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As wintery weather hastened my early Thanksgiving holiday respite into weary departure and long drive homewards in wet and slightly icy road conditions, I tried concentrating on safely arriving home; whilst all the while trying to block out the gaudy lights, holiday themed music on the radio and the thoughts of decorating which distracted and annoyed me. I groused, it is a wonder we as American can, in good conscious, shamelessly celebrate without forever grousing about costs and obligations, both spiritual and secular. And yet for one-thousand and five hundred years, nations prior to the birth of America have celebrate one ever changing holiday: Christmas.

I could not help but to think, here was a fabricated holiday by the early Christian Church, spring from the mind of a mad and wonderful noblemen & soldier turned monk1, blended with Roman Pantheon, Azur True and a dash of Gaulish Celtic for good measure; which were indeed times of indulgence and celebration for the hastening of Spring.

And if that was not enough, about a thousand years later, add the crazed twists of a mad, brilliant, monk and scholar who gave the world, "Santa Claus", which was fabricated to ease children's hearts during the Reformation2 with a twist of ancient Krampusnacht3 to ensure children were "nice and not naughty". And that as a result of, or countering therein, a wide scale commercial market for decorations and indulgence may have began 3a.

And then, about three hundred years later, add a brutal English Monarch, whose German Mother and Husband (and first cousin)4, brought forth and back in vogue all the decorations, traditions and symbols we associate with modern Christmas; even though England originated the twelve days of Christmas before its suppression by Cromwell. I read in the histories of the time, that although there was still great emphasis on the spiritual aspects of Christmas, it was lessening to a time of secular celebration and indulgence.

And finally, in America, a land where on the 25th day of December, 1775, Daniel O'Shay and his family were almost lynched and fled their home in Boston, Massachusetts, because as a Catholic dared to celebrate Christmas. A land where immigrants made ornaments from apples and squash, used candles made from lard and what native materials were available to celebrate Christmas in the new world - from native game to homemade and home crafted gifts to home brewed drinks. The Christmas traditions from the european immigrants did not change much in scope until after the Second World War, when perhaps more emphasis was placed on material bounties rather than on spiritual offerings thanks modern production, the end to large scale ware and readily made goods & wares now easily affordable.

I began to muse that in America, the giving gifts and indulging of holiday themed cuisine and beverage has been taken to a whole new level of indugence. Even with the best of intentions of sharing from the bounty of Americans whom can afford, we as a nation have, once again, altered the precepts and concepts of Christmas. More commercial entities have made great strides in producing and promoting wares and good and services for Christmas in America both domestically and, ironically, from Europe. Danish Gulg or German Yule log or English crackers are as common as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer dolls made in China. Some of my fellow Countrymen would argue that as Americans, we have strayed away from the meaning and intent behind Christmas. Some might even argue that the commercialism has finally taken over as was warned back in the 1950's and 1960's, and impoverishing Americans with needless debt and needless duties to give. And some, myself included, have embraced these indulgent behaviors and have engraved them into memory of wonder and cherished thoughts, justifying the mass indulging.

In the end, the best argument for spiritualists can offer is symbology; marketers and manufacturers can, at best, offer dreams of peace and plenty to sate the secularists.

It would seem therefore, the only reasonable argument which can be offered is that as Christmas has changed throughout the centuries, blending and reforming precepts, perhaps in each individual's mind, Christmas can be formed into an image that blends those elements which bring spiritual comfort and secular pleasure in equal portions and in equal measure. And with that final musing on a very rainy and icy night, I concluded reason and my journal home.

1= Francis of Assisi.
2= Dr. Marin Luther.
3= Krampusnacht was a pre-Christian German holiday in where demons roamed the countryside looking for naughty and wicked; this was transformed into "Black Peter" accompany St. Nicholas and, briefly, Santa Claus, looking for naughty children. The practises of Krampusnacht are still celebrated by "kidnaping" young woman and their families offering drink and food as "ransom" to return their women.
3a= The Christkindlmarkt of Germany sold foods, decorations and gifts in each town for weeks preceding upto Christmas. The first wide scale commercial efforts for secular celebrations.
4= Queen Victoria.

