A recipe to fix a mixing bowl.

It seems we have a projected winner of the White House, and in true 2020 fashion, it couldn’t happen clean and straightforward. As such, in the upcoming weeks, the cycle of “I told you so’s” and “You’re an idiot” seems to be primed to keep right on keeping on. 

As a patriot, lover of America for all her beauty (and despite her faults), I’m ready to jump off this ride. That found me thinking aloud in the shower, how do we get it right in the mixing bowl that America is? 

I am not a Rhodes Scholar, just a simple Ol’ infantryman. But, I have been working with and leading diverse groups of people for decades now. As such, I think I have a recipe to get us back to the colorful masterpiece we are meant to be. 

  1. A heaping helping of humility. It is time that we put gloating aside. Someone had to win, and someone had to lose. Most importantly, no one should agree with anyone on everything, all of the time. If we go into every conversation with this in mind, we will become more tolerant of folks who see it differently. 
  2. Two parts of Collaboration. As the adage goes, it takes two to tango, and right now, most Americans are shitty dance partners. You have to be willing to take turns taking the lead. You have to trust your partner to do what is best and honest, just as much as you expect them to do the same. It’s not that one side is right or one side is wrong; it’s slightly different perspectives on how to solve the same problem. 
  3. Throw away the indignation. It’s been left setting out all night, and it’s gotten old. 
  4. A pinch of perspective. No one is everything you think their candidate is—especially given that we are left with but two choices. Take the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the world from a slightly different view. 
  5. Lastly, the recipe calls for an end to name-calling and personal attacks. Let’s go back to a simpler time when momma said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Guys, please listen to me; if you can’t make your point politely, you lose your point’s credibility. Remember, you never change an offended mind. 

Put this all in a bowl, pour on a generous helping of love thy neighbor, and shake vigorously until all the hate falls out. I want my country back, and I am willing to share it with you. 

I hope that we get back to being Americans, a country big enough for all people and strong enough to handle that diversity. 

We’re gonna break our backs.

In this trying season, I wonder if Americans would be willing to break their backs and lay in bed paralyzed for life to avoid COVID-19. I have to wonder this because we are doing it economically now.

Last night I went out to dinner at a local restaurant that was forced to operate far below capacity. Luckily it was an uncharacteristically warm night, and so outdoor dining was an option. This man employees over 300 people but due to restrictions that staff is down to slightly over 100. He’s already closed a few of his restaurants and wondered aloud what he would do to make it through the coming winter.

Just a few moments ago, I was told that another local gym is closing here in town, and according to my sources, 40% of gyms have closed down permanently across the nation, with more to surely follow suit.

I have another friend who’s in the entertainment business that has lost 8 million dollars already. He, too, is close to being at the breaking point.

Small business is the very backbone of our economy, employing over 50% of our workforce. Even a company that is just treading water and barely profitable for the owner contributes mightily to their community, both locally and nationally. They pay taxes for themselves and their employees. They pay other small businesses who act as vendors for goods and services they need. All of those business employees go out into their respective communities to interject money locally while getting taxed on the goods and services they purchase.

There is no help coming from the government that continues to make irrational decisions, unbacked by science, all while touting our safety. Yet, major conglomerates are left free to operate at full capacity just so long as you maintain social distancing and face mask. When was the last time you saw an employee clean the fruit that someone picked up or wiped down the freezer door after every pull?

You haven’t.

America, land that I love, land that I have fought for, bleed for, and love. Land of opportunity when not shackled by fear. I need you to wake up. There is only so much blood we can get from a stone. You can only pivot so many times and stay on course to success. At some point, if we don’t address this fear, the real boogeyman is going to jump on the closet. The other foot is going to drop, and our downtowns are going to become ghost towns. The middle class will evaporate faster than it already is, and your only resource to save you is going to be a government that has already failed you.

America, wake up, or you are going to kill yourself with this “cure.”

What the winner of the next election says about us.

Today is the day that we decide on the path of America for another four years. People on both sides are positive their guy is going to win by a landslide. No one will know until the final votes are tallied, but when the winner is declared, we will have a detailed picture (esp if the winner does so by a large margin) about which messaging struck the heart of America.

Before we delve into what each scenario means, let me first identify the heart of America. The average American isn’t reflected in the loud voices of extreme left or right. They are the folks who get up, go to work, and are just trying to navigate life. All they want is to provide for their family, give their kids a better life, and take a vacation every year. The average American is tone-deaf to politics because both sides have been singing off-key for years now. 

Now, on to the winners. 

If Biden wins:

If Biden were to win, it would prove that America’s heart believes the following things, in order of importance. 

