Turning Fantasy Into Reality

“Ralph Lauren is NOT my favorite designer.”- me, earlier this week 

085E0AB8-9F4C-4836-9C1A-7A80BA1CE2D1Ralph Lauren, the company, celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this fall.  Every publication that I read is honoring him (rightfully so), and it got me seriously thinking what impact he has had on my love for style.

A77C9073-1ED3-4049-A439-B06358C3FF33Ralph Lauren, through the myriad of brands within the company, embodies every corner of the American dream and American style.  

As a teenager, the ability to get my hands on a Polo shirt greatly excited me, but truthfully, that was just marketing doing its job.  Being young and impressionable, the cool, pretty people on TV and in magazines had them, so sign me up.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties probably that I fell in love.  While reading my vast array of fashion magazines, I stumbled across Ralph Lauren Purple Label, the best of the best in the RL empire.  I was immediately smitten by the beauty of the label.  Not the brand, the actual label that was sewn into the clothes.  It was purple, smooth, and gorgeous, and I wanted to know more.

3CCF142E-5294-4F32-9BCD-FD562955DE66I loved the label, but I hated the price, especially at that age. The pieces were exorbitantly priced, reflecting the quality of the craftsmanship and the lifestyle it was meant to represent.  Not one to be deterred, I went on a mission, one which started maybe ten years ago and continues today. The basic jist is this:  Ralph Lauren Purple Label items are like art to me, and if can ever find one at value, I strongly consider the investment.  Not the purchase, the investment.

D83A2F8A-A166-40C2-A1C8-E0554E6583CBAs of today, I have six Purple Label pieces: a light purple cashmere sweater, an outrageous “Geezer” golf tie, 2 dress shirts, cashmere gloves, and my most favorite piece in my wardrobe, a cognac colored alligator belt.  Each piece is quite spectacular and comes with a spectacular story, but none quite as much as the belt.

1308479C-5490-476E-A1A4-F3C810FDB79EHere it is.  It stood out to me immediately in the Ralph Lauren outlet store some 10 years ago, looking totally different from all of the other items. It retailed for roughly $1600, I believe, and had been marked down to a fourth of that. It was a quite exquisite piece, one that I knew I wanted in my closet. I told myself that if it ever got under $200, I would buy it. So I visited the store multiple times and watched and watched it for the better part of 3 months, with a scare one month when I couldn’t find it. But it was there, and it finally got below $200, and I purchased this beautiful piece of art which I now wear all the time. (I honestly don’t know if it is a man’s or woman’s belt, but as you should know by now, I do not care.)

EE3832FC-5A2C-4E90-92B1-0F48854A532AThe great thing about the brand is that it is so expansive that it introduces you to a zillion different worlds. It’s all a bit of fantasy, but with some exploration, it can absolutely become reality.  If you have ever been to a RL store or studied an advertisement, it introduces you to a lifestyle that might be of interest to you: the posh English countryside (not interested), the Hamptons (curious), prepster central (definitely not), street culture (fascinated), formal (not anymore), out West (absolutely).

7DB649BD-A3A1-4C8B-B067-D46FD1208DA9Speaking of, ever since I personally visited Wyoming, Montana, and Utah, I have been in love.  And though I do not own any RRL “western” pieces yet, I am so fascinated with the stereotypical western lifestyle: big cowboy hat, boots, denim, at one with nature, able to see the landscape for days, cold beer in hand.  It’s one of the facets of America that I have grown to appreciate so much in my travels. In the same way that each RL sub-brand has its own vibe, every American town/city has its own way of life, culture, and values. As a bit of a wanderer, I get to observe, listen, and take it in. And even if it isn’t for me or I don’t understand, I have grown to appreciate it.

24453B49-5C64-4033-802F-C12C46113FDBAs I wrote this piece, I went through my closet and old “fashion blog” pictures and pinpointed every Ralph Lauren item I own. Damn, there are some good ones. Almost every outfit I wear contains at least one piece: the pinstripe double breasted suit, the American flag jacket, the olive cashmere suit, the red plaid Christmas pants, the vest, the tattered jeans, and even the rain boots. 

