“This is as easy as it will ever get, son.”

In this polarizing and confusing era we’re currently experiencing in America (I’m keen to naming it The Great Confusion), there has arisen in this early 21st century a great misguided mindset, misunderstanding, or outright dismissal of grace and self awareness in this age of braggadocio and self-importance, brought on by nothing more than the ability to spout the dumbest shit possible online (and get away with it, for the most part).

Over the last decade and change, we’re seeing contemporary culture at large slowly strip the very concept of what is proper discourse, acceptable behavior, any HINT of journalistic integrity, or again, grace, to shreds. Society then doubles down by coming up with every boorish and absurd justification why it deserves to get offended at everything or why it’s okay our leaders (and apparently any pseudo-celebrity or politician) brag about grabbing vaginas because they can and still come anywhere near the presidency.

Okay, got that out of the way. Whew! Ugly. After all that, I realize my immense fortune in being able to go to a place and find positivity, inspiration, and most of all, perspective, through amazing people in my community. I get to know them in a way that gives me hope, and begin to believe that we haven’t all lost our minds when our phone is in our faces.

A long-time member of my local gym, one might understand if I meet a soul or two with stories to tell — the college grad just getting out in the world, the mid-career professional looking to stay in shape, or the older ladies and gentlemen who are wise in understanding the value of staying healthy through the home stretch of their long lives. Through the days, months, and years, you get to speak to these many people, grow friendly, and hear the occasional story.

“Joe” is an incredibly kind man,  a retired teacher, born and raised right here in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. Joe is also a proud Army veteran of the Vietnam War, and I feel incredibly fortunate he is comfortable enough to speak with me about his experiences. Our conversations feel all the more poignant this week in light of PBS‘s upcoming 10-part documentary The Vietnam War by legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, starting tonight, September 17.

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A pilot during the war, Joe experienced his share of hot LZs (“landing zones” for the uninitiated) and all the terrible moments experienced thereby. Joe had brothers who died, brothers who survived, and all the attendant guilt and memories of hell on earth any other vet may have had — all ultimately packed into a mental duffel bag bound for home and the rest of his life, never to be fully unpacked.

Now just imagine if, back in June of ’67, Joe had been literally handed the option to stay home, never deploying to Southeast Asia at all; to alter his own life so fundamentally he wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same person he is now.

Well, that is exactly what happened.

Upon reporting to the medical doctor after being drafted and just prior to deployment, the doctor noticed the young Joe was favoring his left knee. When asked what the issue was, Joe being the “tough guy” he was, said, “Oh, it’s nothin’. Just stiffens up when it gets a little chilly. I’m fine.”

After examining the knee further, the doctor comes back and catches Joe way off guard. He proceeds to tell Joe, look, I’ve seen enough of this knee that it could get you out of this god-awful war. I can get you a deferment. It’s your call.

Mindblown by this unexpected development, Joe starts thinking — how could I do this? How could I not do my part when all our other buddies made the sacrifice? How would it look to the neighborhood to see me turn away because of a knee? He starts asking the doctor questions. Finally, the doc interrupts him and says, hey kid…

“This is as easy as it will ever get, son. Whaddya want to do?”

Not a chance. No thanks, doctor, I’m going with the rest of my fellow draftees.

Joe had the rare opportunity to get out of an unspeakably terrifying situation, walking into a lifetime’s worth of scars, both physical and mental. The chance to start a life with his pregnant wife, start ahead, and never look back. He went anyway. Now, even Joe understands that side of the equation. He’s not the one bragging about answering the call. It’s a tempting scenario — hey, the doctor gave you a pass, and with that knee, who knows who you might compromise in the heat of the fight when your knee doesn’t react the way it’s supposed to. Other people may have physical injuries that really would compromise their abilities in the field. But Joe knew the truth.

