Death And Sales

You probably thought the only sure things in life were death and taxes, didn’t you. Well, we can throw one more thing into the pot roast of life’s guaranties.

Death and sales. I don’t remember the last time it wasn’t a sure thing.

Chuck Berry died last weekend. A rock and roll pioneer without question; he was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and influenced generations of artists.  But Chuck’s last hit record was back in the early 70’s and he had been averaging 39 album sales prior to his death.

But then he died and his record sales increased 11,684 percent. Really.

Now this is not unusual. The same thing has happened following the death of other musicians and I’m having a difficult time understanding the mentality. Then again, the human mind is difficult to figure out on a good day.
But really, what compels people to buy an artists music after they die when they had no interest in doing so before they died? The music has been out there for decades, readily available. Why are they enough of a fan now to buy their music, but not before? Chuck’s songs have been around since the fifties. They’ve been all over the radio, movies, television, etc, forever. If people liked these songs before, why did they wait until he died to download them? It’s the same song. Sung by the same artist. But they like it better today? Are they afraid it’s going to somehow disappear or that Apple will go out of business? Do people sit around and wait for the evening news to decide what they should download that night based on the obituary reports? Does the music somehow sound better after someone dies? It all sounds a little macabre to me.

In some ways, this same phenomena happens in food stores the day before a snowstorm. People rush out to stock up on essentials because the roads may be snow-covered for maybe a day. Maybe. I always feel like they’re expecting Armageddon to arrive and bread will be have to be bartered with a laptop.

I wonder if all my blog posts will suddenly be in monetary demand when I’m no longer around. Maybe I should fake my demise, stay away for a couple of years and reap the financial rewards after I decide to return from my self-imposed disappearance. Sort of like an Eddie and the Cruisers thing.

Okay, I think might be getting a little carried away.

 

Who Are You?

“The bulk of life is discovering who you are—and then reconciling that with who you wish you were.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich

Who are you, really? Are you the person your mind believes you are or the one that other people see? Are they the same or very different?

Many people live their lives attempting to create an identity, focusing on who they want to be but never getting around to discovering who they really are. Sound too deep? It really isn’t.

If we believe the concept of people being, to a large degree, a product of their environment then it’s probably fair to say, taking it a step further, that we become what we think, since our minds are our “inner” environment.

Or do we discard what our minds tell us and become what other people think we should be?

I guess there are two questions here and each may or may not be mutually exclusive to the other. The first is, do we live for others instead of for ourselves in spite of what we believe to be true? Thats a tough way to live for any extended period of time because of the constant struggle that may go on inside the individual.
Secondly, do we convince ourselves, over a period of time, that we are someone we’re not in order to hide the inner disappointment that may ride along with that knowledge? People sometimes embellish stories to the point that they eventually end up believing their own words, even though others who might have been there, know that it’s not true. People may believe they are invaluable to a cause, organization, team, etc, only to find they are expendable and/or replaceable. What we believe about ourselves, the regard in which we hold our contributions or lives may be very different than the perception that others have of us.

The only way to avoid each of those scenarios is to say true to yourself. Easier said than done, since outside influences/pressures may lead you in other directions. But staying true to yourself is much easier than one day coming to the realization that you are not who or where you wanted to be, that you are expendable, that your own self worth is not as valuable to others as it should be to you, and that the very core of your life and the honesty you should trust, has always been part of who you were meant to be.

You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be.
Vironika Tugaleva

 

When The Beast Wins, Children Lose

A ten-year old student in an ELA class at one of my schools was asked to provide an argument for something he felt strongly about. He chose a sports related topic. This is what he wrote, unedited.

Parents, teachers, coaches and kids! I call on you to change the policy that kids have to try out for sports. It’s wrong to not let kids join sports because it hurts their self-esteem, because it builds a nasty sense of competition and because all kids deserve to play if they want. 

Some pooh-pooh the idea that a kids self-esteem gets hurt but how do you think it makes us feel? I’ll tell you how it feels, it feels TERRIBLE. It feels lie everyone is staring at us , feeling sorry for us. It makes us wonder if we’ll ever be good enough. The truth is our school, coaches or parents don’t think we’re good enough to participate. They’re supposed to make you feel stronger or better, not destroy your self-esteem and confidence.

Not allowing other kids to join sports also makes kids competitive with each other. In one survey, 18 out of 20 kids said they would rather make the team than stay friends with each other. In an interview with a student who made the team, this article said, “I really don’t hang out with any of my friends now who didn’t make the team. They don’t have the shirt we have. I don’t know, I just don’t see them any more. You might think competition brings out the best in kids and maybe it does when they’re older but in elementary school it makes kids mean and lonely.”

