Saturday, June 25, 2005
My experience at the Grand Canyon could not have been better. I arrived in time for the sunset and got up early enough to see the sunrise. Incredible. You know what’s funny? I felt like I was still on my trip around the world. Over half the people I met at the Canyon used English as their second language. Germans, Japanese, Dutch, Chinese, Mexican…you name it. I only met one American couple. It’s as though the whole world knows how amazing this place is, but we aren’t paying attention. Ok, ok, I’m starting to sound like a broken record now. My bad.
Welcoming the new day from the rim of one of the world’s wonders was a great way to start the morning, and when I saw the signs for the Arches National Park near Moab in Utah I couldn’t resist. My mountaineering buddy Nick Bokhoven and his fiancée Carla told me how amazing Arches was and they were right. My intended 30-minute drive-by turned into a three-hour gawk session when I caught a glimpse of some of Mother Nature’s artwork. Check out the Australia to Colorado slide show for some of my favorite shots.
My first week at FMI was a whirlwind, but I knew within the first five minutes that I was going to love it. The intelligence, the humility, the passion, the curiosity…all incredible. They assigned me books to read that I would have read for fun and each day felt like it was about two hours long. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but I’m not complaining. There’s nothing wrong with a summer-long honeymoon.
Speaking of cool things about FMI, they even let me take my first Friday off. Sweet! I probably already told you this, but my 18-year-old sister Shaun told me that if I didn’t come home for her High School Graduation I might as well not come home at all, so missing my first Friday really wasn’t negotiable. Everything fell into place nicely since Shaun’s graduation happened to correspond with a wedding, a huge family reunion, and the annual Ukiah Father’s Day golf tournament.
Watching Shaun receive her hard-earned diploma and dancing for eight hours at the wedding were fabulous, but the unexpected gift of the weekend came from Joel Jensen, my brother from another Mother. Joel’s Mom Linda and my Mother were best friends when Joel and I were growing up, so we’ve stayed close since I can remember. I got a chance to hold Joel and Terri’s 5-1/2-month-old daughter Olivia for the first time last weekend and just before I left for the wedding Joel and Terri asked me to be Olivia’s Godfather. Wow…
I’ve never been very involved in organized religion, but I’ve always known that Godfathers and/or Godmothers agree to raise their Godchildren should anything happen to their parents. Joel and Terri would also like me to participate in a Olivia’s life a spiritual guide, which rocked my world. Even after studying spirituality for over four years, it continues to mystify me, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Regardless of my inadequate qualifications, I am honored beyond measure to play this small role in Olivia’s life. She’s going to be an amazing woman. I can already feel it…
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re within one days drive of this great wonder of the natural world. I lived within eight hours of the Grand Canyon for five years and never even considered going there. I went to Vegas ten times and couldn’t bother to run down to the canyon and back in less than half a day. Maybe it wasn’t important to me. Maybe I figured I could always check it out, so I just kept blowing it off. Natural wonders aren’t for everyone, but after listening to over a hundred Europeans tell me how amazing the Grand Canyon was, I knew I had to fit it into my trek to Colorado.
If you have never camped on your own, I HIGHLY recommend it. There is something pretty powerful about sitting alone in the forest with nothing but the wind and the trees for company. No, I haven’t turned into a complete introvert, but I have become much more comfortable with my own company. Mmmmm…that sentence just reminded me of one of my favorite writings:
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
I want to know if you can
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.
© Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Invitation
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Eight days after touching down in the Motherland, FMI revealed that my travels were not yet complete. Since I would be spending the summer in Denver, I decided to rush to Ukiah to give my little sisters some huge hugs before I hit the road. On my way out of Sac I managed to squeeze lunch with my great buddy Jamie Brown and a dinner with the Bentleys and the Deans. Megan and Bryan Bentley bought a resort in the Bahamas about a year ago and are busy building condos and making babies. They already have two boys with a third planned for later this year. How cool. Oh yeah, if you’re in the market for an incredible condo on one of the best islands in the Bahamas just let me know. You will love the Bentleys. Sarah and Cotton Dean are also thinking of getting their family started. Remember what I was saying about my friends moving on to the parenthood stage? Now you know what I was talking about.
