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My Nederland Cap

It makes me laugh when wifey takes the accompanying picture.

I have picked my NEDERLAND hat to write about first.  If you are wondering what I am referring too, go and read “Hats and T-shirts.” I should also start by saying that this is the 2nd Nederland hat that I have purchased, I of course lost the first one.  Five years ago, a group of my college buddies and I started to take a long weekend guys trip to Colorado to see Dead and Company and spend time outdoors. These are two of the things that we enjoyed together as college kids and we still enjoy jammin’ together for a few select days every Summer.  The Summer of 2018 guys trip was a bit different for me. Wifey and I had arrived at a place in our marriage where we needed to do a hard reset separation. From Memorial Day to Labor Day of 2018, wifey moved to a short term rental and I stayed in our home with the dogs. This was without a doubt the toughest thing I have worked through in my life.  It was during this span of time that I really took “my process” and brought it inti high def. I am not going to get into the whole process/Summer 2018 right now, there is a lot there and I want to focus on the hat and the memories associated with this lid.

When I make my flight reservations for this trip, I usually head out on a Wednesday and come back late on Sunday or super early on Monday morning.  I like to stretch it out as long as possible. Of course wifey encourages me to stay as long as I like… she knows how good it is for this bipolar bear to be in nature as much as possible.  I appreciate that I don’t have a nagging wife, it makes a world of difference. This year however, I decided to make it an even longer expedition. I went out a full week in advance and was able to get in some fucking amazing “me time.”  Like a tiger in a cage that circles and circles trying to calm their mind, I did nothing but walk for the first two days. In those first two days, I walked, alone, over 20 miles. With no destination in mind just walking and sweating and thinking and running the ruminations out of my head.  You really can walk out the crazy. The first couple days I was in town were very sunny. I normally don’t wear a hat on sunny days as I like to soak up as much vitamin D as possible, it really is good for you. After a couple days though, my fair Nordic complexion asks for a break. I am not a big fan of the chemicals that they put in sunscreen, so I wear a hat.  On day two, I had walked an out and back route to the end of the reservoir on the edge of town. This was a total of about 12 miles round trip. When I returned to town, I felt as though I had settled in and could take in the beauty surrounding me rather than ruminate about all the other issues that are my life. I was then able to let go and be in the moment. My first stop as I meandered into town was the local cutesy, artsy, fartsy, place.  I had been in the prior Summer and I knew they were likely to have the hat I wanted.  

Hats and Tee shirts are tribal.  They broadcast to the world who we are and what assumptions we want people to make when making their first impression.  When I see a guy wearing a Masters visor, I know that he is really proud of having been one of the few that have gotten to either see the tournament in person or even be blessed enough to have played the course itself.  He is broadcasting to the world, “I am a golfer, probably a rich one, that likes to play and see nice courses.” Funny thing is, golf visors are where my affinity for ball caps started.

When I was a kid, the PGA tour played a pretty major tournament at a golf club my grandfather belonged to in Oak Brook Illinois.  Now being the grandson of one of the members, allowed me access to the clubhouse and therefore the players that none of my contemporaries had.  Every year during tournament week, I would get a new Western Open golf visor and a sharpie marker. Mom would drop me off at the front door of the clubhouse and I would spend the next couple hours wandering around the clubhouse and locker room asking the golfers for their autographs, this was one of the biggest weeks of my summer every year.  By the end of the week, my visor was completely full of the autographs of some of the best golfers ever to have played. Coming from a golfing family and being a good golfer myself, this was a really fun way to discover who I am and what I enjoy doing and with whom. I will tell you that while I no longer collect visors and professional golfer autographs, I do still let the cap on my head broadcast to the world how I see myself.  

Fast forward 35 years and there I am still buying a new ball cap in the summer time wanting to let the world know who I am.  I have replaced visors and 18 holes with rounded rim ball caps and 14 bagger mountain tops. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, I have just discovered my own way to spend 4-5 hours enjoying God’s good bounty.  My hats have always been a part of that story.

When I choose to put on my Nederland hat then, not only am I reminded of all the parts of my life I just shared, but also all the little moments that have become a part of my story since buying the hat.  I lose shit a lot. I have accepted this about myself and is one of the reasons I don’t pay a lot for high end goods…. I am the king of gas station sunglasses. When I lose a hat, I get sad. I think of the friends that were with me when I was in Colorado that summer and the time I was able to spend walking alone working on myself and my marriage.  Losing the Nederland hat would get me thinking about the long weekend I spent in “The Ned” with my middle daughter for a ski trip. We both had a great time and it is one of our favorite memories together. I really try not to lose my hats, but it does happen. There is also a lesson in losing a hat as well. Living with emotional and material detachment is important for me.  While it will make me sad and takes me on a great trip down memory lane, losing a hat does not erase the memory. When a friend decides they don’t want to be friends any longer, that does not discount all the good times that the two of us shared in the past. The hat is just a hat and people will always let me down. Our experiences are the only thing that cannot be taken from us.  My ball caps have taught me to accept this fact, and it’s had a huge improvement on my life. All we have is the moment, tomorrow is only a promise, not a guarantee.

