Here are the 10 things I do every Monday morning to ensure that I have the most successful, productive work week possible. Some Mondays, I do not get through all of these steps, but this has proven to be a very effective day-starting process for me:
I recently read an interesting article by self-help hipster Mark Manson that was titled, “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.”
One of those strange questions stuck with me long after I finished the article. It was Question #2: “What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?”
The point of that question seems to be that, if what you are doing today does not capture the passion, purpose and idealism that you once had as a child, then perhaps you do not lead the fulfilling life you deserve. It got me to thinking about my own childhood self, and what he would think about my current activities. What would it be like if I were able to time-travel back to the year 1979 to visit with eight-year-old Stephen Roth? What kind of wisdom would I share with him, and what wisdom would he share with me?
Here’s how I think our conversation would go:
43-year-old Stephen: So how are things going?
8-year-old Stephen: Pretty good. Mom took me to the mall last night and we ate pizza and she bought me a Star Wars action figure. I got a Jawa.
43-year-old Stephen: That sounds like fun. How is school?
8-year-old Stephen: How do you think it is? I hate it. I finally learned how to read, so that’s good. But math and cursive are killing me. It gets better, though, right?
43-year-old Stephen: What? School?
8-year-old Stephen: Yeah. It gets easier, doesn’t it?
43-year-old Stephen: Eventually. Let’s just say that you are probably going to have some setbacks in your sophomore year of high school. I’ll just leave it at that.
8-year-old Stephen: (Scowling) That’s really not what I wanted to hear. So how about you? What are you up to?
43-year-old Stephen: Let’s see. Well, for starters, I have a wonderful wife and a four-year-old son. We have an English Shepherd named Keiko.
8-year-old Stephen: Is your wife pretty?
43-year-old Stephen: Of course she’s pretty. She’s a beautiful woman.
8-year-old Stephen: What color is her hair?
43-year-old Stephen: It’s dark brown. She’s a brunette.
8-year-old Stephen: I like blondes. Farrah Fawcett is a blonde. She’s very sexy.
43-year-old Stephen: Well, I think you’ll find that a woman doesn’t have to be blonde to be sexy. You’ve probably been watching too much TV.
8-year-old Stephen:Hey, as long as your wife is pretty, that’s okay with me. So what do you do? Do you have a job?
43-year-old Stephen: I do have a job. I’m a copywriter and content manager for a company that provides financial services for the trucking and transportation industry.
8-year-old Stephen: Hmmm. What’s a…what did you call it? A contest manager?
43-year-old Stephen: A content manager. It means that I create and manage all the writing and information that appears on our sales materials, websites, that sort of thing.
8-year-old Stephen: What are websites?
43-year-old Stephen: Um, there’s this thing called the Internet…You know what? Never mind all that. I’m basically a writer. I also wrote a novel that just got published.
8-year-old Stephen: That’s cool, I guess. But I was kind of hoping you would be doing something different at your age.
43-year-old Stephen: Like what?
8-year-old Stephen: Well, I hoped that maybe you would be kind of an outlaw. I mean, not a bad guy, really. More of a Robin Hood kind of person.
43-year-old Stephen: I see. You mean the kind of person who steals from the rich and gives to the poor?
8-year-old Stephen: Sorta. You ever seen a show called The Dukes of Hazzard? My friend Curt and me watch it every Friday night. Then, the next day, we get on our bikes and jump over a gravel pile and pretend like we’re driving the General Lee. The General Lee is a really cool car. It’s a 1970 Dodge Charger. Curt’s a little better at jumping his bike than me. He takes more risks.
43-year-old Stephen: (Smiling) Yes, I remember that.
8-year-old Stephen: So I guess I was kind of hoping you would turn out to be a Duke boy. Or at the very least, a sheriff’s deputy.
43-year-old Stephen: I see.
8-year-old Stephen: Basically, someone who drives a cool car really fast.
43-year-old Stephen: Got it.
8-year-old Stephen: You could also be a truck driver. You ever seen Smokey and the Bandit?
43-year-old Stephen: Of course I have. I’ve got it on DVD.
8-year-old Stephen: What’s DVD?
