What are the little things in your life?

January 8, 2016

“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”  (Kurt Vonnegut) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Word blog.

We all revel in the big moments in life at the time they occur – our babywedding day, the birth of our children, maybe a big job promotion or the day we closed on our first house; but it is often the little, private moments that result in the most enjoyable and lasting memories. I may be a tender moment between husband and wife or maybe a quiet time of love shared with a child. It is perhaps that final little squeeze of the hand with a loved one right before they pass away or the hug that says I need you and I trust you from an injured loved one.

The big moments in life are often filled with so much hoopla that they often just become something that you remember going along with rather than something that you really had the opportunity to enjoy. If you are fortunate you may have recorded some of the little moments in pictures, so that you can look back on them with that prop to help heighten the experience; but for the most part these are incidents or times in your life that were very private and in which taking pictures was the last thing on your mind. Fortunately that same mind is where they now reside and can be recalled.

What makes these seemingly unremarkable moments in your life so important? It is probably the fact that they occurred in unscripted, caregiver hands
unguarded and totally open and honest moments of your life where your soul touched another soul and shared an experience or a moment. Think back on the moments in your life in which you experienced those “Ah, ha!” moments of love or understanding and sharing with a loved one or a good friend. Those are the memories that you will take with you to the end, because they were really the big things.

The sad thing about Vonnegut’s quote is the truth that it is only later in life that most really understand this, many times after it is too late to go back and relive it with the other person involved. We remember these moments after our parent are gone. We relive them after our friends have passed away. Our children are grown and gone and out on their own before we realize the significance of the important moments that we had with them. It is unfortunate that we have to look back and finally realize that they were the most significant moments of our lives.

father-daughter danceMaybe that does not have to be. Perhaps, if we take the time to think about the little things in our lives that happen every day, we can revel in the moment. We can go to the ball game or the dance, instead of working those extra hours. We can pause to say, “I love you” every night, instead of taking our partners for granted. We can heighten our awareness of the little things (to us) that mean so much to others and make the effort to participate in and celebrate those moments.

Why is this important? Because, you don’t want to end up, as Vonnegut’s quote would have it; “looking back” and realizing how much of life that you missed, because you didn’t recognize the little things in life that were really important. Life is too short to miss all of the little things. Take the time take them in and realize that they are really the big things in life. They are the things that connected you to another human being in a moment of shared joy – and that’s a great thing.

In your final eulogy; far more important that any recital of all of your


“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

business achievements   will be the personal remarks from family and loved ones – “I’ll miss my spouse/parent/grandparent/good friend and the things that we used to do together.”  Those were the little things that were important in the life that you lived. So, enjoy the little things in your life, because you don’t have to wait to look back some day to see that they were important.

Have a great weekend and enjoy those loved one that are around you

The pursuit of happiness…

July 5, 2015

“Essential to the pursuit of happiness is knowing when you’ve caught it.” – from the Arlo ‘N’ Janice cartoon.

I saw that little saying in a recent newspaper that carries the Arlo “N” Janice daily cartoon strip and thought that it really made an important point. My wife and I often sit out on our big, screened-in front porch and man daydreamingcomment on the fact that our lives are good and that we find happiness in what we have. I look back on the many years in my life of pursuing happiness, most of them looking for the wrong things, and realize that my true happiness was right there beside me for the entire journey. The rest of the efforts were to achieve things or buy things that, in the long run, were meaningless and fell away over time. Now, I will that our great old house in our wonderful little village is a major contributor to our happiness; but it too is just a possession. It is sharing our love and our lives that bring true happiness for us both.

