#16 Staying out late till the place shuts down

Bringing down the house.

When your party spins till the disco ball stops and the lights go pop then you know you’re having a great time. Big toes peeking through nylons, tongues hanging out like dogs, bangs sweatglued to your forehead — you’re groggily stumbling out the door, itching for more, rushing till four.

Long nights, strong nights, going out till dawn nights — these are the moments you shrug off all worries, shake away the pain, and close your eyes and dissolve into the bright lights again.

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

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#17 The ability to think

“How often do you think?”

My eleventh grade English teacher interrupted class one day with that booming question. Until then we’d been having staple fights, passing notes, and half-assedly working on book reports about Brave New World.

“How often do you actually sit back and think?,” he prodded. “The reason I ask is because you’re lucky you have time to think and it’s really important.”

He paused for a minute and looked at us and we paused for a minute and looked back. It was clear he was done so we shrugged at each other and began chatting again. People leaned back on their chairs, some blew bubbles and shot air free-throws, and a couple kids in the corner rubbed glue sticks on each other’s sweatshirts.

It was a long time ago and I didn’t look back on it until last week.

I was just finishing up a speech about the 3 A’s of Awesome at a business conference and was gathering my things and stepping off the stage when a man rushed up to me.

“Hey, I’ve got an awesome for you,” he started urgently, and I looked up to see wild eyes darting through thick glasses, a weathered face with lots of wrinkles, and long shaggy hair rolling down his back.

“Thinking.”

He stared hard at me for a reaction and I paused for a second, not knowing what to say.

“Thinking,” he said again.

“Yeah, that’s true,” I slowly ventured. “Thinking is … pretty important.”

“No, I don’t think you understand,” he said sharply, slightly spitting, with his hands shaking urgency. “I mean the ability to think. See, I was in a big car accident last year and my head got hit pretty bad. I spent an entire year in a coma in the hospital … and I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process thoughts. I knew I was alive but I wasn’t able to have thoughts connect in my brain.”

I think I must have looked stunned so he kept going.

“I just got out of it last week and now I’m doing great. I can think again and it’s a gift. We aren’t always able to think… but if you can, if you can put things together, if you can figure things out, then you’re lucky. I missed an entire year of my life because I couldn’t think. Now I’ll never take it for granted again.”

My mind flashed back to my eleventh grade classroom and my teacher sadly trying to get our attention. I don’t think we understood it then, because how could we? When you’ve always thought, when you can always think, it’s hard picturing thinking about not thinking.

But thinking is what gives us movies, magic, and songs. It’s what gives us paintings, blogs, and books. Thinking results in businesses, theories, and games. It gives us inventions, conversations, and names. At the end of the day, thinking is what helped us rise, it’s what moves us forward, and what shapes our lives.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#18 Getting picked up from the airport

You know what’s the worst?

Trying to figure out how to get somewhere in a city you’ve never been before.

Yes, strange bus routes, new taxi systems, and mazes of complex maps welcome you to your business trip, weekend getaway, or family vacation. When you arrive you’re confronted by a sea of steaming faces — baggage pickups are packed, customs desks have lines, and you’re scrambling to get your bearings while worrying about the time.

That’s why it’s beautiful scene when someone you love picks you up from the airport. Yes, when your teenage grandson, old college roommate, or church choir pal shows up it feels like you’re getting airlifted out of the jungle.

When you spot them waiting for you make sure to drop that suitcase and run with your bouncy backpack into a big beautiful airport hug. For just a moment everything fades to distant background blur as you’re picked up by an old friend in a new place…

AWESOME!

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#19 Remembering all you’ve learned from old girlfriends and boyfriends

Your life is a pinball.

Shooting up high you start bouncing between bumpers and fly between flippers which smack you every which way. Your life soars and crashes in ways you can’t predict. First loves with teenage girls, secret kisses in college worlds, all shape your heart and who you are today.

Curled in shaggy basement carpets and cushions in front of the record player your boyfriend carefully drops the needle on a worn album and you listen while making out in front of the Lava Lamp. Big brown speakers crackle and pop with simple harmonies that never leave your heart.

Cramped in a rusty hatchback in an snowy parking lot at midnight you stall your girlfriend’s car for the sixth straight time. “Let go of the clutch a little softer … ,” she suggests, as you slowly learn how to drive standard, and slowly learn how much patience helps you along.

Lazily lying in bed on Sunday morning with sunbeams softly shining across his sleeping face, you realize how much you needed to let yourself go … and start trusting someone again. Now it’ll be easier the next time.

