Refilling the Glass

In previous blogs, I have referenced my epiphany a few years back when I realized I had become a ‘glass half empty’ person.  What was happening in my life to make me unhappy? I have a great family and friends, successful career, good health, and a solid outlet for relieving stress and finding enjoyment. Why would that not be enough?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the vicinity of “because life had become too easy”.

How was I challenging myself?

As I contemplated how I would solve my problem, I thought back to the underlying concept for exercise and strength. In order to become stronger, you must stress a muscle. The right mix of stress, recovery, periodicity, and fueling (nutrition) is an overly simplified formula for gaining strength. How each person goes about that strength training is different just as different exercises will strengthen different muscle groups.

But I wasn’t looking to strengthen my body so much as an overhaul of my psyche. In my case, I realized that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and seek new challenges.

Perhaps it was time to get an advanced degree. I had several reasons for going back to school. First, my parents and sisters all had advanced degrees and I didn’t like being the odd one out. Second, I noticed that although my work experience was stellar and I was highly competitive in my field, without the acronyms after my name, I just wasn’t getting call backs on my resume. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I had always promised myself that it was something I wanted to do. Maybe then was the time to take on that particular challenge.

Enter grad school.

That was a little over two years ago. In about two weeks, I will be graduating from THE University of Nevada Reno with my MBA. (I emphasize the word “THE” to differentiate UNR from that other school in Southern Nevada).The analogies between the last two years and my sporting life are numerous. Work to the point of exhaustion, exercise weaknesses to forge strengths, try to find some recovery time in between semesters, and be willing to rely on others.

A little early to celebrate, but I’m on the home stretch!

Ask any athlete who is successful in their sport and they will tell you that without their support network, they would not have made it as far as they have. You and I are no different than the best athletes. We need our support network to be successful.

In my studies, several people have helped make my graduation what it is. My wife proofread way too many papers and ignored expletives when exams blew up or projects didn’t go well. My sons coached my lack of tech skills. Professors endured my errors. Others students (Nick and Sarah) provided support and guidance. Friends deferred events. My employers granted me time off for exams, study sessions or just to recover.

My glass is half full again. I’ve been challenged by the last two years. I fulfilled a life-long promise to myself and to my parents. I have revitalized relations with family and old friends while gaining new friends. And, oh yeah, and now I have acronyms to compete with my sisters.

In response to a previous blog, a wise person responded with the statement “refill the glass”. As I thought about that response, I realized that, to some degree, I have.

The new questions are: What now? How will I keep the glass at least half-full?

A Little Wisdom from Dad

I’ve always believed that my father was the smartest person I’ve ever known. As a nuclear/electrical engineer, Dad designed equipment for the Apollo and space shuttle programs as well as safety equipment for nuclear plants. With multiple patents for various high-tech gadgetry, he was clearly well educated and very practical in matters of science. During a visit to the Titan Missile Museum outside of Tucson, the museum guide began to explain how a Titan worked. Dad patiently waited and then said, ‘that’s not exactly correct. I helped design the process you are explaining and it really goes like this…”. Within about 30 seconds, none of us understood what he was saying as he discussed ceramics and atomic this and nuclear that. To this day, I still don’t have a clue what he was telling us. I just know it was cool.

Explaining nuclear reactions is way over my head.

Many of you have been in a meeting where certain people want you to think of them as “the smartest person in the room”. Extremely humble, Dad would never have said it.

We just knew it.

This was not just because of his intelligence, but also because of his balance. Growing up, Dad was always there for us kids. When we moved across the country, we missed soccer sign-ups, but Dad offered to be a coach for a team that didn’t have a coach just so I could play. Neither of us had ever played soccer, but what the heck; we gave it a try. Later, when my sisters wanted to play, he agreed to help their team too.

He rarely missed our music or sporting events and was quick to provide guidance for science fair projects. No, he wouldn’t do the project for us, but he provided the guidance for developing a functional, mock hydro-electric plant or an experiment to determine if plants grew better in an electrical field.

If you didn’t know the background of John Senior (we called him that since my oldest son is also named John), you would never know that he had played sax for the Arthur Godfrey show or that he formed his own band in high-school or that he continued to play his sax and skied or swam into his 80s. You wouldn’t know that he ‘schooled’ a troop of boy-scouts while on a backpack trip in his 70s. He just did things because he wanted to do them. “No regrets” was a phrase that has always described how I viewed his life.

For many years, Mom and Dad lived part of the year in Truckee California. During the summers, I would meet Dad at the Donner Lake marina for a ‘training event’. I would run the 7-mile loop while Dad rode his bike alongside. While we rode/ran, we would talk about whatever came to mind; work, kids, politics, religion, or whatever. It really didn’t matter what the topics were or how fast we went. We simply had fun communing with nature and each other in an extraordinary part of the world. We stopped for deer, bald eagles, or the occasional bear, but otherwise it was just us.

Nearly two years ago, Dad passed away. He took with him an incredible volume of intellect and wisdom. If I have shared with you only a small portion of what Dad passed along to me and my family, we are all the better for it. He would be more proud of what we can learn from his example of doing than anything he did personally.

My challenge to myself (and hopefully to you) is to find the things in life that make us better. Seek out those things that challenge us to broaden our horizons.

Then help someone else reach for their horizons too.