For most people it takes quite a while in life to stop and look at what you have and perhaps find that youreaching goal
already have achieved happiness by finding your life mate. I suspect that it is because we get so much orientation in our youth that equates happiness to achievements, success, money and other measurements. We convince ourselves that we’ll be happy only if we get that raise or promotion, buy that car or other toy, marry the best looking person, go to the best events, achieve the highest score, win the tournament or whatever other things are out there dangling and shiny in front of us. We use terms like “goals” to define what we
think will bring us happiness; we set them and pursue them and then set new ones. We jump on the hamster wheel of life and start running, convinced that this is the way to happiness. Many never stop and get off the wheel to se if they may have already achieved the happiness that they have been pursuing.

man reaching for starAs you get older, you begin to realize that achieving that latest goal was less satisfying than you had imagined and that setting a new goal for yourself to pursue seems less exciting. You may also notice that you don’t seem to have the enthusiasm and energy to put into that pursuit that you used to have. Perhaps it is because there is an increasingly nagging little voice telling you to stop and look at your life and realize what is important. If you do it will likely not involve your possessions so much as it will be about your relationships.

It seems to be man’s fate that every generation must relearn the life lesson that money can’t buy happiness and that possessions seldom bring more than temporary happiness. In the end, when they take the inventory of all of your possessions, many (if not most) will end up in the dumpster that they back up to your McMansion and none of them will end up going with you. Even if someone remembers you fondly tooling around in your fancy sports car or on your big boat, it’s really you that they are remembering and not the possessions. If they are thinking about the car or the boat, what does that say about you and your

"Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

relationship with them?

As you near that end; you will realize more and more that the only things that really matters in this world is the relationship with the life partner shuffling along the path beside you; and the only thing that matters after this world is the relationship that you have with the God with whom you will be spending the rest of eternity. Get those two relationships right and you can end the pursuit because you have found happiness.

Come up for air and look around…

March 22, 2015

“Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.” – John Wooden

John Wooden was both a great basketball coach and a great life coach to his players. I suspect that the philosophy he expressed in today’s little saying was something that he worked hard at making his players understand. It is all too easy, especially in one’s younger years, to become focused, even driven, by the challenges of making a living and accumulating possessions and wealth.

There are few lessons in the schools that one goes through on the way to adulthood that are focused upon getting one’s life priorities in order and understanding the value of human relationships as opposed to material goods. Quite often it is well into adulthood, or maybe even during the declining years of life, before many really
father daughter wedding danceunderstand what is truly important in life verses the transient feeling of success that comes from that new possession or that extra money from a raise. Sometimes it occurs when a child finally moves away and you realize that you missed most of their growing years in pursuit of that next monetary reward. Sometimes it’s when you’re dancing with your daughter at her wedding. Sometimes you just awaken one morning and think, what the hell happened? Where did my life go?

If you sit and reflect back on life, the things that stick out or come to mind seldom have to do with the jobs and success you’ve had in them, but rather it’s about the people and the times that you enjoyed with them. You realize that what life you’ve made that ishappy wife and childmeaningful, you’ve made with those that you love and who’ve loved you in return. They did not give you that love because you got a raise or promotion at work; they opened themselves up to you because in those few moments that you focused upon them, there was joy and fulfillment. Don’t you wish that you had more of that and less of the things that you’ve accumulated?

"Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

In my real estate business, I get to work with people just starting out in life and those winding down at the other end. I find that couples at the far end of life who finally embrace the concept of downsizing and living a more simple life that is focused on each other are usually much happier than those whose lives are too busy with a focus upon“getting ahead.” That’s all quite natural. It’s usually only later in life that accumulated knowledge finally reaches a critical mass and turns into wisdom and out of that wisdom comes an understanding of what’s really important. That’s what Coach Wooden was trying to pass on to his players in today’s little quote. I suspect that the reaction was often, “Yea, right. Well, I gotta go now.” Youth is almost always impatient and arrogantly dismissive of advice from the older generation.

There are all sorts of “Stop and smell the roses” pieces of advice to be found in hundreds of famous quotes and all of them seem to point back to the need to come up for air from time to time and look around you and understand what’s important in life. It’s usually not what you’ve been focused upon doing as you try to “get ahead.” One might ask; ahead of what or of whom and why. I understand the need to make a livinghappy ceoupl silouette and to provide for your family; but keep in mind that “providing” for your loved ones also means giving them more than just possessions; it means providing them with some of yourself – your time, your attention and your  love.  It means taking the time to make a life, not just more money. So spend your time wisely this weekend. The job will still be there next week, but the opportunities that you have to accumulate experiences and share your love with the important people in your life will have passed. Come up for air and look around. Have a great weekend.