The most important reason not to make cuts is that all kids deserve to play. For goodness sakes!!!! We’re nine and ten years old. Isn’t this the time we should be learning skills, getting stronger and having fun? A lot of people say it’s just sports, that’s how it is. But we’re not pro ball players. All of us deserve a chance to get better.

Change this policy, please. Give us the fast legs and strong bodies we deserve. Let us all be the athlete we want to be. 

Interesting discussion topic.

I have three daughters who played multiple sports through high school and I coached basketball and softball for quite a few years.

But it was a very different time in terms of youth sports. It was not all-consuming and I could probably write a short book on the strong feelings I have about children and the parents and coaches who affect their lives.

The immersion and consumption of time in sports today at a very early age has to be witnessed in order to be understood. I think the biggest fear for me is how it affects families and the time they spend together.

Or don’t.

It’s time that will never be returned to them and it passes so very quickly.

I understand that making cuts as it relates to some teams are the nature of sports and I think some kids learn from these disappointments, but some things this student said are pretty sad; specifically about the interaction between kids who make teams and those who don’t, and what competition brings out in children.
At younger ages, it should never be about the score. Who wins is irrelevant. How good you are at 8-9-10, is irrelevant. We’ve all seen stars at ten who burn out or fall behind others as they get older; stars at ten years old who never play a high school game. Coaches and parents lose sight of the fact that young children who choose to play sports should, as this child mentions, focus on basic skills and development, not winning and losing. Can both be accomplished? Of course. But all too often one takes control of the other. It’s the nature of the beast.

Most importantly, children at that age should be having fun. Sadly, and all too often, that simple goal is not part of a parent or coaches mindset.

Children should be allowed to be children and families should be allowed to enjoy those few precious years together.

Sports is a great outlet and competition is healthy as long as both are done intelligently and balanced properly.

I was going to conclude by saying that I hope this young man figures it out and finds sports to be a positive experience, but it’s really not his decision, is it?

So I hope the adults in his life figure it out and provide this child with a positive experience. Lord knows our children can use all the positive experiences they can get.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not always provided by those who have the opportunity to do so.

The Art Of Simplicity

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”
 John Kabat-Zinn

I was watching the Grammy Awards the other evening and aside from the fact that it seemed to be a requirement that all women wear an outfit that was cut open from neck to naval, the ceremony was pretty much as it has been for many years now; part talent, part extravagance and part freak show.

But what caught my attention the most was how simple it is for real talent to be expressed. If you possess the gift of a pure voice, you can captivate an audience without thirty-two dancers, extravagant costumes, pyrotechnics, gimmicks or relying on the shock factor.

If you can sing, people will stop and pay attention. It’s that simple. Everything else either detracts from the talent or attempts to cover up a lack of talent.

Then I thought about how that same principle applies to our lives. As Confucius once said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

I think age sometimes allows us to understand that concept more clearly. Because at its core,  life really is simple. it’s our individual choices, decisions, influences, words and attitudes that complicate things. We just can’t seem to get out of our own way, even when someone hands us the directions.

We are infatuated with the accumulation of stuff. The brilliant mind of George Carlin did entire routines on this very subject. We laughed because we understood he was talking about us and yet we were incapable of stopping.
We think and over think. We accumulate and store. We find the easiest path and decide there must be a better one. We look out the window and want that color grass. We strive to achieve without considering the cost. We find peace in the simple beauty of a sunset on a quiet beach and decide it would look better if there were thirty-two dancers performing in extravagant costumes on a party boat just off the shore line.

Somewhere, Thoreau is dying a thousand deaths.

The most amazing moments we have all experienced in life; the ones that stay with us forever, are never planned and usually the most simple.

We each have a voice and a song to sing. How we choose to live that song, is entirely up to us.

The Brick

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.

As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door. He slammed on his brakes and backed the jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver jumped out of the car, grabbed a young boy and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you do it?

The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister…please! I’m sorry but i didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop.”

With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot between two parked cars. “Its my brother, ” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into the wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay.

“Thank you so much,” the grateful child told the stranger, wiping away his tears.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the young boy push his wheelchair bound brother down the sidewalk. It was a long slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable but the driver never repaired the dented side door. Instead, he kept the dent there to remind him of this simple lesson.

Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention. 

 

Meet The Beatles

“We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on and eight of the top ten songs were Beatles songs.,, I Want To Hold Your Hand, all the early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. I knew they were pointing in the direction of where music had to go.”
Bob Dylan

For most people, there is no middle ground with these four guys. Either you like their music or you don’t. Not many people are indifferent. Regardless of what you feel about them or their music, it’s impossible to ignore the impact they had on the music industry, and in many ways, the world.