  1. That Trump is racist. 
  2. Trump severely botched the handling of COVID.
  3. Trump is more corrupt than Biden. 

I list the last one, last, because, at this point, I’ve yet to hear anyone close to me say either guy is a “good guy”. Issue 3 is simply the icing on the cake. 

If Trump wins: (again in order of importance)

  1. People are tired of being bullied. 
  2. No one wants to get shut down again. 
  3. Biden is more corrupt than Trump. 

The first point is where I believe the election hinges. 

I think that rioting and divisiveness have the potential to hold the most significant sway over the election, with the fear of getting shut down, again, running a close second. My reasoning for this? 

At our core, Americans hate to be told what to do. It is part of our culture, literally built-in from the founding of our nation. 

Getting accosted at dinner with family and friends (esp when you had been locked down for months prior) doesn’t sit with us well. When cities are burned and looted (again in light of the hit we all took from COVID), it galvanizes the fight or flight mode in all of us. It leads to circling the wagons to protect the center. This is part of our DNA, as we are herd creatures. 

So as odd as it sounds, for Biden to win means that the majority of people believe Trump is, in fact, racist. However, if Trump wins, it doesn’t prove that America is racist. It demonstrates that folks are tired of being shoved around. 

Train how you fight.

“If you sweat more in training, you’ll bleed less in war.”

As an infantry soldier, I have heard that old stoicism regurgitated by NCO and officer alike (often after the customary Lee Greenwood song.) As a young soldier, I once thought it was, at best, false bravado, or at worst, the justification for the beatdown they were about to inflict on us.

I remember thinking, why are we pulling security? There is no enemy out there, not even some of our guys pretending to be bad guys. Why did we need to yell out in the middle of pretend war, TWO- OOOO–THREEEE to let everyone know we had indeed fired an imaginary Grenada and that our “budenimes” were indeed dead. “I got you” is an argument you never when in pretend war.

I never really got it until I got to combat. Then, amid an ambush, it became crystal clear why we did.

We had been traveling back on a convoy mission when all of a sudden, I heard a heavy machine gun open up. At the time, I thought it was one of our guys until I rotated my turret only to see the NTV in front of me getting lit up.

We were getting attacked from across the road and over four lanes of traffic. As I turned to engage, I heard the bullets crack the air around my head and then felt the vibration run down my arm from the one hitting turret. Half an inch of steel is the only thing that saved my life that day.

As I acquired a target and went to open up, my .50 jammed, not once, but twice. I assure you, nothing brings on the pucker factor quite like your weapon jamming in a gunfight!

But what happened next is what was the most telling to me. I reached over and grabbed my M203, aimed at the building, and lobbed around into it, ending the ambush. What would typically have filled me with a great sense of satisfaction embarrassed me because I did the most “boot” thing I could have done.

I yelled out “two-o-three” as I fired out the round.

In the middle of a gunfight, on a busy highway, vehicles getting lit up, I resorted to doing what I thought was stupid all the year leading up to that fight.

The important take away I hope you get from this is the understanding that the trivial matters—the small things matter. Suffering in training will save your ass in the game called life.

Stop lying to yourself and me and say, “Oh, I’d do it better if this was for real.” It’s not true, and if it were for real, you’d be dead.

“Train how you fight.”

Leave Kim alone.

I forget the movie, and I am sure I will butcher the quote, but I know I’ll get the sentiment right. “There once was a time where a man pulled up in a limousine, and everyone wanted to be him. Now, he pulls up in a limo, and everyone hates him. I believe that this change is the root cause of the degradation of American’s happiness.

You need to look no farther than the recent attack on Kim Kardashian. Here, we find people attacking her for a private party she threw on an Island. This woman, whose net worth is over 500 million and who’s husbands is over a billion, was roasted online for spending what would be the equivalent of a few hundred dollars for the average American on entertainment.

Let’s examine the hypocrisy for a minute.

Americans have increased impulse spending by 18% during the COVID-19 Pandemic, according to a survey commissioned by Slickdeals. According to the respondents, nearly three in four (72 percent) said that buying something impulsively during the Pandemic has positively affected their mood.

Why do you think Kim did that?

She was attacked in her IG post because she said she “40 and feeling so Humbled and blessed.” What was she supposed to say? “Ha ha ha, suck it, peasants?”

You can say whatever you would about Kim or how crazy Kanye is, but there remains no doubt that they are highly intelligent and astute business people. You don’t reach that level of success if you are dumb. It just doesn’t happen.

The problem lies in the fact that people are jealous, and it is easier to attack than to be happy for someone. What’s worse is that most of the folks attacking them are the ones who’ve done the most to support them.

Which one of you wouldn’t throw a private party for all of your friends and family on a remote island? Stop lying to yourself. You’re not mad that they did this, your crazy that you weren’t invited.