Joe risked everything in his life because he knew he had to do his part, to carry his own water. You want to talk about nightmares, how about looking returning Vietnam veterans in the eyes for the rest of your life knowing in your heart you should have been there, too? Yeah, the doctor didn’t clear you, sure, but you knew your abilities and your heart.

Hearing this story flow out of Joe’s mouth, I was overtaken by immense appreciation for his choice, his sacrifice, and the life he’s led. A teacher for more than 30 years, he’s got a few teachable moments yet.

Now, refer back to the astoundingly petty crap that gets sent out on social media and popular culture every minute of every day. Looking ahead 42 years after the last Marine boot stepped off the Saigon embassy onto a Huey effectively ending the Vietnam War, is this the state we wanted to find ourselves?

 

 

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Playing It Small vs. Taking Action: What’s it going to be?

Oh, it’s safe to say we have all been there at one time or another.

A certain opportunity presents itself and we have a choice to make — do we take that leap into an uncertain outcome or unforeseeable future, or do we slowly back away, going with our natural instincts to protect ourselves from the inevitable?

I have confronted many of those moments; some avenues I took, others I backed away. And I can tell you right now, the vast majority of those times I backed away turned out to be the wrong move. Alternatively, I rarely regretted the moments I leaped. I’m sure you have similar experiences.

Life coach, CNN contributor, and motivational speaker Mel Robbins doesn’t mince words on Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory earlier this year when talking about finding the motivation, inspiration, or courage in making the decision to take action in your life.

While I would conceptually go with “inspiration” rather than “motivation”, it’s true nonetheless — WE’RE NEVER GOING TO BE AS READY AS WE BELIEVE WE NEED TO BE. It’s a false reality we’ve constructed in our brains to excuse LACK OF ACTION. I believe I can say that because it’s happened to me repeatedly in my life.  The risk represented itself larger than the reward. I got fooled, I got took. I got barnswoggled.

And I paid the price.

I’ve lived long enough to know when I hear, from myself or others, the excuse that the “timing wasn’t right” to follow through on a goal. At least 90% of the time it was pure bullshit. Nonsense. Excuses.

That act of protecting myself from the unknown dangers, actual or perceived, is REAL, and it’s high time we’re honest with ourselves about how it affects us. The concept of RISK is a very powerful force that can pull our minds away from the best life can offer us. I can offer proof of that. The second we can admit “The Spotlight Effect” is shining its bright light on us in the moments that matter we can confront it, recognize it for what it is, and defeat it.

No inspirational post from Lewis Howes, no kick-you-in-the-ass vlog from Gary Vaynerchuk, got me to write this post. The time is never going to be “right” for me to come up with a brilliant “light bulb” theme for my blog or decide on my next career avenue. All I know is that ideas without ACTION are worthless. Mel said it above:

“What has changed my life is waking up and realizing that motivation is garbage; I’m never going to feel like doing the things that are tough or difficult or uncertain or scary or new, so I need to stop waiting until I feel like it.”

It’s never going to be that “perfect moment.” Let us, you and I, take action in our lives NOW.

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Why Talent is Only Part of the Equation

Something just clicked with me when I watched Nike‘s latest “ad” featuring Cristiano Ronaldo. Next to Lionel Messi, Ronaldo is by all accounts the best soccer/football player on the planet. But what did it take to make that happen? The prevailing thought is Cristiano by nature possessed the inherent, God-given physical tools to make it possible to reach the elite.

Here’s the deal — success and fulfilling that kind of potential depends on so much more than that. All the great athletes — Ali, Jordan, et al. have stories of not simply relying on talent to achieve their dreams. They knew their natural abilities were merely a gateway to the true challenge — working with all their might, making that sacrifice, to do the tasks and take the risks others wouldn’t to achieve the results they never could.

In the ad above, you saw that after “the switch” Charlie now had the physical tools to reach the big time, but he still needed the “want to”, the drive to make it happen. Not everyone has that next gear, the work ethic needed in order to make the possible a reality.

