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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Finding Your Happy Place

BCDA253C-0160-4136-9224-53C04EF246C9I have begun to group potential travel destinations into 6 categories: water (beach, lake), mountains, big cities, international, specific purpose (wedding, conference), and completely random. To keep it fresh, I try to rotate them, but man, it had been a minute since I had really been to the mountains. So, luckily, that was this weekend’s destination for our annual fall family shenanigans.

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I have a bit of a strange relationship with the mountains. I spent four years there in undergraduate just north of Asheville, NC, by my own admission completely ignoring their beauty. I was on crutches for two of those years and completely focused on playing soccer for the other two. So I am attempting to fall in love again (or maybe for the first time).

446E13C0-D5BC-48AB-BE4C-440C508CFE18Over the past few years, nature, as my son would say, has become one of my best friends. As I wrote last week, I am completely dialed into how it affects my five senses. Let me give you a peek into what I mean.

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Behind our rental house in the woods, the small river was roaring. I wanted to smell a smokiness that would remind me of Football Friday Night in the Carolinas, but it never appeared. The weather dropped well into the 40s, jolting my skin alive and allowing me to see my breath for the first time this year. I saw many beautiful critters, leaves that had not yet changed, and stunning views from Boone Golf Club.

B4337CF7-EB47-4B32-A402-1141D123CE35I also ventured through Appalachian State’s campus, taking me back to middle school when I spent the entire summer there. I tasted tangy BBQ, bacon in my beans, cheddar in my grits, and cinnamon and plum in my cider. The body was alive.

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One of my favorite conversation starters is to ask people where they would ideally spend each of the four seasons. I think many people call this their happy place? Well, news flash, mine is not Boone, NC, but I did very much enjoy myself this weekend.  I can’t say that I have one specific happy geographical location, to be honest.  Maybe I’m still searching.  But I do have a happy place.  It used to be on the soccer field, but that era is slowly coming to an end.  It’s now firmly on the golf course (and/or deep in a plate of BBQ).

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I honestly enjoy putting on a crisp golf outfit that is neither corny, stodgy, nor sloppy.  I enjoy arriving early and getting a good stretch in.  I enjoy the sights and the sounds and the smells of nature, still preferring to find the amazing in new courses, but appreciating more the familiarity of ones I’ve played many a time.  I enjoy the obstacles on every shot.  I enjoy that 2 weekends ago it was 100 degrees in Las Vegas when I teed off, and 14 days later in NC it was 48.  I enjoy visualizing and feeling not just where I want the ball to go but how it is going to get there.  To have something that can be so frustrating at times beg for me to try to do better tomorrow?  That is my happy place.

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I am quite obsessed with the question I posed above.  Ideally, where would I spend spring, summer, fall, and winter?  I’m often at odds with myself, because I think I would enjoy finding those actual happy places, but I still swear by the new and undiscovered.

If you have the luxury of having a happy place, let me encourage you on one thing.  Happy place and comfort zone seem to sometimes be synonymous, so I want to delineate.  Happy places are simply that, but offer you the ideal environment to laugh, recharge, create, and grow.  Comfort zones?  It’s just where the flowers go to die.

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Enjoy your happy place.  Embrace your happy place.  Utilize it to grow and thrive and prosper.  If you ever encounter me in mine, we are going to enjoy each other’s company.  But we are also going to dive deep, grow, and really try to figure this out.  And then, of course, we are going for a big plate of BBQ to wash it all down.

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Have a great week.-Benj

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The Moment, the Memory, and the Picture

Team, we are going to have a little fun this week.  Keep it light.  As you know, I am not big on strict rules, but I am going to have a few this week.  Here they are.  No one take offense.  Laugh at ourselves a little.  Pay attention.

As you may know by now, societal jargon annoys me.  So much of it makes no sense, and I oftentimes wonder if people even know what they are saying.  My example and topic this week is the phrase “making memories”, which I have overheard no less than 10 times this week.

64A7F39C-7BED-4718-B25F-0DE6C519A9EEI think I understand what people are trying to say here, but let me give you my take.  Whatever memory you are making and with whomever you are making it with, please be present, enjoy their company and savor the moment.  Like, in real time.  Let the memory be the byproduct.  Let the picture be the byproduct.  The time spent in the moment is the goal.