Bread and Circuses

“Bread and Circuses” are what the Roman poet Juvenal used to describe the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome. In a political context, it was generating approval not by excellence in the performance of the leader’s civic accomplishments, but rather a mere diversion by satisfying our needs for a full belly and our desire to be entertained.

There is no doubt that this happens still to this day in our country, but perhaps whats worse is that we willfully do it to ourselves.

How many of you follow that sports team or that TV show (even worse so reality TV) and react in a visceral and emotional response to what you see on your screen?

How often has your day, week, and sometimes an entire season of your life been ruined by the lack of success of a team you don’t even play on?

But why? Why do we allow ourselves to get this emotionally involved in someone else’s story?

It’s quite simple, really; It keeps us from admitting that we aren’t living ours.

Like the Romans, you see, we enthusiastically devour all the bread and circuses thrown our way. We dive deep into binge-watching, often hours at a time, the latest Netflix drama. Every Sunday, we give up our entire Sunday to watch every single game that comes on only to turn around and complain we don’t have enough time to chase our dreams.

And in doing so, we find ourselves in a very odd paradox; we willingly chose to fail.

“There is no Ark, because no one built one, even though everyone felt the storm.”- Jordan B. Peterson

We know all the things we must do.
The hard things, but the right things.

We know we should take the time to show love to our spouse.
We know we should take the time to play with our kids.
We know that we should work out.
We know that we should eat healthily.
We know we should chase our dreams.

Ah, but Stranger Things debuts next week, and you can watch the entire season in one gluttonous setting. Or, from pre-game to post-game, we can plant ourselves on our couch every Sunday, lifting a finger only to move the beercan to our mouth and getting up when our bladder compels us too.

Instead of taking part in our lives-our victories and our defeats, we find the couch and cheer on others who do not cheer for us. And when the lights go down and the crowds go home, we are left alone to face this truth. No one is here for us because we couldn’t bother to show up for ourselves.

The voice in the arena.

We often talk about the haters and our critics, but why do we care what they say?
It’s because they are echoing the words of our harshest critic– Ourselves.
We are afraid to take risks because we are worried about being exposed as the frauds our inner voice says that we are. That someone will find out that we don’t have all the answers that we aren’t perfect, and any success we found was a fluke.
The word will get out that we don’t know what we are doing.
No matter what you accomplish in the public eye, behind the scenes, imposter syndrome is a genuine thing.
So, the nagging voice continues to tell you that you aren’t ready for that next big risk. After all, you’ve “made it,” so why risk failure now?
Your comfortable, wasn’t that what you’ve been striving to achieve for so long?
The problem is that the world believes there are three options, get better, get worse, or stay the same. In reality, there are only two, get better, or get worst.
Comfort kills.
Growth doesn’t come when all we do is what we are good at or rest on past accomplishments. It occurs when we step outside of our comfort zone. It happens when we expose ourselves to the potential for failure, and fail we shall if the task we seek to do is a major one.
No one hit’s home runs every at-bat.
But we are petrified of striking out, hitting a pop fly, or bunting. The crowd came for the home run, and we don’t want to let em down. So, instead, we choose not to step up to the plate.
That voice, powered by fear, has killed more dreams than any other obstacle on Earth.
It’s what forces us to justify quitting. It’s what forces us to settle. It’s what feeds the most insidious thing of all—negative self-talk.
I know about this all too well. For every win I got, I walked into each room petrified that folks would find me out.
No matter what award, top 40 under 40, top 50 CEO, small business of the year, etc., I was always worried folks would ask me a question I didn’t know the answer too, and I’d look foolish.
I remember making the finals for Men’s Health, and despite numerous times telling me that the contest wasn’t just about looks, I couldn’t shut the up about it.
I know they liked me. The used my quote in a toast at dinner. They put another of my quotes on the magazine cover, and to this day, I can’t help but wonder did I lose that win because I failed to display the confidence that they were looking for to run with it. Were they worried that I wouldn’t have the confidence to go on stage and represent their brand?
You see, the most prominent critic you have is often in the arena with you. You’re battling your opponent and yourself. That’s why you must learn how to change the conversation. Here are some typical examples of negative self-talk.