As great as that example was, Ronaldo’s switch is the biggest lesson. He had everything — the physical gifts to be the best. After the switch, he was back to square one. What did he do? He ratcheted up again, accepted the challenge, and fulfilled the maximum of his new body and mind. That’s the lesson; the difference isn’t in the body, it’s between the ears.

Are you doubting your capability to get to where you want to go and fulfill what you want? If so, this video is a great example that you CAN DO IT. It just depends on how far you’re willing to go, how much you’re willing to sacrifice, and what you’re willing to DO to realize (surpass?) the full scope of your dreams. At 41, I know for a fact the best of Mike Barbre has yet to be seen.

What about you?

#MikeAt40: What I’ve learned halfway through the game

Trying to sum up the first 40 years of a lifetime is like a first-time skydiver describing the experience as “breezy.” There are just far too many memories and experiences to share. The following list would never end.

Therefore, I’ve thrown down some random thoughts; observations, nuggets of wisdom, reckless opinions. Many of these you may or may not agree with, which is kind of the point. If you haven’t done this, try it. Kind of funny what you can come up with, what ideas pop into your head, and which of those ideas will never see the light of day. I’ll never cover the amount of ground I’d like. There are takeaways I could tell you from my first day of kindergarden in 198- . Yeah, never mind.

I was born 32 hours, 46 minutes before the last American, a Marine, stepped onto a chopper from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, ending the Vietnam War. I think that’s pretty cool.

It’s a common saying now, but it couldn’t be more true: it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. Michael6

Growing up, we all followed a consistent daily routine — school, extracurricular activities (sports), homework, dinner and TV, bed — I look back and admire the routine, comfort, efficiency, the dependable nature of it. When I’m a parent, that routine will return, and I welcome it.

If you have an active aversion to change, life has a way of fixing that right up for you. Rather than avoid it, find it within yourself to embrace it. Makes life a lot easier (and a lot more fun!).

After all these years living in a big city
, it still amazes me the kindness that exists in people, just as it still surprises me how ugly, selfish, and self-serving we can be.

The trick is keeping the faith there are more good people than bad, surrounding yourself with them, and never allowing the bad near your light.

Cynicism and pessimism rarely solve anything. I hear way too much of it these days, especially online from people who either want to outsmart the room, starving for acknowledgement, or both. You don’t sound intelligent. You sound like an asshole.

I am not exempt from this scenario. Clearly.

My greatest strength is my persistence. #BluntInstrument

My greatest weakness is not knowing when to quit.

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Louis CK givin’ the ol’ No. 1 to hair loss.

When I realized I was losing my hair, it wasn’t some dramatic sense of doom and gloom. You just realize, hey, there is literally nothing you can do. It was more like, “So, this is how it’s going to be. Wow, okay then.”
You just gotta make it look good which, of course, I do.

Now…would I take my glorious head of hair back in a second? Hell. Yes.

Growing up, I thought Generation X would be the difference. Turns out Gen X is no different from the Baby Boomers, the Greatest Generation, or any other era. It’s not my intent to be negative, necessarily. I’ve simply re-evaluated my personal beliefs to reflect the fact that at this point in our evolution, the human condition is simply incapable of learning from its mistakes.

I still believe, though, and we should never stop trying, never stop improving. It’s always up to us.

Know your worth, and those who aren’t worth it.
Some people are in your rear-view mirror for a reason.

Some people are in your rear-view for a reason.

Eating whatever I wanted at even, say, 36, had NONE of the consequences of eating whatever I want at 40. The days of an endless “churn and burn” metabolism are over. Boy, I had a helluva run, though.

Some lessons must be learned again.

My sense of humor is always changing. I always admired my buddies who could pull out one-liners or laughers whenever they wanted. My funnies depend on multiple factors, mostly good. Around some, I whip ’em out and kill the room. With other people or groups it’s much more subtle, more like a dry wit. Sometimes I’m as humorless as a rock. Sorry, just don’t have it. More often than not, it depends on the company.

So very true: If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.

