Randy Cantrell

Happy New Year 2014 - Ballard Street

230 Home, Habits & Happiness: Why It’s Time To Kill This Podcast

Happy New Year 2014 - Ballard Street

Optimism. For some, it comes easy. For others, it’s anything but. However, when a new year arrives almost everybody has some sense of it. I don’t know why a calendar can have such a powerful impact. We’re 6 months into 2014 and by now, most of the folks I knew what were optimistic in early January, have tempered their enthusiasm. Some have abandoned it altogether.

Optimism is hard work. Not for the faint of heart. Almost 180 days into the new year grind takes on a toll on the stoutest among us I suppose. I’m certainly not immune to losing heart. When I do, I have to concentrate on three things: home, habits and happiness!

Home

Home represents family, closeness, the best relationships on earth and security. It should. I know that’s not true for everybody. I’m mindful of abused children, wives and other calamities that define dysfunctional homes. It makes me want to do more in my own home because I know in 2014 I can do more to express my love, care and concern for my tribe. My family is my tribe. I don’t believe in tribal business. I believe in tribal family.

Home isn’t always where the heart is, but it should be. Husbands should love their wives. Wives should love their husbands. Together they should love and train their children.

Home represents security, comfort, stability and support.

Habits

Habits, for me, begin with those involving faith. I’m unapologetic about that because I know I’m not nearly as “in control” as I might like to think. God is in control.

One of the most common ideas I encounter with people who claim to have faith is the notion that God is a magic genie. Nothing in scriptures teach that, so I’m not quite sure why people hold that idea, but almost every day I encounter people who honestly believe they can ask God for something because He’s poised and ready to grant them their wish.

If you love where you’re at in life, what did you do every day to get there? Have you stopped doing that? Lots of folks do. They get complacent. Or they feel like the climb is over. It’s never over. Well, okay, when you die it’s over. The climb that is, but not life. If you don’t believe in life after this one, well, why bother then? Just call it a day already.

Life is a knife fight that goes on. You can’t quit. Your daily habits determine the results. If you’re not happy about your lot in life, then what are you going to do about it? What daily habits are you going to incorporate to improve things?

Yes, it’s hard. Ridiculously hard. But what choice do we have? Do you really want to resign yourself to a life you hate? Or a dissatisfied life?

I confess that my daily habits are mostly to blame for my inadequacies. Too often I simply choose to not do the things I should, or I do things that don’t profit me. Smokers keep smoking. Fat people keep eating. Addicts keep shooting dope. Alcoholics keep drinking. Maybe our habits aren’t nearly as bad, but they can still be devastating to our success.

We mostly do what we want to do because what we do works for us at some level. That’s why interventions are sometimes necessary. Until or unless something drastic happens, we keep doing what we’ve always done.

What if you’re not pleased with the results? What if you want different results? Then change your habits. Do something different. Do things differently. Shake it up.

Happiness

I’m at an age where I don’t dwell much on this. Not like I did when I was younger. These days I prefer a different word: contentment. But I use them interchangeably really. Contentment is happiness.

I found this video interesting. Happiness, it turns out, has a lot to do with a person’s sense of gratitude. But I already knew that. Maybe it’s my faith. Maybe it’s knowing how blessed I am, even though I don’t always express it as I should.

What do you think makes you happy? I use the word “think” because so many people really don’t know what makes them happy. Many are left to wander about it. Some claim to never have experienced it. Others think if they can’t experience it 100% of the time then they haven’t yet found it. That’s why I so hate the whole pursue your passion conversation. It presupposes that you must experience constant passion.

Passion is an emotion, a feeling. Do you want your whole life to be defined by a single emotion? Not me. Sometimes I need to cry. Other times I need to laugh. You do, too. We all do. It’s the stuff of life.

It’s popular to deny that things are important, but actions speak louder than words. People are still chasing exotic cars, bigger houses, electronic toys and more. More. More. More.

On the other end of the spectrum are the minimalists. I rather admire them. Part of me would love to try it. Sadly, I’ve got too much clutter in my life. I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to declutter my life. Even so, I should try.

People. Yes, there’s the rub for all of us. People. It’s people that really matter. It’s relationships that make us happy. Because it’s people to whom we’re most grateful, assuming the research cited in that video is correct.

Re-Branding The Podcast // Re-Launching The Podcast

I’ve been needing to do this for awhile. I’ve been wanting to do it almost from the beginning. I’m without excuse.

Lethargy. Habit. Complacency. Low energy. Lack of direction. It’s all in play.

But I can’t lay it at the feet of any of those things really. It’s mostly about one thing, desire. I’ve lost heart for the current iteration.

It’s about people, but it boils down to desire. What is my desire when it comes to people? You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? YOU. It’s about YOU. But it’s about me, too.

The question to be answered…

What do I want to do for YOU?

