The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

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A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

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For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

A Letter to My Children About Turning Left

What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?

– Erin Hanson

Eight years ago, I sat in a room across from both of my bosses and realized ahead of me lay a fork in the road — a decision was being forced upon me. I had two options: One, stay in a place that did not deem me or my services valuable, yet provide a comfortability. Or, two, go with the uncertain, improbable, and uncomfortable. Looking back, I can now say that without a shadow of a doubt that I made the right decision.

I had always loved the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. But I was never put in a position where I would have to put those exact words to the test – until that moment. When I am old, and it is time for me to reflect upon my life, that meeting will be the pivotal point in my life. It will be the time when I told the right people where to shove it and chose to take my own path.

I want you to believe in yourselves as smart, able-minded people. I want you to be able to depend on your education, grit, and skill to choose the path that you want to take. If you choose to switch careers, or start your own business, I hope that you are able to make sound decisions that won’t incur a ton of risk. But if you choose to risk it all, I hope that you do it without fear because you are willing to put your all into it.

During that pivotal time, I was father who was expecting his second child and in need of all monetary compensation that I could get my hands on. Everybody, including your mother, was very fearful of what we would do next. But I was not. I saw that moment as an opportunity for me to grow both as a person, and as a professional – that is what is most important. It is important that you have a job that will help you attain your goals; a job that will provide you with an opportunity to advance – both monetarily and position wise. It is easy to be comfortable; it is extremely difficult to rely on yourself and your training to reach your goals.

People will call you a fool. They will ask what in the hell you were thinking. They will sit back and whisper to others about your sanity while waiting for your failure so that they can tell you that they “told you so.” But after a while, they will admire you because they could not take that leap themselves.

Do not listen to the accolades and do not track the accomplishments. Those things show you an event or feeling from a snapshot in time. Many people have heard their praises only to fall from grace soon after. But, on the other hand, do pay attention to the doubts and the criticisms. Those come from true feelings. Use them to fuel you, but not burn you. Use those to help you and not hinder you. Use those as reasons and not as excuses.

Because of my choices, I am living a life that I once believed was only a dream. I am only to that point because I understood that there is truly no such thing as luck – good or bad. So, I’m telling you that there are no wrong decisions, only consequences. If you choose to do something. It is no one’s place to tell you that they, “told you so.” Don’t use that to make your decision. Whatever you choose, go about it with reckless abandon, pour all of your heart into the venture, and live with the consequences.

Go Left. Everyone chooses right. No one wants to dare because of the possibility that it could lead to failure. I am begging you, go left. You are stronger than what you realize. You will not know that stregnth until you put it to the test. If you are willing to put the work in, go left. We only get one life to live, don’t live it trying to be someone that you are not. Don’t live it trying to do what others think that you should do. Do what makes you happy — unless it hurts other people, then take one right.

Father of the Year Moment #500: Sense of Community

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.

— Yehuda Berg

The pinnacle of being a successful person is the way that you can go back and affect your community. Whether it is the community that you grew up in or the community that you currently live, the ability to use your platform to affect one or more kids. Some people choose to give back monetarily, some choose to work within the community, I have chosen to start a non-profit. I have chosen to start Father’s of the Year United

Growing up, I was lucky to have a father who took the time to teach me how to be a man. But, my father was a very hard worker, which meant that he was not home as often as he would have liked. Luck for me, I had a group of men who help mold me into the person I am today. This group of men consisted of coachers, fathers, businessmen, and community members who believed that it takes a village to raise each child. Fathers of the Year United believes that fathers play a pivotal role in the development of not only their own children, but children within the community. The mission of the Fathers of the Year United is to promote positive fatherhood by providing opportunities, support, mentorship, and fellowship to men so can be the best fathers (or father-figures) that they can be for their children and children within their communities.

I am not sure of the impact that I can make, but, however small, it is the best avenue for me to feel like I am making a difference. And, that is all that counts.

Reflection: Glad that’s Over! (2 years ago)

Top 10 reasons I fear for my life right now:

1. I am not pregnant.

2. I can sleep in whatever position I want.

3. I send my wife the weekly “Baby Center: Pregnancy this week” emails that I receive detailing the baby’s progress.

4. I coach football.

5. I breathe air.

6. When she is cooking and has a knife in her hand, I can feel her looking at me like, “Someday…:”

7. She takes my kids to their sporting events.

8. It is about that time in her pregnancy that I get hurt and need surgery.

9. Because we are due for a boy version of Claire.

10. Let’s face it, I am a Jackass.

Who’s that Lady?

A few weeks ago, I spend time with my best friend. It was weird because her and I have not hung out in years. Life got in the way. After college we both got married, had kids, went pretty far in our careers, and drifted apart.

We decided that we were going to meet up in Minneapolis for the weekend. At first, it was a little awkward. I am not going to lie, I had always had a crush on her. When we met, the tension was still there.

It was like we were never apart; we picked up right where we left of years ago. We laughed, we ate, and we drank as if we did not have a care in the world. We thought, “Geez, if only those people we left back home could see us, they would be jealous.”

It was not until I saw her in a mirror that I thought, “Shit. I have been missing her for the last ten years.”

Good thing I married her.

Yup. I hung out with my wife.

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We saw stayed at a casino hotel, took in Hamilton, attended a Counting Crows concert, ate sushi, consumed endless mimosas and met up with some old friends.