At my core, I’m a farm boy living in the big city. It’s funny how so many of my friends in Seattle can’t imagine me on a farm.

I’ve ignored that “gut feeling” far too many times in my life.

The Seahawks have taught me more than a few lessons to live by. Here are just a few:1witx_zpsef805b38

1) Appreciate the little victories. Moral victories can, in fact, be valuable.
2) There will come a time, though, when they’re not enough. These are called “the good days”.
3) Unceasing, unbreakable, unshakeable loyalty
4) Accepting there are things you have no control over.
Then again, when you have an opportunity, JUMP ON IT.
5) It’s not over ’til it’s over; put the final nail in the coffin; step on their throats; finish the job.
6) I’m more Curt Warner than Richard Sherman. At times, I wish I was the reverse.
7) Life isn’t fair — Fredd Young reversed INT call in ’87 Wild Card; Testaverde in ’98; getting screwed in XL
8) Petty or not, East Coast bias is real.
9) Discovering your heroes, then learning and accepting said heroes are, in fact, fallible
10) There is always someone better. (until you win it all; SB XLVIII)

The very best way to be “cool” is doing your own thing. Do what you love, what you’re passionate about. Do what YOU like to do. The advantages, in whatever form, will come sooner or later.

I’ve avoided math like the yellow fever since Math 100 in college. I can’t believe I just told the world about that Math 100 class. I killed it, though. So there’s that.
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Find a way not to brood and simmer over your mistakes or opportunities you missed. It does nothing for you. You are where you are. Adjust to the situation and make it better.

I still marvel at the world. I love that about myself. The inherent, natural ability a spider has in their DNA to spin a web with absolute precision still astounds me. I can barely cut my toenails correctly.

Guilt is one of the most destructive feelings to shake. It manifests and expresses itself in so many ways, and I can’t think of any that are actually healthy.

I still want to travel. When I got back from Europe in ’94, my life was irrevocably altered. Easily one of the biggest and best experiences and lessons I’ve ever had. How would you NOT want to travel as much as you can?? There’s SO MUCH to see, experience, learn, and appreciate out there.
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One of my favorite quotes: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” — Mark Twain

Wow, if i could meet anyone? That’s a long line. But seriously, who wouldn’t want to meet Jesus?? Just think of all the brass-tacks questions you could ask! From the source Himself. HELL YEAH!!!

After that? Probably Einstein.

I’m going to be a pretty good dad. Unless I just jinxed myself. Hey, it happens.

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I am nothing without my family. The depth of my love for them isn’t even quantifiable.

I remember my family drinking coffee at my grandmother’s on the farm and trying it. I LIKED IT. If you know me at all, this makes perfect sense.

Looking back, I wish I’d have kept up with the piano. I’ve always tumblr_m8pwwwUR8A1qfr6udo6_400said I was right at that point, that event horizon, where had I continued I might have gotten really good. My family might have a different take. I was so sick and tired of practicing, though. Practicing for 30 minutes was like torture. Just a half-hour!! That in itself should have told me something. I think it’s important to be able to play an instrument, though. Hey, the chicks dig it.

When the buddies put out word we are to assemble for drinks:

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Nothing will ever replace the late summer afternoon view on the farm. 

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Does Ron Judd Speak For Every PNW “Native”?

What is a “native Pacific Northwesterner” ? How is one defined as being a true native of the “Upper Left”?

Sitting down to an easy, relaxing, and surprisingly sunny Seattle Saturday on Alki Beach last weekend, the answer came in the form of an interesting perspective by the Seattle Times‘ satirist-in-residence Ron Judd in his Pacific Northwest magazine article titled “If you weren’t born in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll never be one of us“. I do hope I got his “satirist” title correct, because there’s a few details I need cleared up.