Maybe it’s the wrong approach, but it’s honest. I’m tired of people asking, “What can I do for you?” My answer is almost always going to be, “Nothing.” It just sound disingenuous. And it’s growing increasingly trite.

Yes, you are important. Here, you’re important in the context of what value I can offer you. The value proposition is a 2-way street. It’s like a tandem bike. It takes both of us to make it go. But one of us has to steer. That’s my role here. HERE. I don’t drive everywhere. I just drive here. But I can’t simply say, “This is where we’re going. You just sit back there pedal hard and be happy with where we’re headed.” You have a say in where we’re headed. I have to make the decision to take you where you want to go, provided I have the skill and desire to take you there.

If you want to go deeper into the world of soccer – yeah, I admit it…the 2014 World Cup is on the TV here inside The Yellow Studio as I write this – then I’m not going to take you there. One, I’m not qualified. Two, I’m terribly disinterested. There’s more flopping in futbol than live fish hauled into a bass boat. Drives me crazy.

There are tons of places you might want to go that would be unsuitable for me. You wouldn’t take a train to Boston if you wanted to go to Philly. This is about me deciding what I do best do to serve…and figuring out where I want to go. Then, it’s about finding others who want to come along with me. And lastly, it’s about making it compelling so I can take as many people possible with me.

What does that have to do with home, habits and happiness?

Everything.

These are the things of life. These are the things that determine the course of our life. That includes how we contribute to the world. How we show our gratitude.

That’s why today’s episode is the final episode for this version of the podcast. When I return, things will be different. Better. Brand new.

What will it look like? Sound like?

I don’t know. I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’ll be podcasting over at Leaning Toward Wisdom.

Go here if you’d like to give me your feedback. Or, you can leave me a voicemail by clicking that “Send Voicemail” tab to the right.

I look forward to hearing from you. And I’m pretty excited about starting over!

Randy

Open Mumford Procedure On My Right Shoulder And I Still Can’t Play The Mandolin

http://bulanetwork.com/my-temporary-strategic-withdrawal-as-my-lifelong-best-friend-lay-dying/
Mumford & Sons have no orthopedic expertise that I know of.

I had surgery on my right shoulder yesterday. See, I don’t always intentionally bury the lead. Pain killers are likely responsible though so don’t get used to it, Jon Buscall. 😉

I had a severe shoulder episode back in February that sent me to the emergency room of a local hospital. Pain like I’ve never had before. Well, after multiple visits to the orthopedic surgeon…and after meeting  the ridiculously high insurance deductible imposed on most self employed people, he quickly agreed to fix it by “going in there and cleaning things up.” I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded good to me.

Years ago Dr. Bonnetthe man who gave me scars – had described an elbow surgery as “going in there and cleaning out all that elbow snot.” I miss Dr. Bonnet. He was a frenetic, high energy, funny guy who was also very good at his craft. Sadly, he got cancer and passed some years ago. Enter a younger replacement this year – based on a recommendation I was given – Dr. Tsay.

Odd pain killer thought: Dr. Tsay’s first name is Bing. Stanley Bing is one of favorite authors. Stanley was my best friend. These are the insights that only pain killers can provide.

We scheduled the surgery for Monday, May 12th. In spite of it being the anniversary of the death of my best friend Stanley, I went ahead because of that “sooner than later” mentality I have. Besides, I know you’re thinking, “Enough already. Take your own advice and ‘build a bridge and get over it.'” And that’s fair really. Mostly, I have, but I get melancholy every now and again. It’s how I roll.

So we arrive at the medical facility where this surgery will happen. You likely know the kind of place if you live in a metro area in America like I do. It’s a fancy out patient surgical center that is part of Baylor Medical. Surgery was scheduled for 12:30pm and I was told to arrive by 10:30am because Dr. Tsay often runs ahead of schedule. We pulled in at 10:17am proving I was anxious to get this show on the road.

The theme song for the morning – and into early afternoon – was Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.”

The waiting is the hardest part.”

Enroute Rhonda asked if I was anxious about it. I said no, except for the waiting.

At some point the nurse came in and asked if I was having “the open Mumford procedure?” Duh. I told her I just knew I was having my right shoulder fixed. She said that was the official name of the surgery, named after the doctor who invented it. I joked about Mumford & Sons and wondered if I might at along last be able to play the mandolin, or some other stringed instrument.

I watched the clock on the wall and glanced at the closed captioning on the TV without much success. No food. No water. No mints, gum or anything in your mouth since midnight the night before. Thus my major headache was in full swing now that we were well past noon.

One o’clock approached and we were finally getting underway.

