Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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Posts tagged memories
I Don't Need a Building

I don't need a building standing tall on some campus or in some city with my name on it. I don't have nearly enough money for that. I don't need volumes of books written about me, read by the masses or by the scholars. I don't have an interesting enough life for that.

I don't need a holiday named after me, where people get off work and go shopping for mattresses on sale. I don't have enough notoriety for that.

I don't need a parade held in my honor, complete with a marching band and people waving at the crowds. I don't have enough pomp and circumstance for that.

I don't need a song written about me and what I may have done to inspire someone with a guitar and a dream. I don't have nearly enough motivational qualities for that.

...

I simply want to be written on the heart of a few people, who will remember the best parts about me when I'm gone. I want my legacy not etched in stone, but marked with a life well lived.

I think I have enough me for that.

I Will Build You A Thousand Sand Castles

We sat in the cool sand under an overcast sky and started to dig. We moved sand around looking for shells and then started to fill buckets in an attempt to build something. When the bucket could hold no more sand, I turned it over and lifted it again to reveal a small column standing there amidst the shovels and seashells. My daughter saw the beginning of the sand castle, grew excited, and then stepped on it, turning my work to rubble. She looked up, pleased, and asked, "Daddy build another sand castle so I can knock it over?"

Sure, my love. For you I would build a thousand sand castles.

This is what we do for people we love. We're willing to build and rebuild and then build again and again and then a few more times. We're not working with stone or marble when we're working with love. Our materials are fragile human hearts and delicate emotions. Often, each crumbles under the weight of everyday life, busy schedules, and the pressure to be perfect.

And when something falls apart or doesn't go as planned, if we're with the people we love, we stoop low again and start to build. We're not interested in doing work that will last for millennia; we do the work that's needed to make it through today because when we love somebody, all we want to do is spend tomorrow with them.

Love is not the thing that motivates us to create something that strangers will know us by. Love is the thing that compels us to do everything so that those who mean the most will know how much we care.

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The Power of Place

Sometimes, all it takes to take you back is a building. Stacks of steel and concrete or the way the fairway looks in that sunlight can transport you back a decade or more. Looking out a bedroom window or down a hallway that doesn't seem so big anymore brings back memories and milestones you'd forgotten still lived inside of you. I was in south Florida, keynoting a business conference. After the speech and a round of golf with my dad, we decided to go for dinner. As we turned off the main drag and into the complex full of restaurants and shops, I got that scary happy feeling like I'd been there before. And then I knew why it was familiar and foreign to me. I had been there once, almost ten years earlier when I spoke nearby. I was a different person then, on a different errand, but the power of place overcame me and there I was, younger and unwed with more answers than questions.

It's the feeling of a Friday night football game when you're 30 but suddenly feel 16. Or when you look at the counters in your parents' house and recall a time when you could barely see the cookies that you could smell cooling above. It's the way your grandfather looked in his recliner or the way Christmas sounded when everyone was together under the same roof of that very old house.

Our homes are more than where we live. Our offices and schools are more than bricks and drywall. Parks are more than trees and open fields and roads do more than get us from A to B. Everywhere we go and move is a memory waiting to happen, eager to sneak up on us when we're busy doing everything else.

Places can be sacred. Churches and bars can equally have special meaning for those of us who darken either doorway to meet with friends and commiserate with strangers.

The only way to recognize the power of place is to succumb to its alluring pull. Let it wash over you. Let your mind wander back to a time when you were and where you were. And understand that the next memory could happen anywhere. The conditions never have to be right or perfect. The creation of the moment will make everything right by it.

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Good Parenting Happens in the In-Between

From the looks of it, we're all fantastic parents. Our Instagrams from Disney World and the Facebook albums of Easters and Christmases show smiles, laughter, hugs, and happiness. It's as if nothing goes wrong in our lives or for our families. It's easy for people to think I'm a great dad because sometimes my blog posts show that I'm willing to get dirty with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter or that I'm at her beck and call when we go out to eat. And while I'm learning myriad life lessons from this pint-sized princess, certainly we all know that for every muffin she eats happily, there's a little girl (and her dad) who gets frustrated when it's time to change a diaper, take a bath, or go to the doctor.

I don't think the good parenting we're all doing happens when we post the highlights of our lives to Facebook. It happens in between those moments.