Ukiah was a blast, but I managed to spend most of my time there helping my friends fix up their new homes. Home ownership…just one more thing traveling the world has put on hold. I definitely wouldn’t take back one day of the trip, but like everything in life, traveling comes with trade-offs. While I was in town I got a chance to connect with my old African travel buddy, Shannon Ledford. Shannon left a massively successful career as a corporate lawyer, traveled the world for 18 months, and has now settled down in Northern California working as a marketing director for a hospital, a professional photographer, a greeting card entrepreneur, and art agent. I’m not sure I would call that “settling down” but that’s just Shannon. So many ideas, so little time. One thing’s for sure, her photography skills have moved on to a whole new level. Some of her shots brought tears to my eyes. I’ve never bought a photo in my life but I would have paid over $100 for at least ten of her sample shots. I’ll let you know when her website is up and running.
Once I had my fix of family I was ready to hit the road for my new Colorado future. As it turns out, my friends at DPR were getting together for a big dinner celebration that week and had asked me to stop by to talk a little about what I’d learned since taking myself off the DPR payroll 24 months earlier. If you look at a map of the US, you’ll see that San Diego isn’t exactly on the way from Ukiah to Denver, but I couldn’t resist the chance to re-connect with my DPR family one more time. I know I’ve used the word “family” a lot since I’ve been home, but I can’t think of a better way to express the way I feel about the people here. As I walked into the Torrey Pines golf course lodge for the DPR event I felt like I had just walked into a family reunion. The only difference was that I actually knew and liked everyone there!
For most of you, hearing me talk about a company like a family must sound pretty foreign…almost cult-like. Hundreds of conversations with people around the world helped me see how rare my experience really was. I’m not sure how the San Diego crew pulled it off, but that team is the tightest group of professionals I have ever come across. I know that kind of work environment isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to hug the people in the next cube, fill their parties with co-workers, and cry when they leave the company, but I know that’s what I want and I just hope I’m able to find it again someday.
The speech went well and the night was perfect, but a couple days later a good friend let me know that she thought I sounded forced…almost fake. See…that’s what’s awesome about building real relationships…people give you the straight scoop. No, it wasn’t easy to hear, but she was right. I wanted my friends at DPR to know how much I loved them…to know how grateful I was for my time with them…to realize how much they had to be thankful for…but it’s hard to send that message to sixty people in a genuine way. Am I genuine person? Not always. I aspire to be genuine in every situation, but thanks to one of my great DPR sisters, I learned that I still have a long way to go.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Even though I got a chance to hang with my Mom in April when she flew to meet me in Thailand, I was still super excited to see her. I think she must have been excited to see me too since she completely forgot where she parked her car. I think the little things that make us human are the best. I’ve also noticed that the toughest, weirdest, and most unique experiences make the best stories. Not that spending 45 minutes looking for my Mom’s car was a tough experience, but I think we’ll both laugh about it for the next five years at least.
My time was limited in Sacramento, but my Mom and Lyman managed to fit in two mass gorging's at the Hometown Buffet and Fresh Choice. After two years of tiny portions, the all-you-can-eat experiences almost blew out a stomach gasket. I’m definitely going to have to learn to leave a some food on my plate from now on. I should probably also remind myself that I don’t have to try EVERYTHING in the buffet line. If I’m not careful I’m going to grow my other three chins back in no time.
After some great hugs and a couple massive meals, I raced off to the Bay Area to see if I could convince one of my targeted Business Schools to bump me from their wait list to their accepted list. Keep your fingers crossed. On the way there I got a chance to hang with one of my Norcal friend/family members Vera Pavlicek. Vera’s been kind of lazy lately. She’s only playing in two soccer leagues, going to a rock-climbing gym in the mornings, working full time, serving as the perpetual bridesmaid, and keeping her long-term relationship off the ground. Crazy. It’s definitely going to take me a while to ramp back up to the American-speed lifestyle.
