Reason To Believe

In the land of 24/7 media coverage and real time responses from faceless Internet critics, no one would blame you if you questioned every belief you’ve ever had. Prowl on-line long enough, and you can unearth a shadow of a doubt on any subject.

Be it video, text, or photo, there’s always a source for you to question your beliefs.

I have a strong faith that there is a God, an eternal being who created us and watches over us now. This belief was instilled within at a young age, by a family full of immigrants whose Roman Catholic faith was unshakeable.

If I wanted to, I can read articles every day that could make me ponder the question, “What if there is no God?” It may have to do with getting older, being in the second half of your life. Wanting to be sure that there is, in fact, something more that we can look forward to.

I have a strong belief in family. That blood is thicker than water, and that the ties that bind the family are the most powerful you’ll have anywhere. That family comes first.

You can have your doubts here, as well. Friends can become enemies, family become strangers. How well do you really know your loved ones, anyway?

I have a strong belief in country, and I know many will share that view. Whether Democrat or Republican, your main wish should be that our country succeed, no matter what. For the most top of the line belief in country, watch movies like Lone Survivor. Discover the individuals that will go to any lengths for love of country.

There is nothing wrong with questions about God, other people, the environment, conservatism, your country, your government. Questions about truth, lies, sex, videotape, and whether 80s music was as good as it seemed (looking back, I’m having my doubts here).

It’s fair to question your beliefs about any aspect of life happening around you.  Except one.

Your belief in yourself.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that my self belief, or confidence, is unwavering. Just the opposite, in fact. I’ve been the recipient of mega self-doubt, not knowing what to do, where to go or how to think, depending on the situation.

Nowadays, the self doubt usually creeps in the subjects of career, financial, home improvement (you’d understand why if you’ve ever seen me use a power drill). But, there’s a difference between “the now” and even just a few years ago.

If the self doubt does make an appearance, it’s short lived. Lasting hours, or even minutes, rather than days or weeks.

And there’s a reason for that. I know who I am. I know what I stand for. Things can change, my opinions can vary, but the core “me” remains what it always has been. That attitude is the very essence of old-school.

People experience self doubt because they compare themselves to others and, more importantly, they don’t do anything that they really enjoy for work or play.

Do you sarcastically say “Just another day in paradise” when asked “How are you?” Is life joyless, devoid of thinking with the curiosity of a kid, intent instead on collecting “things” that add nothing to your identity?

Think about it. About what you liked to do before age eighteen, before life was ruled by higher education, relationships, unsatisfying jobs, mortgages, kids, responsibilities, and the subsequent questions that may create doubt.

Are you doing them now?

Anything? Why not?

When I was younger, it was easier to be plagued by doubting myself. But I had people that believed in me. Like my grandmother. My godmother. I’ll throw my grandfather in there, although it was hard to tell back then. He was an Italian immigrant who was very selective in using his words. His actions did the talking.

Now, I have distinct reasons to believe. There are two kids who will look to what I do, rather than what I say, for examples of how to live. That’s part of being a parent. At ages of 18 and 14, it’s a critical time, and for me, there is no room for prolonged self doubt. They need to know that when doubt is removed, the world can be your oyster.

My immigrant grandparents and their family could have been the champions of self inflicted doubt. Instead, they brought a fire to their duties, putting together their American story and creating future generations of entrepreneurs, doctors, musicians, recording artists, writers, and keepers of the traditions they developed through their years.

The concept of tradition is sinking into a wasteland of trends and media obliteration and saturation. It’s hard to see what’s real anymore, if you don’t look closely. But what’s real is this – my son will play baseball again, launching rockets into sun drenched skies. This summer, my daughter will walk across a stage to shake with one hand and receive a high school diploma with the other.

Cape CodWhen she’s done, we’ll carry on our tradition of wandering Cape Cod beaches, exploring, collecting rocks and shells, watching the waves crash and swell. Modern world, and its incarnations of belief killing, be damned.

No room for self doubt. There are reasons to believe.

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Chasing Your Version Of “The American Dream”

American Dream this wayThe American Dream is dead.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard. You know the culprits – High fuel prices. A “can’t shake it” unemployment percentage. (And in a 2017 update) The impending automation of just about all of our jobs.

The dream is dead.

Do you disagree with that? I sure do. The time is here where you should try to capture your own slice of this attainable Dream, and the easiest way to do it is go old-school.

Are you ready for old-school? It’s the place where luxuries are luxuries (and not “needs”), and that the ultimate goal of convenience is looked at with a jaded eye.

It’s that crazy place where if the word entitlement even crosses your mind, it’s how you feel entitled to this: the opportunity to grab a job (sometimes two) or start a company and then proceed to scratch, claw, and earn everything that you have.

It’s the school where our previous generations roamed, survived, and subsequently kicked some ass.

As a responsible parent of two kids, I feel it is my duty to inform them of the advantages of old-school thinking and philosophy.

I believe I’m a good parent, but self doubt can creep in, leaving me wondering, “Am I doing enough?”

You can think of this post, if you want, as a letter of love and advice to my children. It is. But, I’ve no doubt that 90% of adults, myself included, can be helped by it as well. For me to do my job as a Dad, the American Dream needs to be outlined in a certain manner: the way it used to be.

You see, kids, back when my grandparents (your great grandparents) were around, they were the embodiment of the American Dream. Emigrating from Italy, they got off a crappy boat to walk our shores and make their lives here, in your city. There were mighty struggles back then, but they made a true success story as entrepreneurs, homeowners, and generally fantastic people.

Here’s where things get interesting for me. While modern Americans decry the Dream as dead, with their own struggles to make ends meet, I’m certain your ancestors would have thrived in an environment that we have today. This is the richest country around, with boat loads of opportunity to do well.