0CE5D845-290F-458C-96DB-F7DD24EEED8EAs a former major offender, here’s what I have started doing.  When there is a “moment” happening, I put the phone down.  Period.  I take whatever it is in real time with my five senses, and really focus on the sight, smell, touch, sound, or taste.  That interaction is much more powerful and long-lasting than a picture. As an example, my favorite thing to do when I first walk outside of the airport of a new city is stop and consciously take in the smell.  If for whatever reason I ever need to think back on this memory, I don’t pull out the picture.  I summon it from my body.  Much, much more enjoyable.  Try it.

B1EFE569-F9C2-4007-96B3-BF9958F2C48AMy favorite example in recent memory was at The Blue Lagoon in Iceland.  These damn people, hundreds of them, could not wait to get the perfect picture with the perfect background with the perfect lighting.  I sat in the water for probably two hours soaking it all in cracking up.  I savored the warm, healing water contrasted against the 30 degree outside temperature.  I enjoyed a cold Icelandic beer. I took the above picture as a joke.

7EDC7858-E772-4935-8CFB-A28BFF910E0A I honestly don’t know if these people had any idea where they were and how cool of an actual experience it was.  (Interrupting a brilliant human moment for a picture is even more mind boggling, and please don’t get me started on Facebook Memories.)

71CB1C75-AE5D-4908-A1DD-D970871872FBI had this novel idea that the blog would primarily show you what I am seeing with my eyes, that maybe you could experience it with me.  If I’m showing you Reykjavik, I want you to see Reykjavik, not me in Reykjavik.  It’s like an extension of my eyes.  I just assume you would know I was there.  It’s why I killed the fashion blog early.  Selfie overload.  It just felt tacky and insecure.  Yes, your picture will get less likes without you in it, but is that really a problem?  (My ultimate goal is to have a post so good that no one likes it but that may truly inspire someone else in their life. Think about that.)

Listen, ya’ll are all cooler than me.  Maybe the joke is on me.  Or maybe everyone else is thinking the exact same thing as me, and we can just secretly agree.  Are we missing out on ridiculously cool human experiences at the expense of taking photos and “making memories”?  It’s just a strange phenomenon, isn’t it?

So, in conclusion, everyone exhale. Relax.  It’s okay.   I’m just messing with you.  Take your selfies.  Take your pics.  Take your vids.  Make your memories.  I certainly do.  But do put the damn phone down at some point and experience whatever and whomever firsthand.  Take in the moment.  Breathe it in. That is where the magic lies.

EBBC5F6C-D0AC-4672-A43E-096B1A17185EI honestly just don’t want you to get home, look at your pictures, and say this to yourself.  “Wow, that looks magnificent!  I wish I could remember how that experience made me feel, but instead I was taking some goofy-ass pic.”  Been there.  Done that.

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Have a great week.-Benj

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The Case for Simplicity, Wandering, and Happiness

The single best thing I have read this year is the story of The Mexican Fisherman.  In this story, a small village fisherman gets pitched by some investment banker touting all of the pluses of being bigger, richer, and having more stuff so that one day he can live the life, it turns out, he is already living. When you are done here, google “The Mexican Fisherman” and have a quick peek.  Best thing I’ve read all year…nothing even close.

It has become apparent over the past two years that I like to wander.  Well, I’ve always liked to wander, but I’ve just recently acknowledged and embraced it.  Maybe one day I’ll enjoy being still, but for now, I’m just living and moving and learning.  When I wander, I learn and grow, and that is very important to me. 

Contrastingly, one of my biggest observations over the past couple of years is how much tangible stuff “owns” people and prevents them from getting out there and experiencing life.  I’ve touched on this before, but I’m much more versed on it now.  This may seem completely unbelievable coming from someone who is so passionate about clothes ie tangible stuff, but let me let you in on a secret.

Yes, I have too many hats.  Too many ties and accessories.  And still too many shoes.  Those are passions, but, yes, I am still guilty. I am also an admitted hypocrite, because I buy my son a stuffed animal everywhere I go (we all have our soft spots).  Otherwise, I now own very little.