The anesthesiologist was a terrific guy who explained he was going to inject me in the neck for a pain blocker that would stave off the pain for a day or so after the surgery. Smiling, he said it could result in a red right eye (my right eye was already red from my raging headache), drooping of the right side of my face, numbness of my right ear, numbness of my right arm, etc. “Sounds delightful,” I thought. I agreed to anything. I just said, “Let’s get this show on the roll.”

Well, that injection in the neck hurt like crazy and took about 5 minutes, but it’s the last thing I remember until I woke up with an oxygen mask on with a nurse sitting beside me. Hello, recovery room!

Enter BIG thunderstorms! Power flickered off for a moment.

We stayed about 30 minutes longer so the storms could pass and we wouldn’t have to drive in them. And by 4:45pm we were home. And feeling fine except for my inability to lift or move my right arm. It’s now been over 18 hours since we got home and as you can see, I’m able to use it to type. The numbness is slowly wearing off. I just took my first pain pill. Don’t really need it yet, but I learned years ago that if you wait until you need it – game over. Pain will kick your butt and never let you get ahead of it if you ever fall behind. It’s like an unmerciful opponent that’s already winning by a wide margin, but just keeps on scoring!

I’m not expecting recovery to be too big an ordeal. Which probably means it’ll be far worse. I’m on a roll lately of unpleasant surprises. I don’t seem to be attracting good surprises these days. I need to fix that. If you have ideas on how to do that, I’m all ears. Well, I’m all ears now that I have feeling back in my right ear. That occurred around 2am this morning.

Tomorrow I’m releasing a podcast episode from Leaning Toward Wisdom that I think you’ll enjoy. Look for it tomorrow morning right here at Bula Network. I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know what you think. But what I really would like from you this week – as a get well gift to me – is a review in iTunes. I know it’s a hassle, but it would genuinely make me feel better (far be it from me to NOT play on your sympathies while I’m here writhing in pain).

OFFER – Write a review, then email me at Results [at] BulaNetwork [dot] com with the subject line, REVIEW and I will personally send you a “thank you.” I may even include a picture of my incision or something gross like that so you don’t think I’m pulling the wool over your eyes about all this.

Get back to work. It’s only Tuesday and you’ve got sales to make, products to create, services to render, people to lead, work to manage. Let me know how I can help you. Even on pain killers I’m pretty remarkable!

Rebranding The Podcast: Will You Help Me?

rebranding
How should I rebrand the podcast?

I need your help.

It’s past time for me to rebrand and refocus the podcast. What started out as mostly a legacy project (I began recording things I wanted to pass onto my grown children…and my grandchildren). It was mostly business oriented with a smattering of self-improvement stuff. Sprinkled in have been some personal things (like the last episode). But after 5 years or more, it’s now time to take a quantum leap. I can’t do that without your help.

I’ll prime the pump with just 3 business subjects that have a bit more narrow focus:

  • Leadership & Management (we lead people, we manage the work)
  • Solving Business Problems (workflow, processes, efficiency and growth)
  • Content & New Media Marketing For Service Professionals (doctors, attorneys, financial advisors, dentists, CPA’s, etc.)

These are NOT suggestions. I just listed them to get your brain juices flowing! Please give me your own feedback. And remember, I’m podcasting (again) over at LeaningTowardWisdom.com where I can go more off-topic from the things I talk about here. My goal is to be more narrowly focused here, and to paint with a broader brush over at LTW.

Will you help me by completing this short survey? 

None of the fields is required, but I’d love for you to complete them all. Thank you for helping me out.

Randy

Help Me Rebrand & Refocus The Podcast

215 – 6 Lessons I Learned In A Year Of Suffering (Reflections On Losing A Lifelong Friend)

Randy, Lexie (Randy's sister), Joni (Stan's sister) and Stanley in Ada, OK
Randy, Lexie (Randy’s sister), Joni (Stan’s sister) and Stanley in Ada, OK

Stanley was born on April 11, 1957. He left this life on May 12, 2013. On the day of his death I published this post and podcast. It was the most painful post and podcast I’ve ever produced. No, it has nothing to do with business, management, leadership or building an organization/business. It’s intensely personal. So, if such things are off-putting to you, then avoid it. But if you want to know more about who and what I really am, then you may find it valuable. I’ll let you judge.

This Friday would have been his 57th birthday. I think of him every day. Every single day.

Modern marketing gurus regurgitate the ancient maxim, “People are all listening to the radio station, WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. Don’t talk about yourself. Talk about your prospect.” While that may be fundamentally true, it presupposes that we’re all morons roaming around devoid of interest in others, repelled by notions of compassion or empathy and behaving like Barney Fife once described giraffes to Opie.

Boy, giraffes are selfish. Just running around looking out for number one.”

I’ve learned a few things this year.

We’re approaching the first full year since his passing and I still have moments of enormous sadness. I confess that I will sometimes close a door, turn the lights out and simply cry. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens at least once a month, usually during a time when I so desperately want to pick up the phone and call him. His number is still in my phone, even though I know the number – like him – is long gone.