When you have kids, they tend to take up all of your time. Parenting is hard. Raising a human to be a decent grown up is a daunting task. It requires all of your concentration, money, and resources. We have four cherubs, meaning we work during the day, attend a multitude of events in the evening, and try to catch up on the days’ events at night after the kids are at bed. By 8 p.m., we are completely depleted. But, dispite of that, we have found that it is just as important to make time for each other, even if it is only once a year.

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It is important that we are able to look at each other, twelve years later and see the people that we were – before we had the stressors of everyday living taking over our being. Yes, we chose this life, but like many other parents on this journey, we had no idea what the hell we were getting ourselves into (and yes, we would do it all over again if we had the chance and would not change any decision we made thus far).

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I am fortunate that I have a support system around me that affords me the opportunity for a getaway. I thank God for that. I thank God for them. They allowed for the girl that I met in college to came back for a visit.

I hope to see her again next year.

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Father of the Year Moment #99: I got 99 problems…

“Dad. What is a good number in Basketball?”

“23”

“No. Seriously?”

“23.”

“How about 2?”

“Yup, that’s fine.”

“Well, I picked 99!”

“Wait. Wha?!”

Are you shittin’ me?! 99?! What basketball coach lets a kid pick 99?! What is she — starting at left end now?!

Just imagine:

“Hey, who’s your daughter?”

“Number 99, The one who’s fouling the shit out of everyone.”

He did this on purpose. 😡

The Highest Honor in Education

All teachers become educators to make a difference in the lives of their students. Tomorrow I will watch a student who became a friend, a friend who became a brother get married to the girl of his dreams. And, he chose me to be in his wedding. There are many awards that I could win for teaching. But, nothing will compare to the honor that I will have to share this experience with Cody and Kate. He often writes about how I was a mentor to him. What he does not understand is how much of an influence he has been on me and my career.

When I look back on my career I will remember the conversations that we had in the weight room about life, about love, and about sacrifice. I will remember the pimple face twerp who listened to my every word as if I knew what the hell I was talking about. And I will remember the day that he came to my home and told me that he had fallen in love and how this is definitely the one.

I hope I have made some type of influence on all of my students throughout my career. I may not have been your best, or favorite, teacher, but I hope that on some level we connected and that you learned something from me whether that was from the content or just from life.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

If you grow up in my neighborhood, you have already practiced overcoming adversity. You were supposed to be some kind of negative statistic. You were told from a young age that you would be dead, on drugs, or in Cook Inlet Correctional by the time you were eighteen. Not by people who actually live in your neighborhood, but by those who claim that their data is an accurate predictor of outcomes.

If you grow up in my neighborhood, it is not problem when your college advisor refuses to give you a letter of recommendation so you can move on with your studies; you weren’t supposed to be there anyway, now were you? But you don’t fret. You persevere. You find another way – because that is what your hood trained you to do. And one day, it will pain her to have to shake your hand.

If you grow up in my hood, you are not afraid to stick up for your rights, question authority, or choose another path to success. You’ve witnessed good people get lead astray everyday, dreams deferred, futures crushed. Why would you blindly trust someone to steer the wheel to your future? You’re not going out like that. So, when your boss threatens to cut your pay or take your job if you don’t agree to his illegal terms, you don’t bat an eye. Instead – you say, “I guess I’ll see you in court.” You watch as the papers are delivered.

If you grow up in my hood, you don’t mind when you got overlooked for opportunities… when those way less qualified than you are placed ahead of you… when you are told that you are too, “Rough around the edges.” You get pissed, but you don’t lash out. You save that anger. You don’t make excuses. You say to yourself, “I will make them all sorry they did not choose me!” And you try harder — you do better. You win awards, you acquire accolades. And when you see those people next, you make them have no other choice but to respect you. They will ask “Why did you leave?” And you politely smile.

If you grow up in my hood, you hate the words, “Well that’s how it has always been.” It only means that there is going to be a door closed in your face or an opportunity that you won’t recieve because of established norms or customs that you didn’t have shit to do with. You do everything in your power to change the establishment. You don’t depend on others to do it. You don’t wait your time. You don’t use the proper procedures. You need this to happen now and you will be seen and heard! You already know how short life is and your time is now. Damn kid — maybe you are rough around the edges.

If you grow up in my hood, you are able to adapt to any situation and assimilate to any population. It does not matter who it is or what they stand for — you have grown up in one of the most diverse places in the United States and attended the most diverse schools in the United States. You have muliple dialects and an expansive vocabulary. When needed, you can choose to be prim, proper and articulate; or you can be just one of the homies. You have it all, and people are impressed by you — “you’re so “cultured.”‘

If you grow up in my hood, you walk with your head high. Some will mistake it for cockiness, but you’re not cocky. Cocky is for those who speak a good game – you let your actions speak. You say what you mean and you mean what you say. You don’t mince words and you fear no one.

If you grow up in my hood, you know loyalty when you see it. You live by it. You could have taken the more pleasurable route. You could have transferred to a better high school; you could have gone to a bigger college somewhere else; you could have transferred at the end of your freshman year after going 0-10. You’re no quitter. If you commit to something, then, dammit, it is going to be completed come Hell or high water. You’ll blaze your own path. You’ll take the unbeaten. What the Hell do you have to lose?

If you grow up in my hood, you were destined for greatness and respect. You were built to lead. You were made you rewrite history books. Damn what other people say, you’ve been mislabeled, marginalized, and undervalued your entire life. Seems like you came out okay.

I’m from The View.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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