Though I have always had the fantasy of living in a hotel, I do obviously have a house.  Between Uber, scooters, bikes, and walking, I am trying very hard to figure out how NOT to have a car.  So far, no luck, but I’m making progress.  I have whittled my wardrobe down to only the best of the best and the most functional.  Otherwise, it’s gone.  I have a Goodwill bag ready to donate right now, and a handful of nicer stuff ready to consign.  I have a scrapbook, some books, and a handful of memorabilia that are super meaningful to me.  And that’s it.  If it is not breathing, super meaningful, super functional, or isn’t worn regularly on my body, it no longer exists in my world.  (Other than the house and car, which I haven’t figured out quite yet.)

The more stuff I get rid of, the more mobile, free, alive, and ready to experience life I feel.  I waste very little energy on decision making regarding stuff, because there isn’t much stuff there any more. I pack for trips in 5 minutes.  I get ready for work in 2 minutes.  If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that time and what we do with it is most valuable.  Things, well, they are just things.

If you come to my “office” at work, you would see not a single thing other than a phone and laptop.  Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t need to settle in and get comfortable and put my feet up every day.  In.  Out.  Job to do.  Life to live.  People to see.  Places to go.

I have been fascinated with the minimalist lifestyle for some time now, but until I personally embraced it and made great strides towards it, I didn’t totally get it.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.  My mindset changed. It went from stuff and things and consumerism and comfort (which I thought made me happy but didn’t) to action and living.  That simple.

The best thing about simplification is that it gives me more free time and freedom of thought.

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The best part about wandering is that it makes me ridiculously self-aware.  It rids me of close-minded beliefs, and quite frankly, makes me question the value of having rigid beliefs at all. Other than the firm belief of keeping an open mind and heart to everything, understanding that THAT is the most useful belief of all. 

Have a great week.-Benj

Updated “About abk” section on the website for those who are interested. 

Late to the Party

E32F43D5-8C6E-4CBF-9594-C46960831397It took me 36 years and 37 states before finally arriving in Las Vegas, Nevada this past Friday. But after a sleep deprived long weekend, I can now say that it has been done. Since I am the one late to the party on this one, I am not going to simply rehash the weekend. We don’t have enough time for that.  Besides, everyone knows what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

Wrong. (That would be a pointless blog.)

As I get older, I am more drawn to things that are specifically interesting to me and/or provide me with an emotional connection. People, nature, and music fit that for me. So the usual Vegas stuff was cool, no doubt. But I had a few stunners. And that is where I am taking you tonight.

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I was in Vegas because my wife, Christy, had a conference, and she kindly let me tag along. We rounded up the troops back home to keep our son and dogs, and off we went. She would be busy most of the time, and I didn’t have any desire for Vegas to be an individual exploration, so at the 11th hour, her cousin Kris aka my “friend in law”, joined us for the party.

Three experiences stood out to me on this trip. Absolute stunners. Let’s call them 1A, 1B, and 1C.  Things that I relished in the present, and I also will never forget.

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Friday night, 1C: dinner at Battista’s, an old school Italian joint that has been around forever. The three of us were able to sit down together, though it felt like Sinatra could have been on my left and a mobster on my right. The premise was simple. Carafes of red and white wine came with the meal, as did soup, salad, bread, and a delicious cappuccino at the end. You just ordered your pasta, and everything else was taken care of. One price. No frills. It was my first impression of Vegas, and it was quite titillating (no pun intended).

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Saturday, 1B: golf at TPC Las Vegas. As I’ve written previously, being outside in the sun, especially playing golf, is one of my favorite things in the world.

E10AD030-F318-4D2A-94D6-9EF665E12981Drop in some beautiful mountains, the warm desert wind, and a quality playing partner, and we were set.

DFA24495-DF4E-4B83-9BAC-9A66186292CETo give us the full experience, the starter announced us at the first tee box. “From North Carolina, please welcome the Bostic party to the tee box.”  The one person standing close by went wild. I won’t bore you with all of the golfing details, but the course and the views were spectacular.

0CC6CA13-07FB-4978-9EB6-78424CDB55CE I played very well minus #16 and #18, and even made an eagle. Enjoying as many high quality, beautiful golf courses on pitch perfect days is a part of my life now. It’s a dream. It’s a goal. I’m making it a reality.

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And last but certainly not least, Saturday night, 1A:  the legendary rock band Queen and the former American Idol star Adam Lambert have been partnered together for about 6 years now. Queen’s music is epic, and Adam Lambert’s voice brings me to my knees. The combination is quite incredible. Literally music to my ears.