You can learn a lot about a man from his hat stories.

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Bedtime Thoughts

I thought I’d share a couple things as an inventory of the day. Many times I wake up with an idea about how my day is going to go. Most of the time it goes nothing like I had planned out. That’s why those first few hours of every day are so important to me. It’s where I build the strength to deal with the day’s adversities. I had a sort of shitty thing happen to me earlier in the day that could’ve taken things way off track. I’m happy to report it was handled with flying colors by everyone involved. I’m so grateful when I can look back and be proud that I handled the situation better than I would have thought otherwise. This takes a day in day out practice of radical acceptance. I’ve learned when I’m triggered or feel some emotional extreme, I need to pause and remember that there are about 1,000 different things at work in any given situation that I am totally unaware of and have totally no control over. I’m not perfect at this but when I do it, things go really really well. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning again at 4:20 and make pancakes for the Lincoln Park community shelter. This is my day in day out commitment to myself my family my community and my God. DIDO!!

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Day In Day Out

I am a hustler, plain and simple. I work a couple different hustles to stay busy and earn cash for my family. My career out of college began on the The Chicago Board of Trade trading floor. This was something I wanted to do for a long time and was excited to be starting off at the CBOT. I was a top performing clerk in the bond options pit and a small market maker (local) in the Dow Index Futures pit. When it became clear that trading was going to transition to screens, I decided to take my passion for the markets and trading to PaineWebber as a financial adviser. After a few years at what became UBS, I joined an independent firm, and managed assets for a small group of high net worth families until the crisis of 2008. I then decided to open a restaurant in 2011. It was a miserable failure, yet I would never take back this experience in a million years. We lost over $500,000 and their was a good amount of fraud on the part of the franchisor. We were able to recoup some of our losses but this was a very tough time, and it has taken me a long time to “recover” from that trauma… and that is exactly what it was. In addition to having my real estate license, for the last eight years I have run a residential snow removal business. Not only is this fun, but it is a good amount of cash in my pocket… every little bit counts… I never want to forget the real value of a dollar! And every time it snows, it pays the rent. I also do Spring and Fall leaf clean ups for my snow clients, my clients really do love having made life easier for them. It makes me proud to fill this role for a family. With that feeling of pride in mind, my absolute favorite hustle of the year are the Christmas Tree lots I own and operate. The lots are open from Thanksgiving until I sell out of trees, usually a few days before Christmas. This is my favorite time of year for several reasons. For many years I have been trying to come up with a hustle that requires little to no email communication. Email is not good for me and makes me very anxious. The good news is Christmas trees don’t send emails and 99% of my customers don’t send emails either. On top of that, I get to see families during what could possibly be the best hour of their year, picking out their family Christmas tree. What a blessing!!! While I enjoy the work 110%, it is a long month+ of working 15-18 hour days, seven days a week. I come home every night exhausted but I also get in really great shape, and put on a couple pounds of muscle weight from tossing around several hundred 20 to 100 lb. trees. I used to sell Christmas trees in high school for a farmer from Michigan, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. I will fill you in more on that journey later. Oh, and I can’t forget that I also have a private car service where I drive residents of a high end senior living facility to the airport, concerts and even overnight trips for family reunions that would otherwise require a flight that they would rather not take. Driving these folks are some of my best memories. Many of my private car clients are my grandparents’ age if they were still alive. I was extremely close with my grandparents, and this really warms my heart and puts me in a good mood.
As all this is happening, my wife Kimley also had her own recruiting company…. there will definitely be more on that later. For over 20 years she has built an amazing reputation as one of the best executive recruiters in the country today. She mainly works with creative companies, middle market PE firms and their portfolio companies, as well as firms in her home state of Montana. Kimley would very much like to have a base of clients out West for when we are able to make our move back to MT. Since starting her own business over 7 years ago, my role has been to support her in any way she needs and that I am able to execute. This has been anything from simple logistical support like getting snacks for the office to high level introductions to potential new clients. I also came up with my own creative ideas for how to grow and manage the business. Make no mistake, this was Kimley’s ship to steer. A number of years ago, she was working on a search for a water irrigation company, it occurred to me that this company was actually a cannabis company. The company did not realize this and Kimley had not thought of it in that way but she quickly recognized the connection between this company and how it fit within the cannabis ecosystem. I said “we need to start a cannabis search practice” within our existing firm. The leadership team agreed and our equity partner in this effort (her ex-husband!) was on board as well. To say that were excited would be an understatement. Over the next several months I started traveling to cannabis conferences and networking events, developing a network of cannabis executives and want-to-be candidates. Building this business one client at a time has taken several years but we have learned an enormous amount about this nascent industry along the way. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed and hemp became legal at the Federal level, a whole new sector of the cannabis industry opened up… THE CBD MARKET!!! The medical and recreational cannabis business have a costly barrier to entry, and there are huge amounts of compliance and regulatory red tape. The CBD market on the other hand has literally no barriers to entry. To say they are low would be inaccurate as there simply are none. Anyone can buy a couple dozen bottles of what they think is CBD and sell it online, with no oversight or compliance whatsoever. This situation has opened the flood gates for bad operators to come into the market and continue to give this miracle plant a bad name which in no way is deserved. This being the case, Kimley and I started thinking there could be real value to bringing a high quality CBD product line to the market. This line would be made by a company that uses real world business practices, and offers their patients world class educational resources. We started off with the idea to do educational seminars for senior living facilities, which will still be one of our ares of eventual focus. Let’s remember that my wife and I are both entrepreneurs, and are usually on the same page regarding the risks we take. One of the greatest risks on which we agree is taking on investors/partners. I get this from my grandfather and Kimley gets it from her desire to avoid being told what to do, and wanting to keep a larger share of the pie for herself. I admire her for this perspective and she admires me for mine. So when I told her my plan for bootstrapping and self funding our CBD company, she was on-board. The cash we would need to launch this effort was going to come through selling original political and cannabis t-shirt ideas I have tied with my strong passion for Bernie Sanders and medical marijuana. Some of you know this already. The plan was for me to travel to the first batch of Democratic primary states, peddle my shirts, and promote my blog and e-commerce site. I went to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, and my own home state of Illinois where Bernie held a “YUUUUGE” rally in Grant Park in Chicago. Traveling around the eastern half of the country selling t-shirts and campaigning for my candidate was not only one of the most educational trips of my life, but also the most fun. I will share more of those stories at a later time. I am a creative guy and have a lot of ideas, which can be very distracting at times. If I don’t have focus and constant reminders for what I am supposed to be doing at any given moment, I can get pulled in a lot of different directions. The result is starting other projects and getting nothing done. This has been the case my whole life but thanks to sobriety and therapy over the past several years, I have learned tools to help manage this and get shit done. And that is the whole point of this post. LIFE IS ABOUT GETTING SHIT DONE!!! DAY IN AND DAY OUT!!

