Monday, August 25, 2014

To Bungee or Not to Bungee

A long time ago, someone had asked me if I had the chance would I bungee jump.  I remember when bungee jumping came on the scene in the late 70’s, early 80’s.  Mind you, this was before the internet, before video cameras, etc.  Bungee jumping was shown on TV as a fad; with people jumping from bridges…it was both exciting and scary at that point with people taking on the risk and no commercial locations offering “safe” jumps existed. By the time a friend of mine went to New Zealand and said he went bungee jumping because his friends went. I believe that I had already made up in my mind that there was no reason for me to put my life at risk doing such a stunt.  I had a wife and children, and I felt that if I was younger, maybe, but not at this point in my life.  I have felt the same way ever since.

When I went to Macau, on the ferry ride over from Hong Kong, there was a video advertisement for the Macau Observation Tower.  In the advertisement, they showed a clip of someone bungee jumping.  My friend next to me became all animated.  “That has to be the first stop.”  “Sure,” I responded along with the third person in our group.  On the way to the tower, my friend asked, “Wayne, are you going to join me in the jump?”  By the way, the jump in Macau is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the "Highest Commercial Bungee Jump In The World".

Immediately, I remembered my commitment that I would not jump and politely declined, and added that we would happily cheer him on.  This friend, as it ends up, is also a skydiver with over 4,500 logged jumps, and he did the bungee jump in New Zealand.  This was clearly within his comfort zone and WAY OUTSIDE mine.  There was about an hour wait, as between each person jumping, they take the time to reset everything based on the jumpers weight.  Finally, the moment of truth arrived.  With extreme confidence, he walked up to the edge, gave us the thumbs up, and then jumped off the side of the tower.  When he re-emerged, we greeted him with high fives as he related how great the experience was.  In the picture below, you can see him in the bottom center of the photo in the bright colored sneakers.

The Jumper ^

As we went on with our day, and in the days to follow, I began to wonder if I had missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Was this a chance to push the boundaries of my comfort zone to a place affecting my outlook on future events?  The answer, of course, is yes.  I could have had the chance to feel what it is like to “fly.”  I could have had the chance to overcome some fear that I might not be aware.  I could have had the chance to…  I had the chance, and leading up to the jump, I was texting with my family half a world away.  They cheered my friend, but did ask me, “Are you doing it?”  In that moment, my choice not to jump was reaffirmed. My family would have cheered for me, but I feel I have a responsibility to them.  I remember when my brother bought himself a motorcycle, my girls loved going for rides with him, but when asked if I should get one, they both said no, it is not safe for me.  As safe as the jump was, for me, the few minutes of excitement was not worth the feeling of putting my life in perceived jeopardy and the potential guilty I would have. 

What would you have done? Let me know below...

Monday, August 18, 2014

If You Knew It Was Your Time

I am writing this article while on a business trip traveling to Hong Kong from New York.  Needless to say, there is a lot of time to fill.  After eating, reading and playing on the iPad, I decided to watch a movie before getting some sleep.  I check out the selection of movies and scroll through the comedy selections – something light before closing my eyes.  I spot a comedy with Robin Williams.  This is great; I break out the covers and get all comfy then start the movie “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”.  Good thing the cabin lights were out, as there was a point in the movie where I could not stop the tears dripping down my face.  Comedy?!?  No, those were not tears from laughing.  The movie is about a bitter, angry man that finds out he has only hours to live and how he decides to spend it.

The basic idea behind the movie is very thought provoking.  If today were your last day, what would you do differently from every other day?  Would you have a sense of urgency that does not usually exist?  Would you attempt to correct the wrongs that you might have created in your life?  As I sat on the plane, at the end of the movie, my mind went immediately to my family, which I left behind only hours earlier.  I instantly had thoughts of gratitude towards my family and the time that I had to spend with them prior to this trip.  When my Mom’s time came, her biggest desire was not to be alone at the end (which she was not).  While I would want to be with my family, would I sit and wait, or would I want to go and do something one last time?  Bing Crosby, who was an avid golfer, died on the golf course.  Tiny Tim died on stage after the curtain came down on his last performance.  As morbid as those examples are, those men went out doing what they enjoyed (avoiding Nelson Rockefeller on this).

There is the old saying, “Live each day as if it is your last day.”  There is also the thinking about living your life according to the words that you would want heard at your eulogy.  I once heard a speaker talk about time in terms of what if we each had a clock on our foreheads that counted down the amount of time we had left on this earth, but we could not see our own clocks.  How would we live our lives in that case?  Waiting for the closing hours to decide how we wish to be remembered is too late; it is a good idea to start today.  Show gratitude to the people you meet.  Tell the people that you love that you love them – do not assume that they know it.  Be the example you want others to set.  Talk with actions, not just with words.  Live your life to the fullest so that you do not reach the end with regrets.