C80A3E1C-5611-4358-A912-BE7C81C5E963The venue was the intimate Park Theater at MGM, and Saturday night was their Vegas finale. There was not a bad seat in the house, nor was there a cheap seat in the house. But it was worth every penny.

8D6249F9-A3D7-4A3D-B9A9-D3FB4C5A9985I put some video up on my Instagram in hopes that you can experience a little bit of the magic. Really good music is an emotional experience for me, and this was A+. What a band, and what a singer.

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Here’s what I liked about Vegas.  No rules.  You can be yourself.  The people watching is great.  The people are extremely engaging (every single person I talked to wanted to make sure the people of NC were okay from the storm).  And everything is always open.  My kind of place.

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Here’s what I didn’t like about Vegas.  It’s all a bit contrived, isn’t it?  All a bit gimmicky.  But that’s okay.  I can get past that.  But what I can’t get past is that my heart wanted to take the Bills over the Vikings Sunday, and I wimped out and picked the logical choice.  Which took me from winning $950 on that game to losing $100.  Do you know what I could have bought in Vegas for $950?  About 4 drinks…

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So, Vegas.  I had a great time. I really did. But it was time to go. And I really need some sleep.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Because It’s New York City, That’s Why

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was scheduled to have season-ending knee surgery in Monroe, NC by my surgeon at Carolina Bone & Joint.  As the unusual and uncertain morning developed, the surgery was quite correctly postponed a few days.  Coincidentally, on September 11, 2018, i.e. earlier this week, I sat in the office at Carolina Bone & Joint getting doctor’s orders for an MRI on my right leg.

I tell you this because after 4 quite sound pieces of advice, I have made the decision to not run the 2018 NYC Marathon.  I have been stewing on this decision for weeks, if not months, and now is the time to make it official.  If you want to read about my incredible NYC Marathon experience last year, you can do so here .  If you want to read about my decision to try and run it again this year, you can do so here .  Otherwise, let’s move on.

IMG_4242Everyone has something.  Many people lost loved ones on 9/11/2001.  Others are fighting the quite intense wind and water of Hurricane Florence right now.  Some fight cancer.  Others are passionate about juvenile diabetes.  Mine is arthritis.  It garners lots of my attention and energy, and has for the past almost 25 years.   It’s there every morning, every day, and every night, and I am quite sure I seriously inflamed it during last year’s marathon.  It’s a good thing I have the curiosity of a 5 year old and the energy of a 20 year old, because unfortunately I have the right hip/pelvis of about a 90 year old. And since that Sunday in November last year, I just haven’t been able to shake the discomfort.  It feels like ants biting the bottom of my foot and a blowtorch firing down my leg.  I’ve rested, visited doctors, done physical therapy, taken medications, stretched, and nothing seems to work.  Believe it or not, my obsession with golf actually makes it feel better.  I am not a doctor (shocking), but I think something is on a nerve, and it’s getting on my damn nerves.  We will find out Tuesday night.

41BA20D4-A41C-41A0-9B03-DE1D6263893EIf you go back and read or remember my previous NYC posts, you know how much I love the city, and for the first time last year, the marathon.  Between you and me, I still can’t believe my body actually made it.  I guess we now know that technically it didn’t.  I’ve been stewing for the past few months over this decision to not run, but it is the right decision.  And as disappointed as I am, I found great inspiration Tuesday night (9/11) watching the ESPN E:60 tribute to sports, NYC, and 9/11.  I got a little emotional as I watched, but also got fired up as I was reminded of the passion, energy, and resilience of NYC.

IMG_4112The pull of NYC and its people is magnetic.  As I watched the 9/11 tribute and remembered the World Series and marathon soon after the attacks, I was reminded that pain and evil don’t win, and New Yorkers are some of the best at conveying that.  It’s one of the reasons I have the Freedom Tower tattooed on my right arm with the words “Dream Big” below.  And it’s one of the reasons that though I am not running the marathon this year, I am still on Team Arthritis, raising money, and being an ambassador for all that is right with NYC, the marathon, and the wonderful hope and courage that it represents.

9E5824DA-5C24-4859-9471-D39DB23CDCBBNew York City is the greatest city in the world.  I’m just a little old southern boy, but I’ve been in love with the city since I was a teenager, exploring Manhattan on my own while my dad was in meetings.  I’m actually more excited on the fundraising front this year because I can tell you even more emphatically how every dollar raised for arthritis research can help someone who is afflicted manage the chronic pain.  I started us off with a $250 donation yesterday. If you would like to contribute along the journey, please take 1 minute and click here .  And as always, I thank you.