Speaking of accelerated lifestyles, going to Business School this fall will definitely test my capacity. I haven’t talked much about it because there isn’t that much to say, but if you want the full scoop just shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com. One of the reasons I skipped Fiji and came home early was that I wanted to find a summer job that aligned with what I want to be when I grow up. Two years of introspection helped me see that I love the people side of business. If I can find a way to spend the rest of my life maximizing the potential of people and organizations I will have come close to maximizing my own potential.
“Potential” is a pretty grey, strange, cool-sounding word. The only problem is that it’s hard to define. What is your potential? If you answer that question, haven’t you confined it? Limited it? We have all been given certain gifts, so maybe potential is about finding the best ways to use those gifts to benefit yourself and others? Abraham Maslow would argue that achieving your potential is at the top of the pyramid of human needs. He calls it self-actualization. The Army calls it being all you can be. All I know about mine is that is has something to do with helping people do great things with their lives. I’m hoping I learn more about ways to make this happen as the journey continues.
Since I’ll be concentrating on Organizational Behavior in Business School, I spent most of my internet time in New Zealand trying to nail down a Human Capital Consulting summer internship (Human Capital Consultants focus on the people side of business). I hadn’t had much luck and I was starting to think there wasn’t much of a market for kids who’d been homeless and unemployed for two years. By the time I got back from my trip to the Bay area I was fortunate enough to have a couple offers to work as a Construction Project Manager for the summer, and while working as a PM would definitely help pad the grad school bank account, another construction job would not help my resume at all. Fortunately, on the very day when I had to get back to my construction buddies, my friends at FMI came through with the ideal internship opportunity.
FMI dominates the Investment Banking and Management Consulting market for the construction industry and they happen to have an amazing group of people focused specifically on Leadership Consulting. They were also open to hiring a crazy traveling former construction dude for the summer. All I had to do was get to Denver. Nice!
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Over the next two days I was fortunate enough to see a ton of my good Socal friends. What’s crazy is that most of them seem more like family than friends. I remember reading an article about five years ago on “Urban tribes”. The author argued that since most of us live far from our families, our circles of friends become like family tribes. We paint each other’s houses, we help each other through tragedy, we celebrate successes and new children together…we are family. How cool.
By the time I got dropped off at the San Diego Greyhound bus station I had been in the United States for six days and it was definitely time to see my Mother. When I noticed that the Greyhound baggage handler was carrying a handgun, it became clear that the public bus system wasn’t quite as posh as the public train system. When my Mom warned me that I would be sharing the overnight bus from San Diego to Sacramento with all the released convicts I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t. There were plenty of normal budget travelers like me, but when we hit Stockton, fifteen former prison inmates boarded my chariot and snuggled up all around me.
For the first five minutes I was disappointed to realize how Hollywood had brainwashed me. I was judging these guys. I had looped my leg through my backpack strap and I was paying more attention to their conversation than my book. When the first bald, tattooed, muscle-bound convict asked to use my phone I politely declined. Then sanity started to seep in. These guys had all done their time. They had paid their debt and were excited to see their families. I was getting a chance to see them when they were full of hope…before society started to tell them they weren’t welcome. After about five minutes I handed Craig my phone and told him to dial away. He graciously accepted and spent the next thirty minutes pouring gratitude, love, and enthusiasm into my new mobile.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a convict? Have you ever thought about how easily you could have ended up on the wrong side of those bars? Have you ever driven home with one too many beers in your system? Shoplifted? Tried some things you shouldn’t have? Maybe you’ve never done anything wrong. Guess what, hundreds of innocent people are sent to prison every year. One of them could have been you. The pure joy in the voices of my convict co-travelers reminded me how good a Subway sandwich tastes. They reminded me what a gift freedom really is. I had similar revelations after reading a couple books written by prison inmates, but the lesson was way more powerful coming from the horse’s mouth. I think Craig’s 30 minutes of phone time was more valuable than my other thousand minutes of talk time combined.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Have you every caught a foul ball at a professional baseball game? After attending over 500 games, my buddy Matt Johnson (Majo) had never caught a ball, but that all changed on May 26th. We arrived just in time to see batting practice at the Angels-White Sox game, and 30 minutes later Majo was laying out over three rows of seats to pull in his first professional baseball. Even though Majo had waited 30 years for this, the first thing he did was hand the leather-covered ball of string to Anthony, his little brother in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you knew how much Matt loved baseball, you would be blown away. Nice work Majo.
