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Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Walking a PGA Tournament Taught Me About Not Looking Back

I spent today with my honey and my nine-year-old, Ty, at the AT&T National Championship. We watched professional golfers tee off with what can only be described as a smack and a whistle. We saw them rescue golf balls from pine straw and high grass and put them on the green. We stood with hundreds who moaned at missed putts and clapped at birdies. To walk a golf course during a PGA tournament is to witness moments where decades of hard work and sacrifice result in a winner by three simple golf strokes. Over the course of four days. Four days. Hundreds of strokes. And one winner by three.

I've watched many tournament Sundays on TV with Jamie. It's a ritual in our home on Sunday afternoon--to watch the final parings and see the highlights from the day. Then watch as the winner is given his trophy (and purse). There's both a peace and excitement to it.

Today, in D.C., we watched a group tee-off. We clapped after the "ping" of their drivers and shared their joy or disappointment in where their balls landed. But as they left the tee and began walking down the fairway, I noticed the kid. He couldn't have been more than fifteen. Dressed in the volunteer's purple-striped shirt of the day, he carried an old-school placard with the three players listed. And their cumulative scores. The thing that struck me most was the difference between the scores. Two of the players were below par while the other one was above par. Seven strokes divided them.

As I watched this young man trail behind the golfers holding this placard, my first thought found the tradition cruel. The golfer who lead the tournament was a full ten strokes ahead of the two players who were walking the course with this young golfer. Seventeen strokes ahead of him. I also noticed that with each stroke, the golfers took notepads out of their pockets and recorded their scores. And their yardages. In fact, to win the tournament, you must report an accurate score. Yet, here this young man was literally trailed the entire course by his failure to score as well as the two men he was paired with.

This caused me to ask the question: how can we look forward, treat each new day (golf hole) as a new beginning, if someone is walking behind us with a scorecard that shows the world how we don't measure up? Not even to the few surrounding us? How humiliating to be constantly reminded of our failures.

Then, as I watched the men in this grouping, I realized that none of them looked at the placard. None of them looked back to see what they already knew had occurred. Instead, each of them took out their notebooks after every single shot. Each of them looked forward toward the green--and the hole--and never looked back at the kid with the placard.

Neither should we look back at the kid. Neither should we focus on the placard and our past performance. We must just look at our notepad and see how far we have to the pin. And work on that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What the Titanic Taught Me About Addressing Things Head On

Tonight, I watched a Smithsonian Channel special on a guy who figured out why the Titanic actually sank. He debunked all myths that it was due to human error and bad design of the ship. From years of reading ship records of the temperatures of the sea, eyewitness accounts of survivors, and how the geographical evidence proved that the Labrador Current caused temperatures to drop in minutes, he was able to scientifically determine that the meteorology of the night caused a mirage. The lookouts didn't see the iceberg because they couldn't.

More importantly, because the iceberg only became visible at the last minute due to this mirage, they yelled to the captain to turn the ship in panic. Of course he responded and steered away from the iceberg. Ironically, if he'd simply hit the iceberg head on, the Titanic would've survived. But because the captain steered it away at the last minute, it was side swiped and fatally wounded.

Yes, the metaphors abound. But the one that I keep coming back to is the fatal blow. The fact that because the Titanic didn't hit the iceberg head-on,  but instead tried to side swipe it,  caused it to sink when it could've survived the head-on collision.

Everyday, in many ways, we try to avoid issues. I'm the first to admit that I hate confrontation. We do everything we can to not face whatever problems prevent us from living our best life. But, like the Titanic, if we confronted those things head on, we would survive. Waiting until the last possible minute to address them, even if unintentional, causes much more damage. Damage from which we can't survive. Damage that sinks us. Literally rips us to the core.

So being a geek who loves to watch Smithsonian TV, I was reminded tonight that we must always keep our eyes open and address things head on.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Know a Superhero

Tonight I had another media epiphany. "The Newsroom," an HBO series about an idealistic news anchor, has been replaying last season's episodes as a lead-in to the new season in July. The dialogue is quick and intelligent and can, quite frankly, be offensive to some with its honesty. In the first episode of  last year's first season, there is a scene in which the Executive Producer of the fictional news show tells the anchor: "We can do better. It's part of our DNA." Her plea is to encourage him to report the news honestly.

This reminded me of my Dad. I've mentioned in prior posts about the sweetness of his soul. His ability to find good in anything and the constant reminders in my childhood to not judge because we never truly understand another's story. If someone asked me to use one word to describe him, it would be "more." But not more in the sense of more money, more things, more prestige, more recognition. It would be more helpful, more understanding, more loving, more seeking, more outward focus. Through his example in the last 42 years of my life, I've witnessed him being more. And it creates in me a desire to do the same. To always see the best in people. To always want to ask, "What can I do to help?" To always want to put the needs of others above my own. Because if we all do this, what a wonderful world we would inhabit. He's tried so intently to live the life prescribed in the scriptures and by doing so has shown me its truth.

So, a few days late, I want to send a warm and loving father's day wish to my dad. My hero. The most incredible person I've ever had the privilege of knowing. One who truly seeks to place his feet in the footsteps. Love you, Daddy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Batman, Shared Experiences, and our Oneness

Sometimes, I hear the most profound statements in the most surprising settings. This evening, I had "The Dark Knight Rises" playing in the background. I've never seen this most recent in the Batman series. Although An Avengers fan, I never bought into the movies highlighting a single superhero. Superman, Batman, Thor, Captain America...they all seemed so campy. The special effects are superb, but you don't expect to hear dialogue that makes you pause the movie and contemplate it, the way you put a book down for a moment when you've read a line that resonated with you so deeply you needed to roll it around your brain. Just now, that happened with a dark Batman movie.

As Bruce Wayne steps out of his recluse and attends a charity event, the hostess says to him: "You have to invest to restore balance in this world." Excuse the philosophical naivety of my youth, but I wanted to throw my hands up and scream, "Amen!"

Human beings have an instinctual nature--a primal need--for community. We weren't programmed to be alone. We thrive when we're surrounded by others who both challenge and support us. Even the negative experiences with others change us in ways that make us better. But being part of a community isn't simply about consuming and savoring those experiences, it's about sharing them. If we simply sit and observe, we miss out on the true depth the experiences of others can give us. We also miss out on the redeeming and validating sense of sharing with others.

Too often we rush through our lives, which are filled with commitments, appointments, and expectations. We often fail to see the needs of those around us because we're focused on what's in front of us. What we don't realize is that this hurts not only those in our communities, but ourselves. We rob one another of the wisdom gleaned only from experience.

Just imagine a world where we all invest in one another. If everyone embraced this simple idea. Acknowledged this primal need to weave our lives together. Maybe the world could find balance.