Yes, we had a Recession… but it was far from the Great Depression they lived through. And while this country is involved in wars currently, its arguably not the magnitude of World War II. I’m gonna say they had it a little bit tougher.

Nowadays, life is moving pretty quickly.  The future is beckoning. Everyone wants to know what you’re going to do with your life. Peer pressure will ebb and flow, and the most well meaning people will tell you what you should do, what you should buy – and what you need to do to get it.

Dad Advice – I know it’s unsolicited, but here it is: Get your own version of the American Dream. Be different. Non-conformist. Don’t follow the herd. See the latest version of the Dream as it really is: a sham, a lie perpetrated to us by marketing execs with PhDs, determined to coerce you to part with all of your money – and lead you into a stressful life.

My grandparents did not have much education, but they had wisdom and common sense, in spades. As far as finances and economics, they were brutally smart on what to leave alone. Kids, I have to admire the fact that as I watch you grow up, you look like you will be treading the same path. You care about the environment like Nonna did (for Pete’s sake, she recycled potato chip bags), and you make purchases thoughtfully like she did. Buying things when she needed to.

You’re on the right track. Without a doubt. You want to hear how Nonna and Pop really blew it up? Most of the stuff that you grew up with, that people will tell you are life’s necessities, are in fact the very definition of luxuries. Nonna and Pop did without most of these luxuries – and wound up happy and successful anyway.

Next post: For the kids, and any adults that care to listen, I’ll detail all the stuff – cool, stupid, or completely unnecessary – that my super smart grandparents avoided on the way to forging their version of the Dream in the country they loved. Until then, feel free to liberally use the sharing buttons below to make your friends aware of this wonderful content!

Terrible Old School Career Advice To Blatantly Ignore

My daughter is now at the age where she’s started getting unsolicited career advice from well meaning friends and family that some of us got when we were teenagers.

You’ve probably heard it yourself.

“Go to law school. Become a lawyer.”

“How about doctor? You could marry one. Or go to medical school. Medical school would be a fine choice. ”

“I hear there’s a lot of money in computers” (Talk about general advice).

While I typically favor the practices of the old school, this is one old time suggestion that should be tossed in the garbage can. If I’m dispensing advice, I’m not comfortable going with either:

  • a) “do what you love” starving artist vs.
  • b) pursuit of law or medical school for riches and prestige.

You gotta meet somewhere in the middle.

For Love Or Money

I was told once that I had the personality for sales. In the beginning, I didn’t have a passion for sales, but I do like stuff that I’m good at. So I stuck with it. My passion is a full wallet and the freedom that comes with it, to do cool things with my family (see this post for that).

Note to children: Here’s your unsolicited advice from your father – find an activity that you are really good at, or find something that you enjoy practicing over and over again so you get good at it. That’s your start.

Find people that want to pay you for that one thing, and you are on your way to finding your career.

My daughter, as of this moment, is really into biology. The idea of dissecting a frog or perhaps another dead animal is her idea of fun. She loves it. It has potential to become her passion.

I know the mind of a teenager can change. Mine certainly did when I was that age. At this point, it matters not. I’m a proud papa anyway. If she chooses to go into a field like biology, that’s only icing on my pride cake.

Like Father, Like Son

In our basement (which I proudly refer to as “the dungeon”), I have an old heavy bag that I have used for exercise and stress relief for the longest time. How long, you ask? Well, the bag has the insignia for the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, circa 1980.

Don’t judge. I was a very young man back then.

When I was a teenager, boxing was to me what biology is to my daughter. I went to live matches, and followed all of the big fighters. I trained like a boxer to stay in shape after initially using that training to melt away well earned body fat.

My bag is an Everlast, and the fact that it’s survived almost three decades of beatings makes it one of more durable possessions that I have. I still enjoy using it frequently, and number one son has now taken to the feeling of satisfaction that is punching things.

Like father, like son? Very likely. After all, most of us would like to take after our fathers in some respect. Derek Jeter once said “My dad had been a shortstop….and you know, when you’re a kid, you want to be just like your dad.” My dad started as a bartender, so guess what I wanted to be?

Bad Advice, Not Taken

When I was a bartender, a “friend” of mine asked me when I was going to get a real job (read: desk job shuffling papers and dodging office politics). Apparently, my current gig was low status, and did not reflect well on me personally.

I’ll admit, I did consider this advice for a brief time. After all, my friend was only looking out for my best interests. How could he let me languish in my role as mixologist?

I ended up ignoring his advice because there were some aspects of the job he just couldn’t understand:

  • The privilege of being able to serve thousands of people
  • Forming relationships with dozens of them, some lasting to this day
  • Being able to work with family (OK, at times this wasn’t all that great)
  • Growing a business that was distinctly my own. My customers belonged to me
  • Having fun! Most people don’t get this at work
  • The physical nature. Every day on the job was a workout. Lots of running and lifting

The last one is really important. Despite all the second hand smoke, I was in pretty good shape when I was a bartender. Those with real jobs had to battle the middle age spread. Before middle age.

And there’s one more…

One particularly punishing 14 hour shift on a Friday in the early 90s. Wanting to go home, but circumstance not allowing it. Staying out, and meeting a girl who would become my wife two years later. If I had followed up on my friend’s suggestions, and gotten out of the restaurant business then, our paths may never have crossed (more on this in another post later this month).

Best career advice: Gut instinct. Follow it.

What say you? What did you do with that “helpful” career advice that was given? Did you follow it? Or toss it? Let me know in the comments, start a conversation! Using the share buttons would also be appreciated as well.