Freaking Out

Random Writers – Write about what life has taught you recently.

It was Spring 2009. I remember sitting in a mandatory meeting for my son’s First Communion, and all I could think about was how I so desperately did not want to be there. That though process was the first domino that lead me to walking away from my religious upbringing. My son’s First Communion would be one of the last Catholic masses I would attend.

It’s not that I had a crisis of faith. On the contrary. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt that God has been with me. Jesus has always been a part of my life. But right up until that moment, it was always a formal relationship I held with my God.

What I experienced was a crisis of church.

I was engaged to a woman raised Southern Baptist. She, too, had a very strong connection with God. Like me, she was yearning for a new way to celebrate her faith. We were both looking for a way to celebrate together.

I never shied away from stating publicly I believe in God. Yet through my Catholic upbringing, I never considered myself the evangelical type either. I was bothered by self-professes ‘Jesus Freaks’, and I cringed whenever I heard someone say something to the effect of, “You have to let Jesus show you the way.”

Whatever, dude.

My relationship with God had always been reverential. Much like the relationship I still maintain with my mom, it’s always been about honor and respect. Parental.

In the summer of 2009, and at the suggestion of a friend who had been facing a similar crisis of church, my wife and I began at attending a new and different place of worship. Christian, non-denominational, and situated in Ybor City in Tampa, Relevant Church was the answer to our prayers.

I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine and how in her studies they’d discussed how Christianity needed to get back to basics. How the church needed to simplify. Relevant, with their purpose of “impacting the emerging culture with the reality of Christ”, did exactly that. They simplified the way we worship and celebrate God’s kingdom. From the moment we walked into the building and experienced our first service, Lee and I knew this was the place where we’d be able to celebrate our faith together.

As time passed and our involvement in the church increased, we found ourselves leading a growth group, which is a weekly meeting in which we discuss a chapter of the book we’re reading for that semester. We also pray together, share our stories of growth and faith, and experience true fellowship. Think of it as Bible study meets book club.

After several weeks, I’ve found a new strength in my relationship with God. My eyes have been opened to new perspectives, and I’ve been introduced with new and exciting ways to better my life and live it in way that honors God. I’ve also learned to let go of the formality with which I burdened myself in how I viewed God.

I’ve always been proud of the relationship I had with my dad. Lots of hugs. Lots of kisses. Lots of “I love you’s.” What I am realizing now is that I can have that relationship with God, too. That it’s okay to think of God as an open-armed dad, smiling and happy to see me, wanting the best for me, and watching over me in what I do. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to succeed. He wants me to know that by placing my faith in Him, there is nothing I cannot accomplish.

So here I am, three years removed from my crisis of church. I find myself closer to being the Jesus freak I mocked than to being the guy sitting in that meeting just wishing for it to be over. I’ve learned that in life, our roads our varied, but our destination is ultimately the same. Betterment, fulfillment, joy, and community. Living a good life and being a good person.

My recent life lesson is that when you open your heart to God, He helps you find that which you’ve been wanting most.

Keeping My Eyes Open

Random Writers: Write about a new beginning in your life.

I recently told a friend of mine, “Pain is when we look at God’s will through human eyes.”

As I look back on the event of my life that lead me here today, the vast majority of them occurring in the 2004 – 2005 timeframe, it’s clear to see that every new beginning was preceded by a moment of pain or crisis.

There are so many metaphors and analogies bouncing around in my head right now, it would probably take me hours to write them all down. Still, they all can be summarized with a simple formula.

Pain + Time = New

Yes, it really is that simple.

Pain (or disappointment or crisis or burden) plus the time you spend experiencing it, learning from it, and healing as a result, equate to new beginnings and new opportunities.

True, there are some opportunities that came my way either as a result of hard work, sheer determination, or dumb luck. But the moments in my life that I can honestly qualify as new beginnings all stem from an event that was not fun to go through.

I feel I’ve always lived my life as an open book, and those who know me also know my story. For me, I will always have the one life event that served as the BIG domino that fell and set in motion all the other dominoes that make up my life journey.

Here’s my story, from right to left.

I live my life surrounded by my core group of friends. These are the people whom I trust and whose opinions I value the most. They serve as my gauge as to how I am doing and whether I am doing it right. When I think about that inner circle, I am still amazed at how I came to meet and know those individuals.