Somewhere between your Christmas morning and the craft your child made for Valentine's Day, you were a great parent. You taught a life lesson, moved heaven and earth in order to make your kid happy, or put off what you wanted to do so they could do what they needed to do. There is no album on Facebook for that. 

At some point between the school portraits and your summer beach trip, you snuggled next to your son or daughter (or both) and watched a silly TV show. As their eyes followed the dancing monkey or uncoordinated clown, you looked over and caught the smile that was curling upwards from the corners of their mouth. You didn't take a video of it, but it's etched in your mind forever.

The times when you didn't let them have dessert because they didn't touch their vegetables? Or when they couldn't watch TV because they didn't clean their room like you asked? When they left toys lying about so you told them they'd have to clean up before they could play with a friend? When they needed to apologize to their brother before they got certain privileges back? None of those times go on Facebook. Few of those instances involved smiling. But good parenting probably happened.

Do not judge your parenting skills - or the quality of your life, for that matter - based upon what you or anyone else is putting online. Those are the highlights. That's the SportsCenter of living, not the full game with its ebb and flow, its rhythm and mistakes, its moments of terror, uncertainty, and desperation.

Facebook is an idealized representation of ourselves, how we parent, how we live, how we love. It is anything but authentic.

Parenting - and life - happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.

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"I want to do it."

I try to help her clean the cupcake icing from in between her small and sometimes uncoordinated fingers. "I want to do it," she says as she grabs a wet wipe and gets to work.

She grunts as she attempts to pull Legos apart, blocks that I attached rather well so we could build the tower taller.

"No, Daddy. I want to do it." I watch as she struggles until she relents and whimpers, "Help!"

Putting on her pants is no longer my job. It's her exercise in independence.

"I want to do it," she tells me and she stabs one leg in and then the other, often down the same pant leg.

And so it goes with most of our daily routine. Opening the pack of crackers, turning on the TV, choosing a book for bedtime reading, lining up buttons, buckling her seat belt, cleaning up a spill, getting into her stroller, putting a clip in her hair - these are all things that she now wants to do.

Yesterday, we were coloring and she spotted some stickers. I asked her if she'd like me to take one off the page and give it to her so she could place it on her shirt.

And then she hit me with it: "No, Daddy. I need to do it."

And she was right. She did need to do it. It was time.

This is what growth looks like. It's letting people do what they need to do so that one day, when they're on their own or miles away or all grown up (or all three), they can play with stickers or clean up a mess or eat lunch or go for a walk without your constant oversight, meddling, or touch.

And while it takes the wind out of me sometimes to think about her not needing me, I know that ultimately, my duty is to teach her that she only needs herself. I'm not supposed to wipe her mouth forever. I'm just supposed to wipe off that milk mustache until she's figured out how to do it.

As a parent, I am the teacher who's fighting against the end of the semester. While traditional educators look forward to the summer break, I don't want to stop giving lessons, demonstrating how something is done. I crave her mastery, but I don't want to lose the intimacy that comes from being the ever-present helper, cleaner, teacher, and guide.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the only way I can ever be always there is to teach her something she'll take with her forever. She'll always know me not because I'm within earshot to help wipe her fingers after eating a cupcake. The best I can do is that when she's grown and big and strong and eating a cupcake, she'll think of me and our icing faces as she takes a napkin to dab in between her slender fingers to get all the gooey sugar goodness that likes to hide when you're eating a cupcake after a long walk with someone you love.

A Reminder About Your Heart

Yes - you are free to store up as many treasures as you like in your heart. It is your heart, after all. Cram it with memories - good or bad. Select people who belong there. Choose stuff and put it there, too. Seriously - whatever and whoever you want to store up in your heart is fair game.

But please remember that space is limited. You cannot possibly hold everything.

Choice is hard, but it is necessary. The things that stay in your heart, then, must be really important.

And that should tell you something about who and what is allowed in.

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Muffins

I picked her up from school and let her choose where we went next. All of the options started with "p" and were nearby. Pinkberry? The park? Panera? She chose the last one and off we went to get a snack. By now, she's been so many times with me that she recognizes the logo, the earth tones, the awnings, the in-store ads, and probably the smell. She knows what's inside: cookies, muffins, bagels, salads. I know what's inside, too: time together.

