and upcoming movie! The man had written the screenplay in four days and sold it for $35,000 dollars, only a few days prior.

The dog was Butkus. The skinny kid, Sylvester Stallone (pictured above). And the movie was Rocky.

Whenever I come to work, I am constantly encouraged and inspired by those of you who have chosen to live a Sylvester Stallone sort of life. You work hard, endure hardships, then rather than sitting in the mess of life, you find solutions. Thank you for being that for me, for your fellow colleagues, and most importantly, for the students who have the privilege of being in your presence.

I promise you, they notice.

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9/6/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought

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I don't know if you experience themes in you daily life, I know I do. Often actually. Almost weekly, an idea or truth or topic will somehow align itself perfectly and continually show up randomly throughout my days. Sometimes the themes are large and heavy, like the concepts of justice and humanity. Other times its something simple, like the importance of Hamlet being performed in prison. Other times it is something dark, like the role hate plays in our lives and surrounding society. My favorite "week of themes", though, was the one when Russia continually invaded my space and I was then fortunate enough to learn how three Russian men, at different times, prevented all out war against the US, saving thousands of lives.

This week was another one of those weeks, with the theme being, "You are the sum of the five people you hang out with most." It started with an email from my boss, Mr. Thompson, and ended with an early morning conversation with a fellow colleague, Mr. Truax, when he shared how most all of his teaching accolades can be traced back to his early years and the mentors he surrounded himself with. Between the two bookends, this theme continually crept into my thoughts through podcasts (Your Weird, by The Minimalists), my current morning reading (The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters, by Priya Parker), conversations with my son about whom he chooses to hang out with, conversations with some of staff about whom they decide to hang out with, and a conversation with my big sister about whom we decide to "let into her arena" (a phrase from Brene Brown and her brilliant Netflix special, A Call to Courage).

I appreciate the concept that we are the sum of the five people we hang out with most, largely because it’s true! Think of students and how the groups they cluster with are greater than the any of the present individuals, how it encourages kids to act and think in ways they may never do on their own (negative and positive). Think about the people we go to when we're tired or scared or hurt and how the advice they give, and the direction they point us toward greatly impacts the kind of people we are and will become. We are, most often, the sum of the five people we hang out with most.

But it isn't just the people that impact us. It's also the stories we surround ourselves with. News stories, the novels and non-fiction we choose to read, the movies and TV programs we binge or watch on a nightly basis, the podcasts we listen to, and the music that entertains us. These also play a crucial role in the summing up of who we are, how we interpret life and the world around, and how we choose to interact with that life and the world around.

This notion, this truth, that we are the sum of what we CHOOSE to surround ourselves with is deeply comforting to me because it means that although we are greatly susceptible to our surroundings, we are also in complete control. WE CAN CHOSE WHO WE LISTEN TO AND THE STORIES WE SURROUND OURSELVES WITH!!!

Who or what kind of stories are you surrounded by? Do they encourage you to sit in the stink and muck of the situation? Or do they sniff once and then move on and toward a solution? Do they feed frustration or hope? Are they healthy? Or are they toxic?

Because we are not water, simply following the path of least resistance, completely characterized by our immediate surroundings. We are human - we’re alive! - and therefore have a choice on how to respond, how to think, and how to ensure we are healthy by purposefully surrounding ourselves with people and ideas and stories that, as Kim Chambers says, "normalize greatness."

Who are your five that make up the sum of who you are? And perhaps more importantly, what are they - and you - making?

The answer to these questions has been on my heart and mind a lot this week.

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May we all work and play and live like Calvin. And then inspires others to do the same.

For more on . . .

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8/30/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought

We moved into our new home almost three months ago, and for almost three months I have been putting off two simple tasks: fixing the back door to the house and fixing the bottom shelf in my closet. This last weekend I finally got to them both, and it took me less than 5 minutes to complete the task. Seriously. What was strange, though, was that it wasn't until after they were fixed that I realized just how annoying they truly were. Even now, when I walked near the back door or into my closet, there is a noticeable missing of anxiety that I wasn't even aware was there. With their broken presence gone, I truly do feel a lot better!

I don't know about you, but I tend to do this often. I ignore a simple task that nags at me everyday for little reason other than I just don't want to do it, or because I have other "more pressing things to do." But in reality, taking a literal 5-10 minutes out of my day to fix whatever it is that needs fixing truly relieves me of unneeded anxiety or annoyance, providing more space and patience to deal with the bigger, more pressing things.