We met through our mutual love for music. Specifically, the music of Sister Hazel. The genesis of how we came together was a beach weekend the band put together back in 2006 in South Carolina. It was an event called the Hazelnut Hang, and it was an event that has proven to change my life.

What lead me to go to that event was dinner conversation with my girlfriend at the time – Lee, who is now my wife – and our mutual friend. Our friend was going through a tough time so Lee and I decided to take her out for a bite and be there for her. In the course of conversation, our friend mentioned her mother’s house in South Carolina which sparked the idea of going to the Sister Hazel event.

Lee and I became exclusive in January 2006 following a very tumultuous 2005 in which Lee would learn to open her eyes to the idea of something new only to find me continuing to struggle with the idea of letting go of something old. That something old came to a head in December of 2005.

That was the moment of the big domino.

It’s evident to me, as I trace back the key moments of my life, that I would not be where I am today had the door I had so desperately wanted to run through back in 2005 not been slammed shut in my face. I could not see where I am today through those tears I was shedding that painful December evening over six years ago, yet here I am nonetheless.

I’ve learned that in those darkest and most painful of times, we must have faith that a new light will clear the darkness, and a new path will be revealed. It’s not any kind of easy and everyone learns that lesson at their own pace and in their own way, if ever at all.

Another band that has been influential to me in my life journey is NEEDTOBREATHE, and they have a song that succinctly sums up my life events from 2005. It is what Lee was trying to tell me all along that year. What I didn’t know back then, which is clearer to me now, is that I needed to keep my eyes open. What I also failed to see is that God was directing me every step of the way.

Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason – His reason – and I believe coincidence is our human way of interpreting God’s will. And yes, pain is when we look at God’s will with our human eyes. Instead of allowing the pain to govern our experience, we should remind ourselves that with time and with faith in God, the new beginnings in our lives will be realized.

The Roots of Inspiration

Random Writers: Write about how/where you find your inspiration.





The smile on my children’s faces.

I think the easier question is, “Where do you NOT find inspiration?”

It’s pretty amazing how thoughts are triggered. Be it positive or negative, the tiniest little moment, event, visual, or even perception can fire off a synapse that snowballs into an avalanche of wonderment, questioning, and amazement. It is …. well …. inspiring.

Perhaps it’s just me and my over-active imagination. All those hours spent in front of the TV on Saturday mornings watching Spider Man cartoons. Perhaps it was all the comic books I read as a child. Perhaps it’s that crazy, semi-psychotic voice in my head that makes my wife sometimes look at me like I’m crazy.

Or perhaps I’m not alone.

Perhaps everyone else has uniquely random ways in which inspiration finds its way into their hearts and minds.



A scent that triggers a memory that, in turn, triggers an emotion.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder what exactly inspiration is.  Is it a fuel we consume when we allow our creativity to flourish? Is it the natural progression of one experience to the next; a sequential hop from point A to point B to point C? Is it the gravity of emotion pulling us in a direction we’d never before considered? Is it God’s hand guiding us down the path He’s chosen for us?

Is it all of the above?

Whatever the source or whatever the reason, the question is not how or from where? The true question is, “What do you do once you’re inspired?” The cause in not important. The effect, by contrast, most definitely is.

Some people take to painting. Others take to writing. Some use inspiration to change a bad habit. Others use inspiration to change the world.

Whatever your muse may be, I hope the inspiration you experience is coupled with the perspiration of your ensuing efforts. Big or small, private or public, local or global; use that inspiration to drive you to action.

After all, there are few things more discouraging than the notion of inspiration ignored.

Mental Filtration System

Random Writers – Write about something you would do differently if you knew no one would judge you.


If I could *bleeping* do something differently without having to worry what other *bleeping* people would think about it, I would so *bleeping* curse all the *bleeping* time.

I love swearing. I embrace my potty mouth. I *bleeping* curse all the time.

Especially when I am watching sports. I’ve always said I would love to be an NFL color commentator – I think I would be pretty *bleeping* good at it, too – but with my sports Tourett’s, whereby I spontaneously exclaim things when watching a game, I am sure I would lose my job because of my ‘colorful’ language.