43-year-old Stephen: Oh, it’s…nothing. Look, I’m sorry you’re disappointed. I guess you’ll find out when you get older that your priorities change, that you have different interests and discover new talents. Sometimes we follow a very different path than the one we imagined.
8-year-old Stephen: (Staring off into the distance) Sure. Okay. So tell me, what’s high school like?
43-year-old Stephen: High school is a very interesting time. What do you think it’s like?
8-year-old Stephen: Well, in high school, I think it’s very important to be cool. There’s a lot of cool music and a lot of cool dancing. There’s also a lot of kissing. Like in Grease. You have to wear a cool leather jacket and slick your hair back like John Travolta. Also, the girls aren’t cool unless they wear tight leather pants. And they need to be blonde.
43-year-old Stephen: Okay. Well, high school is a lot more complex than that.
8-year-old Stephen: Really?
43-year-old Stephen: (Thinking for a moment) Well, maybe not that much more complex.
8-year-old Stephen: (Yawning) Are we done talking? Diff’rent Strokes is on in 10 minutes and I’ve gotta finish this stupid grammar worksheet.
43-year-old Stephen: I think we’re done here. Good luck with the next 35 years.
8-year-old Stephen: (Starting to cry) Thanks. It sounds like I’m going to need it.
In July of 2011, the Kansas City Royals were stumbling their way through yet another losing baseball season, their 26th in a row without a trip to the playoffs.
In July of 2011, our volunteer board for SIDS Resources Inc. gathered in Columbia, Missouri, for our annual face-to-face meeting. In case you haven’t heard of it, SIDS Resources is an organization dedicated to educating the public about ways to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and also supporting families that have lost a loved one to SIDS. It is a small nonprofit that serves Missouri, as well as parts of Kansas and Illinois. I started serving on the SIDS Resources board in 2007, and I became its chair in 2010 through 2011.
Because our board was split between people who lived in Kansas City and St. Louis, most of our interactions were conducted through monthly conference calls. Each summer, most of the board members would drive to the middle of the state and meet for a few hours in a hospital conference room in Columbia. It was a chance to brainstorm new ideas, get to know each other, and enjoy pizza from Shakespeare’s, Columbia’s best-known restaurant. During our brainstorm in 2011, one of our members had a very good idea. Our Kansas City office was lacking in an annual marque fundraising event. St. Louis already had a couple of big fundraisers, including one that involved the beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Why not do a summer event around baseball in Kansas City, the board member suggested. Perhaps it could be one of those events where kids and their families could run the bases, or do batting practice on a real baseball diamond?
That idea became “Strike Out SIDS” which debuted in 2012 at Community America Ballpark, home to the independent league Kansas City T-Bones. The event was fun – kids ran the bases, adults hit batting practice, we had hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and a couple of the usual bouncy houses – but the crowd was fairly modest. Only about 200 or so people attended. I left the SIDS Resources board after 2012, but the nonprofit moved forward with its plans to turn “Strike Out SIDS” into a big event. Last year produced a breakthrough as the big-league Kansas City Royals agreed to host “Strike Out SIDS at the K.” The “K,” in case you don’t know, is shorthand for Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play. This was a fantastic opportunity for SIDS Resources, and last year’s event turned out to be a big hit.
This year, it will be even bigger. The once-maligned Royals are in the hunt for the American League Central crown. Friday’s “Strike Out SIDS at the K” will be a crucial game against the division-leading Detroit Tigers. It will be a sellout, and perhaps the most important baseball game in Kansas City since the 1985 World Series.
A big baseball game in September represents the kind of exposure and awareness that SIDS Resources has always lacked in Kansas City. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third-leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, claiming 2,226 lives nationwide as recently as 2009. While there is no known “cure” for SIDS, organizations like SIDS Resources do important work teaching parents and day care providers how simple steps like putting an infant to sleep on his back on a firm mattress can sharply reduce the risks of SIDS. Despite all the access we have to information, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and mythology about what SIDS is, and how it can occur.
This afternoon, I picked up some “Strike Out SIDS” T-shirts for my wife, myself and our son. We’re looking forward to joining 45,000 other fans at the K tomorrow night and watching the Royals win.
We already know it will be a big victory for our friends at SIDS Resources.