0BD52D26-2F5C-4013-AF29-D29D1D8D8E76Suffice it to say that Mr. Lauren, just a normal guy from the Bronx, has surely surpassed his wildest dreams, those dreams that he continues to convey to us normal folks through his brand, lifestyle, and clothes. What’s your dream? What are you doing about it?  Oooh, and what are you wearing whilst doing it?

F3523AAA-0CE5-4A92-B70B-D0A14801F4C0I’ve got a lot of dreams, I’ve been doing a ton of work, and I’m making some good progress. And while I’m doing all of this, I’m apparently always wearing at least one piece of Ralph Lauren. 

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“Ralph Lauren may be my favorite designer.”-me, corrected 

Have a great week.-Benj

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Giving Thanks, Letting Go, and Helping Out

“I can’t explain everything, but with a little perspective and a good attitude, something great will oftentimes come from something bad.”-abk

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, friends, football, food, fun, and anything else that starts with the letter “f”.  I had a busy week full of frivolity and things to be grateful for, but per usual, I would like to take a little different slant on the topic this week.

I read something this week that said “nobody is posting failures”, so it looks like everyone just has this glamorous life.  Thanksgiving Day certainly enhances that.  Your family is better than mine.  Your turkey is bigger than mine.  It makes me giggle, but more importantly, got me thinking.

AEBBBEBD-A09E-4D6E-8A2A-20B9771BB139You know what I am thankful for?  Not getting picked for the All-Star baseball team when I was a kid.  Being told I wasn’t good enough to start for the soccer team my freshman year of college.  Having season-ending knee surgery said freshman year and then again my sophomore year, which forced me to walk on crutches up mountains for the better part of two years.  I am thankful that, in high school, my parents made me drive a 1980s baby blue Mercury Grand Marquis that was bigger than some actual boats.  I am thankful that I have arthritis, yes, thankful.  I am thankful that later in college, my coach benched me, leading scorer and all, when I was acting like a baby and not the leader I should have been. I am thankful that I weathered serious dust-ups with teammates who have now become great friends.   I am thankful for all of the business deals that I did not win, and all of the ballgames that I flat out lost.  I am thankful for the time that my dad took me down to the gas station on Providence Road after I lost a tennis match and wore me out, not because I lost, but because I gave up.

FA45111D-2A39-4DAE-934E-83B00AE2BE9FWhy am I so thankful for the things above?  Three primary reasons.  One, I have personally experienced so much good and so much growth from something “bad”, it reminds me now that when a setback occurs, be patient and wait for the good.  Two, having these experiences turns minor issues into nonexistent ones and major issues into minor setbacks.  Three, celebrate the good.  Unbelievably, that last one is the hardest for me, but I’m getting better.

Because I am so passionate about living life and do so much each day, I have a zillion stories like these.  Some are as simple as the above, and some are rather complex.  But the reason I tell you this is because failures/”bad things”/losses have provided me with the thing I am absolutely most thankful for, and that is perspective.  For someone who certainly has NOT seen it all, sometimes I feel like I have.

I used to take these failures and use them as “I’ll show you” fuel.  No more.  That has grown quite tired.  I’ve learned over the past few years that possessing such perspective at a young age is a huge asset, so I now just use it to try and help other people as well as better myself.  Not sexy.  Just true.  And an odd byproduct has come from this.  Peace.

Do you find yourself angry, upset, or annoyed by someone or something?  Have you taken the time to explore why?  Can you draw on certain “bad” experiences in your life to bring perspective?  I’ve been focused on this daily for the better part of two years, and I can now almost do it subconsciously.

I reminded you last week that life is not fair, as taught to me early by my father.  I have just told you that with a positive frame of mind, failures can quickly become huge assets.  I’ve simply bundled these ideas internally to provide perspective, peace, and calm.  What’s the result?  I can honestly say as I sit here that I do not have an ounce of animosity to anyone or anything.  Instead of “I’ll show you”, it’s “I’ll help you”, and that feels so much better.