Sometimes, it really is such a challenge to have to edit and filter the language that comes out of my mouth. It’s such a *bleeping* pain in the *bleep* to feel so guarded all the time. You all know what I’m talking about. The same language, tone, and demeanor you use at church or a charity fund raiser is not the same language, tone, and demeanor you use when you’re alone in your car during rush hour traffic and you’re running late. Everyone becomes an adversary, and everyone becomes the target of the verbal daggers you throw like a ninja assassin.

So who the *bleep* cares if I swear? Who came up with these *bleeping* restrictive rules of social decorum? Why the *bleep* do I need to watch what I say?

Shouldn’t we all strive to be 100% honest and true? Isn’t that the *bleeping* goal?

Think about it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if, say, during church service you feel the power of God and exclaim a witness of “*bleep* yeah!”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you met someone for the first time and being so taken aback by their stunning good looks you just blurted out, “Wow you look *bleeping* amazing!”? Seriously, why aren’t we *bleeping* free to be our *bleeping* selves?

I guess that’s where the sense of common courtesy comes in. The same little voice in the back of our minds that tells us to hold the door open for the little old lady making her way into a building, or to set our cell phones to silent before a movie starts, is the same voice that dictates we refrain from cursing in public settings. This is especially true when there are little kids around.

For as much as I let the sailor speak fly when I am home alone or at a bar watching a game, I am very mindful of what I say when there are kids around. My kids not so much. They’ve heard it all from my by now. But other people’s kids? No *bleeping* way would I dare let loose with the language. It’s just not done.

So to answer my own question of why can’t we just be ourselves, I guess the answer lies in our need as a society to be mindful and respectful of others. We may not always adhere to that desire, but I think, for the most part, we all strive for the sense of decency that unifies us as a people. We sacrifice a little of ourselves (i.e. an open and unfiltered potty mouth) for the benefit of the greater good.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that *bleeping* what it’s all about?

The Fantasy In My Head

Random Writers: Write about what you want most out of life.

In my future fantasy world, I’m sitting on a plane – first class, of course – when the person next to me engages in conversation.

“So, are you going to New York for business or pleasure?”

<slight hesitation> “Ummm … a little bit of both.”

<curious look> “Really? Do you care to elaborate?”

“I’m killing two birds with one stone. I am meeting up with friends in New York, but I also have some work to do.”

“Oh. What kind of work do you do?”

<irritatingly large smile> “I’m a writer. I’m going to Manhattan for a book signing.”

Yes, that’s the conversation I have with my imaginary travel companion every time I think about what I want most out of life. Well, when I think about the personal, selfish version of that question.

In reality, what I want most out of life is for my children to grow up healthy and happy, and to see them realize all their goals and dreams. That’s perfection for me. But if I allow myself to indulge in a personal fantasy, it has to be receiving a paycheck – a big, substantial paycheck – for something that I wrote.

It’s a fine line, however, given that writing for me is fun. It started as therapy that metamorphosed into a hobby. It began as something in which I dabbled and evolved into something I can call much more concrete than that. Still, writing has never been a job nor the source of my livelihood. My mundane, corporate-world, 8-5 job takes care of that for me.

Instead, writing has been a recent ambition of mine. One where I can fantasize about sitting behind a table, meeting new people, and signing my name until my wrist falls off. Of course, in my fantasy world I look less like me and more like Richard Castle, but that’s neither here nor there.

Having self-published two short novels – and completing the third in that series – was a great experience for me. Having never written anything like that before, it was so amazing to receive such great feedback from my friends and family. It opened my eyes to the reality that God did grace me with a modicum of writing talent, and if applied properly, I could produce something someone else might find interesting to read.

Still, the realities of day-to-day life provide the perfect series of excuses for not pursuing, and ultimately not fulfilling, those dreams. “I’ll try to find some time to write tomorrow.” I’ve been saying that to myself for about a year and a half now.

So maybe I’m putting the cart before the proverbial horse. In thinking about all the things I allow to keep me from writing, perhaps the one thing I want most out of life is to have the dedicated time to invest in my writing, an effort that could one day possibly lead to my fantasy scenario on a plane.

Dedicated time for writing? Now THAT’S a fantasy!

Highly Questionable

Random Writers: Write about whether you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?

I once read this book on interpersonal communications called “So What’s Your Point?” There was one line in the book that really stood out for me.

Be 100% responsible for what you’re saying and 100% responsible for what is being said to you.

In other words, ask questions and don’t assume.

My wife hates that I read that book.

