“So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way….”

Who else is singing the rest of the theme song?? For all of the Friends fans out there, you know what I mean. For anyone who knows me well, you know that this is one of my all time favorite TV shows. I mean who doesn’t love this cast of characters and their adventures around Manhattan? They are an example of a group of people who relish life and enjoy it, together. And as I have referenced it before, I do believe that this hilarious sitcom has more to offer than just laughs. It has some real wisdom and insight on life. I recently watched one of my favorite past episodes in which Monica Geller says the following line to Rachel Green….

“You’re not alone. We don’t know where we’re going! You just gotta figure at some point it’s all gonna come together.”- Monica

As we approach the holiday season, I want to take some time with all of you to reflect. To look back on how far we have come and the direction that we want to go in, moving forward. I believe that this is always a good time to reflect, and it is now perhaps more important this year than ever. 2020 has brought so many challenges- for us individually and for us collectively. It has been a rare time in which no one person has been completely exempt from the trials and tribulations of this year. And as I listened to Monica tell Rachel this as she was beginning to figure out life on her own, I realized that we can all take something from this insight. None of us are alone- and in any situation, in any year or moment in time, everything has a way of coming together. And while it is important to recognize the challenges, and while each person’s experience has been unique, I believe it is important to realize a higher purpose for all of the world events that have gone on. I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether we see it at first or not. And while I have pondered this idea throughout these past eight months, I feel that I can now summarize my reflections into the following….

This time has taught us all, in my opinion, three main things:

  1. Not everything goes as planned, and that is okay.
  2. We cannot take blessings in our life for granted. People, moments, places, experiences, ourselves…
  3. Our family and friends are the most precious thing in this life.

And perhaps the best, most honorable thing we can all do, is to take the lessons we have learned during this time and use them to better ourselves, and those around us. It would be a shame to not carry forth the new wisdom we have gained from such a tremendously unique time. So even though “no one told you (us) life was going to be this way”, maybe that is because we were meant to figure it out for ourselves. Maybe this moment in time was meant to teach us some of the greatest lessons we could ever learn. 

As Mel Robbins Would Say, “Do It Anyways”….

Mel always knows. She is like the wise friend that has a way of making you believe in yourself. And really, I think that at the end of the day, a belief in self is one of the most important things we can have. And I don’t mean an unshakable confidence that voids all doubt and uncertainty- because that is not human nature. We, as humans are designed to have some doubt. But it is what we do with that doubt that makes all the difference.

Know this: we can always find the courage, belief, inspiration, and purpose within ourselves. Surrounding ourselves with positive people who push us to be the best that we can be is crucial. But tapping into that from within ourselves is a beautiful thing. And it is right there within all of us. It always has and it always will be. We just have to look 😉

Think about the things that you want in your life. And then take a look at yourself. And then ask yourself, “are my thoughts, actions, and intentions aligned with the most beautiful version of my life that I can imagine?” The truth is, we can create anything we want in our lives. But it is up to us. Each and every day, making the decisions that will push us further in the direction of our dreams. It is not what we do once a week or twice a year, but rather what we do each and every day that will lead us there. It is in the inner belief that even if we run into doubt, it is okay, because we already have all that we need. 

As we move into the last few months of this year, think about the areas in your life that you could use some self-belief. And I promise that something great will come out of it. And I will leave you with a few things….

  1. Trust in your intuition. That, above anything else will lead you in the right direction.
  2. Do not be afraid to be brave and believe in yourself. It is one of the best things we can do- for ourselves and others.
  3. Take others along for the ride. 
  4. This life is pretty amazing….even in times of uncertainty or fear- take note of the small moments in which we can lift ourselves, and those around us, up.

“….While Daring Greatly….”

Brené Brown is one of my favorites. She is incredibly wise and her insights and research on courage and vulnerability has transformed how people live and lead. She is the author of the bestselling book, Daring Greatly. The opener of the book is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, and it has served as the basis of much of Brené’s work. It is entitled “The Man In The Arena” quote, and it reads, 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”- Theodore Roosevelt

I have been thinking recently about this idea of courage. And I don’t mean courageous acts of  heroic proportion- I am talking about everyday courage. That courage that comes in showing up and being brave. The root of the word courage is “cor”, Latin for meaning “of the heart”. Quite simply, to live from the heart is the hallmark of living a courageous life. When we do this, not only do we open ourselves to authenticity, but to the hearts of those around us.

It requires bravery to exemplify courage in our lives. One must be brave in conversations of vulnerability. One must be brave when they are taking a risk or trying something out for the first time. Telling someone how much they mean to you- that is brave. Having the grit to try something and fail and be okay with that- that is brave. To live life to the fullest….that, my friend, is brave. 