The Pivot, sparked in large part, by his illness and subsequent death took a number of turns, detours and running through a few ditches. My entire career can be summed up in a phrase, “business leader.” Since I was in my mid-20’s I’ve lead businesses. Five years ago I stepped down, resigning my post as the leader of a company I had called home for almost 20 years. When you’ve done something for so long, it can be difficult to figure out, “Now what?”

Helping people.

Serving people.

Inspiring people.

Teaching people.

Leading people.

Impacting people.

Provoking thought.

Stirring emotions. 

These were the things that had driven me since my youth. Stanley’s death prompted more emotions than anything in my life ever had. It was personal. It was heart stuff, not head stuff.

Heart stuff is the stuff of extraordinary leadership. And there it was. Staring me in the face as it never had quite before. I’m at my best when I’m investing in other people. I invest in myself most when I’m investing in others. I’m not being altruistic. I’m being true to who I really am. Being behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows with a timely word of advice or encouragement, sitting down privately to help somebody through some challenge, pushing – shoving – nudging others into the spotlight…those are the moments when I’m at my best.

Stanley and I had such a strong bond that I think we both assumed we’d have each other forever. Truth is, we hoped to have each other forever. If you don’t believe in forever, then I’m sad for you. Stanley and I both had faith that eternity is real. I still have that faith. For Stanley, his faith is now realized based on what we both believed to be true. Namely, we both believed the Bible.

Usually, we only had one objective when we were together. Laugh as much as possible. We were marksmen at hitting that target. We never missed a target. He died knowing our record was perfect. And as he lay dying I couldn’t even see the target any more. What once had always been so easy to hit was now impossible to even spot. I was learning the meaning of the term, “wrecked.”

For some guys who could be moody, blue and perhaps not always big fun to be around…together, we became two friends adept at the craft of volleying sarcastic remarks. We were equally accomplished at witty observations. Not everybody appreciated it. Some couldn’t keep up. We’d put in way more than 10,000 hours mastering the craft.

Lesson #1

Life is short. Make it count.

I already knew this, but Stanley’s passing just made it more real. I admit that it didn’t have much impact on my professional life. Not at first. I was mostly focused on my personal and spiritual life.

But since you’re likely here for professional or business type stuff, let’s apply it there.

If your career isn’t going as you’d like, then when are you going to do something about it? When are you going to stop making excuses?

I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care how young you are. Bob Geldof’s 25-year-old daughter, Peaches, died on Monday. Is that young enough for you? I know people who have buried babies. Mickey Rooney also died on Monday. He was 93. Is that old enough for you? Death is no respecter of persons.

You get to choose what you do with the time you’ve got. You’ve got RIGHT NOW. That’s all you’ve got.

What are going to do to make a positive difference RIGHT NOW? So many people haven’t yet determined to make a positive difference at any time. Too many of us are just doing time. Too many of us are living in an uncertain future. The common mantra of the masses is, “Tomorrow will be better.” No it won’t. Not if tomorrow never comes. And even if it does come, the odds are you’ll be just as lazy, indifferent and unprofitable tomorrow as you were today. And yesterday. And the day before that. Your history may not be an absolute predictor of your future. Even so, the odds are high that you’ll keep doing what you’ve always done.

So, make today count. Make up your mind – RIGHT NOW – that you’re going to take responsibility for your life, as much as is humanly possible. The things you can control are: your choices and your actions/behaviors. Embrace that. Own it.

Lesson #2

Come to grips with what you hate. Pursue what you love.

Professionally, I’ve done lots of things I didn’t much like. I’ve even done some things I hate. But in my 35 plus year career I’ve mostly loved leading and competing. Both of those are personal. Intimate even.

I love communicating. Watching people. Listening to people. Working with people.

I love problem solving. Watching a solution work, or fail. Then trying to figure it out again…or trying to find a better way.

I love questioning if we might find a better way. Asking, “What if…?” And answering the question based on whatever information is at hand.

I hate red tape. I hate having to ask for permission. I hate tyrannical leaders. I hate autocrats. I hate micro-managers. I hate stagnant thinkers. I hate pessimistic leaders who constantly bark, “That’ll never work.”

You can easily recognize what you hate. Write it down. Professionally, what do you absolutely hate? And what do you hate to do? I’m not promising you’ll be able to avoid every single thing you hate to do, but you sure don’t want to make that activity the bulk of your work.

It can be much tougher to figure out what you love. Write it down. Professionally, what you love so much you lose yourself in the activity? When you’re doing it, time flies by. When you’re doing it, you perform almost without thought. It almost seems innate. What is it? Think of it in terms of being the thing you’d like to do most of the time!