Not counting the money…

January 15, 2015

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this post – “Without money we’d all be rich.”  (Unknown)  Squirrel pelts once served as money in Finland; copper crosses in the Congo; cheese in Italy; knives in China.  Workers in Greece were sometimes paid in salt.  The word, salary, comes from that. 

money paidMoney was invented s a convenience for all. After all, how many squirrel pelts or punds of salt can we stuff into our wallets? In the beginning money was used only as a means of facilitating the exchange for goods, not as a scorecard. These days with the advent of the credit card and now electronic ways to pay for things money has become almost more a concept than a physical thing. The ultimate conceptualization of money is the BitCoin, which really has no physical manifestation at all. One seldom gets to see reallymoney tumbling down big amounts of physical money; although, if you watch poker on TV at the end of every big tournament they have lovely ladies dump the grand prize money on the table in front of the final two contestants. – it’s quite impressive if the prize is over $1 Million.

Money is used more and more these days as a scorecard of success in life – how much you have demonstrates how successful and important you supposedly are. That has been true for quite some time, going back to the invention of the word Millionaire to describe someone with lots and lots of money. These days a Millionaire might be considered to be a piker in the Billionaires club. Once the numbers get that high it is impossible for most “normal’ to really grasp that amount of money. Of course, unless they pour it in the casket with him, no Millionaire has yet taken it with him when he dies.

Back to the little saying for the day; what would we have that would make us all rich without money as a scorecard of things? People without money often look around them and observe the riches of the land, the wonder of the birds in the air, the fish in the seas and natures abundance in the forests. These are usually people who are so far removed from “civilized societies” that they have yet to be corrupted by the concept of money. It cave manis easy to imagine that one could feel “rich” if one lived I an environment that supplied all that was needed to live close at hand, like the cave man. Hungry? Go pick that fruit over there or catch that fish out in the water. Need clothes? Use that animal skin or weave cloth from the fibers of that plant over there. That is a simple, subsistence way of life that thankfully we have moved beyond. As we did we also lost most of the ability to see the riches that are all around us. Perhaps that s part of what the saying for today is alluding to.

But, living a rich life means more than just taking care of one’s basic needs to survive; it means having one’s health and it means having meaningful and rewarding relationships with others. It means appreciating what you have and not coveting what someone else has. It means finding joy in the simple pleasure of peaceful moments alone and great happiness in those moments shared with others. It means stopping to smell the roses and to appreciate all of those things around you that add shape and color, or smells or tastes or sounds to your environment and make it vibrant and interesting. Mpuppyoney can’t buy the feelings that you get laying on your back in the grass on a warm day and starting up at the clouds as they float by. Money can’t buy the wonderful smell of puppy breath from your new puppy or the soft touch of the skin of a new-born baby in its mother’s arms.  Those are riches that have nothing to do with money.

So, take some time to think about and appreciate all of the things around you and in your life that money can’t buy – the things that Nature supplies and the loving relationships of which you are a part. Once you do, you will have identified the most valuable things in our life. We are all rich indeed, if we just know how to look at our lives and we don’t need money for that.

What do you believe in?

September 16, 2014

“The older I get, the more deeply I believe, but the fewer beliefs I have.”  (John Shelby Spong)

For me, this little quote that I spotted on the Jack’s Winning Words blog was meaningful. I suspect that there is a “funnel effect” to life that comes onto play in this little saying. Earlier in life, like I think that many do; I had all sorts of beliefs and goals that I thought were important.  As I get deeper into the final quarter of life, I find that many of those things have dropped away.  They have become unimportant to me and I am becoming more focused upon the only beliefs that make any sense in an end game scenario.