And every day, not just Thanksgiving, I give thanks.  And I would encourage you to do the same.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Positive Vibes Only, Please

“Some of us have great runways already built for us.  If you have one, take off.  But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”-Amelia Earhart

61CF4C57-2926-425D-8F74-EF10ED8AA8AAOver the past two weeks, I have had the privilege of hearing two excellent speakers at two excellent events.  The first was the legendary Lou Holtz: football coach, football analyst, and motivational speaker.  The second was Dr. Ilham Kadri, President and CEO of Diversey, and a quite extraordinary woman. Both terrific speakers, they blasted out so much good information I had to pull out my phone to take notes.  I’ve pared down the notes into my favorite tidbits, which will serve as the backbone to this week’s piece.

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First, three key points from Lou Holtz with my commentary:

1.       “You can’t fool yourself.”  This quote really hit me on my current journey for self-mastery.  You can put on your game face for the outside world, for social media, etc., but only you really know if you are being true to yourself.  Are you doing what you want with your life?  Are you putting in the work?  Are you taking shortcuts?  Are you making the impact you want on this world?  This is where the titles and the headlines and the pay grades go away.  Are you being true to yourself?

2.       “Don’t criticize the performer.  Criticize the performance.”  We all make mistakes.  We all come up short sometimes.  Behave poorly.  Don’t give 100%.  I know I have.  Doesn’t make me a bad person.  Doesn’t make you a bad person.  Analyze what happened, why it happened, and learn from it.  Move on.

3.       “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why you are born.”-Mark Twain, I believe.  There’s doing what you want with your life (point # 1), and then there is finding your purpose.  How can you help others?  Find your purpose, or let your purpose find you.  It’s out there.  Be patient.  It will come.

288929D3-D3A2-4052-BEAF-4E8128440EAD

Next, three key points from Dr. Kadri with my commentary:

1.       “Never stop learning.  Be curious.  Respect knowledge more than money.”  Do you travel?  Do you read voraciously?  Do you seek out people smarter than you?  Do you have a mentor?  Do you take initiative?  Do you realize that money is simply a tool and that knowledge can create real fulfillment?

2.       “Get to know yourself.”  This seems to be cropping up everywhere these days, from self-help gurus to motivational speakers to business executives to anything but khakis writers.  It always makes me giggle a little, because it sounds so easy, yet so few people are truly doing it.  People worried about this, that, and the other, but haven’t had a come to Jesus with themselves.  A strong argument can be made that I found myself at age 34, though I continue the diligent pursuit daily.

3.       The above Amelia Earhart quote.  I don’t worry too much (at all) about people who are handed things in life.  Life isn’t fair, and that’s that.  I fall into the second category, and I grind daily with that shovel trying to build something meaningful.  You want an empire?  A case of money?  Happiness?  Purpose?  Grab a shovel.  Runways don’t build themselves.

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These two events were very, very different in scope, but had one primary similarity. The differences were fairly surface level. Lou Holtz and the Charlotte Touchdown Club drew a 90%  male audience. Dr. Kadri and the Charlotte Athena Awards drew a 90% female audience (shout out to Christy, young professional of the year nominee!). But the one similarity is what I want to focus on: positive energy, and lots of it. Not rah rah…like real stuff. The women at the second event were unbelievably impressive. Philanthropists, inventors, Iron Women, authors, and on and on.  I was freaking hyped!  Glued to their every word. 

So what? Positive energy, that’s what.  It can change your life. These events were full of it. Life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that some people are born into wealth. It’s not fair that I have arthritis. I’m sure you have something that is unfair. Let’s get past that. I am very lucky that my parents taught me that very young, and that understanding has been a massive asset in my life. 

So do me one final favor. Google Dr. Ilham Kadri, a female born in 1960s Morocco and raised by a single grandparent. Read her story. It’s unbelievably inspiring. I’m writing my story. What’s yours?

Have a great week.-Benj

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From Central Park to Kill Devil Hills

“I get bored easily, and I hate to waste time.”-abk

20961F22-DB09-44E5-9BDF-E68F58D2FC05At 5:13pm last Sunday, I exited Central Park. My legs were wobbly, my heart was full, and I needed a ride. 