Lesson #3

Understand what you’re best at. And acknowledge what is hard for you.

We spend so much time chasing dreams that may never be realized…and we neglect to sit down and examine our lives as fully as we could. Or should.

I love chasing dreams. I think it can be healthy to a point. However, we can’t just sit around dreaming about things. Plans and strategies have to be constructed. Action has to be taken. Corrective action has to be taken. Problems have to be solved. Adversity has to be overcome.

Those are hard things to do. They’re harder when you’re chasing something you’re not very good at. Take the time to figure out what you’re naturally good at. Stop trying to be something (and somebody) you’re not.

Lesson #4

Be relentless. Let tenacity rule your life.

Face your fears and stomp them into the ground. That phone call you’re afraid to make…make it anyway. If there’s a chance you’ll find success by making that call, make that call. “But what if I fail?” Then you’ll fail. Not making the call is a sure fire way to fail. Take whatever actions you’re avoiding because you’re afraid. Do them anyway. Before long, taking action will be your habit and the fear will subside.

Be ruthless in your pursuits. Dogged persistence is the path to accomplishment.

This doesn’t mean you’re ruthless with people. Don’t be a jerk. Or insensitive. Or selfish, like a giraffe. Just be focused on what you’re trying to accomplish and find a way to get it done.

You haven’t accomplished what you want because you haven’t taken enough action – or you haven’t taken enough of the appropriate actions. Do more. Watch the results, then adjust your actions. Keep doing what you fear most because it’s the fear that’s defeating your dreams (and plans and strategies).

Lesson #5

Leave an impact. Create footprints, fingerprints and any other mark that will affect people.

If you want to chase money, go ahead. Not me. Sure, I want to make as much money as possible, but at my age it’s not about stuff. It’s about people. It’s about the things I’d like to do for my family and close friends.

Money is a tool. A vehicle to do meaningful things for people I love. My wife. My kids. My grandkids. In that order.

It’s a resource for good. The congregation where I work and worship. That’s a major driver for me. To contribute to something vastly bigger than me. And more important than me.

Making money isn’t the same as making a mark. I’m much more interested in making a mark. Specifically, professionally I want to make money by making a mark. Personally, I just want to make a mark.

That means making a difference in somebody’s life. It means being a friend, supporter, mentor, or “fill-in-the-blank” for people so they can’t imagine their life without me. Does that sound selfish? Maybe. But it’s honest. I want to live so people will miss me when I’m gone. That’s demanding and it challenges me every day to find ways to be valuable. Some days (maybe most days) I fail, but I’m still trying. I hope to become more accomplished with practice.

Lesson #6

Do something. Make a difference. Yes, you’ll make enemies, but you’ll also make some solid friends.

Stanley and I knew as teenagers this truth – “If you’re not willing to be hated by some, you’ll be loved by no one.”

Some people misunderstood our snarkiness. Others resented our friendship. We didn’t care. The people who were most attracted to us were the people we were most attracted to. That’s how it works. Birds of a feather and all that.

I prefer fewer really close friends over a vast number of casual friends. I know a lot of people. I’m close to very few. That’s intentional. It’s not snobbish, it’s just a preference. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about people, including casual friends.

Life isn’t infinite. Neither is my energy or emotion. If I’m going to be the most helpful I can be, then I have to watch where I invest myself. Professionally, I can invest in a broader audience because the scope of influence is narrowed. Personally, I have to restrain myself because I have extraordinary empathy – it’s just my wiring. I can’t temper how much I care and how much I get wrapped up in trying to help friends. Truth is, I have to make sure I’m not intruding and overstepping my bounds. Mostly, I think I stay inbounds, but not always.

I’m driven to make a difference and I’m perfectly willing to accept that some won’t like me for it. I remember having a conversation with my son when he was a teenager.

If you’re going to be a person of action, you’re going to be judged harshly by some.”

I taught both of my children to be people of decision and action. And I’ve always warned them that some people aren’t going to like it because some people will throw rocks at anybody who tries to make a difference. Throwing rocks at the action takers is a full-time hobby for some. You know you’re not taking enough action if you’re not making somebody angry with you. Focus on the friends you’re collecting along the way, not the enemies.

Conclusion

Okay, Stanley’s death didn’t teach me these things necessarily, but his passing did reinforce their importance to me. It’s hard to explain how one friend’s passing can compel such introspection. He was the one person – the only guy in my life – who I could talk to about anything. My wife is clearly my closest confident, but Stanley was my sole male sounding board.

He was sick most of the last year of his life so my loss was slow, then sudden. Even though our last conversations didn’t make much sense because his mind was quickly slipping away…there was something to the fact that I knew he was still here. Maybe I was hopeful (even though there wasn’t much hope, if any) things would get better. I knew they wouldn’t. I knew the inevitable. But I wasn’t wrecked until it happened.

