Eulogize the Living

•September 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In our society when someone passes away, as part of our tradition, the love ones gather and discuss what exactly it was about the recently deceased they loved. There are tears and laughs and a deep cathartic healing for most involves in the whole ceremony. The stories and memories are important to those still living, in revealing the traits of the dead we are often revealing what it was that we valued most about that person.
But the person of the moment, the guest of honor is not there obviously, they’re deceased and that fact is the reason this ceremony is occurring. But wouldn’t it be a good thing if they could be there, at this celebration of their life and deeds. The ability to see in a tangible way, how you have affected those who you love. It’s not a new desire for someone to want to be present at their own funeral, I was first introduced to the idea through Huck Finn albeit in a deviant manner. Steve Covey preaches that we should think about what those around us would say at our funeral and use that to reinforce or change things about ourselves. But that’s from the person in questions point of view, what about us, talking about our loved ones.
I would guess that a majority of people speaking at funerals say something they didn’t say to the person that recently died. Maybe they said it but not with the force expressed in a eulogy. Why? It may be in fear of expressing to much to someone or simply thinking that they know how you feel. But what if they don’t? At that point don’t your feelings become not feelings but just words. It is far more important for those words to be expressed to those who they deal with. Eulogize with the living. Do not wait until they are no longer there to hear you. Tell the people you care about how you feel about them and the memories you cherish. What you can do is make their lives (and yours as well) richer in the process. Peace.

Living in the Now

•August 31, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So many people live in another time. For some they live in the past. Remembrances of good time gone keep them moving forward. Farther away from the times that they have defined as a sort of high water mark. “Those were the good days!” these people hope to have something that match, maybe even succeed those good times in the future. However the further they get away from the times they remember the more glossed over it becomes and this impossible to match. They are left with a imperfect perfected memory that makes everything in their future that much duller and gives them even more reason to look back.
There also people who spend their lives in the future. They wish to have a brighter day tomorrow and convince themselves that it is just around the bend. “when I” or “things will be better when…” are highlights. This ostrich in the sand mentality leaves them yearning for better days while actually missing those better days. They keep waiting only to realize that what they are waiting may not come.
And while these two do not define everyone I think it sort of a sliding scale that one can be placed upon. The happy middle ground, sort a zen like state, would be being completely happy with the now. At peace with the past, grounded in today and not overeager for the future. This balancing act is what we should strive. To borrow a phrase from an unrelated topic, we want to be confident that what we are doing right now at any given moment is the perfect thing to do. (David Allen – Getting Things Done – a great productivity book you should check out if you haven’t already).

For me I have always come down on the future side of things. I tend to focus on things that will come my way and have a hard time focusing on what is going on in my life at that moment. I know this and try to stop it but realize that it is a tendency of mine. For me the excitement of what’s to comes seems to always out way what I have going on currently. The frustrating thing is when I get the things that I have waited for, they seem to more often than not be replaced by new and bigger things. It’s a conscious effort on my part to slow down and savor and when I do I am pretty happy with things. I just wish it was more natural for me to have that middle path because that to me seems to be where true happiness lies. Peace

Napa Valley Tasting Notes

•August 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So I recently spent two days in amazing Napa. It was a great expirience and I wanted to share some of my feelings toward the wineries and the wines we tasted. It was a jam packed day and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back and doing a more relaxed visit over a longer period of time. I wrote this on my iPhone on the plane so I wouldn’t forget anything.

Stags Leap – Has Two levels of tastings. The one to the left is the cheaper version with 4 varietals. It’s still 20 bucks but that’s a bargain compared to the 40 the Elite tasting will run you. However the pricier version has the Cask 23 Cab which Stags Leap is known for so it’s a toss up. The service was wholly forgettable. The attendant was more interested in talking to the other people behind the bar than in discussing the wine or even conducting small talk. Didn’t seem to be very knowledgeable and was content to let the reputation of Stags Leap sell itself. I would not recommend a return visit unless you are a fan of the wine beforehand.

