Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Selective Hypocrisy

I was thinking about my post yesterday, in particular where I wrote:

“Part of the problem is the dreaded “Nothing is going to change – its been tried before” syndrome. People hold onto their cynicism like grim death.”

Then I realized this is precisely how I feel about our government and the general state of affairs here in the U.S. In my original post I was writing about trying to implement changes in the workplace, and how one must fight against this attitude in others to move forward. But this is precisely my attitude regarding political change. Hmmm… (uncomfortable self-recognition here).

I’m not going to say my attitude about politics is going to change (at least at this moment), but I do need to humbly acknowledge my hypocrisy here. I have made a conscious decision not to discuss politics on this blog, partly because I feel it is a toxic subject that only serves to divide us, when what we need is to respectfully acknowledge our differences and come together. I consider myself apolitical and don’t see that changing anytime soon…

But perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so cynical about humanity’s ability to change. I certainly don’t want to be a rigid old geezer. Life has taught me lessons it would be foolish to ignore, but one should never give up hope. After all, some things do change. I’m just not sure human nature is one of them.

The Thankless Job of Trying to Make Things Better

Initiating and implementing change in the workplace is fraught with peril – everywhere you turn there seems to be resistance. It can be even more frustrating when the change is meant to actually make the job easier. Part of the problem is the dreaded “Nothing is going to change – its been tried before” syndrome. People hold onto their cynicism like grim death.

Then there is the “Who do you think you are to actually think you change something?” It’s just exhausting and exasperating. There will be many times where you wonder “WTF was I thinking?”

What you were thinking was “I see an opportunity to make things better” and you jumped on it. Because nothing ever changes until someone recognizes a problem, sees a potential solution, and owns it.

Too Much Input

Badly wanting something to succeed adds an unnecessary extra layer of stress to an already difficult situation.

Better to do your best, relax, and just let it happen.

ESI Level L

The triage system used by most North American emergency departments is the ESI (Emergency Severity Index). Incoming patients are assigned to one of five levels by the triage nurse based on acuity and anticipated needed resources. Not surprisingly, the levels are numbered one through five, with level one being assigned to patients who are actively dying, and level five to wound checks or medication refills.

When you are a triage nurse, it isn’t uncommon to come across patients whose needs don’t fall into any of the available categories. EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act) mandates that anyone who presents to an ER in the U.S. must be medically evaluated, which can create a bit of a conundrum. That means that no one is ever turned away, whether their complaint makes any sense or not. I’ve often thought that perhaps there should be a level L, denoting the true nature of some patients need: loneliness.

After all, loneliness, if not a disease state itself, will certainly lead to ill health. And the antidote is about as simple as it gets – someone just needs to listen, to be present for and acknowledge this afflicted individual. The dosage of attention doesn’t even have to be that big, and you don’t need a doctors order or a pharmacy to fill it. It doesn’t even cost anything…

Just a little compassion, a little focused listening, and the acute phase of the illness can be controlled (at least in the short term) quite easily.

Facilitating the rich tapestry of human existence – just another moment in the day of an ER nurse…

Human Hearing and Evolution

The earth has been here for around 4.5 billion years, humans as we know them have been here for around 200,000. Obviously I’m not a scientist, but when I think of evolution I am envisioning an incredibly slow biological adaptation to the environment and the needs of the organism to survive. So it’s inexplicably mysterious to think about how this incredibly sophisticated sense has evolved in such a short period of time. Not only did our hearing evolve to its current state, but the neural connections between our brain and what we hear developed as well. And it was this development that lead to language and music. Somehow all of this happened very quickly, at least in evolutionary terms.

It’s instructive to think that crocodiles have been here for around 200 million years, with very little happening in the evolutionary department. And yet in 200,000 years we somehow adapted our aural perceptions to invent languages and create music and art. Why? And to what end?

What oddly beautiful, strange, and dangerous creatures we are

Graduation Day!