To dare greatly, as Theodore Roosevelt would say, is far better than never daring at all. To live a life outside of mediocracy takes bravery. It is easy to get so caught up in flowing through the motions of our lives, that we forget that an extraordinary life is right there, waiting for us. You just have to be brave enough to go and get it. It will take some falling down before rising up, and it will take some uncertainty before self-assuredness. But, it starts with one simple step: having courage each and every day. Having courage to see the gratitude in each situation, and the opportunity that lies in each moment, to live an extraordinary life.

So, dare greatly today. And each day after that.

“To That I Say, ‘Just Keep Livin’….”

The great Matthew McConoughey said it best. Whatever it is that you are striving for- that is what you should chase. How well do we know ourselves, and more importantly, who we want to be in this world? I think that this is a skill that comes with time and awareness. I think we need to ask ourselves from time to time, “are my actions, values, words, and dreams in alignment with each other?”. I am a big believer in signs. Little doses of inspiration that come out of unexpected places. In a recent interview I listened to between Lewis Howes and Matthew McConouhey on the School of Greatness podcast, I got that little dose of inspiration. Matthew said something that really struck me and I think it is important for us all to hold onto. When Lewis asked him what his definition of success is, Matthew said “the ability to stay in the race and commit to the chase in pursuit of becoming better versions of ourselves”. I love this. Stay in the race. Commit to the chase.

I think that what is at the core of McConoughey’s advice, is the idea that we must continuously work towards our dreams. And I don’t mean just our big dreams or the ones that we have for ourselves in twenty years. I also mean the little, day-to-day intentions that we have set out for ourselves. Maybe it is to notice the beauty in each day, to be kinder to those around us or ourselves, or to live with a sense of peace and contentment. We must work for these things each and every day. Life moves fast and in order to stay in the race of it without falling behind, we must be committed to chasing whatever it is that we want. And this is not something to be scared of or intimidated by. In fact, it is one of life’s gifts. The ability to truly create the reality that we want. It is all up to us. It always has been and it always will be.

It seems that there will always be a hurdle to overcome or a bump in the road somewhere along the line, sometimes even full detours. But in order to stay on the road, we have to commit. And by committing to ourselves, we are automatically committing to the ones we love. And at the end of the day, we are all on this ride together. 

The moment we realize that our life is up to us, is the moment life becomes a whole lot richer, fuller, and more meaningful. Figure out what it is in this life that you want. Who do you want to be? How do you want to spend this one precious life? And to that, I say (or as Matthew would say), “Amen. Just keep livin’ ”. 

“It’s Simple….”

Autumn is in full swing here in State College, Pennsylvania. I took the above photo the other day. It was one of those picture-perfect fall days. It made me think of an excerpt from a poem called “When I Stand Among Trees” by Mary Oliver. It was a poem I came across in my Senior AP Literature class and it has stuck with me ever since. The excerpt reads, 

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves

 and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, ‘It’s simple’, they say, 

‘And you, too have come

into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.’”

-Mary Oliver

In a time in the world when the word “easy” seems far from the average experience, I do believe that we can find moments of simplicity. This is a practice that is often hard to do, and even harder when in the midst of stress, overwhelm, or busyness. But, in moments like these- in the moment in which that picture was taken, I was reminded of the simplicity of perhaps why we are here. It is to connect with others. To connect with life. And while these are not simple times that we are living in, the simple moments are still there. We just have to look deeper to find them. Maybe it is even more important now than ever. It is all around us, all the time. It has always been there. So, in moments when you catch yourself overwhelmed, try to look for simplicity. It not only washes some of the stress away, but it brings you in touch with your own purpose. It quiets the mind enough so that even for just a moment, we can be reminded to connect with life.

Connect with nature. Maybe it’s the mountains or the ocean or the trees. Whatever it is that you encounter, remember that life is still going on in it’s own unique way. Connect with people. Connect with yourself. There are so many simple, beautiful moments. And the further away we get from them, the more stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious we feel. And once we connect, we are reminded of the beauty that encompasses us. 

And so, go out and find the simple, beautiful things around you today. And remember, “….You too, have come into this life, to go easy…..”- Mary Oliver.

“You’ve Got To Choose To Be Blessed….”

What a simple, and true concept….the more you are grateful for what you do have, the more you realize what you have to be grateful for. The other day, I was listening to a podcast interview between two highly accomplished individuals, and a quote came up that hit me. It was one of those lightbulb moments in which something was articulated in such a way that it truly made me stop and think. The quote was, “you’ve got to choose to be blessed”. 