At 2:45am Monday morning, I awoke to my alarm at the uber cool Ace Hotel and headed to JFK to catch a flight straight to work in Charlotte. 

C9E18DEC-DCFE-4607-942E-304EAE9F048DOther than almost falling over a few times, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were normal days at the office. Wednesday night, my son Banks and I got to crash at my parents house, a convenient stop a little closer to the NC coast. On Thursday, I woke up early and worked remotely from Union County while Banks and my parents played, and then he and I headed out Thursday afternoon to meet my wife Christy, who was already working in the Outer Banks. 

Along the drive, we stopped in Raleigh for a chat with my brother. As the lengthy drive continued, Banks slept, and I had riveting conversations with my sister and a couple of good friends. 

We arrived just in time to have a lovely Asian/Caribbean dinner as a family and watch my Panthers get their asses whooped (speaking of wasting my time). So I promptly settled in and did some more work instead. 

3E0A927E-D323-44EE-9B41-51F00DEE8894On Friday, I awoke early to watch the sunrise, read, and then I took Banks for his first ever golf outing with daddy at Kilmarlic Golf Club. It went both better and worse than expected, with him making a few putts while also somehow losing a shoe. As his patience (and mine) wore thin, we finished, and I treated him to a big boy hot dog lunch in the clubhouse, where he just loved flirting with the waitresses. 

55C01A11-C20C-47E0-8BF6-2AF1FF119A2EWe returned back to the condo before momma finished working, and I caught the sun setting directly over the Wright Brothers Monument from the front porch. I felt like I was in Rio de Janeiro. Later that evening, Christy and I shared a unique pizza, had a drink, and then I slept for the first time in what felt like ages (I see you 2:45am Monday). 

BB66C3FF-BBA2-4EBC-9FE2-6D0DCCCEEBFAOn Saturday morning, we went as a family to the aquarium and saw the coolest white alligator, along with the usual stuff. 55A36883-988C-4625-8F20-8103FE50B81EWe then hit up downtown Manteo and Lost Colony Brewery for a beer, soup, and fried oyster po’ boy. 5D81A98E-30A8-466B-B260-70FC50277143I must admit to you something. I usually do not regret things or have FOMO or anything like that. But the new movie Bohemian Rhapsody was playing at this super old theater there that night, and I would have absolutely LOVED to have gone. 231A1461-F279-469E-A0C6-AD6BDA2E222CBut oh well, you can’t win them all. I then snuck out for a quick 18 at Nags Head Golf Links. Stunning. Simply stunning. C6E7C920-794C-485D-8848-468271580A06I breezed through a chilly round before having a beer in the clubhouse at sunset, a view that I will never forget. 

B441404C-AE53-4268-B7F3-7A4007005152Then it was movie time. What? No, not Bohemian Rhapsody. The Grinch (looking sharp) with the family which was fun, and then that was that. 91E2A538-C469-4B84-99B2-CB197DA646CCTo complete the circle of life, the OBX Marathon happened to be Sunday morning, so I woke early and tried to reciprocate all of the love I received in NYC last Sunday. 

739DB3AE-6B2D-4067-A55A-9B98021D05AFThis past week, I flew roughly 1300 miles, drove another 1000, and ran 26.2. Went to New York, Wingate, and the Outer Banks. Spent quality time with every member of my family in person minus my sister. Helped recruit some college kids to the bank, played a lot of golf, and watched one crappy ass football game. 

Have we made progress with being intentional with our time? Owning our own time instead of it owning us?  The only way that all of the work/play/work/play that I did this week (and every week) is possible is by being laser focused on my time. 

B82A882F-9FDE-415C-AA24-7E4AE6D238C0Where have I personally gotten better? Once I get to that race, appointment, meal, or wherever I am going, just taking off the watch and relaxing and enjoying. You know, at that point, not knowing that time even exists. 

Have a great week.- Benj

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The Greatest Race in the Greatest Place-Volume 2

“To those who face adversity head on, even when the odds are stacked against them.”- my friend Kris 

I didn’t actually, formally decide to run the marathon this year until the beginning of mile 2. But first, a little context. 