You see, I’m the type of person that will ask the same question three or four different ways. Not only do I want to make sure I am on the same page with a person with whom I may be having a conversation, I also need to make sure I am on the same line and using the same ink. I am notorious for saying, “So just to be clear…” or “So for the purpose of clarification…”

Yes, I am the person in the room that prolongs the meeting and extends the conversation. I’m that guy.

However, I carry that burden with pride.

Perhaps it’s a function of where I work. In the IT industry, it seems we spend 90% of our time on calls or in meetings. Add in the hurdles accents – we work with a lot of people both from and in Asia – and it’s no surprise that I often ask people to either repeat themselves or clarify what they mean. All it takes is one experience where a person says ‘A’ and you understand ‘B’ for the extra redundancy to be justified.

Taking a step back from my career specifics, I don’t see why I would want to do it any other way. We live in a world where we can’t take anything at face value anymore. Photos, video, and audio recordings can all be manipulated from their original states. Politicians and attorneys speak in the language of vagueness and confusion so as to not be held accountable for whatever it is they may or may not have said. Even everyday conversations with friends can slip into the trap of indirect meaning, where we try to couch what it is we’re saying so as to not offend or get into trouble.

With that being the norm – well, my norm at least – I feel the prudent thing to do is to ask additional questions. I want to make sure I am perfectly clear on what it is I am hearing and understanding. As the book I read suggested, I want to be 100% responsible for what is being said to me.

I know my self-diagnosed O-C-D plays a part in my craziness, but so, too, does my desire to get it right. Ironically, the O-C-D kicks in because my A-D-D often makes my mind drift and lose track of the conversation. So the, “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that again?” question may not be so much a matter of me being thorough as it was a response to the fact that 10 seconds earlier I was being lazy and stopped listening.

So to be clear, asking questions is a good thing, right? I mean, you want to be sure you understand what you’re hearing, correct? Just double-checking.  I just want to make sure you and I are on the same page. Cool?

Okay. I’ll stop now.

Love (Hate) Letter

Random Writers: Write about activities that make you lose track of time.

Dear Internet,

Consider this a formal complaint regarding your incessant desire to consume my time. This has been going on far too long, and it’s time we address the issue.

I understand you provide me with productive and educational resources. Yes, it’s true. I haven’t written a check – let alone mailed one – to pay a bill in over five years. I concede you have allowed me, at a moment’s notice, to research information to assist my children with their homework or school projects.

Still, your pros pale in comparison to the cons with which you continue to fill my life.

Let’s be honest. Is there anything you can say in your defense that remotely makes up for the time hog that is Facebook? I thought things were bad when you cast upon me that other site way back when. You know, the one with the glitter posts and pictures of pre-teens making duck faces. But that was relatively confined. Now it seems you’ve pushed this child of yours onto the masses, and it’s just killing my ability to be productive as a result.

You make me feel popular. You make me want to keep up with all those people I’ve met once or twice who are now my friends. Yes, if not for you and your Facebook I wouldn’t be able to remember their names, but they’re my friends now dadgummit, and I absolutely need to go through the 1400 pictures you coaxed them into uploading to you.

Are you simply a masochist at heart, reveling in the notion that your presence makes us all suffer as we fall into the black-hole of time suckage that you created?

It would almost be acceptable if it were just Facebook. But you couldn’t stop there, could you? You had to throw things like Twitter and YouTube into the mix. You had to razzle-dazzle my attention with Reddit, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon. Worse of all, you employed my own kind – my friends – to do your dirty work for you. You had them bombard me with their blogs and personal sites. You continue to build your empire upon itself, each new URL a strand in the web you weave around the little spare time I have.

And don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing with that Pinterest thing. You present it as an escape from the mundane, only to drain the minutes and hours out of my life and into your vastness.

Seriously, this has to stop. You have to allow me to do my laundry, clean my floors, and feed my kids. This is insane what you do to me.

But the more I try to pull away from you, the more I feel myself needing to come back.

You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean all those things I said. I know you’re just trying to be there for me when I need you. It’s not you. It’s me. Please don’t hold this against me.

More importantly, please don’t take away my LOL cats.

Panic Time

Random Writers: Write about the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

The sound of my heart is deafening as I sit and wait.

“C’mon. C’MON!”

