The Struggle Is Real

10 07 2015

In middle school and high schooled I played football. I wrestled and participated in track and field as well to stay in shape, but my main sport was football. As is typical of American football players, I made fun of soccer players, I think the term I used was, “grass ferries.”

Not trying to justify my stance, but from my perspective soccer players were a lesser form of football players. Soccer players faked injuries where as football players played through them. Sure football players had pads, but that’s because we tried to lay hits on the other team so hard that their mommas would make them quit. Sure soccer players ran, but not while taking hits and delivering hits. Like I said, I viewed them as lesser athletes. That was until I played soccer.

The college I went to was a small college in New England, if you blinked as you were driving by the school you’d miss it. As you can imagine, a school that small didn’t have a football team, they didn’t even have a flag football team, all they had was a club soccer team. The choice wasn’t an easy one. I was an athlete, I needed to play something, but soccer? I finally set aside my prejudice and decided to play. I can honestly say, soccer was one of the most difficult sports I’ve ever played. It’s a different kind of difficult. I have never run so much in my entire life! By the end of the season, I had a whole new respect for soccer players.

In this season of life, I have had a similar revelation. I’m in sales. Sales guys don’t have the best of reputations. I mean really, how do you view sales guys? A necessary evil? Even less so now with the advent of the internet. To make matters more difficult, I like to consider myself an honest sales guy. I’ve done my research, I know the better products from the lesser products, but I also know when the lesser products are good enough for the situation. I know when you really should go with the better products, but no matter what I suggests, I feel like I’m put on the other side of the table.

Sales people don’t just have to know their products, their competition’s products, how to provide exceptional customer service, but they also have to learn to become trust worth and likeable in a short period of time. My income is dependent on all of these factors, what is more, my job is dependent on all of these factors. Do you know what happens to a sales guy when he doesn’t sell? He becomes an unemployed sales guy.

Recently I’ve been struggling to sell. The traffic in my store is down, so I have to do more with less. People come in and for a majority of them, they feel like all I’m trying to do is to get them to buy the most expensive product I have. So I go back to football – after the Green Bay Packers lost a game, Vince Lombardi went into the locker room, held up the pig skin and said, “men, this is a football.”

His message was simple, lets get back to basics. So that’s my goal, go back to the basics of what made me successful in the first place. My ability to connect with people, make a friend, and if the timing is right, make a sale. I mean I’m struggling to make sales now, the only difference this back to basic approach does is now, even if I don’t make a sale, at least I’ve made a friend.

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The Sum of All of your Actions (or inaction) – Take Responsibility

9 07 2015
Where you are is the sum of your decisions and actions

Where you are is the sum of your decisions and actions

If you’re reading this, I want you to stop. Just stop. Put down your phone, put down your drink, empty your hands, in fact, hold your own hand, now focus your eyes on the screen. Are you ready, because I need you to focus on this statement: YOU ARE WHERE YOU ARE, BECAUSE OF THE DECISIONS YOU HAVE MADE AND THE ACTIONS YOU HAVE TAKEN, OR NOT TAKEN!

Let me say that one more time, this time in bold.

YOU ARE WHERE YOU ARE, BECAUSE OF THE DECISIONS YOU HAVE MADE AND THE ACTIONS YOU HAVE TAKEN, OR NOT TAKEN!

Let that sink in for a second.

You are the creator of your own circumstances.

The place you live.

The job you have.

Who you are with.

The amount of money you have in the bank.

Your level of joy at the moment.

All of these and more are the sum of your decisions and actions.

If you’re still reading – the thought you just had was about an external factor. What ever you greatest pain-point is at the moment, you likely blamed it on something or someone else. But here is the thing: your actions and decisions are like dominoes. They all effect each other. Decisions are not made, and actions are not taken in a vacuum. No this isn’t a Dr. Phil moment. This is just me having reflected and come to a conclusion about my own life that translates to your own.

Let me give you a personal example. I had moved over to South Korea to teach at an international school. I had a two year contract, fulfilled the contract, and had the opportunity to sign a new contract and continue teaching. It was fun, I enjoyed it, I loved the students, and I was getting better at it. However, I made the decision to pursue another venture. Marla and I came back to the states for a four month vacation. Maddy was just a few months old, and we were going to make the tour and see everyone and show off our new baby. It was November, and we had been back in the states for about two months when we got the call: “Mason, our finances have bottomed out, and we can’t afford to bring you on like we thought we could.”