If you haven’t actually read the article yet, you might want to do that before making your way through the rest of this blog post. While I typically enjoy Judd’s weekly stuff, how can he seriously justify his position on what makes a Pacific Northwesterner? I’m a farmer’s son from Central Washington, and I can tell you unequivocally I am a dyed-in-the-wool, true-to-the-blue Pacific Northwesterner. Not once did he clarify there were other regions in the PNW other than Western Washington in the piece. Look, I understand the market to which he’s trying to appeal, but the generalization that only Pacific Northwesterners live on the west side of the Cascades is small-minded, simple, self-serving, and frankly, elitist (which seems to be his attitude through the majority of this article).

But let’s put all that aside for the true point of the piece which is “if you aren’t a native-born Seattleite or Puget Sounder, you’ll never be one of us, or understand what we’re about.” I know more than a few of whom he referred to as “encroachers” who fit the bill than many who were born and raised here. People move here from all over the country and the world to take advantage of the rainy months, take pleasure in walking to work in galoshes, hiking the surrounding mountains, or fishing their brains out in the various rivers every weekend. In turn, I also know more than a few (many, in fact) native-born and bred Pacific Northwesterners who have a fit when their hair gets wet going to work.

By now, I’m pretty sure you get my point; while I didn’t grow up in Birkenstocks and wading boots, I AM one of you, a true-blue Pacific Northwesterner whether Ron Judd can handle it or not. I simply grew up in the wheat fields and am very much the outdoorsy type. I just did my thing on the other side of the Cascades.

Even his list of characteristics of this region’s inhabitants toward the end got me between the eyes. While I do enjoy the wintry rain and soggy gray clouds in January, get a load of the title for a particular section: “The heat, my God, the heat.” REALLY?? You’re complaining about the HEAT during a Seattle summer?? If you can’t handle the exquisitely warm offerings of a Seattle summer, get ready for heat stroke if you ever visit anywhere else in the country; specifically the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, or the brutal Southeast regions. You won’t survive.

In addition, when you claimed we “merely tolerate, rather than enjoy” summers here in Western Washington, you were on drugs, right? You can be honest, Ron. Point of fact, I cannot think of a single person I know who avoids the warm rays of the sun until fall rears its head. When the sun shines its glorious orb to the Northern Hemisphere the natives come out of the woodwork.

Was Ron Judd speaking for every Pacific Northwesterner? I’m sure some individuals who just want to make noise would agree. But even people in the same cultural regions have different views of themselves, different preferences. That is, in fact, what makes Seattle and Western Washington so special to begin with; the diverse ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. It’s the reason I moved here, and it’s the reason I’ve stayed.

5 Job-Seeking Realities Rediscovered In 2013

Let’s just say my plans for 2013 were a little higher than reality determined suitable. End of ’12 had a great contract job fall right in my lap. I couldn’t have scripted it better. Networking event, company looking for a Social Media Specialist, interviewed 48 hours later, hired that night. Life provides those “highs,” and December 5, 2012, was definitely one of those. I was on cloud 9 for a good while afterwards. Unfortunately, a couple months later, I was back where I’d been. Though the rest of the year didn’t get much better, there are a few tidbits of experience I can provide after 10 months out here in the wild. Now, you might look at some of these as being on the side of obvious, but when you’re looking up to where you were, it’s easy to forget.

  • Trite but true: Someone’s always got it worse

Throughout this last year, for whatever reason I’ve been on the outside looking in on more than a few employment opportunities. Jobs I felt I should have had yet for whatever reason didn’t work out (too much experience/not enough experience/baldness/poor interviewer/could I be an asshole?). Get over it. I’ve had friends struggle with fundamental, existence-altering loss in one way or another; unexpected death in the family, divorce, separation, their long-time dog died, whatever. None of these things happened to me. What you’re going through, by comparison, matters little. This is a time when your perspective muscles, while admittedly tough to do, need to be exercised. It’s not a fun exercise at times, to be sure, but if you’re going to get from here to there, concentration and focus on that next step is paramount.