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You see, just 33 days ago, I was face down at a pain specialist’s office getting an epidural injection into my spine (shout out to all mothers). I am not a big fan of being poked and prodded, as it brings back uncomfortable teenage and young adult memories of the disease. In total over the past 45 days, I have endured the above injection, two X-rays, an MRI, a major medical scare, massage therapy, physical therapy, and every medicine you can imagine. So as I wrote previously, I had no intention to run. 

But on the morning of Wednesday, October 10, something changed. After a night filled with some crazy dreams, I woke up raring to go. So I rolled out of bed, put on my clothes, and walked outside into the pouring rain. At 7:32am that morning, soaking wet, I told myself that I could do this. As a big geek at heart, I started to test myself. How fast could I walk a mile? How fast could I jog a mile? How long could I go?  But the biggest question had nothing to do with my physical being. It was how strong was my mind and heart?

I don’t recommend that you disobey your doctor, which I technically didn’t. Nor do I recommend you disobey your most trusted advisor, which I debatably did.  But I also don’t recommend that you bypass experiences that can literally change your life and the way you view the world, and that is what eventually won out. I was one of the lucky that got “invited back” to run the NYC Marathon, while almost 100,000 people did not get accepted. I didn’t take that lightly. Quietly, I’ve been stressed AF about it for the majority of the year. Because deep down, I knew I wanted to do it again. Needed to do it again. Because of how it enhances the way I view the world. 

BBC59DC7-A293-4571-BA70-12B03EE1A9C4Back to the present. So I decided 2 weeks ago that I would fly to NYC for the weekend. Midweek of race week, I decided at a minimum I would walk it. Mile 2, I just took off, and the rest is history. 

F2432B64-C3D0-4514-B002-0A7A8DE7AA5AIf you know anything about the NYC Marathon, mile 2 is straight downhill. For my long legs, it was going to be harder to walk it than run, so off I went. Mile 3, per our new custom, I met my childhood friend Bess for a quick word. And then it was a combination of walk/jog/run for the better part of a half marathon. I was in absolute awe that this was happening. 

77CD38C9-56EC-4329-BC00-0860E6DF5AE1And then came the 59th Street Bridge. This damn thing has become the bane of my existence. Last year, and then again this year, it just ate me up. To the point, this year, where I got a new experience at mile 16. I had to take a 5 minute pit stop with Dr. C. in the medical tent, as my inner left quad had all but seized up. So he applied some biofreeze (magic) and massaged it out, and I was back to it. Only one problem.  When I raised my legs to jog, it would seize back up. As there is a solution to every problem, I simply took a fast stroll through the next 4 miles until I entered the Bronx. 

My 2 favorite areas of the race are the Bronx and Harlem. The people, the energy, and the music are right up my alley. I guess I had some energy left, because I rapped out loud with all of the DJs for the better part of miles 21 and 22, helping me forget that my legs had all but seized up. There was Ma$e, Jay-Z, Pitbull, Big Pun, and Fat Joe being blared through speakers, and some I had never heard, but I liked. 

C3203A17-D7DB-4E20-900B-2739B5594CCDDid I mention it was a beautiful, beautiful day? I mean pitch perfect. And it just got better as the setting sun shone through the golden leaves in Central Park along the final stretch. I tempered a fast walk with a slow jog until I rounded that last curve. Real talk, I was so spent that I could not even run the full final 800 meters. I was telling myself to, but my body wasn’t having it. So I took a quick walk and then sprinted (lightly jogged) the final 400 meters. 

67D5B2FD-2399-4FCA-A9BD-87ACF0ADE3A9Very different from last year, the finish line did something to me. I gave a very personal fist pump, a high five to someone, shed a few tears, and then almost threw up. I literally gave every ounce of everything I had in my body. It was different this year because I wasn’t supposed to be there. I told myself before the start that this was either going to be the dumbest thing I’d ever done or one of the greatest. And it was. 