My hands slapped the steering wheel out of frustration as the driver in front of me, lost in her own digital iWorld, didn’t notice the red turn arrow was now green, and we both missed our opportunity to make the turn.

Another 90 seconds I won’t get back as I have to sit here and watch car after car go by, each individual one step closer to their destination while I sit here like a prisoner in solitary confinement just itching to get out.

The anxiety weighs on me like the gravity on Jupiter. I think about the look on her face and I feel nauseas. Her words ring in my ears with that pitchy whine that discloses the depth of her disappointment.

“But I told you not to forget!” A tear escapes her eye and serves as an emphatic exclamation point to the emotion spilling out of her. An emotion for which I am the cause.

This fucking light. This fucking traffic. This fucking construction. I look for places and things towards which I can channel my blame. Targets to be the recipients of my anger. But I know the blame is all mine, and I can only be angry at myself.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Louder, harder, and faster now. I take a deep breath, exhaling in frustration with a sound that seems to roar like a 747 upon takeoff. I’m reminded how the last time I listened to my own breathing, I was meditating and reflecting, lost in my own introspection as I prepared to communicate with God. There is no reason to relax now, although I am conversing with God, and the conversation is furiously one-sided.

“Please let me get back on time. Please. PLEASE!”

I’ve prided myself on being the dad that always comes through. Always being there when my baby girl needed me. Having forethought and being proactive, so much so that I could anticipate my daughter’s needs and deliver a solution before she could even ask for one.

But that’s not the case right now. Right now, I’m just trying to dig myself out of the hole I created with my own negligence.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

Green arrow. My foot slams on the accelerator. My inner nerd yells, “Punch it, Chewie!” I might have a chance just yet.

As I race back into my house, picking up the bag of my daughter’s soccer gear, the gear she needs to play goalie for her middle school team, the bag she told me ad nasueum NOT to forget, I glance at my watch and do some quick math.

Twenty-seven minutes. That’s plenty of time to get back to the field. Even in this traffic. Even with this construction. Even with these idiots and the precious little iWorld they inhabit.

My breaths are now short and rhythmic pants that escape my lungs with the fluidity of a Native American dancing around a camp fire. My heartbeat provides the percussion that augments her dance.

“I still have time. I can do this.”

It appears God has listened to my selfish pleas. Like the Red Sea before Moses, the traffic ahead of me seems to move out of my way. My temptation to drive faster is tempered by the fleeting moment of reason that reminds me a speeding ticket would result with 100% certainty my failing to make up for my previous error.

I pull into the parking lot and find a spot, and although I do so in a sane and normal fashion, in my head it plays out like a scene from an action movie. Tires squealing, my truck threatening to tip over from the 180 degree, stunt-driver move I just completed. Nothing to see except a dazzling cloud of white smoke, out from which I explode in brilliant Baywatch slow motion, my daughter’s soccer bag clutched firmly in my hand.

I race to the field. My daughter is standing. Waving. Waiting.

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

I extend out my arm, handing her the bag, and casting away the shackles of kryptonite that sucked away my Super Dad powers the previous hour. Triumphant once again, I await a rambunctious and enthused response from my daughter, one filled with joy and appreciation. One that would erase the disappointment I bestowed upon her, and restore me back to the pantheon of greatness in my daughter’s eyes.

With barely a glance and a shrug of the shoulders, my daughter simultaneously grabs the bag and proceeds to run in the opposite direction, much like the sprinter on a relay team would accept the baton from her teammate. I faintly make out my daughter saying, “Thanks, daddy.”

I hear the sound of my breathing once again.


Measuring Success

Random Writers: Write about achieving a personal goal or realizing a dream come true.

Francis Triff. My high school non-girlfriend girlfriend.

I was an extremely awkward and socially clumsy teenager. Frances was the first girl of my age with whom I could actually relate. She was smart, pretty, funny, and oh so very charming. She was my buddy, and we’d spend hours on the phone just talking. Looking back on it now, she was probably my first love, and I didn’t even know it.

Frances and I shared many a conversation about goals, dreams, and ambitions. I remember at the time in my life, my plan was to attend the Air Force Academy, become a fighter pilot, and after my five years of service, go on to a long and illustrious career with Pan Am Airlines.