Wow. Yes. You’ve got to choose to be blessed! It is all in the lens in which we choose to see life. This proves that it is not in what happens but rather what we focus on in life that determines how much joy, gratitude, and fulfillment we ultimately experience. 

I want to talk about something that has been a powerful force in my life and I know it can be in yours too: the art of savoring. Savoring the moment. Savoring is one way of getting in touch with the present as it brings your awareness to the forefront. When we savor moments, senses, feelings, etc., they amplify in impact. They resonate, stick, and become a memory. Are you taking the time to savor? When you walk outside and see the autumn beauty, do you savor that? Or are you going through the motions? When you are sitting at a table laughing with your friends or family, do you savor that? I think of it like taking a mental snapshot of the moment and saving it to the “camera roll” in my mind and heart. 

Denzel Washington once said “say thank you in advance for what is already yours”. There is SO much that we already have that we could be saying “thank you” for. And at the end of the day, it is perhaps the people in our life and the moments we share with them that we should be savoring the most. As the seasons are changing and the comforts of fall and winter are upon us, find every way that you can savor the moments. The people. The cup of coffee. The ocean. Whatever it is, you name it. 

And I’ll leave you with this….

“When Fear Knocks, Let Faith Answer”: Reflections on Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As one of my favorite celebrity icons (and breast cancer survivor/thriver) Robin Roberts once said, “when fear knocks, let faith answer”. I find it especially fitting for this day of October 1st, the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The picture above is of my mother and I seven years ago, nearly to the week, at Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale New Haven. This was days after my brave mom underwent a bilateral mastectomy. I remember sitting there for that picture, thinking about how happy I was to just be there, with her. Cancer is one of those things that opens you up to the preciousness of life. I am sure that all of you reading either know of someone, or you are someone in which breast cancer has touched your life.

What stands out to me the most when I reflect on my mom’s journey, some seven years ago, is a lesson that I learned on the will of the human spirit. The human spirit is far more resilient than any of us ever imagine. Perhaps the scariest, and most challenging moments of our lives turn out to be the ones that bring the most hope and life to us and those around us. When fear knocks on our door, let faith answer. We all ultimately have far less control than we think we do. When we surrender to faith, in whatever form that means to us, we are able to lean in and embrace the circumstance. This is what I watched my mother do. And it is what I urge you to do, as well. 

And so, as this month means something different to each of us, and while it is impossible to articulate the immensity of this topic in a few sentences, I will say this: take the time to learn other people’s stories. It is through this that we learn and become inspired. It is through this that we realize the strength of the human spirit.

I feel blessed to have learned the story of Rebecca Timlin-Scalera. Reb fought her own battle with breast cancer and founded the “The Cancer Couch Foundation” (which has raised nearly 4 million dollars for metastatic breast cancer research). Reb once said, “I was not only slowed down enough by this disease to start noticing how amazing small, ordinary moments could be, but also to see the love and humor in almost every situation. It was always and had always been right there, all around me, all the time. You just have to tilt your head so to speak, the way you look at things, the tiniest bit and you can see it so clearly. Love, light, humor and gratitude everywhere. Well, cancer gave me my head tilt.” 

Cancer has a way of giving us a head tilt. One that can show us what matters most. Who matters most. And the fact that faith will always win over fear.

I believe that letting faith answer the door whenever fear knocks is a powerful tool to live by in many areas of life- not just cancer. It is a belief in something bigger, something we cannot understand now, but that will make sense later. Sometimes, we have the most control when we let it go. And so, on this first day of Breast Cancer Awareness month, take a moment to honor, celebrate, and cheer on those who are battling, and those whose legacies continue to live on.

This is my sister Kelsey and I getting ready to bike ride 65 miles in the “Closer To Free” ride for cancer research organized by Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“You Can Still Smell The Roses and Be On A Mission….”

Indie Arie said it best. You CAN still smell the roses and be on a mission towards something great, something amazing. We all have goals and dreams for ourselves and our life. But, as we are striving, succeeding, and charging forward towards our vision, we MUST remember to smell the roses. They are all around us, constantly there to offer a snippet of the beauty in this life. Indie’s song, “Beautiful Day” is one brilliant compilation of wisdom and inspiration. The following is an excerpt of her song:

“Early in the morning

It’s the dawn of a new day

New hopes new dreams new ways

I open up my eyes and

I open up my mind and

I wonder how life will surprise me today

Early in the morning

It’s the dawn of a new day

New hopes new dreams new ways

I open up my heart and

I’m gonna do my part and

Make this a positively beautiful day”

I especially love this concept of “I wonder how life will surprise me today”. What a spontaneous and wonderful way of looking at life. Waking up each day and thinking about how you might be surprised by what life is going to offer you. It is only when we become open to the possibility of wonder in our lives that we will notice it.