Yes, I wallowed in sorrow for weeks, and months. Like a diver who has gone deep to the ocean’s floor, I knew it wouldn’t be safe to come up too quickly. My ascent back to normalcy took time. Slow and steady.

My best skills continue to be empathy, communication and problem-solving. Those have always been by 3 biggest assets. Stanley’s death refocused me to handle up better on that last one, problem solving. Over the past few years my skills to help others find solutions to their problems left me alone struggling to solve my own. Things would leap out at me whenever I helped others. I could search intently for answers to my own problems and be completed baffled how to even begin. It was a struggle that I suppose every person experiences at some point in life. I was just puzzled that I was experiencing it so late in my life.

This Friday would have been Stanley’s 57th birthday. In a few weeks I’ll be 57. It’s weird to think that I’ve reached an age beyond any age Stanley ever did. His death wrecked me, but his life impacted me like no other. That’s his legacy for me. I hope I had the same impact on him. And now, I’m hoping I have a similar impact on others.

Randy

P.S. I hope you stayed tuned to the podcast until the very end because I inserted a recording of Stanley sitting my living room playing my guitar and singing. It was on a Sunday afternoon, July 18, 2010. 

Episode 181 – Our Son Was Born In The Hottest Summer On Record

Randy-Kids
Yes, that’s me…a proud, but clueless young dad.

August, 1980. It was a record setting summer. 42 straight days of triple digit heat in Dallas, Texas. No matter that we lived in Oklahoma at the time. It was no cooler “up north.” Records were set all across this part of America in the summer of my son’s birth.

Rhonda and I were married on January 2, 1978. Young and very much in love. Almost 2 years later we found out we were pregnant. I was completely unprepared.

The fear of unpreparedness is a special kind of fear. Steve Farber calls it, OSM! There’s a reason he was the first person I followed when I jumped on Twitter years ago.

Steve described OSM as the feeling the ski jumper gets as he attempts his very first jump. I’ve never done that, but I was once a first time dad and I can’t imagine anything scarier.

Like Red Forman, chastising his son Eric for flirting with his cousin, I feared a  web-footed child or some other freakish thing. I was honestly worried about the physical well-being of the baby  and my wife. I don’t remember being fearful of much else, although I’m sure I was worried about money. Who isn’t?

Every doctor visit made me a bit more easy that things were progressing well. During the rest of the winter and into Spring Rhonda did well.

Then summer hit.

The heat came rolling in stronger than normal. And around here, normal summer heat is HOT. When people back east or up north say, “Man, it’s hot today. We’re in the 90’s” – in Texas and Oklahoma, we laugh. That’s a cold front in the summer for us. We commonly say it because it’s true, “It’s 105 in the shade.” And in West Texas, there is no shade. I pity those poor folks.

In the summer of 1980 the heat was unbearable even in the shade. Nothing was green except our envy of cooler climes.

Rhonda was entering the 9th month of her pregnancy. Miserable doesn’t quite properly describe it. Swollen ankles and feet. I even had to get wire cutters and cut her wedding ring off her swollen fingers after we were unsuccessful in prying it off.

Then the pains began. On a Saturday in August, 1980. We drove to the hospital and my web-footed fear amped up. Now, I’d have been thankful for just a web-footed oddity. I was worried about much more. Don’t ask why. There was no logical reason for it other than I was a novice dad without a clue. I feared for my wife’s life. I feared for the new born baby’s life. Shoot, I feared for my own life! As far as I could tell, none of us were going to make it out alive.

The pain and vomiting began. I never saw it, but back in high school I remember kids describing Linda Blair’s performance in The Exorcist. At any point I fully expected Rhonda might sit up in bed, turn her head completely around and kill me with fire that would shoot from her eyeballs.

I had played football and seen (and heard) knees torn. But I had never seen this level of pain before. And I had never felt this level of helplessness either.

Like a dutiful klutz I kept a cold wash cloth on her forehead. Boy, that’s quite a remedy for inscrutable pain, huh? A cold wash rag! Well, it was the best I could do. That and hold that stupid little hospital blue plastic barf container that is shaped to curve around the side of your face. It’s not the color or the shape that fails so much. It’s the capacity of the stupid thing. That, and the fact that it’s open exposing the bile that comes from an exorcism, or birthing a child.

The hours went on. Rhonda refused pain medicine, a decision we were both regretting with every passing hour. The hours clicked by with the pace of those larger vehicles that transported the Apollo missions to the launch pad…moving inches every half hour or so. “How long can this go on?” was the question on my mind. By now Rhonda was completely out of her mind.

Guys, if you’re not yet a father, let me explain something to you. When you’re wife exhorts you to enter the delivery room with her, refuse. I did. Of course, my wife had enough sense to not care – or even want me in there. She didn’t want me holding a cold wash rag on her forehead at this point. She likely just wanted me out of the room and her life at this point.