I certainly don’t want to sound maudlin or depressed or anything like that; it’s just that, as one gets older, one begins smiling manto weed out many of the things in their life that really have little real importance or consequence and to concentrate on finding out what is important and meaningful and fulfilling. It is relatively easy, from the perspective of age and a bit more wisdom, to see the lack of importance of material things when compared to meaningful and lasting relationships. It becomes more obvious that personal achievements pale next to things like personal satisfaction found in service to others. There is a heighted sense of self, not as the center; but, rather as the tool through which greater good might be achieved. The “I” becomes less important than the “us” in life and much of that turns on what you can do to help others or to love others more and receive their love in return.

I suspect that if you asked Bill Gates what motivates him now and what makes him feel good at the end of a day, it will have nothing to do with the things that he became famous for achieving. It’s no longer about getting more; it now about doing the most good with what he has to give away. Many famous and wealthy people get to that stage in their lives. They just happen to have the wherewithal to do huge things; whereas most of us have to be satisfied with doing the smaller things that we can. The good news is that all of us can feel great about what we did do at the end of the day.

So what does all of that have to do with the opening quote? We all eventually get to a stage in life where we spend some time considering our own mortality. Once you begin to consider that, it is easy to move on to thinking about what is really important in life and what you hope that people will remember about you or what lasting mark you will have made on this planet because you were here.  No one is likely to remember how big your house was or what fancy cars you owned or how much money you accumulated (unless, of course, you do some great things for others with that money).  What you did in life is much more important than what you had in life.

So, based upon those thoughts, it is easy to see why many “beliefs” that may have served as pillars in your life can dropthinking hard away.  How long will you “believe” that working 70-80 hours a week to provide for your family is really the right thing to do? In fact, how long will you “believe” that you’re really doing that for your family and not just to feed your own ego? How long will you believe that stepping on or stepping over others to get ahead is the right thing to do?

Am I saying that you need to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor and go join a monastery? No! I’m espousing taking some time to think about what is really important in life. Once you get beyond what is needed for basic survival and some level of comfort and security for your family, what then?  Is it more important to earn another few dollars or to spend time with your son or daughter at their game or play or dance? Is chasing that next promotion worth more to you than taking time to hug your wife and planning a little weekend getaway?  Is putting in extra time on a presentation for work more important than visiting a shut-in relative or friend? For that matter; is making a new friend by visiting someone wo is shut-in that you don’t even know more rewarding than glad-handing a bunch of people that you don’t know at a work-related meeting?

It may be hard to see that now, but those are all choices that you will face in the middle years of life, when your beliefs piles on deskare many and focused more on personal success than on your relationships and service to others. Eventually, many of those “beliefs” will drop away. You will realize that some were never worth believing in to begin with, and some were beliefs in things that just were not true or lasting or worthwhile.

It is unfortunate that, for many, it will take most of their life for them to come to these realizations. For a few, these revelations come early in life and they are usually thought of as weird or unusual, because they aren’t dancing to the same tune as everyone else. They go into careers of service or ministry or support for others or they live simple lives that most people can’t relate to. Many times they are thought to be somehow odd; and, the really disquieting thing about them is how oddly happy they seem to be. It could almost make one wonder, who could be in the wrong in that picture?

It’s a good thing to pause and take stock every now and then about the things that you “believe in”. It’s good to ask why
you believe that way and whether those things are worthy of your continued belief. It is also a good thing to ask to whatwomen dreaming purpose you hold those beliefs; what rewards do they promise to return to you and has that promise proven to be true. Then ask what those rewards were really worth to you in your life. Did they enhance your relationships? Did they relieve pain or suffering for someone? Did they make life easier and more enriched for someone? Did they make a difference in someone’s life? Did someone love you more because you gave them things when all they wanted was more of you, your time, or your love?

Inevitably you will face that moment of truth in this process where you have discarded all other beliefs but one – your belief in what happens next? If you have that one belief left to lean on – that there is a “next” after this life – you will have reduced your life to the most basic belief of our existence.  Maybe you can build on that belief to more fully enjoy the here and now. If you get to that point and there is no “next” that you can believe in, nothing beyond the abyss that you can see in front of you, perhaps it is time to get down on your knees and ask for help. The good news is that it’s never too late to believe.