May you all lead happy, healthy and prosperous lives filled with love and surrounded by people that are meaningful to you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

On the Disney cartoon, “Phineas and Ferb”, Phineas always makes the proclamation, “I know what we are going to do today,” and off the boys go to create something fantastic that leads to some sort of adventure for that one day.  This is how these cartoon characters spend their summer vacation.  There are many mornings where I would love to wake up and say to Debbie, “I know what we are going to do today” or “I know what we are going to do this week.”  If I randomly woke up and said that, I am pretty sure the response would be something along the lines of “Don’ you have work today?” or “Did you check the red book?” or “That’s nice, did you reset the alarm for me?”  Oh, that red book I mentioned, that is the book for our calendar.  If it is not written in the red book, the event does not exist.

Our lives have become so structured, acts of spontaneity need to have a scheduled time to exist.  Do not get me wrong, planning our time, as in structuring our days, does provide us with the opportunity to be more productive. The accountant and project manager in me understands this implicitly, however, the creative, musician side of me does not.  Having recently returned from a great vacation shortly before writing this has probably also tainted my thinking.  As is usually the case, I now long for a time in my life where I can wake up, decide to hop on a plane and go somewhere on short notice.  I do not do extended vacations, but a few days here and there…Instead I let my imagination run wild about visiting some exotic locale, where everyone speaks perfect English and looks like the people that I know.  Not reality!  My wife tends to be more pragmatic, in that we have something to look forward to by planning a trip next year.

I think that as kids, we do not realize how great it is to have off during the summer.  A vacation from school for approximately two months in elementary through high school and then three or more months in college.  And, during that vacation, you can be at camp (which is what I did growing up – Go, Camp Echo Lark), hang with your friends, or OMG, maybe if you are lucky; go on vacation during your vacation!  Can you imagine telling your boss that you are taking summer break with your kids?  OK, we can all imagine that, but if you want to work and provide for your family, those words are never uttered.  My father, at the end of a vacation, would offer his sage words that going back to our every day routine makes you appreciate the vacations even more, because if every day you were on vacation, there would not be a vacation.

“There’s 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Gotta Get Out of This Place!

We just returned from a much-needed family vacation.  I find it important that I take a break from my daily routine and surroundings.  Not that my routine changes drastically, but it is a good time to put the daily stresses and strains of adult life on hold for a while to give us some fresh perspective on our lives.  My kids laughed at me when they caught me sitting alone on the beach and asked what I was doing.  I calmly answered that I was meditating.  There is a good chance that in their mind they had pictured me sitting cross-legged, wearing one of my many tie-dyes, levitating and chanting “Om”.  It is hard to explain to our teens that time away from the pull of work, etc. is a great time to reflect on where we are, where we want to be and what it would potentially take to get there.

I recently had a conversation with someone that I have known for years.  He commented on the fact that this was the first time in many years that he took time off and went away.  He was not so amazed at the getting away part, but at the way he felt while half way across the country and the energy he had upon his return.  This small conversation was a good example of focusing on the day-to-day activities that we fail to see that we are in need of much needed down time.  As much as we try to be, human beings are not quite the Energizer Bunnies we envision ourselves.  The lesson that he realized was that he did need to take time, even if it is only a long weekend, to rest and re-energize himself.  Something done since the initial trip and something he is planning again in the future.

For me, the following are signs that I need a vacation:
1.    I need more sleep – I have always been good functioning on 6 hours of sleep a night, plus one night a week sleeping 8 hours.  The last few weeks, I needed much more.
2.    My focus wavers – I find that I am easily distracted from the tasks in front of me.
3.    I have less patience – I am generally a patient person, so once this starts to go…
4.   Socialization skills lessen – I find that while I am happy to be around people, I talk less and might seem less friendly than usual.
5.  Receive strange looks from my family – My comments tend to lag a few minutes behind conversations, which lead my wife and kids to question what conversation I am participating in.

In the weeks leading up to the vacation, the brain was definitely not firing on all cylinders.  Now that I have had the opportunity to recharge my battery – I am back!  Bottom line – do not be a schtarka (referring to a brave, strong man, not the Get Smart character), take vacations!  They are good and healthy for your mind, body and soul!

Feel free to share below the signs you notice when it is time to take a vacation.