Category Archives: Journal

Meeting George Winston

Friday evening, I went to the best concert of my life. Since then, I have been struggling to describe the experience, but I will attempt to do so here. When asked by a friend, I described it as “Greatness in many dimensions.”

I watched one of my great musical inspirations, George Winston, perform at a community college in Brainerd, MN. I’ve been listening to his music since infancy. My mom used to put on a George Winston record to get me to go to sleep at bedtime. He is a master pianist who is able to conjure sounds from the instrument that you would never have believed possible. He does more than create and compose music – he commands the soundspace like no other performer. His tones and melodies are sublime and masterful.

 

Who I Thought He Was

 

Until this year, when I actually looked him up online and met him in person, I had always assumed that he was a concert pianist, complete with tuxedo, coat tails and white gloves, who had studied under the European masters, received multiple doctorates and had become well recognized in the classical music realm. After collecting his vast accolades, he embarked on a quest to push the boundaries of the piano instrument. As a result of his intensive studies, he composed and recorded his “Autumn” and “Winter Into Spring” albums in the 1980s, creating a new genre of piano music – the new age/impressionist movement. I thought that he had taken a similar route as Rachmaninoff or Leonard Bernstein.

Another musician I looked up to from the classical realm was Valdimir Horowitz. My mom had a video recording of “Horowitz In Moscow” that I would watch all the time as a tot. The “Horowitz In Moscow” record tied with Winston’s “Winter Into Spring” as my top requested bedtime music. Horowitz died in 1989.

Actually, I began my internet search of Winston because I was wondering what became of my other favorite pianist. Not only did I discover that George Winston was still alive, but that he was still performing live in concert. I was shocked to discover that he would be coming to Minnesota. But performing in Brainerd? Such a titan of music belonged in the big city venues of Orchestra Hall or the Ordway!

 

The Concert

 

Believe it or not, I’m not a super-duper fan of concerts. Yes, I enjoy seeing the band and hearing the songs, but oftentimes the songs are performed differently live. The bands tend to try too hard, or not hard enough, to perform the songs as they were recorded for the audience. I love hearing the songs on CD, but I am often disappointed when songs are performed live. Many times the acoustic subtleties are lost and I’m left wishing for more. Typically, this is compensated by the performer/audience relationship that develops over the course of the concert.

George Winston is aware of the acoustic loss and understands that live music can not compare to the technical perfection that recording provides. Instead of retreating with his music, he boldly changed the songs that I had memorized so well. He kept the basic shapes and forms of the song, a core melody with a flourish for instance, but he ventured out with each song to create something unique and new. After becoming acquainted with the space, he would use the space to control his sound. He uses both sound and quiet, loud and soft, harsh, percussive key banging and soft, gentle plucks of the strings. The audience respected his use of silence and space and held their applause until he signaled he was done.

Even though he is a master pianist, he brought other instruments with him. He played one song on the harmonica. My jaw dropped when I saw that his skills carried over to that instrument as well. He used a technique I had never heard or seen before: he played chords on a harmonica and melody simultaneously! The other instrument he played was a slack-key guitar. His fingering was very precise so as to control the overtones that the instrument generated from the strums and plucks. It was subtle and elegant.

Not only did he perform his impressionist work, but he also opened up his range with some blues and an older form of ragtime piano called stride piano, where the left hand plays the bass line and chord in an “oom-cha, oom-cha” sort of way. His first song was a warm up song in the stride style, a song of many repetitions to warm up the fingers, and my mom said that his warm up song could have been used as a finale!

I was very lucky in where I sat. My mom found tickets in the front row, stage left, where I could watch his hands strike the keys. During the concert, I practiced some of the moves I was watching. It was very educational. For instance, I had heard his piece “Woods” and I always assumed he stretched and lifted with his pinkies to reach the high and low notes. In reality, he actually uses his right hand to cross over his left to achieve all of the sounds and notes.