Three little words that can change your life… Get a life!

April 15, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Adrianna Huffington is currently making the rounds of talk shows pitching her new book Thrive. In it she apparently discovers that there is more to life and to what we should be calling success in life than the things that we’ve been obsessing over as a nation for quite some time. What she and many other suddenly enlightened authors and motivational speakers have recently “discovered” is that; rather than getting more money or getting a bigger house or getting a new car, most of all people need to Get a life.
chasing brass ring

The little phrase “get a life” started our it’s life as a derogatory statement to people who didn’t seem to be doing anything, at least not anything of interest to the hip people who were judging them. Of late it is more and more often used to admonish the overworked and stressed out over-achiever generation to stop burning themselves out and get real about what is really important – their family, their friends and their health. The message now is that it is time to reassess why you are working 80 hours a week and always fell tired. It is time to stop and assess what this is really doing to you and the ones that you love and for whom you believe that you are doing it. It is time to Get a life.

It turns out that there were probably some pretty neat things going on with your son or daughter at ballplayerschool or in sports during those overtime hours that you worked. There were things that your wife really wished you had the time to do with her instead of spending that extra time at the office. There were little league coaching opportunities that you were too busy for and games that were played while you were on the road. There were buddies that wished that you had time for a round of golf with them on the weekend, instead of going into the office. You missed all of that in the past, but you don’t have to miss the things to come, if you just Get a life.

Now you may say, Norm you don’t understand; but I do, because I now have to look back on my life with a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda regrets. I didn’t get a life when my children were young. I was out shuckin’ and jivin’ and chasing those big bucks. I eventually got them. I had the big six-figure income and got the things that I thought were so important back then. What I lost were the precious moments that will never be repeated – the birthday parties, the ball games and recitals that I missed are all gone, never to be repeated.  I was working and I thought that was what I was supposed to do. There were smiles that I missed seeing, laughs that I didn’t hear, joys that were shared with those who were there, but not with me. I was not there to congratulate my son on a win or to console my daughter in a loss.  So, don’t say that I don’t understand – I do.  I was not there as a husband and a parent; but, fortunately I’m not too late to get a second chance as a husband and now as a grandparent. I’m having a ball with both now, because I eventually I figured out that what I really needed was to Get a life.

fansSo, whether you are inspired by this little blog or Adrianna’s nice new book  – Thrive; take the time to assess what it is you really want and what the best way to get that really is. If you can get past the “need” for that new car or bigger house and focus instead on the family that will ride or live in them you may be able to see that a little more money at work is less valuable than a little more time at home. Your kids won’t care if they have to ride in a three year old car, if they can ride with you to go to an amusement park or a ball game. Your wife won’t mind staying in your cozy little house if the man she fell in love with (and still wants to be with) is there more often, doing things with her. And you may find that, instead of pumping up that guy in the mirror every morning and putting on your game face, so that you can go out and work even harder for material things; now, you can relax and smile at him instead because he’s figured out what’s really important – he finally decided to Get a life.

Sure, I know that you’ve got to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. Maybe you’re already starting to worry about putting the kids through college or have given some thought to your familyown retirement. Those are all important and worthy things to plan for and work for, but not to obsess over.  You can be successful enough to provide for your family without being gone so much that you’re almost a stranger to your family. You can have what you want in life if you focus upon what you need in life and not so much on what you don’t have. Socrates said it best hundreds of years ago –

 “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”  I’m sure that, had it been in the vernacular in Socrates day; he would have gone on to say – Get a life.

 When the time comes for others to look back over what you accomplished in life very few funeral speakers spend much time discussing your business accomplishments. They try to focus instead on the impact that your life had on those around you – your family and your friends. They relate stories about things you did with those important people in your life, the fun you had the events that you shared and how important to them it was that you were there. Let’s hope that in describing your life they won’t have to observe a moment of silence instead.  That won’t happen if you Get a life.