So I am not going to run it.  Just can’t.  It would be stupid.  But depending on the MRI results, I might walk it.  Or I might just put my ego aside, fly to NYC, go to brunch with Team Arthritis, fundraise, and return the favor to some of the great folks who cheered me on last year. I’ll figure it out, but I’m definitely doing something.  Too meaningful to just sit on the sidelines.  What, you thought I was just done, done?  As they say in New York, get outta here.

Have a great week, and to my fellow Carolinians, stay safe. -Benj

Design Your Own Lifestyle

On the occasions when I travel by myself, there are tradeoffs, like with everything in life.  That’s Economics 101.  The cons are rather obvious.  The pros, maybe not so much.  I can move at my own pace.  I can do exactly what I want.  But most importantly, I can engage in conversations that I otherwise may never have.  These conversations oftentimes provide new ideas that I bring back and share and even implement into my own life.

0E1B0A85-6832-447C-83D1-86D5CA6988CALast Monday, I had a 5 hour layover in Minneapolis, MN.  As you probably know by now, I can’t sit still.  I can’t, nor do I want to.  Too much to see and do.  I’ll sit still when I die.  Actually, maybe not even then.  Anyways, instead of staying at the airport and staring at my phone, I decided to grab an uber and head out to my old friend Hazeltine National Golf Club some 25 minutes away.  I had the wonderful opportunity to play there 3 years ago, but on this day, I just wanted to have a nice stroll and stretch my legs.

3F833979-A5D1-42B5-8A38-15C78D4C38FDOn the ride out there and on the ride back, I engaged with my drivers and had two thoroughly enjoyable and informative discussions.  (Maybe I should be an uber driver?)  My first driver was from Morocco, and as you may know from a previous blog post , a trip to Tangier, Morocco is high on my wish list.  So I just engaged him and soaked in his stories of how his family and friends over there live.   Laid back.  Open minded.  Long lunches.  Long dinners.  Fresh fish caught, cleaned, cooked, and eaten from the sea just yards away.  Fresh figs, olives, and citrus from the trees just down the street.  Wine, laughter.  I told him I had researched flights recently, and it costs a fortune.  He said (insider tip)…go in May.  Less crowded.  A third of the price.

151342BE-2ED7-466B-8364-12B1A493D281If you thought my friend from Morocco was engaging, I really want you to pay attention to the conversation from the return ride.  Like seriously, pay attention.  The driver was a nondescript 30 something in a nondescript car.  The conversation started very nondescript,  but then it got popping.  We connected over a Duke University bond, and then he just opened up.  Here goes:  he is a part-time uber driver and a part-time Delta luggage worker, and he knows exactly how much money he needs to make every day to live the exact lifestyle that he wants to live.  Said lifestyle includes visiting 48 of the 50 states in the past few years via free Delta standby flights, and a weekend that always starts at noon on Friday and ends at 5am Tuesday.  He showed me his app where he trades rides and shifts with friends when he might want to extend a trip, and then of course returns the favor on the backside.

This is the stuff that doesn’t get taught in school.  There was no talk of making $250k or earning some SVP title, which country club he was a part of or how big his house was.  Nothing about what his next career step was, which Jones he wanted to keep up with, or whose outside opinion he next needed to heed.  No.  His life.  His lifestyle.  And I’m in the back seat taking notes.  He’d been everywhere but Oregon and Hawaii. We traded war stories, and he said our conversation inspired him to possibly pop off to Oregon this weekend.  Didn’t have to be back until Tuesday at 5am.

I would hazard a guess that no one in the history of Planet Earth has said in high school that their aspirations were to be a part-time uber driver and part-time Delta worker.   I would hazard a guess that there are a lot of people rolling their eyes at this right now.  And I would hazard a guess that secretly almost everyone is thinking, “There must be something to this”.

Your life.  Your lifestyle.  Design it.  However you and the crazy cast of characters in your life see fit.  Maybe don’t worry about that next title, that next dollar, that extra square footage.   That country club that you could care less about.  That outside opinion.  Definitely not the Joneses.  They are idiots.

Have a great week.-Benj

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