 

Who George Winston Really Is

 

As it turns out, George Winston is even better than the person that I envisioned. He is left-handed, for starters. Instead of being classically trained in Europe, he lives in Montana and studied jazz down in Florida and Louisiana before beginning on the piano. He is a man who has many musical heroes. The program lists at least 32 musicians that he models himself after. He performs in his socks so that he has better control over the pedals at the piano and he has a landing pad to place his heels so that his feet do not interfere with his sound.

Throughout the performance, we noticed that his glasses hung loose on the side of his head. Before the intermission, I thought this was just the eccentricities of genius. What my mom and I discovered was that he had no right ear! It makes me awestruck to believe that this genius who mastered the waves of sound only has a single ear. The things he can hear with his ear! It is just amazing. It made me think back to an old dilemma. If you had to lose your sense of sight or your sense of hearing, which would you lose? My choice would be to keep my sense of hearing and lose my sight.

George Winston is a cat person. He is also a very kind person. The proceeds from his CD sales and his concert were going to a local food shelf to help the hungry. He dedicates his CDs to causes, such as helping after Hurricane Katrina, benefiting 9/11 victims or protecting the Louisiana wetlands.

 

After The Concert

 

Mom and I stayed after the concert was over and waited by the stage to meet George Winston. I was in shock after this performance. There was a young woman named Lora who was also stunned, but she was as hyper as a puppy to meet Mr. Winston. She was expressing on the outside what I was feeling on the inside. The patrons of the performance were also there with their families and grandchildren. There was a couple who were positively geeky for him. There was also a young man who asked very technical questions. Finally, the owner of one of the major local resorts, Craguns, was there.

Mr. Winston was very humble, patient and gracious. He told some jokes and answered some questions. When he heard that my mom and I travelled were from the twin cities to see him, he said, “Oh! Mini Apple Sauce? I’m going there on December 22.”

Lora was very hyper and wanted to share her life story. Her favorite bands were Tool, Metalica and George Winston. She has been engaged for 10 years, but she offered to marry Mr. Winston that night. She had a gift on her phone, but it was dead. She asked if I could take her picture, which I did and I e-mailed it to her. She inadvertently wanted to monopolize the time with Mr. Winston, but my mom and I helped occupy her to help free up Mr. Winston to make the rounds.

The geeky couple gave him a gift of a Grumpy Cat doll. They also filmed him with their giant iPad. “What is that?” George Winston asked, “It has a big apple on the back.” When told it was an iPad, he responded, “I don’t really watch TV, use computers or the internet. My assistant wants me to use Facebook more, but I’d rather do other things. I prefer talking to people in person.”

The young man asked what sorts of things he places on the strings of the piano, and Mr. Winston said, “Just my hand tonight.” He also asked how he could create such soft and beautiful sounds from the piano, but Mr. Winston responded, “The piano is not a soft instrument. It is a percussion instrument that has to be beaten to get the sound out of it. You have to press down on the keys to make the hammers strike the strings.” It was a profound observation from a composing master known for his subtlety.

Immediately after the concert, my mom asked me how I enjoyed it. I said, “This was amazing. The best concert of my life. I’m still trying to process it right now. Remember Vladimir Horowitz? How he was my favorite? Well, I may never see him perform, but I got to see my #2 favorite perform tonight.”

Silly mom repeated what I had said to George Winston. I was so embarrassed. He laughed and said, “I’d rather be where I am today than where Vladimir Horowitz is today.” It was an amazing save! My mom and I got along so well with George Winston that people thought that we were family.

The owner of Craguns offered to buy him dinner at Perkins (one of the only places open), but he turned it down. He wanted to stay up and work on more music. In the end, the theater manager walked up to George Winston and asked, “You know how to turn off the lights, right?” I got my picture and autograph. My mom gave him her information. When we left, the only people there were Mr. Winston and Lora. My mom wonders what became of Lora.

 

Buying CDs

 

Mom and I bought 3 CDs: Forest, Night Divides the Day – The Music of the Doors, and Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions 2. The thing that captures my attention about the CDs is that they are designed in such as way so as you feel like you’re listening to a record with a front side and a back side; an A-side and a B-side. On the drive back, we listed to Forest and Night Divides the Day and I remained in awe of his technical skill with the piano. This was the most inspiration concert of my life. I learned so much and I have an understanding of how to develop my skills further.