I am just destined to be fat. I am not a reader. I don’t know how to love.
But what if we changed the conversation?
How do we do that? We look at the facts.
Are you destined to be fat? No, you are not morbidly obese. There is no such thing as big-boned. You have simply eaten poorly and failed to move for an extended time.
Both of which you have 100% control over.
I am not a reader. You are not illiterate. You have put little to no time into practicing it.You have plenty of time to do it; you just need to prioritize it. You can become a much better reader.
You’re don’t know how to love. You can listen to your partner.You can accept that you’re responsible for your happiness, not them. You can do more than is required.You can make time for each other. You can put the phone down. You can accept their love. You can finally admit you are worthy of being loved.
I know this because, for years, I fell victim to my negative talk. No one will ever love me. I am stupid. I don’t know how to sell. I am ugly. I am fat.
And every time I walked into a room, I told myself I didn’t belong. It made life miserable, and what’s worse, it has caused me not to take risks, try new things, and ultimately it stole some sweetness from my wins.
But changing the conversation changed my life. Realizing that I may not be a rocket scientist, but I am a genius in my own right. Yes, others can do things that I cannot, but many wish they could do what I’ve done.
Now, no matter what, I step up to the plate and swing with all I’ve got. While not every at-bat connects, when I hit one out the park, I can round the bases with a smile on my face, finally knowing I belong. If you follow my advice so you can do the same. #Justherambingsofanolinfantryman

Happy Birthday

You are somehow already five years old.
Where did the time go?
Sometimes I look over at you and see the grown women you will become standing in front of me, and it takes my breath away.

I know, far too soon for your daddy’s liking, you will become that woman.
There will be the last time you ask to hold my hand in the street.
There will come a day when you won’t ask me to watch a superhero movie.
At some point, you won’t ask me to pick you up.
One night you’re not going to want to sleep on the floor in our room no more.

While I would never try to keep you from growing my beautiful little girl, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dread those days.

You know, before you, death never really scared me all that much. I always thought if I were dead on gone, I wouldn’t be missed much, and to be frank, I wouldn’t miss much myself.

But, you changed all that. Leaving you alone in this world before I’ve ushered you into adulthood scares me immensely. The idea of missing every little step you’d take and all the milestones you’re going to reach crushes me. You, all by your perfect little self, changed the world for me.

You make me want to be a good man.
You make me want to provide for you and your sister.
You make me want to honor your mother.
Because of you, I want more than anything to be worthy of the title, “Daddy.”

So, as we complete this fourth trip around the sun, please know how much I love you. I will protect you with my dying breath. I will come to get you, from anywhere, at any time, no matter how far or how late. I will always make you the best sandwich and seal it in love with a daddy squish.

You are the apple of my eye.
You are my pride and joy.
You are #Riverlynnemybestfriend.

Happy birthday baby girl.
Love Daddy.

Pandmic, Epidemic

Let’s talk about some facts, please.

I am willing to concede that COVID is a serious issue.
I am willing to do so because, based on the facts, it is.

So, if I am willing to go off facts, can the rest of you start?

In America, almost all of the top comorbidities for COVID are byproducts of obesity, but no one wants to talk about that.

In New York for example, “The median age of the patients was 63 years and 39% were female, investigators reported. The most common observed comorbidities were hypertension (56%), obesity (41%), and diabetes (33%).”

When I see folks sharing pictures of “healthy people” getting COVID, who was clearly obese, we are not living in the real world.

This has shit to do with who’s “beautiful” or a person’s worth. Your health and your worth are not tied together. You can be an amazing person and be unhealthy. It happens all the time.

You can also be an amazing athlete and be obese, one could argue that there are even sports in which it is required, but that DOES NOT make it healthy.

The health risk associated with obesity is long and extensively researched. It is not healthy to be obese, end of the story, period.

It also isn’t coincidental that many of the top 10 killers in America also stem from obesity.

I have zero issues fighting a pandemic in the world, but I think it’s far beyond the time that we should stop bullshitting in an effort to make everyone feel good and confront the elephant in the room–obesity.

It’s been an epidemic long before COVID, and given our refusal to admit it, it’s gonna be one long after COVID is gone.


Sucess isn’t perfect

If you spend any time around successful people, you are bound to hear them speak about the importance of consistency. It is almost a universally understood truth that to make it big, you have to show up and put in work every day. That leads us to beg the question, if everyone knows this, why doesn’t everyone do it?

The answer is simple; people believe that they have to be perfect every time.

That’s what throws everyone off their game. It’s why they don’t show up day two, three, or three hundred. Because that one day they weren’t perfect, they quit.

To me, it is the craziest phenomenon. I’ve watched people who were much more talented than me fold under the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect.

Missed one workout?
Fine, I quit.

Ate one donut?
Fine, I quit.

Didn’t fill out my journal last night?
Fine, I quit.

Didn’t make that sale yesterday?
Fine, I quit.

What is mindboggling to me about this is that we inherently know that we aren’t perfect, nor is it even attainable. Yet, we do not afford ourselves the grace to have a setback. We know when we set our goals that we are trying to accomplish something major, so why not expect a few pitfalls along the way?

When it is all said and done, it’s the people who anticipate that there will be shortcomings, mistakes, and failures that have the propensity to find themselves on the other side of failure– not perfect–but successful.