Compliments

“Hey, beautiful!”

A passerby shouted this to the person I was having coffee with a few weeks ago. This “drive-by compliment” from one friend to another brought a smile to all three of our faces on an otherwise dreary day.

It reminded me of a phrase that I learned in one of my many, many hours of online soccer training required to be a travel soccer coach.…


Fun?

I’m not sure if I would describe myself as a fun person. Sure I can be funny and I like to have fun – who doesn’t? I also lead a happy and satisfied life. But am I “fun”? Are you?

By “fun,” I’m referring to someone who is naturally disposed to fun. They seek the company of other people, enjoy novel experiences, always up for a good time, like to be the life of any party – even if it’s a party of one or two.…


Grid

Grab a pencil.

Create a grid with an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis.

Label the x axis “Time” and the y axis “Meaning”

Now begin to plot the major activities in your life – both professional and personal – on the grid.

For example, I spend a lot of time on email – and generally get little meaning or value from it. Conversely, I get a tremendous amount of meaning from writing and spend comparatively less time doing so.…


Tickets

I was interviewed recently for this article that appeared in the New York Times.

It was a vivid and important look at how young people around the world assess their potential for success in life and what they think is necessary for achieving it.

Perhaps surprisingly, young people in poorer countries were generally more optimistic about their chances of future success than those in more economically developed countries like the United States.…


Experiment

There is a passage in Richard Power’s thought-provoking new novel, Bewilderment, that I find myself returning to again and again.

It describes an epiphany of sorts he has when considering his son and the undiagnosed mental health issues he is dealing with. He writes:

“Watching medicine fail my child, I developed a crackpot theory: Life is something we need to stop correcting. My boy was a pocket universe I could never hope to fathom.…


Build

I promised my daughter I would make her bed on Friday.

I finished it on Saturday.

Of course, making her bed wasn’t just tucking in her covers, arranging her stuffed animals and fluffing her pillow. It was putting together a new loft bed with a built-in desk and shelves underneath.

Now, I don’t consider myself especially handy. I’ve hung some drywall in my time and done a few projects here and there but by and large I would admit my skills are as limited as my tool box.…


Freedom

This weekend my youngest daughter, fresh off her 10th birthday, began her fifth stint in quarantine.

This time around she will miss two soccer games, one of her best friend’s birthday parties, running a Girls on The Run 5K that she’s been in training for months and of course, trick or treating on Halloween. She will also be spending the next week doing school online. Bringing her total time of unnecessary online learning to over forty days.…


Serve

Two weeks ago I watched a grown man cry and it was extraordinary.  They were neither tears of sadness or joy. I suspect they were tears born out of a deep humility, appreciation for others and a calling to serve.

The man was Colin Powell and the event, which was one of his last public appearances before dying last week, was for the school named in his honor; The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.  …


Will

On Thursday, my wife and I met with a lawyer to put in place a will – a task that was long overdue. I suppose that one of the reasons for the delay was our aversion to confronting our own mortality. Though, we already had many of the difficult conversations necessary to make decisions that form the basis for this binding legal document. The most important of which was the selection of who would serve as the legal guardians to our children should both of us die while they were still young.…


Books


Two weeks ago, I was one of over fifty children’s book authors who participated in the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. It was incredible to see so many children and their families demonstrating their love of books. While signing books and seeing a kid’s face light up is an unimaginably cool experience, the best part of the day came when a teacher, who had traveled the whole way from Hershey, Pennsylvania, approached me with a small gift and important story.  …


Subtract

Recently, I had two exchanges with family members that did not go particularly well. Both were spurred on by trying to refute or debate claims fueled by divisive media outlets. Since the election, I have largely tuned out of political shows, but like Michael Corleone says in the Godfather, “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!”

I called one of them the following day and posed this simple question: “Does watching political shows bring you any joy?”…


Driven

Earlier this week, I was looking to connect with Colby Sharp, an educator who hosts a podcast about children’s books, called The Yarn. I stumbled upon his twitter account and was struck by his “bio” which began with the phrase, “driven by gratitude.”

It was such a wonderful articulation of what motivates him and got me wondering about what drives any of us.

In my own life, I know that what drives me has evolved.…


Back

I’m rushing to write this before I embark on six hours of travel soccer on a Sunday. This is after six hours of practice on Saturday. The joys of coaching all three of my daughters’ soccer teams.