My one regret is that I didn’t buy his harmonica CD. I had an opportunity at the intermission, but I just stood in front of my chair in shock for most of the intermission, processing everything I had heard. I finally went to the bathroom, but I nearly missed the chance to get back in the theater, because they were closing the doors when I got out. Had I been more alert, I could have purchased the harmonica CD.

 

Final Reflections

 

I think the thing that inspires me the most from meeting George Winston is how similar we are. We both hail from the jazz background. His view of music goes beyond the notes on the page. We share the “mistakes make masterpieces” philosophy.

One thing I could learn from him is to find more artists to inspire me. He listed over 32 musicians on his program. When my mom told him that I also play piano, bass and flute, he recommended that I look into Jimmy Smith to develop my talents. I can only imagine what George Winston’s record collection looks like.

 

I came home Friday evening from a full day of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to a picture message from my mom. She had found a dog for me. I was very hesitant and gave a soft “no.” Nevertheless, she said that I should come by the pet store Saturday afternoon when they were showing her again and I said I would be there.

The pup’s name is Harley. She is a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix. I was very sad to say no, but I did. Mom persisted and told me that Harley was a rescue and, that if things didn’t work out, I could return her in a week. She had all her shots and was healthy, except for some ear irritation that she was being treated for once a day with drops. Mom would pay for everything. Ultimately, it was the ability to return her that convinced me to take her home.

 

About a year ago, I had a horrible experience with a husky named Tonka, whom I was asked to adopt from my brother’s girlfriend at the time. I had such high hopes because I haven’t had a pet since childhood and have fond memories of having dogs. Tonka only lasted a week and it was one of the longest weeks of my life. Tonka was so destructive, jumping and chewing on furniture, peeing and pooping all over the house, and spreading garbage everywhere. I even had to leave work several times to stop the destruction. I moved him to the garage, but after a couple of days, he nearly broke down the garage door. I chained him outside, but that did not stop the destruction of everything in all directions. When I took him on walks, he would strain on the leash and attack other dogs. It was a very scarring experience.

Harley is the exact opposite of Tonka. She is a total lapdog. She acts like a 7 or 8 year old dog even though she is a puppy at 1 year old. She is so calm. She doesn’t really bark or whine. She hasn’t peed in the house once. She keeps your pace when walking and naturally heels. She doesn’t jump on the furniture unless invited. She has a kennel that she is willing to spend time in while I’m away. For a 1 year old dog, she is very low energy and is content to lay on the floor next to you while you watch TV or play games.

 

Just as I suspect Harley is doing right now, I find myself thinking about her here at work. Harley came from a family who had to move and couldn’t take her with them. She had other dog and cat companions. While at the pet store, I found that she was drawn to cats. I wonder how she will handle being the only pet in the house?

Harley reminds me of my first dog Spottie, who I’m pretty sure had depression. Harley hasn’t eaten much since she first arrived. She is fairly clingy, but I can understand that. Being adopted must be a very jarring experience and memories of old friends and family must still be fresh. She seems to like it at my house and my roommates like having her around. The only person who hasn’t liked her yet is my Dad, but he’s just a grumpy-grump.

 

I think Harley was named after Harley-Davidson, because she has similar colors. But I like to think of her like Harley Quinn – Medicine Dog. If I were to name her, I would give her a similar sounding name: Nellie. Long name: Arenal – The Volcanic Princess, named after the Arenal volcano of Costa Rica that I visited as a boy. But Harley has the opposite of a volcanic personality and I see no reason why I should confuse her by changing her name. Harley – Medicine Dog will do just fine, because she is very therapeutic and healing.

The Revolution Will Be Built With Questions

These are ______ times. Some of my friends are filled with joy and optimism, while aggravated by the dire apocalyptic prophecy and protest of the majority of the rest of my friends. It is very polarizing with neutrality, consensus and dialogue being hard to come by.