Well, well, well – where do I start? Today I completed my undergraduate degree at the age of 60. It took me seven years, primarily because I was diagnosed with cancer halfway through and I stopped going for over three and a half years. There’s nothing like a phone call from your oncologist that starts with “I’m sorry but I have some bad news” to make you appreciate your time – I suddenly found that going to school and fulfilling a long range goal didn’t seem to be very important. When imminent disease and early death are suddenly a very real possibility, everything changes.

I was successfully treated and eventually recovered, a process that took a few years. After it became clear that I had dodged a bullet and wasn’t going to die, I rewired my brain to fully understand that and decided to go back to school and finish. Finishing is important. It’s also the hardest…

I really need to take a minute, look back and feel good about the whole process, and fully appreciate not only what I learned, but what I learned about myself.  Adult education has been a process of self-discovery for me. I didn’t really know what I was capable of and I had no idea whether I was intellectually smart or not. Street smart – very. Book smart – not so much. I liked reading about what interested me. When I was a kid, I went to a public school in a small town in the south, and I remember I liked learning, got good grades, and never really studied. At least until the age of 14 or so…

That’s when my world imploded – I had grown up in a highly unstable environment surrounded by untreated mental illness, violence, and neglect. At the time I thought this was normal, that everyone lived more or less like this. Somewhere around the age of 14 I realized this probably wasn’t the case and decided I had had enough. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to do something. So I spun severely out of control and failed out of High School. I don’t mean “out of control” like a misbehaving kid. I mean “out of control” like someone poised for some very dangerous behavior. My potential was manifesting itself in the worst way possible…

Music is what saved me – plain and simple. It gave my life purpose and meaning, and the social connections of playing in bands was very healing. So fast forward a few decades and I decide to develop a second career to allow me to focus on making music that was important and meaningful to me and stop taking whatever soul crushing gig came up because I had to make ends meet. I start going to a state community college at the age of 45 – and lo and behold, I start to excel! WTF!! As I go through college, I begin to realize I’m graduating at the top of all my classes, and I’m thinking to myself, “Wow – I had no idea I could do this!

So today is my unofficial graduation day – I just finished my final course completing my college math requirements. I know fuck all about math, had never taken an algebra course before, yet somehow figured out how to solve the problems. My final grade was 99.5…

Maybe we should all step back and not ask “What can I do?” but rather “What can I not do?

Staying Aware

“I am a really instinctive person and I go by my gut. I pay strong attention to everything that’s going on in my life — both inside my body and in the world around me. And I find that if I just stay aware and keep my own pre-conceived ideas as much off the table as possible, life is generally very clearly telling me at all points in time what I need to be doing...

When I follow my radar like that, I end up in all these crazy unexpected places that I don’t think on my best day, I could have engineered a plan for.

I really believe that the most important thing in life is simply the doing. There are so many talented people and so many great ideas out there but you never achieve anything without actually trying to do it!”

– Gregory Scott

Shame On You

To anyone who has deliberately singled out someone new to their job as a target for bullying I say this:

Shame on you.

I’m not talking about the natural rough and tumble of “the new person” integrating into the workplace. I’m talking about willfully trying to make someone fail. For no other reason than to exert your mean-spirited dominance over someone who is vulnerable. Instead of teaching, you have decided to use your experience as an excuse to inflict harm on another person. Really?

It’s one thing if the person in question is incompetent and potentially dangerous. Even then, someone in a position of power hired them, and they deserve a chance to be taught how to succeed before they are forced to fail.

As if we all weren’t vulnerable and inexperienced at one time. What is wrong with you? Did you somehow lose your humanity, or did you never have it to start with?

It’s not to late. If for no other reason than your children need someone to teach them how to succeed in life – and this isn’t how you do it.