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February 7, 2017 will  mark the 53rd anniversary of their first visit to America, where they broke all kinds of television records when they appeared on Ed Sullivan. But before we get to that appearance, here are some facts about them that many people outside the music industry probably don’t know.

They were the first band to have a record sell a million copies before it’s release. (Can’t Buy Me Love, 1964)

They were the first band to play in a stadium.

The first group to have its drummer sit higher than the band.

The first rock band to designate one of its members as lead guitarist. (George, 1962)

The first band to combine rock with classical music. (Yesterday, 1965)

The first band to create a song that faded out and then in again. (Strawberry Fields Forever, 1967)

The first band to create an album of all original songs. (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)

The first band to create an album of more than ten songs. (Please Please Me, 1962)

The first band to print the song lyrics inside the album. (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)

The first rock group to use a harmonica in a song. (Love Me Do, 1962)

The first rock group to use a sitar. (Norwegian Wood, 1965)

The first popular band to use electric keyboards and synthesizers in some of its songs.

The first recording artists to use sound effects in their songs.

The first band to combine an early form of reggae called ska with rock and roll. (I Saw her Standing There, 1962)

The first band to create an album in which one song runs into another.

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When they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show soon after their arrival, this country was in a state of hysteria. Incredibly, seventy-three million people watched television that evening, which was the largest TV audience for an entertainment program, ever. The show was watched in more than twenty-three million homes. Remember, this was 1964.
While the program was being aired, much of the nation came to a standstill. It was near impossible to get a bus or taxi anywhere. Even more interesting was that between 8:00-9:00 pm that Sunday night, crime rates in many American cities fell to an all time low.

In 1965 when the Beatles once again toured America, they appeared at Shea Stadium in New York. Until then, the largest crowd to attend a rock concert had been twenty thousand people. More than fifty-five thousand showed up at Shea that night.

It was a different time, one that, for many reasons, may never be repeated. But on February, 1964, these four boys arrived.

imagesWhat happened next, was history.

Words

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”
-Unknown

Several years ago I ran into a young man at a wedding that I used to work with, but hadn’t seen in a few years. I asked how and what he was doing and he explained, among other things, that he had moved out to the opposite coast and was now living in Oregon.
I was surprised for a number of reasons and when I asked him why the move, he told me it was because of something I said to him once, several years earlier, and he decided to take my advice.

At first I thought he had mistaken me for someone else because, A) no one really listens to me, and B) even if they did, they wouldn’t listen to me.

Curious, I asked what kind of advice I could have possibly given that would cause him to move three thousand miles away. He said I once told him that if he woke up one morning, put his feet on the ground and was not happy with where he was, he should have the courage to do whatever was necessary to make a change in his life.
He told that story to his wife about a year after they got married and soon after, they left their jobs and started a new life on a different coast.

Words.

They have such power over us. More than we care to admit to sometimes.

They can change a life, save a life or destroy a life. They are free, priceless and sometimes carry burdens that last a lifetime.

They leave scars.

They soften and harden hearts.

For all that we know about words and the kind of impact they have on each of us, we sometimes remain careless with them.

Especially with children.

Words can affect adults in many of the same ways they do children. They can make us feel incredibly special or drop us to our knees. The difference, I think, is that adults can sometimes rationalize or explain away the negative comments. They can bounce back by understanding the source or respond by standing up to those words. Children, especially younger children, don’t have those same abilities. Too often they believe what they hear and may internalize those feelings for years. Sometimes it begins to shape their lives.

Being a parent can be challenging at times. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t try to do the right thing when it comes to their children. Or at least believes they are.

You know, volume is a funny thing. There have been times when I’ve heard a band play a song live and the music is so loud, I couldn’t hear the words. Children are no different. Sometimes, when the volume is too high, they just hear the noise, which can be as damaging as the words they can’t hear.

Sometimes we think we’re disciplining our children when we’re only inflicting our control over them. There’s a big difference between the two, just as there is between encouragement and constant critiques. Parents sometimes attempt to live their own lives through their children, instead of allowing them to grow, make mistakes and find their own way through life.

All these actions involve words.

With children, words have a greater impact and last much longer. The control or influence we think we have as parents, only lasts a few years. Rebellion, much longer.
They will remember. And when they’re old enough, they will understand and make their own decisions and choices.

Then the impact of words may be reversed. Strange how that works.

You know, the funny thing is, I didn’t remember having that conversation with that young man I spoke with. Even after he told me about it and I tried to go back in my memory and remember when I may have said it, I couldn’t.

But he did. And that’s the point.

That’s the blessing and the curse about words.

You may not remember what was said today, especially when it comes to children.

But they will.

And one day, you may have to eat what you planted.