 

I share in the belief that we are entering an apocalyptic period for mankind, where our environmental protections are dismantled, our ability to collectively work for the benefit of our families and community will be hampered, our education and economic power will be stripped from us by those entrenched in power, and everything we hope to accomplish and work hard towards will be dashed to pieces by great forces beyond our control, such as our government or the changing climate. For the first time since I was a toddler, we could have nuclear war. Woe upon us all.

I discovered my own powerlessness when I protested against the impending Iraq War back in 2003, knowing that the evidence for war was falsified and that the wool was being pulled over the eyes of the nation and that global sympathy for 9/11 was going to be squandered pointlessly for a personal vendetta in the middle east. A new generation is just now coming to this realization as the United States swings back the pendulum to, whatever this is. This is their Iraq War moment and they are just now coming to terms with their own powerlessness, whether it was the loss of Bernie Sanders or the election of Donald Trump as the leader of the world.

 

Powerless does not mean hopeless. Donald Trump won because he saw and understood things differently from how urban liberals do, myself included. The institutions that we established to understand and manage the world are disintegrating, the founding premises forgotten and challenged. Donald Trump is the wind that knocks down the sheds, scattering tools, debris and seed across the farm in the aftermath of a political tornado.

 

If protest doesn’t work and political engagement doesn’t work, what is left?

 

Let me take you back to a similar time – the 5th Century BCE in Athens. Athens was an amazing city and had successfully defeated the armies of Persia with the help of other Greek city states, such as Sparta. However, after the successful defense against Persia, Athens was defeated by Sparta, leading to significant political upheaval. Not to give away any spoilers for those of you who haven’t read Plato, but there is this guy named Socrates and he asks a lot of questions. Ultimately, in the end, Socrates starts a movement and ends up being brought on trial for “corrupting the city’s youth” with his teachings. He is condemned to death, which turns him into a martyr and modern philosophy, knowledge and, eventually, science is born. One could draw parallels between the Peloponnesian War and the cold war; the defeat of Athens by Sparta to the War on Terror.

 

Where am I going with this? My point is that the best challenge to our current period of facts, alternative facts and fake news is to ask questions. It is really easy to declare something wrong, whip up a bunch of emotion and move on, but the real trick isn’t convincing yourself or your disciples that you are right. You need to convince your opponent. In order to do that, you need to embark on the premise that your opponent believes what they say. Next, draw them out with questions. Break things down to smaller pieces or take the factoid on a journey and see if you arrive at similar conclusions. Ask the why, what, who and how.

In reading Plato, you discover that Socrates uses his question as a tool. He doesn’t just say, “You’re wrong,” but asks, “What do you mean by that? Is that like this other thing?” and so forth. You can guide your questions to a conclusion. Leading questions. Direct examination questions. Cross-examination questions. True or false questions. This forces all involved to look closer at what is going on and arrive at better knowledge. So spend more time asking questions once you get tired of protesting and advocating.

 

As an aside: When I first read Plato, I didn’t like Socrates. I thought he was a jerk. He just kept destroying people and they things they believed in. Nevertheless, Socrates definitely opened my eyes to the power of his tool – the question.

Enthusiasm and Confidenc

I made a personal discovery last night. Last night, I decided to play soccer after work with the Meetup group that I’m a part of. When I played last week, I did well. I even scored a goal. But last night, for the first half of play, I was bad. I didn’t warm up, I was sluggish, and my heart wasn’t in it. I lacked confidence. My play improved in the second half after I gained some confidence by completing passes and moving around better with the ball.

I like to analyze myself after soccer – think about what went well and what could be improved. This issue of confidence was something that turned itself over and over again in my mind until I struck upon the solution. I did not enter the field with the same level of enthusiasm as I have on previous occasions. All day long, I was on the fence as to whether or not I wanted to go or stay home. I’m glad I went.

 

I hate the word “confidence.” I hate it because people have talked to me about my confidence from time to time. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I have low confidence. I think that’s bullshit because I have very high self-esteem. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was all about self-esteem: practice, discipline, achievement. To be told that I lack confidence to achieve what I want makes me angry. I see confidence as something that people ascribe to you rather than something which you control. So to me, it becomes all about gaming the “confidence” concept, which I neither have neither the tolerance nor patience to deal with.