The local newspaper has been making a big deal about it for months. Apparently, some people camped out several days in advance to be among the first to walk through the new building’s glass doors.
Each morning on my way to work, I drive pass the IKEA store, which looms over the Interstate like a blue-and-yellow fortress. The towering IKEA store sign alone is imposing. It has the exact same color scheme as the CarMax dealership at the next exit.
I have heard a lot about the IKEA brand over the years. Earlier this week, we received the company’s free “Book-Book” in the mail. Skimming through it, I thought the furniture looked streamlined, cold and impersonal. I understand IKEA is the leading furniture provider of single, male apartment-dwellers in most major cities. Now I know why.
I have never been inside an IKEA store. I am sure I will visit the new one in Kansas City sometime. I could use some help organizing some shelving in our laundry room. Right now, the room suffers from an inefficient use of space.
Kansas City is usually the last metro area to get a newish retail chain store. That was the case with Crate & Barrel, Trader Joe’s, and countless other trendy merchants. It seems we are something of an afterthought here in America’s Outback.
Nevertheless, it is a big deal in Kansas City when something new opens, not unlike a Taco Bell finally arriving in a farm town. There will be big crowds at the IKEA store for several weekends to come. I think I will sneak over there during the week, when I can examine the flat, efficient furnishings with minimal disruption and leave, more than likely, without having made a purchase.
It was cool and overcast on the Friday they made him turn in his ID badge
and laptop computer, and gave him a cardboard box to collect his things.
The dashboard clock read 2:05 as he pulled out of the parking garage.
Twenty minutes later, he walked into the daycare classroom to surprise his son.
“We can go anywhere you want,” he said as he strapped the 3-year-old into the car seat. “Where to?”
“T-Rex Cafe,” the son murmured, groggy from his nap.
A life-sized, snarling dinosaur greeted them as they walked into the empty restaurant.
They dug for rare bones, wore paper T-Rex hats,
and wandered around the dining areas to marvel at the animatronic beasts.
The cheeseburger was overcooked, but the Dino-Nuggets weren’t too bad.
“I want this,” the son said, holding up a spiky plastic toy. “It’s a Stegosaurus.”
“What do we say?”
“Please?” the son asked.
The long drive from T-Rex brought wind and rain.
It was dark by the time they got home.
For months afterward, the son recalled that afternoon as the best one of his life.
Around 20 years ago, I was playing tennis with a friend at a park near my home in Mexico, Missouri. At some point during our match, I noticed a familiar-looking car cruising through the parking lot next to our court. I quickly realized that it was my car, or it used to be. It was the grey 1987 Ford Taurus I had sold to a local dealership a couple of weeks earlier.
The driver rolled down the window and called out, “Stephen, is this your old car?”
I set down my racquet and walked over. The driver was a woman who had worked with me on some videos for the local TV station. She and her son were test-driving the Taurus, thinking it would be a good car for him now that he had his license.
“This was my car,” I said. “How did you know it belonged to me?”
The woman reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a box of new checks from Commerce Bank. The blank checks had my name and address on them. “We found them under the front seat,” she said. “You might want them back.”
“Yeah, I do,” I said, somewhat puzzled. “Thank you so much.”
She asked me a few questions about the car. I told her that the Taurus had a rebuilt engine and its radiator was on borrowed time. She thanked me and pulled out of the parking lot, probably thinking that I was a complete idiot.
I recall that exchange from 20 years ago and I still marvel at how lucky I was, how several things had to mesh perfectly for that event to occur. First, I was extremely lucky that someone I knew test-drove my old car and found my checks under the front seat (though I had a balance of about $500 in the bank back then, someone could have found those checks and starting floating them around town). Secondly, it was pure coincidence that the woman and her son were driving through the park and saw me playing tennis. What are the odds of all of these things working together for me to get my checks back?
I know that is a small thing in the grand scheme, but it makes me think of all the times I have been lucky or blessed in my life. I might not even be aware of some of those instances when my luck was strong, when a road not taken might have rescued me from disaster. I have had some hardships and tragedy in life, but I have also been very fortunate for the many times when forces out of my control somehow worked in my favor.
What about you? Can you recall a moment in your life when somehow, against the odds, different forces pulled together to bring you good luck or, even, a blessing from above?