One of my favorite authors is David Foster Wallace. Sadly, David committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46, though not before he produced some of the best essays and fiction writing of the 20th century. As a result of being such a prolific writer, David was invited to give many college commencement address speeches. My absolute favorite clip of internet content is one of those speeches. In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave what I consider to be one of the most life affirming speeches ever given at an occasion such as a graduation. I have listened to his This Is Water address no fewer than 100 times. Davids’ words never get old and are the best way for me to remember that I have no idea what someone else is dealing with and that I need to have compassion in every situation. DFW dovetails these thoughts into some wisdom never talked about with young people… “And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone DAY IN and DAY OUT. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “DAY IN DAY OUT” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.”

So far I have not been able to come up with a better description for adult life than “Day In Day Out“. When I heard this for the first time, it made sense. When one decides to finally make the leap into adulthood, there must be an acceptance that the rest of ones life will be filled with routine that never ends… trudging the road to happy destiny “Day In Day Out“. Children, jobs, aging parents, divorced friends, cancer, all become parts of your life…”Day In and Day Out“. Over fifteen years ago, I made the decision to get sober. One of the sayings we alcoholics rely on for comfort is “One Day At A Time”. As I see it, “Day In Day Out” is a much more intense and focused version of “One Day At A Time”. “One Day At A Time” is a reminder to breath and slow down… an invitation to wear life as a loose shirt. “Day In Day Out” is a reminder to get my ass out of bed, get going, and take care of the things I need to do. It reminds me this is the long road and will take three times longer than I think. “Day In Day Out” I will be required to do things that I absolutely do not want to do. It is also my daily reminder that life is suffering everyday, and I need to accept this fact as much as the happy and joyful moments of my life.  

As I have thought about this “Day In Day Out” mantra for the past several years, I have started to include it on some of my electronic correspondence signature as DIDO. I have written it down in several places around the house where I am likely to see it. I write it on bookmarks, post-it notes, the bathroom mirror in expo markers, and I never stop reminding my kids that life is just that, “Day In Day Out”DIDO. So, if I were to say what life is about…DIDO. For anyone who finds it difficult to understand the uncomfortable fact that there are lies we receive about life from our parents to protect our hearts, advertising to manipulate us, and society to control us, this will catch up with you at some point. If you’re lucky, it will be sooner versus later. It is YOU that I am writing for and it is YOU for whom I will be vulnerable and honest by sharing my experience. DIDO is going to be a “lifestyle brand” (I fucking hate that term and will be creating my own descriptor) dedicated to improving the best parts of ourselves, while at the same time learning to deal with the darkness we all have in order to live the most impactful life possible. DIDO