I’m trying to break “confidence” down to other skills, skills which you can practice. Things like boldness and talkativeness. After last night, I’m going to add enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you want to do it, you get excited about it, and when you’re excited for it, you get other people excited and they want to join. BOOM – Confidence.

 

It is 2017 and it has been a long time since I have been enthusiastic for anything. I can count on one hand the things I was excited for in 2016. I can probably say the same thing for 2015. 2013 and 2014 were exciting years. I need to build the enthusiasm and raise the energy level. I’ve been a passive observer, biding my time, for long enough. I’m not getting any younger. Time to get excited again!

2017 Resolution

One of my resolutions this year is to do more journaling. Specifically, I want to post more to WordPress and explore some of the other bloggers on this site.

 

In reflecting back on the past, I have discovered that the catalyst of my social success was blogging and commenting on other people’s sites. The voice I developed online translated to a voice I spoke in real life. Sadly, I’ve noticed in recent years that I do not say much anymore. I mistakenly thought that it was because I had nothing valuable to say. I kept thinking of one of Dave Walker’s “Dullest Blog In The World” entries from March 11, 2003 –

 

“Not Saying Anything

I was at a meeting and became aware that I had nothing of any interest to add to the discussion. So I said nothing, and the discussion continued.”

 

My life was gradually becoming more and more passive, imperceptible at first, like gaining weight, but then one day you wake up and realize, for better or worse, this is who you are. If you want to change it, you need to take steps to change it. Start with small changes and watch the small changes grow.

 

Thus, I’m returning to blogging so that I can exercise my voice, set a place for my opinions, and receive feedback from strangers. Personally, I happen to enjoy hearing what other people have to say, positive or not. We are our own worst critics, so I doubt internet words can hurt me (a very conceited and self-centered viewpoint, but this is my blog and what did you expect?).

I don’t take the internet seriously at all. I’m rarely online, and when I am, I’m bored easily. I’ll scroll down the feed on Facebook for a total of 3 swipes, eliminate the notifications I get, and give up. I’ll check my dating apps to force myself to send a message or 2 and give up. It is all so blasé. I miss the dynamism I once had for the internet, the thrill of getting a new comment or response, and I think blogging will rekindle that.

 

So that’s my resolution for 2017 – More Blogging.

Taking Home A Stray Human

Something unusual happened to me this weekend. On Saturday night, after winning at poker, I decided that I would go out. That is pretty usual. Normally, I would hang out in Dinkytown, but that night, I had an urge to go to the CC Club in Uptown. I hadn’t been there in a long time, but I felt the need to be around some youngsters, occupy a barstool, and observe my surroundings while enjoying a few ales. It took awhile for a stool to open up, but when it did, I ordered my drink and decided to watch.

I occupied a nice piece of real estate. I was at the corner, where I could watch people enter and exit, but also at this corner I could pay attention to the other people inside. My corner was on a main thoroughfare, yet it was isolated from the common bar service. I had a nice slice of peace to ponder my future and to briefly look at who these other people were.

I seldom people watch. I think it is a bit of a creepy activity, but on Saturday night, I was in a particularly open minded. I also felt rather passive. Usually, I would try harder to meet new people, like try to strike up a conversation, but I was in a learning mood; a reading mood. This is probably because, when I went to poker, I was expecting to lose all my money. Instead, I ended up tripling my money by winning a small tournament.

 

What I’m trying to say is that I ended up taking a girl home. Now, before you start saying, “Hubba-hubba” or doing the audience “Oooo” when people kissed on a ‘90s sitcom, just know that we didn’t go there. I thought about it, I probably would if the opportunity presents itself to us again, but like I said, I didn’t feel like participating in my life at the time.

She was a beautiful Jewish woman with black hair and green eyes. I’ll call her Asher. Asher came up to me, sat next to me and started talking. Asher was about my height and had dreadlocks and was about 25 years old. The problem was that she was pretty strung out on drugs or drunk or something. Maybe both; maybe everything. She was struggling to hold on to coherent thoughts and talking was a challenge for her, but I was patient, letting her try to speak.