The next morning we woke up early to meet my cousin Ryan on the USC college campus. Ryan is going into his third year and it looks like he will graduate with a Masters in Accounting and a Bachelors in Business in four years. I barely squeaked out a Bachelors degree in five years at Cal Poly so I guess private schools aren’t that bad after all. Over lunch I realized how much my little cousin Ryan has grown up. Not only is his voice deeper than mine, but he has more clarity regarding his future than I ever had. Hopefully he’ll let me work for him someday!
After inhaling some massive American portions at lunch, Matt and I spent the rest of the day painting doors and fixing up his new house in Culver City. As I sweated away in the Socal sun it hit me that I had to find a way to maneuver my way around California on a traveler’s budget…i.e. no airplanes. For two years I’ve had to listen to Europeans whine about the lack of quality American public transportation, but as I boarded the Amtrack train to San Diego I was actually fairly proud of our system. Given, Matt helped me avoid finding my way to the train station on LA city buses, but as I settled into my train seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my legroom wasn’t designed for a six year old. Nice!
When I touched down in LA I was only planning 12 hours in advance, so deciding to head to San Diego was a last minute decision. This flexibility was great…except that no one knew I was coming, I had no mobile phone, and I was arriving in San Diego at 1:30AM. Fortunately, I managed to use Matt’s phone to connect with my great friend and former roommate Katie Jeremiah five minutes before I boarded the train. Katie was in Oregon, but she hooked me up with the super-secret access code to her pad and solved my challenge of the day. Considering some of the places I’d slept over the past two years I was prepared to crash in Balboa park, but Katie and Megan’s palace was a definite step up. Have you ever noticed how good a house full of girls smells? All the towels are clean, the refrigerator isn’t full of mold, the pictures on the walls have frames, you can walk barefoot without stuff seeping between your toes…you know…the simple stuff.
After an refreshing crash on Katie’s futon I was up early for a run through my potential Balboa Park bedroom before picking up my rental car at Crappy-cars-R-us. It was pretty strange to re-learn how to drive on right-hand side of the road but I managed to make it to Best Buy in time to be completely confused by the millions of cell phone options. Ugh…I don’t ever want to go through that again. I ended up going with Cingular for the rollover minutes, free calls after 7PM, and the cheap monthly rates, but after ten dropped calls I realized that you get what you pay for. Damn it!
Since almost all of my Socal buddies thought I was still in Fiji I was fired up to surprise a them with random calls from their own backyard. Unfortunately I learned that almost everyone sends unfamiliar numbers to voicemail. Sweet. Luckily for me, my amazing friend Mr. Mike Winstead answered his phone on Saturday morning and gave me his own surprise. Mike’s son Calvin was born at 8:58AM the same day I arrived in San Diego. Calvin was about a week early, so I was fired up that he wanted to meet me as much as I wanted to meet him. Mike and Jessica have wanted to start their family for a long time, so I think Calvin will be one of the most loved kids in the history of the world.
Two years doesn’t seem like all that long, but when it comes to life stages, it sure seems like a ton of my friends moved into the parenthood stage while I was gone. I guess that’s normal since we’re all moving into our early thirties (ouch, that’s tough to type), but seeing Calvin really got me fired up about kids again. No, my biological alarm isn’t going off, but being a Husband and Father is definitely at the top of the list of experiences I would love to have before I die. I can’t claim to understand it, but I saw something different in Mike’s eyes on Saturday. They say your life is never the same after you have kids, and I can guarantee Mike and Jessica agree with that statement. I can see how all the things I think are important now would fade into the background if I became a Dad. Isn’t it nuts how we can make the insignificant significant sometimes? Is it possible to keep things in perspective? I sure hope so…