Early in the morning, It’s the dawn of a new day, new hopes, new dreams, new ways”- Indie Arie. Perfectly worded. Are you taking the time each morning before you start your day to get in touch with what it is that you want your day to look like? Are you stressed and hurried or are you present and intentional? I believe that we have the power to create any experience we want in our life-everything from our hopes and dreams to our day-to-day encounters. While we can’t control everything that happens, we always can control how we react to it. The choice is ours. And we can choose to have a beautiful day.

The Beautiful And True

As Bob Proctor said, “If you can see it in your mind….you can hold it in your hand”….

It’s true.

Author Glennon Doyle asks in her best-selling book Untamed, “what is the truest and most beautiful version of your life that you can imagine?” I believe that every once in a while, we must check in and remind ourselves of what that looks like. Afterall, we only get one shot, one opportunity to make our life all that it can be. So, I ask you this question:

“What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Reminding ourselves that life is indeed precious can be enough to inspire us to make it amazing. I want to propose a few ideas to you today that I hope can inspire you as you strive to lead your truest and most beautiful life.

~ Dream Big. Do not let the fear of failure or uncertainty cause you to diminish the aspirations you have for yourself. And when life gets hard, don’t back down. If it were easy, everyone would achieve anything they set their mind to. Enjoy the ride to the top of wherever it is you want to go. And pull others along with you- it surely makes the ride more fun.

~ Amidst your dreaming big, do not let the days pass you by. I’ll say that again. As you set your sights high, do not let excitement for the future take away from the beauty of the now. Living each day as if it is the only one you have while having dreams for your future is an art. A delicate balance so to speak. But it is very possible to do both, and necessary in order to maximize your one wild and precious life.

~ “Say thank you for what is already yours”- Denzel Washington. Having gratitude for what we have in our lives is very powerful. And when we are in tune with our gratitude towards our life, and the people in it, life becomes much more beautiful.

And so, if you are needing a little more inspiration, this is a video I often return back to.

Now, go and live it.

“….A Life That’s Full”: Lessons and Tributes To “Coach” (My Grandfather)

“Coach”, my grandfather is pictured kneeling down, pointing to the player.

As I sit down to write this, I am listening to My Way, written by the great Frank Sinatra. For anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to meet or know my grandfather  Bill Cunningham, and wants a window into how he lived his life, take a listen to this song…

Today, he would have turned 90 years old, and while I would much rather be celebrating with him over ice cream cake, I know he is probably having a slice up there for himself as we speak ;). And so, I feel that the best way I can honor him is to share some of his wisdom with all of you. 

As Frank Sinatra so eloquently stated in his song, 

My friend, I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I’ve travelled each and every highway

And more, much more than this

I did it my way

Bill was a man that often stated his case. But what made him different, is that he always spoke it with certainty. Never with hesitation or doubt, always with confidence and an unwavering belief in himself and what he knew to be true. An admirable trait that takes courage to possess. But what I think gave him the courage is that he was a man who knew himself well. Being a father of six, grandfather of 20 grandchildren, and life-long football coach to hundreds of young men, my grandfather was always around the presence of others. As you can see, many people looked up to him. He held a powerful role as leader, a patriarch. But what is most fascinating to me, is that despite this constant role of teaching and mentorship, he truly was a master at the art of self-reliance. He knew that he could always count on himself. And in turn, he was able to be the figure that he was to so many. He never wavered from his truth and never let the influence of others steer him off coarse. My point here is that, if you want to make a difference in the lives of others, get to know yourself well.

Bill was also a man that lived a full life. My grandparents met in high school and truly shared a story of love and undying commitment to each other that is unlike any other. In their many decades of sharing a life together, they created a beautiful family, became a legacy in a small town on the East Coast through the sport of football, and most of all, created a home where their grandchildren could grow up together. The passion of his life was football, but he always made sure to leave his heart in the family room, most often spotted surrounded by at least a handful of grandchildren. Bill knew what he had and he was grateful for it. Despite being a man of often few words, it was obvious in the way he truly took pride in his family, how much he loved them. Take the time to see what you have to be grateful for and honor that. It will only attract more good into your life.

And last, but certainly not least, Bill did things his way. He lived on his own terms, and he never stepped off the path that he knew he wanted to go in. He took others along for the ride, but never got off of his own. He was so clear on his ambitions and purpose that he shot straight for the top no matter how hard it looked to get there. Don’t steer off your own course. There is something in all of us, an intuition that always points us in the right direction. My grandfather just chose to always listen to it.

And so, I will end with this. Happy Birthday to you, Grandpa. Score a touchdown for us all today. I think the world could use it.

My grandpa, dancing with my mom. They have the same smile 🙂