Asher’s mind was filled with regret over a friendship she ended last summer. She was struggling to reconnect with her childhood friend, despite having had a huge fight at the beach. They haven’t talked since, but she felt ready to reach out again. Tragically, her friend was also her dealer and her dealer had descended into a dark path which she was unwilling to follow. Her friend was also sort of trying to convert her into being a Christian.

I could tell that Asher just needed someone to listen. Being a friend of drunks, I realize that they tend to repeat themselves once they are near memory blackout. This was how it was for Asher, but her words and thoughts were like scattered puzzle pieces and I had to deduce the picture from what was revealed. I have to admit, I enjoyed working on the puzzle. She was very pretty and I wanted to help.

While at the bar, several other guys noticed her and one or two of them really started to creep and leer on her pretty hard. One guy pretended to be her boyfriend. He wanted to know what my business was and I told the truth, “My roommates have their girlfriends over and I see no need to be at the house while that is going on.” He stopped being defensive after that and went away.

1:15 rolled around and AlcoDroid warned me not to have another drink. I told Asher that I was going to go home, but then the bombshell was dropped, “Can you take me with you?” I could not refuse.

Crossing the threshold of my house with Asher, I felt as if I had brought a stray dog home with me from school and I was waiting for my mother to take it to the pound. But instead of a stray dog, this was a human being; a human stray. But she was cute and I liked having her around, despite the fact that she was keeping one of my roommates awake. We went downstairs to piece together a conversation. Asher seemed to really like me. I must’ve looked really appealing with those drugs she was on. We had a few more beers and around 4:30, I set her up with a blanket on the couch. I also left the door of my room open in case she needed me, but she didn’t.

My roommate had to work at 10am. Asher and I were both awake by 8:30. I invited her out to breakfast, but she wanted to shower. Unfortunately, her shower went long. Like, an hour long, and my roommate was pretty pissed. He had to go to work without cleaning up. Later, I apologized and did his share of the housework to make up for it.

That morning, Asher seemed to still be under the influence of drugs. Under her breath she would say things like, “Wow” and “Jesus.” She was confused, but also had a lot of love in her heart. She confessed that she was tired of being on drugs and wanted to be sober again. She asked if I could be her sober sponsor and I said that I would. She would be going into treatment.

I took Asher to stay with her aunt. She had a couple of bags of stuff with her. We never had breakfast, but we did stop for coffee at a coffee shop in St. Paul. Her aunt lives in St. Paul and I got lost. A good part of my morning was spent following the driving directions of a person high on drugs, which sounds pretty glamourous after having typed it all out here.

 

Okay. I’ve written it out – my experience with a stray human. Somehow, I’m reminded of a quote from Edward of Cowboy Bebop, “If you see a mysterious stranger, follow him!”

 

*In Other News* – My grandfather also has a thing for drug addicts. He married one as his second wife and it still angers my father to this day.

Leading to Failure

I know I try to stay positive where I can, but today I just need to vent. I’m getting pretty frustrated with people and I don’t know how to fix it. What frustrates is that I’m the leader in these cases and I’m not sure how to prevent certain failure if I can’t get my followers on board with what is going on. Here’s what’s up; I’m going to order these things in order of my concern/anxiety.

 

Contest Failure

I’m an Area Director in Toastmasters and I’m in charge of hosting an Area Contest. I’m really excited because I spent money to reserve a nice venue, order trophies and have some minor catering. The only issue is I need about 13 other people to be involved, other than the contestants. In essence, this is the judging and rules team.

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks searching for someone who can lead this team, and for volunteers to join the team, and no one has stepped up. I’ve asked specific individuals and no one can do it. They all have conflicts or else they haven’t responded back.

If I don’t get all roles filled, all my contestants get disqualified and the contest is a failure. This failure will cost me $200 of my own money, minus whatever I can recover from donations the day of the event. I’m so angry that other people have their own lives and that they can not attend this event that I’ve poured my heart into. I care, but no one else does. That’s what it boils down to.