1A73E11A-E1C4-474A-89D6-FA5864AF15BBA few things to leave you with: my time was 5:31:59, which was 59 minutes and 47 seconds slower than last year. I consider that a freaking miracle, considering where I was 33 days ago. I also cannot walk real well today. But that also doesn’t bother me. Because once you see people that cannot walk EVER completing a marathon, you slow your role. 

F8AC8F83-0473-44AA-95C3-0FFB1AB82721The NYC Marathon is the perfect combination of an extreme individual test that also allows you to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself. You know, one of my goals of being a true citizen of the world. 

It’s just simply the greatest race in the greatest place, and I am so happy and proud that there was a Volume 2 to share with you. 

97389E9F-C4B5-4449-BBCC-D811ECE72455Have a great week, and thanks for all of the support. -Benj

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Doin’ Work

8AF961ED-EDFD-485B-9EEA-434E517C5EBFThis week, I have two new blog posts available to be published.  There is only one problem.  They suck.  Like, they really suck.  Sure, there are pieces of good information in there, but it just isn’t coherent and it is downright unpublishable.  So I’ll save those for a rainy day (Bad joke alert: it’s Friday in Charlotte and raining buckets).  But in the meantime, having done the work but just not quite having the final result gave me an idea.  So here we go.

In my past life, I would be annoyed right now.  I would be upset at not having anything good enough to publish.  In my new life, I am quite pleased.  I have done the work, done the thinking, and done the writing.  And for better or worse, there just wasn’t a result this week.  It has happened to me in soccer before.  It has happened just this week twice on the golf course.  (Excellent thinking, grinding, and tinkering.  Terrible score.)

FA9DC614-45FE-40D8-B42B-C4389D03893EAnd then it occurred to me, I have fallen in love with the work.  And the work itself is plenty to write about for a publishable post.

Here is an important lesson I have learned over the past few years:  if you look at my pictures and my Instagram page, etc., you will see mostly very pretty results and outcomes.  (They are authentic, mind you, but they are still the end result.). The finish line.  The outfit.  The sunset.

38C346AB-E033-4623-B13E-E937058B4631All filtered just a little bit to sharpen up the actual visual image. But what you rarely see, and it is imperative you remember this, is the work.  The actual work.  These blogs don’t write themselves each week.  I don’t just suddenly appear in Mexico City or randomly create a new hat.

63578DF0-7354-45C5-89E4-B9BDCC4D6261There is immense amount of thought and grind and work that goes into all of it.  You just don’t see that, but I want you to remember that it is there.  And that’s what I want you to fall in love with.  (Your own work, not mine.)

Because sometimes you miss the sunset.  Sometimes you don’t finish the race.  Sometimes you lose the game, or shoot absurdly high golf scores, or write a couple of really crappy blog posts.  But if you are digging the work, you never lose.  Because, eventually, the journey itself becomes a really freaking good blog post, or maybe even an entire blog (cough, cough). 

I think, subconsciously, I’ve always been interested in the journey. Take my wardrobe. I’ve built a closet full of clothes that are quite extraordinary. I don’t mind bragging about that because I have slowly been unwinding it. Specifically having that wardrobe doesn’t really matter to me. Do I need 16 pair of Jordans?  Do I need 8 Hermès ties? Of course not. 

87921997-C7C2-4B7C-8411-35977D91F3C3 It’s time for someone else to have them. And my hope is that that person will wear them, gain some personal confidence, and then do something great that they otherwise might not have done. 

It was always the journey, the story, and the meaning of these pieces that were important to me, and I’ve just finally been able to understand and articulate this. I always had professional clothiers hounding me to dress me, and all I ever had to tell them was how much I enjoy the journey of doing it myself. 

I had infinite mistakes along the way. Buying a brand to be cool. Buying the wrong size because it was that brand. Trying new styles that were never, ever going to look good (I see you purple pinstripe shorts). But that was the journey, and that was what was important. I’ve probably gotten rid of more clothes than I’ve ever bought (how is that even possible?) in an effort to get to know myself. Yes, yes. Now we’ve found the point. 