Rise up -

NSFW Aug. 25th, 2014 12:56 pm
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In business and in personal affairs, you see motivation messages and motivational speakers re-engage folks to aspire to better or bigger or whatever. From the tales of Horatio Hornblower in the nineteenth century, with his chest up – chin out – pull yourself up by your bootstraps advice; to Sig Siggler, Napoleon Hill in the twentieth century – you are better than you think, stronger than you know, and more valuable than you suspect. To the over abundance of posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in the millennia – combining both centuries.

I’ve wondered – with these kinds of messages over the last 150 years, why is the world not a stronger, better, utopia place to live?

Because the message and the challenges do not match everyone to everything to anything. It soothes but does not relieve the pain. It distracts from the overwhelmed facts.

Maybe we as a planet need a different message –

try, fail, try, succeed, do - fail or succeed.

May put a few motivational speakers out of work, but may achieve a utopia.
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If you have noticed, I have been reading on techniques to
broaden and
accelerate
my career. This is not a bad thing, as you gain usable information to incorporate into your strategy.

The problem is, many people swear by one expert or another and demand you follow exactly in their steps and adopt their strategy exactly without variation.

For example, my mentor is a devotee of Jon Acuff. Jon is a big believer of rising early to create strategy and encourages his followers to do the same. As as result, my mentor rises at 4am to meet with other Acuff followers to reflect candidly on their dreams. She is insisting I do the same; the exact same thing in not so subtle a fashion.

This is what happens to me if I try this...



(if the image does not appear, click to open in a separate tab)

I cannot work like that. My burst of creativity and reflection is at 11:00am. That's when I feel the most productive and the most reflective. I can adjust, plan, and strategize (yes, there is no such word in the dictionary, but it works for me!)

If I rise at 4am, I'm more than likely going to watch videos of Wild life fighting, mating, or eating. Yes, business can seem like all three at once, but it does not fit the task at hand.

I cannot seem to make my mentor understand I am not built for mornings, but mid-morning coffee / brunch I can find new ideas and inspiration; while the 4am_ers are crashing.

The one thing I learned in Grad School is that you cannot - ever - take a theory or product that is tailored for one enterprise and whole writ incorporated into another. You have to formulate and mold into an organization.

Perhaps it's time to find a new mentor.
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In Jon Acuff's book, "Start: Punch Fear in the Face; escape average; do work that matters", he speaks of an event when you are learning new skills, you encounter the "not yet but I'm about to" moment.
That moment you have not done a task or skill formerly or even attempted, but are ready (by willingness or thrusted into the moment). For example, you have been assigned to take administrator and chief writer of a blog for 10K readers; you might reply, "I have not yet but I'm about to".

I had that moment last Saturday. And, what I don't think Mr. Acuff anticipated, was my actions were scrutinized and reviewed for the world to see - yes, indeed, I would make the web. At stake was over $2million in investments, branding, and sweat over what I would say.
That moment of "not yet but I'm about to" came in the form of giving a wine tasting and winery tour to four reviewers of wines and wineries.

Had anyone asked me, "Have you given a wine tasting and tour of how the wine was produced?" I am not sure I would have said willingly, "Not yet, but I'm about to"; however, I was thrusted into the moment.

By my own actions.

And I must say, it was the most thrilling and uneasy moment of my life.

Now, I'm not totally averse to changes. As a storyteller, musician, and MC, your job is often to adjust to changes rapidly to suit your audience. But this requires you to have mastery of your craft or knowledge of the subjects before you take the stage. In the "I have not yet but I'm about to" philosophy, you often learn rapidly to adjust to the moment.
It also requires something often forgotten in honing your craft, being yourself and being candid.