I went from being on vacation to being jobless and having no place to live. All of our stuff was in Korea, and we were stuck floating around family members houses in Virginia. Guess who was to blame. If you’re like I was, it was the someone else, but it certainly wasn’t me. Truth is, I was in that situation because of the decisions I had made. I made the decision to quit teaching. I made the decision to sign on to do something else with out making sure financially they could do it. I had made the decision to go on a four month vacation tour with a new born and my wife. The sooner I owned that and started focusing on solutions rather than the situation and the crappiness of it, the sooner I was able to move forward. I found a job, I found a place to rent, and we figured out how to get all of our stuff back from Korea.

My life isn’t perfect. I’m not where I want to be financially. I’m not doing what I love. I’m still struggling to figure out who I am, what I want to “be,” and what I want my life to look like. But here is what I know, it’s all because of the decisions I’ve made and the actions I’ve taken, or even the actions I haven’t taken.

Yes, there are external factors that have an influence what happens in our lives. No, we can’t control what other people do to us. And yes life hits us sideways sometimes. But that happens to everyone – everyday people overcome adversity – every day people succumb to pressures of life – what we have or don’t have is all on us. If we’re not happy with it, its our fault! Yes, you thought that job was “secure” – Yes, you thought they were the “one” – No, you couldn’t have imagined it would have ended up like “this” – but at the end of the day it was still your decision to [insert decision or action here].

Take ownership of it. Take the responsibility for it. Because when you take ownership and responsibility for it – you take the first step towards moving forward and getting better.





How I became a Green Lantern Fan

7 07 2015
This was my introduction to the Green Lantern

This was my introduction to the Green Lantern

Kids love super heroes, at least as a kid I did. What’s fun is now my three year old is into super heroes too, though her favorite is Super Man (to each their own). My first introduction to heroes with powers was when I was four. The school I attended had a Pre-K program and it was right across the street from where my mom worked, so it made it convenient for my parents. Quick note about convenience – it always costs you more, and really isn’t worth the cost most of the time. Anyway, the class had toys for recess when it rained and we couldn’t go outside, among those toys were some Super Power action figures.

As you can imagine Super Man was always the first taken because not only is he the most powerful, but in the hands of a four year old with unlimited imagination, he was even more powerful. Next was Batman, who was always attributed with more power than he really had, but hey it’s make believe. The one hero that wasn’t well known to a bunch of snot nosed little kids was Green Lantern – not being one of the “popular kids” in per-kindergarden if there is even such a thing – he was the action figure I often got to play with.

After a while, like the kid who just gets used to sitting in the back seat, middle, with his feet on the hump, you just start assuming you spot and grabbing the action figure that’s always there, whether you were first or not. Hal and I became buddies. Every now and then when I went to a used book shop they would have old comics on a rack in a small section – I would go and search for Hal Jordan, thumbing through the pages, looking at the sketches, not paying attention much to the story. He became my favorite, I didn’t know jack about him, all I knew is he was the action figure I would get to play with.

Over the years I actually started reading the comics, getting into his back story, and realizing that his greatest strength wasn’t his ring, it was his will-power. His ability to fight through no matter the odds. But he didn’t have it all the time. He always had the ring, but he didn’t always have the will to fight. He struggled. He failed. He was someone I could relate to.

People always tell kids they have such potential. That they are going to do great things. That’s all well and good, but sometimes I wish people would just shut up about potential, and actually tell kids what they see. Telling a kid he has potential is like giving him a participatory ribbon for running the race – its there, its pretty, but it doesn’t really mean much. Telling a kid he is great at something, and giving specifics why, that’s the blue-ribbon.

Anyway, like a kid who picks a team when he’s young because he likes the colors and just sticks with it as he gets older, that’s what I’ve done with the Green Lantern. And then my team won the Super Bowl – Geoff Johns took over DC comics and did a series with the Green Lantern called “The Blackest Night” It has to be one of the best series I’ve ever read. Of course my team has had some pretty bad seasons as well, any one see Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern movie? Yeah… you win some, you lose some.

I stay a Green Lantern fan not because I have child hood issues, but because Hal and I, we can relate. We’re told we have all this potential, but at the end of the day it comes down to our will to actually see that potential realized, and some days we just don’t. – This isn’t a boo-hoo story, this isn’t feel bad for me because I don’t think I’m great, that’s not it at all – This is I fell into fandom only to realize it was a perfect match. Knowing what I know now, I’d go back and pick the Green Lantern, and when some snot nose kid tells me that Green Lantern couldn’t ever beat Super Man, I’d tell him Green Lantern’s ring can mirror kryptonite which renders Super Man pretty much useless, then I’d drop the mic and walk off with Hal to have some milk and cookies.