Stop and give yourself time to flash back.

To all the relationships you were in … that ended before today.

Maybe your boyfriend went to college and stopped calling every day or your fiance got cold feet and suddenly moved away. Maybe he got drunk and kissed another girl or you got a passport and started seeing the world. Maybe filling the nest flipped your lives or emptying the nest flopped it. Or maybe you were in a relationship where you couldn’t really explain it but smiled sad smiles with weary wet eyes because you both just knew it was over.

But no matter where you were, no matter where you went, your life was shaped by those you met along the way. First loves may have helped you strive for a more optimistic life, helped you share laughs with strangers on sidewalks, or have kickstarted a lifelong quest for more and more passionate work.

There’s no papers showing how you look at love and no papers that say much about living. There’s no papers showing how you learned to pack a mean trunk, sing onstage at the bar, and make those over-easy eggs with enough drizzly yolk for dipping.

Lost loves, long loves, long gone … sometimes last forever in your heart.

And it’s okay to miss relationships. It’s okay to look back. Don’t be afraid of exploring that heart and flipping through that dusty deck of cards in your head as they photo-flash images from your beautiful life. Like they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. So feel those memories of past loves, smile at the good times you’ve shared, and remember all the pieces of you that came from somebody who cared.

Those memories and those moments make us richer, make us wiser, make us better, and make us us.

This one’s for everyone who helped make you

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#20 Scoring some Me Time

Get out of here.

Lights flash, bulbs blast, and twisted thoughts race around our brains. But handshakes and smiles tire after a while and sometimes all you want is chill time on your own. That’s when it’s time to trade dress pants for sweatpants, sweatpants for less pants, and screaming babies and bosses into reflection and peace.

Me Time is great for a few big reasons:

1. You are here. Did your music teacher having a tuning fork? Mine did and she’d smack that thing on a desk to get it singing. I remember sitting in the front row of the band holding my clarinet and getting mesmerized by that fork — with the prongs shaking back and forth so fast, like a hummingbird’s wings. Well, sometimes life feels like we’re shaking like prongs in the tuning fork. Me Time helps the music stop playing so we can slow down in a bath, on a couch, or at a show.

2. No holds barred. Okay seriously, what do you do with your Me Time? Listen to guilty pleasures, dance naked, or just scarf spoonfuls of mayo over the kitchen sink while snorting a lot? Well, you don’t have to tell us, because we’re not telling you. And that’s the point! Me Time is an escape from everything … it’s a place you indulge in your favorite activities with one person we guarantee will have a great time. (Note: Do not spend Me Time watching “No Holds Barred” starring Hulk Hogan.)

3. Getting to know you. I had a boss who said self-awareness was the most important attribute in people. He liked asking people their strengths and weaknesses in interviews — not because he cared what they were, but because he wanted to see how aware they were about them. Self-awareness only goes up when you have time to look under the hood. Me Time gives you a chance to figure yourself out. (And knowing you, that might take a while.)

Time zooms by so fast when everything is swirling but Me Time lets us hang on before the world sends us hurling. Because we’re not here forever, we’re not here very long, so give yourself a break, before the break time’s gone.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#21 Intergenerational friendships

I met Gloria in September, 2008.

I was camping out at an Arizona hotel for work and she was the hotel bartender. A sassy fiftysomething with frizzy white hair, classy black clothes, and bright red lipstick, Gloria was the soul of the place who had been there for years. Twice married, twice divorced, two cancers, and three jobs — she’d seen it all and been it all, with a smile and a story to prove it.

On my second night there I noticed Gloria chatting with everyone like old friends. She knew everyone by name and served up wisecracks and wisdom with every glass of wine. I listened as she talked stocks with bankers, sports with sales guys, and listened with little bits of life advice for folks like me. “I book all our meetings here because of Gloria,” folks on barstools would tell me. “Most of us stay here because of her.”

Since my trip was a few months long and I was brewing with a broken heart, Gloria became a trusted listener, confidant, and friend. Before I got shipped home a group of us took her for a big Mexican meal and had a fun night laughing and telling stories over spicy shrimp tacos.

When I got home I told my friend Joey about Gloria and he smiled and told me about a lady in his apartment building he’d become friends with, too. “Basically, I kept leaving my clothes in the communal dryer in the basement for days, and I’d come back to find everything folded in a basket,” he said, laughing. “There would even be a Zip-loc baggie with my underwear in them and a handwritten note pinned to the front saying ‘Hope you don’t mind I moved your clothes! – Hazel’ Anyway, we grab a coffee every so often now.”