Clos de Val – first off this is a visual treat of a winery. From the nicely manicured lawns to the signature huge 30 foot door, it’s a quintessential winery. Inside you will find congenial and patient attendants. We had a man who was not only knowledgeable about wine on a technical level but also had no problem relating that knowledge to this who weren’t. He also poured wines with and without a decanter which is a great teaching instrument for those who don’t know the benefits of decanting. They also offer the ability to taste at one of the outdoor tables which I plan to take advantage of next time. The wine was definitely a highlight with the whites displaying good grass and melon flavors with the reds being tasty without being big or overpowering, the overall highlight was the Merlot.

James Cole – This winery is the reason why you need to drive into at least one random winery each day. Set back from the Silverado Trail, James Cole is another beautiful if smaller winery. They produced 750 cases in 2008 which makes them the smallest commercial winery in the valley. The first thing you will notice is the statue that sits prominently in the main tasting area and also on their label. It is a bit of a Rorschach test but is a unique symbol for the winery. The wine was served by a man who clearly was proud of the wine if not a bit anti establishment. He was amiable and provided quite a bit of back story of the wine and the winery. As he poured the last wine of the four, he poured more than usual and told our group of 6 to bring your glasses on a tour of the winery. The wine was spectacular and more than earned it higher price tags. The highlights were a 04 Malbec which clearly showed it’s superiority to it’s South American counterparts. Also they have a Pinot Nior Ice Wine which was different and delicious. The attendant also mentioned that starting this fall they will have Petite Verdoh from 150 year old vines which I will definitely come back for. I would highly suggest this winery. A great example of the ways things should be done!

Regusci Winery – This was good wine on a nice facility, but was overall unmemorable. The attendants had good technical knowledge but was unable to relate it those who didn’t have the same level of knowledge like Clos de Val.

Robert Mondavi – The grandfather winery of the Valley didn’t disappoint despite having a crowded tasting bar. They fit us in despite being there slightly after closing time. The wine was good with the highlights being the Cabs. The poured was amiable despite attending to three groups. We also received a glass with the purchase of the tasting. Also they provide the option of choosing any three wines of a list of 7-8 which provided you to customize and see the difference in the price points of varietals. Very educational experience.

Silver Oak – When we tasted they were in the final stages of a renovations which I’m sure will make it more enjoyable since we tasted in a trailer. For 10 bucks you get a taste of their Alexander and Napa Valleys Cabs and a glass. The cabs are good but in my estimation there wasn’t enough of a difference to justify paying $100 instead of buying two Miner Family or Plumpjack Cabs for that same $100. But the label and reputation sells. They did open a 95 Alexander Cab which saved the tasting for me. Great to see what an expensive wine can do when properly aged. The pourer was nice but seemed to sense we had little chance of buying and treated us at an arms length.

Plumpjack – Great small winery. The ground were different than any of the wineries with the winery and facilities nestled into some hills. They had Jaws on a big screen over the bar and 80’s music playing so it definitely wasn’t pretentious. The two labels Cade and Plumpjack were comparable in quality with the white favoring Cade and the red favoring Plumpjack. This would be a great place for a whole winery tour because of the unique setup and laid back attitude.

Miner Family – Set back off the Silverado Trail this two story facility is cool because you can view the bottling facility on the lower level. The attendant we had just moved to Napa but was enthusiastic and happy to share stories. The white here were nice and crisp with a dry Rose being the highlight. The reds were everyday Porch reds at a great price point. This is a definitely a must hit.

Burgess – Definitely old school Napa. This is up in the Howell Mountain region and has great views of the Calistoga region. This is one of the few wineries that actually means their By Appointment Only label. We didn’t know that but the office secretary agreed to give us a tasting in the barrel room. The wine, all red, was extremely good and very reasonable price wise. The good wine and even better views make this a great break from the big houses on 29.

Twomey – Straight forward and no frills. Reds were memorable but whites were not. The Pinot was traditional with light color and spicy notes. Tasting was expensive at 20 but they did give you a logo glass as well.

Sterling – The winery and tasting room is a gondola ride away on the top of the a hill. It is expensive to get up and takes time. We didn’t know of the setup and did not allot enough time.