Essentially Homeless

I remember the ground was really damp, and the bugs were biting me all night. At the time I didn’t think this, but in retrospect I realize this is how being homeless starts. I was sleeping in a field, or at least trying to. When the sun came up, so did I. I staggered to a local mall that wasn’t open yet, and stashed the blanket that someone had given me under a mailbox. When I went back to look for it, it was gone. I walked to a gas station and bought a honeybun and some coffee for breakfast with the change in my pocket. Trust me, you don’t want to know where I got that. Sometime that afternoon I ended up at my girlfriends place. I showered there, her parents were at work. We were just kids – I had no clue what I was going to do, and completely didn’t give a fuck. We made love and she gave me a sandwich. I left before her parents got home, and made my way to a friends house to hang out until the bars opened.

I was desperate and had no where to go, but I was free! No crazy person beating the shit out of me. Being homeless sucked, but it was better than that.

This was a good chunk of my teenage years. I remember every day away from home I was hungry, dirty, and happy to be free. Somehow I lived through that and thought it was no big deal.

It’s a miracle I stayed out of jail. We won’t count juvie – those records are sealed…

You Are Not Defined By Your Mental Illness

As of 2015, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates approximately 4.3 million adults suffered from any mental illness in the United States – or about 18 percent of the population. I want to make a very important point here, one that may not be self-evident if you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness that has not been successfully treated.

Although your disorder can define your ability to function effectively in the world – it does not define you. Let me explain…

We all have certain gifts, the combination of which are unique to each of us. Psychology has developed many tools to test for our potential as humans – but there is a wild card at play here. One may be gifted with above average intelligence, or have a personality type that might express itself successfully in a particular work environment, or innately have a gift for personal expression that could develop into a powerful artistic expression. But none of this potential can be realized if the individual is impaired by mental illness – the symptoms cause an instability that will prevent the full manifestation of who that person is. Treat the illness successfully – and suddenly the individual is able to begin realizing their potential.

Now of course there are other factors at play here – like how badly the person wants to express their potential and their willingness to work hard to do so. But the point I am trying to make is this:

If you are suffering from mental illness, you might be shocked by what you are able to achieve if the disease is effectively treated. Accept and recognize your limitations and ask for help. Sometimes (if you are lucky) a third party will need to intervene because you are so impaired you are unable to recognize your disconnect from reality.

It’s too bad there is such a stigma attached to admitting you have a mental disorder. You might be surprised at how many successful individuals would be unable to function without their medication

NYC – 59th Street: Same Spot, Different Views

NYC – a place of unimaginable beauty and absolutely breathtaking juxtapositions…

Picture this: You’re walking east on the northbound side of 59th street approaching 5th Avenue and it’s a beautiful summer day. You stop and look north, take out your iPhone and snap this photo:

Then you turn around, face south, look up and snap this…


It takes more energy to be an asshole than it does to be nice. And when you act like a dick you end up feeling like one.

When you are nice (better yet – funny and nice), you make everyone feel better, including yourself. As a bonus, you immediately become more attractive to those around you, which has its own benefits.

And whoever you were nice to is now predisposed to act the same way to the next person they meet. See how easy it is to make the world a better place?

Ninety Percent

Some days you’re just not operating at 100%. It happens to everyone and it’s usually not that big a deal. Unless you’re an ER nurse, in which case it can be very unsettling. Your whole job is to be hyper aware and alert – it can be tricky spotting something serious in a sea of undistinguished, nebulous symptoms.

Not being fully aware and alert could mean missing a stroke.

Jobs where people’s lives are in your hands present an entirely different level of responsibility.

A great gift and a privilege, but sobering.

Making Time

This really comes down to two things – “How important is the thing I want to make time for to me?,” and “Can I be disciplined enough to schedule my time for this thing and honor that commitment?” That’s really all there is to it. Because if you really want to do it, you will find the time. Honoring your commitment may be difficult at first, but force yourself to be disciplined about it and I promise it will get easier. At some point it will simply become part of your life, and you will feel uncomfortable not doing it.

Exercise and meditation are two great examples in my life. At first, I chafed at the amount of time I had to set aside for both of these things. But relatively quickly, I experienced benefits that made it easier to justify the time spent. I have now been exercising regularly for 33 years, and meditating for six. These two activities changed my life, and the change wasn’t subtle.