  • Don’t expect your friends to come through for you

Let me clarify; fantasizing about a friend calling and telling you that your Dream Job just opened up somewhere is one thing. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have such dreams. But being frustrated because you haven’t been forwarded any recent jobs by your friends simply isn’t fair. Your friends have their own lives to live, their own problems, their own jobs, their own battles. You can’t lie back and expect your buddies to hook you up. It’s YOUR job to get out there and make it happen. Through your own day-in, day-out effort, that’s when you start to see those unforeseen opportunities inexplicably fall in your lap. It IS pretty cool when it happens, and you have every right to credit yourself (and, of course, your friend) with the reason it became possible.

  • It might take longer than you expected

You never know why you didn’t get selected for any of those jobs you applied or interviewed for. Could be one out of a thousand reasons. Doesn’t matter. And don’t bother trying to ask WHY you didn’t get the job; they won’t tell you. I’ve tried it and they’ve rarely responded. Lawsuits, you know? Best thing you can do is keep moving forward, correct any mistakes, don’t over-think it, and focus on the next opportunity. Unfortunately it might be awhile; they tend to come in bunches. Either way, it’s a war of attrition and you’re the first and last line of defense. This is where you need to remain strong-minded, strong-willed, and confident in your abilities. No one said it was going to be easy, and it certainly isn’t for me.

  • Want to stay sane while you job search? Stay ACTIVE

Get out and DO STUFF. I can’t emphasize this enough. Do anything. Hiking, working out, Internet dating, whatever. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby, joining a group, or traveling, you can’t simply sit in your home watching Ellen re-runs, chowing Pringles and expect everything to get better. Setting aside the fact staying active is actually good for your health and probably something you should have been doing anyway, it’s also good for your self-esteem, especially in this type of life situation. Studies consistently show that getting outside and exercising regularly releases pain-reducing endorphins into your system, boosting your mood, and reducing rates of depression. (WebMD article) I can tell you from personal experience, it works. Not necessarily 24 hours a day but in the hours during and after, get your lungs and muscles some exercise, and your mood will follow. You might be jobless, but hey, those 6-pack abs can do wonders for that self-esteem.

  • Become a fixture on the networking circuit

Okay, okay, I understand this might be the most obvious of the five realities I’ve presented. I’m still bringing it up because, for some, it’s also the toughest to do. Not everyone is good at going up to random strangers and establishing a mutually positive dialogue. I just lucked out, I suppose. I’m pretty good at it. The more you’re putting yourself out there and making the effort to helping others, the better chance you have to encounter someone who might have something available or know of one. I got my last job at a networking event hosted by online marketing influencer Lewis Howes. My buddy introduced me to someone who just happened to have available the job I was looking for. Turned out just the way I envisioned. I had to go out and get it, though. It wouldn’t have happened at all if I’d simply checked out jobs online — a chore I’m now near-convinced is a ridiculous waste of time.

There are always exceptions to the rule – a reality as factual as any listed above. Losing a job is tough, while finding your next opportunity can be just as hard. But if you go out into that post-job existence with at least these five realities locked in your arsenal, you’ll be much better prepared to take what the job-seeking world has to dish out.

Can anyone stop Instagram??

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Now you can ham it up privately on Instagram.

It seems to me Instagram is starting to become that unstoppable Marvel Comics universe “Apocalypse“-like killing machine in social sharing. Attention-grabbing photos put together with image-enhancing features, paired with valuable content your followers eat up every day. Adding 15 seconds-or-less video to its sharing options, despite a few initial gripes here and there, hasn’t stopped its popularity.

And now, even those features aren’t filling the quota on what they want to do. Instagram has now invaded the photo sharing market currently dominated by SnapChat with private “Instagram Direct”. I can’t imagine Instagram won’t be taking an apocalyptic bite into SnapChat’s screen time in the near future.

Hindsight of course is 20/20, but who thinks SnapChat should have grabbed that billion Facebook threw at them? Take a look at the video then tell me what you think of Instagram’s new toy in the comments below!