My contest is scheduled to be held a week after I return from a week-long vacation. I’m going to have to try again when I come back. Worst case scenario, I’m going to make up my own rules on the spot and work with what I have to at least put on a façade of a contest. I could end up being judge, jury and executioner. I’d hate to break the rules and disqualify my speakers, but if I have no choice, I have no choice. Time marches on and so do I.

 

Vacation Failure

In 2014, I went on what I consider one of my favorite vacations ever. I drove a rental car along the south shore of Lake Superior, from Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie in Canada. It was the last week of September and the leaves were peaked. It was a canopy of color, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was a marvelously enriching experience. I wanted to take the vacation again, this time with my own car, which is a manual transmission (more fun!).

At the time, I travelled alone. On the downside, it rained the entire week in 2014. This year, I wanted to take someone with me who would really appreciate the beauty presented by nature. I chose my youngest brother, Jeremy. We are a lot alike. He is an incredible visual artist and I thought he could bring some of his watercolors, colored pencils or other art materials and become inspired and capture some of that beauty around him. We could have a bonding experience as brothers. For the first time since he was a toddler, we are living together and I want to get the chance to know him better.

That was the dream – this is the reality. After moving in back in August, he only makes cursory stops at the house. I’ve told him how much I’ve looked forward to sharing this trip with him, how I have been looking forward to taking this trip again since 2014. Now, 3 days before we leave, he is giving me short-sighted excuses as to why he can’t go. He just isn’t as committed to it as I am. He complains about not having money and needing to work, despite the fact that I’m picking up the tab for this trip and that he already has the time off of work.

He has pulled this stunt before with other people, particularly my mom and his dad. Somehow, I thought things would be different between us and that he would show some enthusiasm for getting out of town and treated to a cheap vacation for a week. This just ticks me off.

Furthermore, rain is in the forecast AGAIN. I don’t know what I’m going to do if he refuses to go. I’m probably just going to pack up into my car and leave for the week all by myself again. It just won’t be the same.

 

Soccer Failure

A third failure, not as critical as the others, but probably relevant nevertheless, is the failure of people attending a Sunday soccer event that I host in Minneapolis. When I originally scheduled the event, there was probably 1 or 2 other events that day. I specifically set my event up as a “Football After Football” event for people who like to watch the NFL, then go out and get some exercise after the game.

Last week’s event cancelled because no one signed up and the first week, it was a struggle to get 4 people, including myself, to show up. There are over 2,000 members in this group, so it is shocking to have so few people show up in a central, easy to get to location. Now there are 4 competing events on the same day. I don’t know what to say.

 

Lessons and Analysis

There is a lot that is said these days about “leadership,” but the fact of the matter is that, unless you have followers, you are not a leader. You are just somebody doing something.

These failures bring me back to the last time I was suffering a great leadership crisis and that was back when I was in college. In college, my girlfriend ran to be president of the campus radio club and I became vice president. Before becoming vice president, I was the treasurer, so I had some experience on the board of the radio. Under our tenure of the campus radio station, we could not recruit new DJs, we struggled to retain what we had, members of our board resigned with no replacements to be found. The station deteriorated to the point where, by the middle of the year, we were no longer broadcasting. We entered our tenure excited, ready to lead, but in the end we crashed and burned.

The fact is that I’m seeing the same symptoms with my pending failures this year. The root cause is that I am a leader without followers. My vision does not inspire and my enthusiasm is not contagious.

I know what I need to do. I need to motivate the people around me. I know how to do it: appeal to what they want and provide a plan. But my results ultimately rest in variables which I can not control. This means that I need to make a leap of faith, and I am an inherently cynical person. I’m struggling to avoid my prophecies of defeat from coming true.

 

I think my current Facebook status pretty well explains where I’m at right now-

“I’m starting to get pretty fed up with people this week. I’m continuously being placed in situations where I need to motivate and work with other people, but I’m just not getting the results I want. The ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’ mentality will only reinforce my self-centered arrogance. I just need more patience and faith to stick with these situations and not allow my anxiety to take over. I really need to fight the urge of shutting people out right now.”