(I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing)

One conversation in particular I remember sharing with Frances was about becoming parents. I remember telling her, “I want to have a kid by the time I am twenty seven.” The number was quite random, yet specific enough that it just stuck in my head. When my daughter was born four months before my twenty-seventh birthday, I remember taking a moment to think how serendipitous it was that it all worked out according to plan. I had accomplished a personal goal.

I think that was the last time I was able to say that.

Sure, I’ve had lots of success since then, but for the life of me I can’t think of one specific instance in which I set a goal and worked to accomplish it.

All the jobs and varying positions I’ve held at work have been a result of being in the right place at the right time. There was no career pathing on my part. I didn’t set out to get to my current role by design. If anything, my professional career has been like one big game of Plinko.

I’ve self-published two short novels, but that was an opportunity that came to me out of the blue. It pretty much ‘just happened’. With instant deadlines and deliverables, the pace of the project forced the publication of those novels to come to fruition.

I’ve had some of my work featured in the local newspapers, but I’ve never set out to write a piece specifically to be printed in the paper. Again, those were matter of luck and good timing. I took a chance and emailed an editor who happened to be impressed enough to offer me the opportunity to run my piece as a feature. It was an honor.

I’ve played a part, both big and small, in several non-profit events that have benefitted others. I never set my mind to be a non-profit volunteer or event coordinator. Rather, there was a job that needed to be done and I accepted the challenge to do it. With the guidance and partnership of my wife, I am happy to say we did a really good job. But it wasn’t planned. Again, it just happened.

And that’s where my personal lesson lies. For as much of an O-C-D control freak as I am, one of the greatest things I’ve had to learn is that life just happens.

My favorite band is Sister Hazel, and one of my favorite songs by them is “Life Got in the Way.”

And I wanted you so much
Just like I do right now
I wanted us to be the one the poets write their books about
I wanted it to last
I wanted to grow old
But life got in the way

I think we all have a story or two in our lives to which we can relate those lyrics. But no matter the goal and regardless the dream, life is going to happen the way it happens. In my very humble opinion, success is not measured in the result, but rather in our reaction and adaptability to the meandering unpredictability that is life. I still think it’s important to dream, to reach for the stars with reckless abandon. But whether or not we achieve those dreams is not the measure of a successful life. Rather, it’s how we act and who we become along the way that creates our individual marks in this world.

I still have my dreams of one day being able to claim myself a professional writer. There are several writing projects rambling in my head that I would love to give birth to. Maybe some will see the light of day. Perhaps others will spend eternity in the company of long-lost loves that might have been. You can’t spend your time dwelling on that because after all, that’s life.

And as for Frances Triff, wherever she may be. We’ll always have Homeroom.

Wrong Turns Can Be Good … err, Great

This week’s prompt for Random Writers is to write about the difference between existing and living.  For some reason, the first thing that came to my mind was Bugs Bunny.

We’ve all seen it a million times.  Bugs pops his head up after having tunneled underground, looks around, scratches his head as if lost, and utters, “I knew I should have taken a left turn in Albuquerque.” This week’s prompt is about the difference between just going somewhere and enjoying the trip along the way.

All too often in life, the pace of the day to day can cause the weeks to blur and the years to pass. For some reason, this effect seems to be exponential the older we get. As a kid, summer breaks were an eternity. As an adult, a week’s vacation tends to be over before it starts.

How is it that we go from the delighted consumption of life as children to a “what’s next?” dismissiveness as adults?  At what point does the joy get replaced with the urgency, the little things with the big plan?

To me, existing is easy. You wake up. You go to work. You come home. You have dinner. You go to sleep.  Living is just like existing, except that along the way from step 1 to step 10 in your routine, there are moments of meaning that make those steps more than just items on a to-do list. Sometimes it really can be as simple as stopping to smell the roses.

Of course, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to this question. In fact, nothing in life is “one size fits all.” That’s what makes life life. It’s the uniqueness of our own experiences, and what may be living for me can simply be existing for someone else. That’s the beauty of the question, the fact there is no absolute answer.

I watched a presentation recently during which the orator explained how good is the opposite of great. He said we don’t have enough great schools in our country because we have so many good schools. We don’t have as many great moments in our lives because we have so many good moments. This idea really stuck with me, and it got me to thinking of how content I am with all the good in my life, and how that often prevents me from attempting to find greatness in what I do.

So when you ask yourself what the difference is between existing and living, think about all the good things in life that may keep you from being great. I do believe the answer can be found somewhere in there.