Larkmead – The highlight of the trip by far. We received wrong info on when they closed and arrived 10 minutes late. The guys who was locking up asked us how we heard of them and after hearing that Gary Vaynerchuk had recommended the winery as his favorite in the valley, he agreed to a “quick and dirty tasting”. The quick and dirty tasting lasted 45 minutes! He first talked about the wines and the lack of pretension. They don’t have a marketing budgeting and are bought by fans of the wines solely. The ground were spectacular and has great views of the Calistoga area. Normally the tastings occur outside of their porch on rocking chairs. The winery has huge historical ties with bottles from 1915 and the 40s and 60s proudly displayed. We were able to hold the 1915 bottle which was an awesome feeling. The wine is amazing, the whites are clear and have great grass highlights and a lack of oak. The reds were clearly the highlight. The Firebelle, their lower end blend was described as being a $100 cab for half the price and it was spot on. Huge Taste! Their most expensive wine, their Salon was simply the best wine I’ve had. At 85 bones it’s not a purchase to be taken lightly but it wasn’t even an option not to take one home. The tasting is 20 which is steep but I wouldn’t even blink at that price with the combo of great wine, great people and great atmosphere. This is what Napa should be!

Overall, it was an amazing trip and I would highly recommend the majority of these winery to visitors of the Valley. Peace!

Don’t Look Back

•August 16, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Humans are wired a lot like Cheetahs. We are both wired to chase. Since the dawn of man, we have to chase what we wanted, it started with food in a very literal sense but I’d like to apply it much more liberally to say that we have to chase whatever we want. This meaning would be in line with the statement of, Chase Your Dreams.

But chasing is not the ideal. To be chasing is to be in a race and to be in a race is to try to win. But to win is to have to be front and to be front is not to have anyone to chase. And that’s the scary part. The majority of people need to have that person out in front of them. To not only motivate them but to also show them where to go. Once we get out in front we lose the chase.

That in itself is not the bad part. What is the question of whether you can motivate yourself to push forward while in the lead of the race. It’s easy to push forward when you have people leading the way and giving you a motivation. But as soon as you’re in the lead that motivation vanishes; the sad thing is that is the main reason why people don’t take the lead in a given race even when a perfect opportunity arises. There’s comfort in following, in allowing the leader to lead. But as the old Big Dogs Shirt said, “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

Now not every is ready to lead the pack. In Olympic track and field or swimming you see this all the time. A racer who isn’t supposed to be leading jumps out to an early start and the annoucers start talking about how surprising it is that the individual showed up so well. But before long most of the time, those expected to lead take over and usually win. That why they are the favorites. They also know that it’s important to not lead the race from gun to gavel but only at the finish line. Just like in an actual race, the races we have in our live must be calculated. You have to pick your spots and not simply jump out in front because no one else is. That tantamount to jumping in front of a firing squad; Not smart.

So my question to you (and me) is that do you know when to take over the race and when you’re there can motivate yourself enough to keep at the end despite the mass of humanity pressing down behind, wanting what you are holding. If you can do those two things you are bound to succeed in this race we call life. Peace!

The Most Important Question

•August 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In my last post I was writing in stream when I write that “What are you going you do about it” was the most important question in the world. I’ve honestly never thought about it but the more I think about it the more I agree with it. And why do I think it’s so damn important? It’s about next steps. It’s the after effect and any motion. And in this world that’s all we have. Every person, successful or not, big or small, has things happen to them. Everyday. Our lives are made up of these causes. That question gets to the heart of what the affect will be. Everyone has the power to control in what way you react to anything. I don’t care why it is, outside of death, you can determine how you deal with anything. And how you respond makes all the difference in the world. And so that is why “What are you going to do about it” is the most important question in the world. Peace

What Are You Driven By?

•August 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Much is made of motivation. Whether intrinsic or extrinsic, being motivated is crucial to much of what you want to do in this world. It is probably one of the most important things you can possess. We all know brilliant people who have no motivation. They are fascinating people but usually struggle once they get to a certain level. Sure they glide through high school and college and maybe they get a job where they can coast a buy but they always seem to be missing a crucial component, drive. And that makes all the difference. I’ll take someone who isn’t the smartest in the group but is the most driven everyday.