This is on top of an email inbox that has gotten out of control, a calendar suddenly packed with appointments and a to do list that is seemingly endless.…


Appreciation

I’ve just come back from a two-week trip across parts of the country previously unknown to me. We started in Oregon, drove through Idaho into Wyoming and ended our family trip in Montana.

We experienced the wonders of nature in many forms. From Mt. Hood, to Craters of the Moon to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Custer National Forest.  

Within each, we witnessed majestic views, the vastness of the great plains, spectacular waterfalls, lush forests, impressive geyser fields, herds of bison and elk, soaring hawks, eagles and osprey, two meandering moose and one adorable bear cub eating berries on the mountain side.…


Kindness

What is the relationship between kindness and success?  Some might suggest that to be successful we must, to some extent anyways, be driven, achievement oriented, perhaps even a little selfish. You know the old adage, “Nice guys finish last.”

I recently stumbled upon some old research that debunks that thinking.

In this study, kindergarten teachers measured their students across a host of “kindness” metrics – such as “shares materials” and “is helpful to others.”…


Rejection

I have kept a file of all the rejection letters I’ve ever received. Two novels, dozens of short stories, even several poems all rejected by one agent, publisher or publication or another. In my emails, there are probably thousands of other examples of my ideas or proposals being turned down. Of course, there are also those instances where I never even received a reply. This says nothing of the slew of personal rejections that have amassed between my socially awkward high school years until I met and married my lovely wife.…


Expectations

Two teams compete in the Olympics.

Both win the Bronze.

One country is elated and the other disappointed.

So goes the power and toxicity of expectations.

When considering the word expectations, it’s almost impossible to imagine it without some qualifier.

High, low, exceeding, diminished, raised, wildest, lowered, defying, beating, surpassing, failing, great, outsized, living up to, playing down and on and on.

So unhealthy is our relationship with this word that when we say that something has “met our expectations,” we shrug our shoulders, suggesting some level of mild disappointment.…


Eventful

This Sunday was quite the eventful day for me for multiple reasons.

CBS Sunday Morning segment featuring the story behind my new children’s book, Three Little Engines was scheduled to air. The excitement was palpable for several reasons. The idea of having my book and its message shared with an audience of millions is obviously pretty cool.  Selfishly, the idea that my mom, my family and friends would be able to gather around the TV to see me talk – not just about the book – but about how grateful I was for all they had done to get me “over the mountain” was a tremendous gift.…


Blind

We knew this moment would come.  

Throughout the pandemic, our family has been watching Little House on the Prairie.  It has in many ways been a cathartic experience, watching the Ingalls family with all of its struggles persevere through no shortage of difficult times.

While the book has been subject to recent criticisms, the television series from my youth has held up remarkably well – tackling issues of poverty, race, Native American relations with nuance and compassion largely unseen today. There…


Breathe

A few random times each day, my Apple watch will beep with a nudge for me to breathe.  Presumably this isn’t because I’ve stopped doing so, but rather a reminder to take good deep breaths for up to a minute.

On average, we take 20,000 breaths a day. A vital and subconscious act that we take for granted. Think about it. How many of your own breaths do you even notice each day?…


Engines

We love to think that we are the primary engine of our own success. And there is no doubt that our individual effort is critical in almost any achievement.

But as my new children’s book, Three Little Engines – a modern retelling of the classic The Little Engine that Could that comes out on Tuesday – I wanted to use this opportunity to illustrate who really helped this book ‘get over the mountain.”…


Depends

As Independence Day approached, I decided to google the root word “depends.” The origin of “depends” goes back to the Latin terms “de” meaning down and “pendere” meaning “hang.” Hence the dual and often conflicting definition of both “needing or requiring support” (e.g. “I depend on you”) and “undecided or open to influence” (e.g.“It depends”)

Many Americans have a strong aversion to the idea of dependency or even its softer cousin, “interdependency.” …


Fairness

Consider this scenario. One daughter goes to the pool and her mom buys her some candy. Another daughter goes into town with her friends and uses her allowance money to buy some candy. A third daughter gets no candy that day.

Is this fair?

This was exactly the debate that unfolded in my household last week.  

One one level, you could look at this one particular situation and conclude that it isn’t fair. …