So when IT was time. They rushed her back to the delivery room. We were into hour 17 of labor. Hard labor. I went to the waiting room to chew what little was left of my finger nails. I was now working on the cuticles. Next stop, bone!

Hoyt Axton may have sung about working your fingers to the bone, but I was gonna chew mine to the bone!

Early Sunday morning, August 17, 1980 around 6am (I may be off, but that’s the best I can remember given my state of prettification) we were no longer a couple. We were now three. We had a son!

I just thought I was out of the woods until I saw him for the first time. A nurse or somebody strolled by and showed him to me. He was red as a beet, but that wasn’t the surprising thing.

I was the father of a Conehead. A beet red Conehead.

I had no idea a human could survive in such a state, but there he was – my son. The Red Conehead. No, I wasn’t ashamed. I was too astonished to feel anything, but relief that this nightmare was over. Months of tortuous weather including Spring tornado season in Tornado Alley, followed by weeks of “will-this-ever-end” summer heat and now, my child will never be able to play football or hockey or any sport requiring a helmet because he’s a Conehead.

I didn’t know his head would take on a normal shape. Nor did I know how long that would take. Amazing. Both his skull’s ability to morph and my ability to be clueless.

I said it then and I’ve said it since, but it bears repeating. I had never loved my wife more than at that very moment. And I can’t fully explain that. Maybe other dads out there can understand it. I suspect you can.

The pain. The suffering. The sacrifice. The months of travail followed by hours of pain strong enough to make you puke – it all humbled me like nothing ever had. Nothing had even come close.

I was reduced to a small, insignificant puddle of muddy water in the floor.

We named him Ryan.

After a few hours I went home, cleaned up and dressed for Sunday morning worship. At church I’m sure folks congratulated me, but I confess I don’t remember anything about it other than going. I was mentally and emotionally spent. And feeling more helpless with each passing moment. Feeling totally unprepared to begin a journey as a father. Feeling not yet grown up enough myself to make this trek.

But there he was. A son. Born to a 23 year old version of me. And a 23 year old version of my wife.

Here we are 33 years later standing tall as proof that idiots can raise wise children. He’s a middle school assistant principal with street smarts, ambitions, skills I can’t imagine possessing and a family of his own. Thirty three years ago I thought we were all going straight to Remulak.

Instead, we wound up in Dallas/Ft. Worth. All of us.

That was just the beginning of the story, but for now – that’s all you need to know even though there’s so much more to tell.

• Like how bad his temper was (is) when he loses at sports. We like to focus on how competitive he is.
• Like how badly I felt (still do) when I popped him with a rolled up towel during horseplay, but it really hurt him ’cause it worked better than expected.
• Like how sad I was to sit with him on the front entry to our house in Oklahoma as we closed the door and headed to Dallas.
• Like how I love to watch him skate (still). Ice or roller hockey, it doesn’t matter to me.
• Like how we spent years together involved in hockey, including a 4-year stink at UTA.
• Like how amazed Rhonda and I were to get him out of college, successfully…with a degree.
• Like how my heart almost broke when he told me he was leaving to move to Missouri.
• Like how my heart mended when he told me he was moving back home.
• Like how we felt to see him get a Master’s Degree.
• Like how proud we are to see him excel in a career that suits him perfectly.
• Like how it feels to hold his children like I once held him (and his sister).
• Like how it feels to know he’s a phone call, text or 2-mile ride away.
• Like how it feels to worship at the same congregation then, and now.
• Like how proud I am to be his dad.

Happy birthday to my son, Ryan.

I love him very much!

Randy

• You can find Ryan’s blog (but he’s not there much) at RyanCantrell.net
• He’s also on Linkedin.
• Scroll down and watch the video slide show at the bottom of the post. I’m one lucky man!

Ryan-Cantrell-33

The song is “How Lucky” by John Prine. No, I’ve not lit a cigarette, but I have considered the question, “How lucky can one man get?”

Day 20,503 Won’t Be Nearly As Great As Day 20,504

daycalcI’ve done the calculation before, but it was years ago. I think I was in my 30’s but I’m not sure.

Then, the other day I was wondering around the interwebs and visited the site of Robert D. You know Robert D, don’t you?

Well, I do. He doesn’t know me, of course, but that’s beside the point.

I read his blog, but I don’t remember ever visiting his home page. These things happen when you subscribe to a blog via RSS or you stumble onto somebody’s site because a link got shared via Twitter or Facebook.

On his home page he has a Day Calculator that will tell you how many days you’ve been alive. I’m betting you tried to enter them over there at the left didn’t you? Go ahead. Admit it. I can’t blame you, but that’s just a screen snag of what it looks like over at John D’s site. Go over there and enter your birthdate and you’ll get what you’re looking for. I’ll wait for you.