8AF961ED-EDFD-485B-9EEA-434E517C5EBFFriends, I really hate that I screwed up all of my ideas this week and had nothing to present to you. Damn. I’ll just try harder next Sunday. 

Have a great week.-Benj

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What I’ve Learned from my 3 Year Old

I began my latest, greatest personal challenge in September, one that I wrote about a few months ago. The serious quest to become a scratch golfer is about a month in, and let me share some early results. Over the summer, I had a couple of rounds in the 100s (albeit at professional courses), but I have mainly hovered in the mid 90s for the better part of 2018. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve crept back into the 80s, and have stayed there consistently for the last couple of rounds. That all sounds so easy, but let me assure you it wasn’t and won’t be. The real grinding will begin soon. I’m so excited, but I will need some inspiration, and this is where my son comes in. 

AA595708-7424-43EF-B591-0AAB277DC99AHe’s 3 1/2 years old, and he started “playing” basketball a few months ago. I had taken him to a few Charlotte Hornets games, but otherwise this was brand new to him. Practice on Tuesdays. Games on Saturdays. A little bit of beebopping in between. 

The goal of this league is twofold. First and foremost, fun. Second, start building some skills. At the first practice, he could not lift the ball above his head. He shot the ball granny style straight up in the air to no one and nothing in particular. He still preferred to kick the ball around the court soccer-style (to which I secretly gave him high fives). 

I remember thinking to myself how interesting this is going to be because it reminded me of last year’s marathon journey. At the start, I didn’t know a damn thing about distance running, and at the end I ran the NYC Marathon. That grind remains one of the most rewarding processes of my life. 

B73C4114-5CC9-4435-B1A5-765DCF760DC7Tuesday after Tuesday, we showed up for basketball practice. Phones away. Only encouragement and smiles and high fives from momma and me and coach. And he got a little better. And a little better. And then games started, and having scrappy opponents set him back to square one. 

But he kept working. Shooting. Dribbling. Passing. Talking like a dad-blamed 3 year old socialite to anyone who would listen (cuz that’s what he does). We were all so proud. He was having fun, and the progress was extremely visible. 

DBD41A4E-FE8C-47A4-89ED-33894574411AThe next few games were a lot of the same. Just aimless 3 year old basketball. It culminated a few weeks ago on game day when he simply wasn’t bothered, laid down during the game, and called it a day. It was a good reminder that we all have our moments, and that as much as I love the motto “No Days Off”, we all need them. 

A0367F4E-6611-4CFD-8653-CA7562FBEE9ABut he kept at it. I was secretly prouder about this than anything in my life. And then this past Saturday, we invited Grandma, Granddad, and our friend Tina to see the big man play.  I told him before the game what I always tell him. Have fun. But then I added that it would be cool to score a basket for Grandma and Granddad (he hadn’t scored all year long). Just like his dad, the boy loves a good audience, and no sooner had the game started had he scored his first basket. Momma, Grandma, and Granddad screamed with excitement, while I could feel tears streaming down my face. 

Tina arrived a few minutes later, to which Banks was well pleased. As they entered the 4th quarter, I gave him a hug and told him it would be really cool to score a bucket for Miss Tina. He immediately got a bounce in his step, grabbed a rebound, and by sheer will dribbled (kind of) down the court and made his second shot ever. They all screamed, and I was back to crying. 

Watching not just Banks but the whole team improve has been so rewarding.  Two other kids made their first baskets last week, and I was so happy for them and their parents as well. 

41852B09-512A-45C6-8056-16EB1B67D8DFI know it is just 3 year old basketball, but it has been a bona fide inspiration to me about how someone can go from not being able to hold the ball over his head two months ago to dribbling, passing, and making two baskets. 

As we ate lunch afterwards, my mom mentioned how she wished that she had those two baskets on video. But she caught herself, just as I was about to pipe in. “But we saw it with our own two eyes, and nothing beats that!”

I’ve seen every step of the journey with my own two eyes starting about two months ago, and I have never been prouder of anything in my life. 

By the way, does anyone have a tissue I can borrow?

Have a great week.-Benj

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