If you are trying to be disciplined about finding the time to be creative, this can be more difficult. There is no clear cut benefit to this except self-actualization and expressing your humanity. If the creative endeavor is music, there is the intoxicating thrill of tapping into something magical when it works. Music is a mysterious and powerful force, accessing this requires discipline and respect for the process. But once you have experienced it on this level, there is no turning back.

The time is there to do with as you please. It is, however, finite. In that sense it is your most precious commodity. Guard it wisely

You Are Not Your Flaws

We all have aspects of our personality, of who we are, that we are not proud of. It can be difficult to come to grips with this – I know there are aspects of my personality that I have found troubling, and at times painful for me to accept. Surviving hardship has a way of exposing who you really are, and sometimes the things we do to survive aren’t pretty. I always understand the reasoning behind my actions, and I carefully consider the consequences. But there have been many times in my life where I had to make a decision and take action and later I would think “What kind of a person does this?” I was doing something I thought I had to do to survive, but it certainly wasn’t something I was proud of. Although I tried to accept this part of my personality, I would feel like a “bad” person when I thought about it.

But with age comes (hopefully) some degree of wisdom. And I have come to realize that it’s okay to accept that you are imperfect, indeed, it’s important to learn to love and accept yourself because you are imperfect. But that’s only part of the story…

The truth, I believe, is this: I have learned to accept that I am a flawed and imperfect human, but I am trying my best to do the right thing. Knowing this I can forgive myself and move on. I know that I am trying to be the best human I can, and that’s all that can be asked of any of us.

We are ALL imperfect, flawed people. Accept this, try to be better, forgive yourself and move on.

Here’s A Question…

If something is going wrong, ask yourself “Am I Part of the problem or part of the solution?” Because if you’re not part of the solution, chances are you’re definitely part of the problem.

Fortune Favors The Brave

Be bold, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is GOOD, it means you are learning, growing, and most important, you are in motion, a work in progress.

You have to be brave to venture into uncharted territory, but you can’t discover anything unless you’re willing to go there.

Working Towards A Greater Goal

It’s not pretty, and it’s certainly not exciting. It’s just ball breaking, hard fucking work.

This is what separates the men from the boys. It’s no ones idea of fun, and there are a thousand other things I’d rather be doing. But I’m doing this to reach a goal.

This is how shit gets done.

Message From Beyond?

Okay – this doesn’t really fit in with my belief system (or rather the lack there of), but I’d like to think that my mind is open to all possibilities. I’m comfortable with admitting that sometimes I just don’t know.

Two years ago, a very close friend of my wife and I died from cancer. Whenever you lose someone you loved over decades, they are always with you, like shadows in the periphery of your mind.

Two days ago she believes she received a message from him.

When she told me the story of what happened, it was mesmerizing and complex, with lots of unexpected twists involving a third party and complete with a physical message she photographed which immediately disappeared, leaving only a very clear and unambiguous photo. The picture was quite compelling and vivid – there was no question about what you were looking at, the question was how did it get there, what exactly did it mean, and where did it go?

Is it possible (at least for those of us who are paying attention and are sensitive to the world we live in) to receive communications from loved ones who have passed on? I mean, I’m an atheist who doesn’t believe in the afterlife, and yet…

For the many unknowable things in our world, is it perhaps enough to believe, at least until proven wrong, that your best interpretation is true? Perhaps by choosing not to believe in the unknown, we are missing things all around us – things that might enrich and expand our consciousness. We become blind to all the riches life has to offer.

Maybe the good shit is staring us right in the face and we are too blind to see it. It’s all around us – we just need to be open like a child to receive it.


I love this word’s succinct power as a descriptor of art. It represents the most profound compliment, a manifestation of the absolute highest praise.

Using this word as an adjective in relation to art removes subjective judgment from the equation. It’s no longer a question of whether the thing is good, or whether you like it or not…

It is simply undeniable.