I’m betting your number is lower than mine. Am I right?

Forget that 10,000 hour rule. It’s time to have a new rule. The 20,000 day rule. I don’t know what that rule would be except I did do the math. It would mean you were 54.79 years old. Yeah, I know. That doesn’t tell you much.

It’s just a number.

I’m a John D fan and I think it’s a really cool device he’s got there on his home page. And even though I know it’s just a number I was thinking of how numbers define us. I started to say, “How we allow numbers to define us” but that’s not entirely true. Numbers DO define us. In so many ways.

And not just our age.

I’m betting the most important number in your life has a dollar sign in front of it. I don’t know what that number is, but it’s important to you. Maybe it’s the number of dollars you have in the bank or investment accounts. Maybe it’s the number of dollars you still owe a mortgage company. Maybe it’s the phantom number you think you need for a killer retirement. I don’t know. But I know it’s a number.

I’m also betting it’s monumentally important to you. Maybe more than you’d like to admit. Probably more important to you if you’re a guy, than if you’re a gal. I could be wrong, but I’m betting I’m not.

And I’m betting if you’re a guy past 45 it’s a number that is weighing heavier and heavier. Right? Sure I am.

Because maybe I’m beginning to see the 20,000 day rule after all. By the time you’re 45, you’re only 16,425 days in. You’re in deep enough to be scared. Really scared. Scared you’re not going to make it to your number with a dollar sign in front of it. Scared your wildest dreams really aren’t going to come true. But you’re driven to press hard. Not yet wise enough to chase the most important things, but wise enough to know time is running out.

Enter mid-life crisis…the quest to escape reality. For some a red sports car. For others, a younger woman. For yet others, a Harley. And still yet others, a desire to revert back to what you were good at as a kid.

If you’re like me, you suppressed that desire. Mine was that last one. I sat on it for another decade before I’d actually do anything about it. A decade!

Ten years. Think of it. I chased money and career for another 10 years because like you, I had a number with a dollar sign that defined me. Sure, it changed constantly. But that’s the thing about a number with a dollar sign. It’s not a definite number. It’s always on the move. You’ll never pin it down. The dollar sign is like a wild card. It gives the number the power to become whatever it needs to become. In this case, it becomes elusive!

So, 3,650 days later – give or take – and the proverbial wall began to inch closer for me. It’s there. The wall. I don’t know how close or far away from it you are, but it’s coming. Just wait for it. Or run headlong into it like I did. Either way is fine really cause you can’t avoid it. It won’t kill you. You may wish you were dead, but the wall won’t ever kill you. It’s just another number, a moment in time defined by something you did or something that happened to you. Or an epiphany. Those are rare. I know ’cause I’m constantly looking for them. I’m like a bird watcher except for epiphanies.

For me, the latest wall came into view at about the 20,300 day mark give or take. What’s a day or two when you’re talking about approaching a wall. Another wall. A new one. By the way, they’re all new. That wall you hit last year won’t likely resemble the one you’re gonna slam into tomorrow. Different day. Different wall. Different number.

Life has many walls. I stopped counting sometime around wall number 57 I think. No, they’re not all huge. Some are really like those enormous speed bumps that you can’t go over without ripping the muffler off your car. Others are small enough you sort of go over them like you would railroad tracks. But then others stop you cold. You’re going along like nothing is the matter and BAM! Right out of Stephen King’s “Under The Dome” you hit something you never saw coming.

I’ve been laid out, knocked out, dazed and confused. At other times I’ve been embarrassed like when you stumble up some steps in a public place. Walls have degrees of hardness.

Today my number is 20,503. Well, to be more accurate, based on John D’s calculator, those are my days alive.

I don’t know what my dollar sign number is any more. I’ve had so many of them I decided to let them go.

I don’t know how high my days-alive-number will go. Today is day 32,777 for my father. So, if I live to be as old as he is today, I’ve got another 12,274 left before I expire.

Maybe.

Sure, in light of recent events I’m thinking of days. And hours. But not really the numbers.

More in how the numbers are invested. More in trying to come to grips with what am I doing with them.

Here’s the big difference – well, one of the big differences – between your number of days and the other numbers that define you. Especially those dollar sign numbers that you’re busy chasing.

The numbers that define us really are the numbers we’ve got. It’s who we are right now. That’s what matters. Who are you today? What are you today?

That lake house you think would be cool to own doesn’t matter ’cause you don’t have it. So are you gonna waste your life sitting around looking at nice photos of lake houses? Are you gonna stay at the office a few hours extra so you’ll have enough money for the lake house? How is lusting for a future lake house going to make you better today?

You know what I’m gonna do?

Me neither. But tomorrow is day 20,504 and I can tell you I’ve got big plans!

Randy

 

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