But how do we derive motivation? Most factors are extrinsic, outside of ourselves. You work hard to get the promotion, the money you get from working, you become inspired from a Tony Robbins seminar and burst forth with all the energy in the world. But what happens? That high doesn’t last forever. Unless you follow Tony around Grateful Dead style you will eventually lose that buzz. And that’s fine, that’s human. But theirs another tool in our motivational toolbox, intrinsic motivation. This is being Tony Robbins as opposed to listening to him.
Extrinsic motivation is like climbing a ladder. You are successful because their is another rung ahead of you. There are times when you don’t have the energy to climb but the ladder remains there. Intrinsic motivation is like having a scaffold. You start out at a high point. You can put a ladder on a scaffold, but the starting point is still high.
It’s my theory that those with intrinsic motivation are the ones who mean everything in this world. Do you want a horse that needs a carrot in front of him to beat others, or the horse who runs and beats others because he’s competitor and dammit nobody beats him.
So I return to the best question in the world (as in Al Pacino’s monologue from Every Given Sunday, a great extrinsic motivator to me) “What are you gonna do”. Intrinsic Motivators are like a fire within a person. What’s important is to find that butane lighter within that can light that fire. Whether it’s competition, love, or even hate (you could hate that human rights abuses persist) you need to find that light. Let that light lead you and there’s no telling how high you will go. Peace

Carry on Tradition

•August 5, 2008 • 2 Comments

My dad is a talker. He gets it from his Dad. It doesn’t matter who it is, old family friend or a cashier at the Supermarket. What he really enjoyed was getting to know the people that he interacted with on a daily basis. So whether it was Mike the butcher at the local Supermarket or the mailman, my Dad made a point to reach out and make an attempt to know them better. This of course made me and my sister endlessly uncomfortable growing up. As a ten year old who was consistently in a hurry I saw no value in discussing how the butchers kids were doing, or how the mailman’s route was treating him. I don’t think that that particular feeling is very weird for young kids. As I got older and started doing some of things myself my dad encouraged me to follow his lead and forge similar relationships. “When you are in the produce section, tell Shirley your my son and she’ll take of you. I balked at talking to a perfect stranger even if it meant good blueberry’s. I just didn’t see the value you in it and honestly felt like it was a little bit like taking advantage of a situation.
Lately things have started to change. I think the first held belief of mine about my dads relationships that changed was that this was somehow taking advantage of a situation. The older I got the more I saw that it was a genuine attempt by my Dad to get to know these people. This has many benefits, the biggest of which is just having a friendly face you know at your daily stops. This is not only beneficial to my Dad bit also to the people who he interacted with. There are tons of grocery stores around but Shirley only works at one.
Then it happened, about 2 years ago I found myself doing something that at one time would have seemed laughable. I began chatting up random people. Not even people I see on a normal basis but flight attendants and baristas at Starbucks. I am not trying to build a relationship but rather just sharing in life. And I can tell you that I understand my father quite a good deal better now. It’s enjoyable and a rush to talk to people, even if just for a moment. Yes I’m becoming my father and enjoying it.
But i think the final moment of conversion came this morning. I was flying out of BWI on Southwest and my Dad told me to find a counter agent by a name of Joe and my Dad told me to look him up and that he would take care of me. My Dad travels extremely often due to his job and flies out of BWI on Southwest on a nearly weekly basis, so this hint from him didn’t come as a surprise. “You know what, I’ll call him and let him know you’re flying out and to be the look out for you”. Now even for my Dad I was a bit surprised that he had a gate agents cell phone number and could call him up. But I know better than to try and stop my Dad on this front. He called Joe and he told my Dad he would love to meet me. When I got to the airport I asked for Joe by name and was helped by another gate agent who took me right away and told me Joe was on a break but she would take me to see him in a moment. She knew my Dad, said they went way back. After we were done, she took me to see Joe and he treated me like an old friend. “Man I love your Dad, he treats us like friends” and it dawned on me, if you do it right a relationship like the one my Dad and Joe have is mutually beneficial. Both parties have a friendly face in a sea of strangers and that is an awesome thing when have an many random faces around you as you would in the airport. I mentioned to Joe that I would be flying to Phoenix next week on business again and a big smile grew on his face. “Heres my number he said, give me a call and let me know when you coming through”. I said I would and I plan to. I’m in the club! It took me a while but I see the value in my Dads relationship building and I know that going forward I will carry on the family tradition. Peace

Current Music: John Mayer – In Your Atmosphere