Hazel and Gloria are great examples why intergenerational friendships are such rare and wonderful things. I mean, from The Age of Babies, most of us hang out with people our own age. So when we bust through to connect with someone older or younger… well, it’s like a super-sticky bond that shows us completely different views of the world. Suddenly our perspectives gets twisted, our worries seem small, and our intergenerational friendships send us flying far away from it all.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#22 Staring at stars

They show up in the dark.

And when you look up in the dark you see their twinkling beauty, burning yesterday, light years away. Stars remind us how small we are, how far we’ve come, how fast we’re flying, and how we’re never all done. Atoms inside us were in outer space one day … and all of our atoms will fly again that same way.

Millions of suns, flickering in silence, shimmering, sparkling, twinkling,

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

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#23 Getting the thank-you wave when you let someone merge ahead of you

Cruising through the streets with our music cranked and our cell phones ringing, it’s sometimes hard to communicate with other drivers sharing the roads. When speeds are high and time’s a ticking, we rely on silent gestures flashed through tinted windows to get our points across.

Now, we all know that The Thank You Wave when you let someone merge in front of you is a great move. It’s highway payment for arriving to your destination one car length later anytime you let someone in.

But it doesn’t end there.

Sure, courtesy wave etiquette may have started with The Thank You Wave, but the magic has spread across other places on the pavement. For instance:

1. The Pre-Wave. As in I’m thanking you because the front tip of my Honda Civic is pointed into your traffic-jammed lane and I know you see me so just let me in. Sure, you can try to avoid eye contact but I’m determined to Pre-Wave you to build up some goodwill.

2. The Apology Wave. Don’t be fooled: even though it looks similar to the thank you wave, the apology wave is typically accompanied by a big grimace instead of a thin-lipped eyebrow raise. Next time you sideswipe a van of teenagers and send them skidding off the highway into a roadside ditch, be sure to offer a heartfelt apology wave.

3. The Go Ahead Wave. You roll up to a four-way Stop at the same time as somebody else and you decide to let them turn first. Maybe they’re a sweet old lady peeking over the wheel or maybe you just want to avoid The World’s Slowest Car Accident. Either way you give them the pleasant, open-palmed Go Ahead Wave, which is sort of how the ladies on The Price Is Right unveil a new solid oak armoire.

Yes, proper courtesy wave etiquette keeps two-way talking alive on our streets and prevents chaos from taking over the highways. So when you let someone in, look out for the Thank You Wave. And when someone lets you in, make sure you smile and wave right back.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here and here

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#24 Loot bags

What’s a birthday without some loot?

Let’s get this party finished right:

Level 1: The Factory Order. Here’s where mom orders the Barbie, Hot Wheels, or Sesame Street themed birthday kit and it comes with pointy hats, paper plates, and loot bags for all. Now, these bags are usually sealed shut so you must tear them open with your teeth to pull out the pack of stickers, temporary tattoos, and crayons. The Factory Order is a Level 1 loot bag because it lacks love and longevity.

Level 2: The Dollar Store Special. These are tailor made jumbles mixed and matched from that back wall of the dollar store. Plastic hypnotic-eye glasses, rubber bouncy balls, and sparkly pencils are tossed with handfuls of Halloween candy. Now, The Dollar Store Special does get some bonus points for gender tailoring. Girls might score pink headbands or nail polish while boys collect a Whoopee cushion or wrestling action card featuring King Kong Bundy.

Level 3: Homemade Masterpieces. Top of the heap. Homemade masterpieces are beautifully colored paper bags with every kid’s name on them. They have little plastic baggies of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and maybe a scribbled-up bookmark made by the birthday boy’s sister. Masterpieces might have exciting projects like cut-out Styrofoam airplanes or do-it-yourself kid’s crafts — like popsicle sticks, glue, and a picture showing how to make a snowflake. Homemade masterpieces can also be tailored to each kid so nerds can score 3D glasses and blurry comic books while little princesses harness bounties of colorful hair elastics.

Loot bags add big cheers to the end of those wild birthday parties on Saturday afternoon fun. They make the party continue long after kids go home. But, here’s today’s question: Why stop there? Yes, there’s always room for more loot bags in our lives, even as we get older. I say next time you have friends over for a backyard barbecue do everyone a favor and stuff a crumpled paper bag of brownies in their hands as they’re heading out the door.

AWESOME!

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