Do you have something like this? Have you already noticed a broken or misunderstood teaching procedure? A squeaky or jammed drawer? The grumblings of a possible disruptive student or behavior? Or is there something else either in your classroom or home that, every time you see it, use it, or think about it brings even the slightest discomfort ? If so, make time this weekend to fix it, now, before the year gets into it's groove, and relieve yourself of the little yet constant annoyance that will surely pester you for the rest of the year.

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Islandia : unparalleled beauty

Islandia — is a Latin name for Iceland and relative to the old language since this film portraits primordial and rough nature of Iceland. For the short duration of the film, you will be transported to a place that easily could be a million years ago. From unbelievable landscapes and vast valleys to painting-like terrain and majestic waterfalls and lakes - this film shows the unparalleled beauty of Iceland and its unearthly glory (via)

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-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  On Living

Kim Swims: A Documentary

I came across Kim’s story while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Wild Ideas Worth Living. The specific episode, FACING FEAR WITH KIM CHAMBERS has become one of my favorites. “If you want to do something that changes your life,” Kim states, “surround yourself with people who believe in you . . . normalize greatness.”

The documentary isn’t my favorite, but her story is. She’s pretty awesome.

Kim’s WILD journey

Kim Chambers was 30 years old, an athlete and a powerful executive, when she slipped and fell down a set of stairs. The injuries she sustained changed the course of her life. Not only did she prove doctors wrong about being able to be an athlete again, but she became one of the most accomplished marathon swimmers in the world, after never swimming competitively in her life before the injury.

In 2014, she became the sixth person (and third woman) to complete the Oceans Seven, which is the marathon swimming equivalent of climbing the Seven Summits, with each swim chosen for its treacherous conditions. Then, in 2015, Kim set a new world record when she became the first woman to swim thirty miles from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a swim that’s incredibly dangerous. It’s full of strong currents, extremely cold water temperatures, big waves, and a large population of great white sharks. But Kim didn’t let fear stop her.

Today, the accomplished swimmer uses her platform to inspire women (and men) of all ages to appreciate their bodies and to pursue their dreams even if they seem unrealistic. While she continues to set new records and battle more challenges herself, she remains a master at teaching people to face fear, even to say yes to it, and push through to achieve their goals (via).

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Get Out There : Normalize Greatness

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I recently listened to a discussion with Kim Chambers on REI’s podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, and it kinda charged my life.

Kim Chambers was 30 years old, an athlete and a powerful executive, when she slipped and fell down a set of stairs. The injuries she sustained changed the course of her life. Not only did she prove doctors wrong about being able to be an athlete again, but she became one of the most accomplished marathon swimmers in the world, after never swimming competitively in her life before the injury (via)

She attributes her success, largely, to the company she kept. By inserting herself into a world of adventurers who were, at their core, just ordinary people who were doing amazing things, she found herself surrounded by a society who had normalized great achievements. Suddenly, doing great things wasn’t so impossible. It was ordinary, if not expected. “If you want to do something that changes your life,” she says in the interview, surround “yourself with people who believe in you.”

This idea, of normalizing great achievements, has inspired me. Encouraged me. And challenged me to get out and surround myself with people and stories of people who do amazing things. To get comfortable with living a bit more wild, and free, and different. To make thinking different the norm, rather than the exception.

To help get my mind and body kickstarted, I bought a few books (and a bike), and I’ve just recently finished the first, Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine. Here are few of my favorite stories, in order of appearance:

  • They Call Me Groover Boy, by Kevin Fedarko, “What’s it like to be captain of the ‘poop boat’ and steering three weeks of human waste through some of America’s gnarliest whitewater? Read and find out.”
    (no video for this one:)

  • The Hell on Earth Fitness Plan, by Nick Heil, “In 2008, {Nick} heard about Gym Jones, a back-to-basics workout center with a (very) tough love ethos run by former climbing star Mark Twight. We’re still somewhat surprised Nick lived to tell the story.”

  • Open Your Mouth and You’re Dead, by James Nestor, “The freediving world championships occur at the outer limits of competitive risk. During the 2011 event, held off the coast of Greece, more than 130 athletes assembled to swim hundreds of fee straight down on a single breath - without (they hoped) passing out, freaking out, or drowning.”

  • Quoosiers, by Eric Hansen, “The Quidditch World Cup sounds dorky, and make no mistake: it is. But these sorcery-loving Harry Potter fans play pretty tough, as Eric Hansen found out when we sent him to captain a bad-news team of ex-athletes, ultimate Frisbee studs, slobs, drunks, and some people he knows from Iceland.”

  • The World’s Toughest Bike Race is not in France, by Jon Billman, “The rules are simple: Start pedaling at the Canadian border, and the first fat tire to hit Mexico wins.”