And it all started with driving to my favorite winery to purchase for my wife a bottle of grape juice and a bottle of wine for me. And before it was my favorite winery, it was a place I enjoyed visiting with people, chatting with the owners, learning as much about the plants - process - and techniques.
I have two ears, eyes, and two hemispheres of my brain to double my learning. Used them to absorb all the information like a sponge. Put them in context and speak of them in my own words; for right or wrong, but always ready to learn.

This day was different. The owners were out of town, and two of my friends, Anita and Eric were helping out. Eric is an Engineer and advanced hobbyist in viticulture. Anita is a Kindergarten Teacher with the gift of gab. Together, they were serving over 15 people in the tasting room with group of 30 visitors arriving in the hour. I finally asked, was there anything I could help with?
You bet!
I was immediately sent to cutting cheese and crackers, washing glasses, and serving a nice couple from Colorado who just wandered by.
Suddenly, I found I was not only pouring their wine to this nice Colorado couple, but explaining all that I knew about the grapes, the winery, the machinery. The couple enjoyed the explanation and tour of the vineyard, and I enjoyed the fresh breath of air and letting them ask all the questions and experience the same understanding I had come to learn.

This had taken three hours. Time flew. More importantly, I felt a little confident in my answers and my presentation. This was the exhilarating part!

That is, until 10 minutes before closing. Then reviewers came in; this was the uneasy part!

I had no time to fret or worry. For if I had the time to worry, I would have ran for the door and didn't stop until I reached Kansas. I had never given a professional tasting before professional reviewers. I am not a vintner nor a sommelier. Eric and Anita were the experts, I am a rank amature. But Eric and Anita were busy with the now 40 guests with Anita stopping by to visit. This was the moment of "I have not yet but I'm about to" only what I was about to do would make the web for anyone to read.

All I had were my eyes, ears, and two-part brain.

At my disposal, I had five wine lists and all the bottles were at my finger times and calmly stepped behind the tasting tables; one list was for me to keep score of what each of the reviewers like and why, and to keep me from repeating. And the rest for the reviewers to mark and discuss. It also gave me time to remember each lesson I had learned about wine; from how it's grown to how it's produced, to how each one tasted.

No, I had never, ever, given a professional wine tasting, but I was about to.

The reviewers were funny, tough, had lots of questions.
I had equal amounts for them.
I let the savior the wines then asked them for their reflections.

Then I showed them the vineyard and in particular, my vine which I leased. Perhaps it was the pride I showed in the grapes and the work, perhaps it was the storyteller weaving yarns about the winery with the hard work. Perhaps it was being an MC which taught me to think with confidence on my feet, or perhaps its being a musician to change keys in the middle of a song to change techniques in my presentation.

Whatever the skill was, I had done this review. For better or worse, I had done it. And the reviewers seemed to have had a good time.

After the reviewers left, and I purchased my own bottles, I was alone with my thoughts and my own reflections.

I still had a nagging feeling it was not enough. Or worse, I gave such a horrible presentation that it would reflect the winery. $2million were invested by the owners in the land, equipment, and the brand. Not mine money, but someone who sweats in the 100+F(36+C) temperatures, tweaks and crafts the wine, and hand-bottles each wine themselves.

Their reputation was on the line. That was my fear.

So for this past week, I have fretted and checked the reviewers' website for their impressions.

Finally, today, the review came out.

I read the review.
Twice.
Had my wife read the review.
And read it again, just to mentally pinch myself.

Found all my fears were, although at the time reasonable, not factual.
Come to discover the reviewers were impressed that someone like me, just a customer and civilian, would step up and deliver. And they like the white wines the best. Must say, it was a nice review (not to mention the winery does have amazing white wines).

So I have had my first "not yet but I'm about to" moment; I have no doubt I will have many more. But, it is warm to feel I have acquitted myself well.

And for this first test, it is something to build upon....one glass at a time.

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