  • Reversal of Fortune (Lucky Chance), by Elizabeth Weil, “Maybe you’ve never heard of Lucky Chance - born Toby Benham - but the Australian climber, circus act, and all-around stunt monkey was testing the limits of BASE jumping in 2011 when he survived a horrible mountainside crash in France. What happens when a highflier falls to earth? He starts over.”

The book is broken into three parts: To Hell and Back, Let the Games Begin, and Consumed. The last section appropriately spends time reminding us that there are indeed lines to our extremes, and when we cross them, bad things happen. Sometimes really bad things.

I absolutely loved this book, especially the middle story, “The Hell on Earth Fitness Plan,” from which my (I think) a better title for the book comes: Prove you’re alive (pg 166). A few pages later, Heil writes, “Changing your body is just mechanics; it changing your mind that presents the real challenge. If the mind is not first trained to enjoy hard work, to relish suffering, to address the unknown, then no program, no amount of training can be effective . . . the muscle we are interested in training is inside the skull” (pg 171).

Damn. That’s good.

To find a group of people with a similar mindset, who believe hard work and simple sufferings are normal, then suddenly, great things are happening. Because that too is normal.

And if one cannot find a group, be the group.

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The Other Half of Stories : An interview with NatGeo photographer Ami Vitale

Photo by Ami Vitale

Photo by Ami Vitale

(From Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast)

In war-torn Gaza, Ami Vitale was asked to “focus on the violence.” Then, one day, while her and all the other photo journalists were capturing kids throwing rocks and soldiers bullets, Ami heard music. She followed it. And found a wedding.

“Why aren’t we telling these stories too,” she thought, “the ones that allow us to relate to one another as human beings.” She suddenly realized she was telling a lie, because she was only telling half the story. “There were all these other stories around us. Stories that allowed us to relate to one another as human beings, {stories} that allowed us to connect” by reminding us that we “share the same things on this planet.”

“As a journalist,” she continues, “I was being asked to create more fear and polarization on this planet and see those people as other and different than us. The truth is, it was just a beautiful young couple wanting the same things that we all want in life. That was when I stopped and asked myself, ‘Why aren’t we telling these stories too?’”

From then on, Ami Vitale changed the way she tells stories. She still captures the hard and terrible ones because that is still very much a part of life, but she also seeks out the beautiful and hopeful, the ones that inspire and spark joy, because those too are a part of life. And Ami Vitale wants to provide a balance and reminder “of our connections”, that we are all human beings on this world, longing for the same things, eager to tell and share our stories.

Our world could use a lot more people like Ami Vitale.

You can listen to her full interview at Wild Ideas Podcast or watch her How to Photograph Hope presentation for NatGeo Storytellers Summit.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  : Podcasts : Inspiring Art

Loved By All: The Story of Apa Sherpa

The true beauty of Nepal isn’t the mountains, but the people who live in their shadows.

Every spring, Mount Everest draws in people from around the world to conquer its peak. Despite the riches surrounding the highest point on Earth, the Sherpa people who live in its shadow remain poor with few educational opportunities. One man hoping to change this reality is Apa Sherpa, a child of the Khumbu and world-record holder for summiting Everest. Like many before him, Apa Sherpa was pulled from home at the age of 12 to work on the mountain as a high-altitude porter. Now, the Apa Sherpa Foundation is working to create a different future for the children of Nepal. As Apa says, "without education we have no choice” (via).

There’s something truly great about this story. A man who has accomplished (21 times!) what others spend years training for, dreaming of, and then risking their live’s to conquer, looks at his life and believes there’s something bigger and better. That his days on top the world are not enough.

He then chooses to spend his life serving and caring for others, and is satisfied. Because The true beauty of Nepal isn’t the mountains, but the people who live in their shadows.

You can watch more “short documentary films from around the world selected by the National Geographic video team” (via).

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiring films about Humans  :  Inspiring Art  :  Documentaries 

Calvin and Hobbes head out on an adventure

The first of anything is difficult. Even, sometimes, if you’ve been doing it for a while. For me, the first post of the new year is completely nerve wracking. There’s something about the first post that seems to set the tone, and it always makes me incredibly nervous. Sometimes I just dive in, like I’m jumping into a cold pool and I just need to get it over with. Other times I take my time, waiting for the perfect idea to come along.

This year, it took just over two weeks. But the wait was worth it.

On December 31, 1995, Bill Watterson published the final 'Calvin & Hobbes' comic strip. Little did he probably know how his little cartoon would inspire, encourage, and entertain the world.

Or inspire the beginning of a new year.

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It’s a magical world, and I’m ready for another year of exploring all that it has to offer, are you?