We pay for our food, grab a highchair, and find a table. This location is crowded with $2 customers today. There's the handful of retirees who have been here since lunch, sipping coffee (and the free refills) and reading papers, telling stories, and taking things slowly. College students are strewn about, buckling down before finals week with heavy textbooks, $1,000 laptops, and a plastic cup that always has a soft drink in it. Headphones are in, eyes are on the paper until a chat pops up on the screen, and they'll be here until the cafeteria opens in a few hours.

And then there's us. A girl and her dad, ready to eat a muffin together.

For little hands, a muffin this size is a commitment. It's an event. It's not food; it's something to do for a half hour. She grabs and lifts, takes a bite and smiles, pleased with the taste and the texture and the fact that she just did that all by herself.

Eating a Muffin

She then starts directing me, telling me where to put the fork and how to cut the muffin and to get her a cookie, too, and that she needs some water and look at what that woman has and what are those people eating and where is Mommy and look at all the crumbs and it's getting darker outside and she wants another bite and Daddy can't have any and look at the plate and move her cup and school was fun and we'll go home soon.

She does this a lot now, the little general. She orders and tells and says and states and declares and preaches and asks and demands and demands and demands. Trying to make happen something you want to make happen is hard when you're still learning the basic conventions of a spoken language. But despite her persistence and impatience and whines and begging, I listen and I do as I'm told. Because the truth is always scattered around me like college students at Panera:

In a decade or so, I'll need to beg her to go anywhere with me.

And so I take the muffin days now, complete with crumbs and commands, and store them up. I am stocking a pantry of memories that I can draw from moving forward in order to eat well on those days when I embarrass her and those days when she just doesn't feel herself and those days when she wants to be alone and those days when she doesn't like me. I will sit in a chair on those days and remember how my daughter used to eat muffins with two hands and smile and notice everything.

I will use those muffin memories to get me through that decade until she is sitting at some Panera near her campus, trying not to stare and remember as another dad does what his muffin-eating daughter tells him to do.

And then I'll still be there a decade later, perhaps when she and I together eat muffins with her child.

We need the muffins because they're so much more than food. Vacations are more than a trip. The park is more than a playground. And life is better than we realize, caught in that moment between muffin and memory.

Shop Last

If you're feeling unhappy, grumpy, upset, shocked, or in a funk, don't go shopping. In fact, shopping should be your last resort when you get bad news, a day isn't going your way, or you feel like crawling back in bed. Go for a walk, go to a movie, go for a long drive - just don't go to the mall. Why? It won't work.

Research shows that we're collectively just as happy as we were in 1972. But, over those last 40 years, our spending has increased by 96%, meaning we're spending a lot more money and not getting any happier. We Americans fork over about $1.2 trillion a year on stuff we don't need.

If you want to be happy, don't go shopping.

We're happiest when we accomplish something, like achieving a goal we set for ourselves. I'm willing to bet you remember the feeling you had when you dropped those 10 pounds, finally got that promotion at work, or launched your new side project. I'm also willing to bet you don't remember everything you bought that time you went to Target six months ago.

Stuff rarely creates memories. People and experiences do. And memories serve as a nice reserve emotional currency for us to draw down on when we feel sad, lonely, upset, or angry.

That's why, if you want to be happier, instead of going shopping, do these 10 things instead:

  1. Get active. Go for a walk. Run, even. Ride a bike, hike around a lake, or play on a playground.
  2. Cook. You still don't have to go to the store for this since most of us have a month's worth of food in our pantry. Break out a recipe book (or find one online) and start stirring.
  3. Read. Dive into a great book. Read blogs, old letters you've received, or magazines. There are places called libraries that are full of free things to read.
  4. Chat with a friend. Send some funny text messages back and forth or dial up your best friend for a nice chat. They should know you well enough to re-center you.
  5. Plan a trip. Don't break out the credit card and start putting down payments on it, but imagine where you could go if you could go anywhere. Research a new country and find local hot-spots.
  6. Watch that one movie that makes you laugh every time.
  7. Go to sleep. There's nothing wrong with coming home from a long day at work, changing into your pajamas by 7 p.m., eating cereal, and going to sleep.
  8. Help someone. Go volunteer at a local nonprofit organization. It clearly doesn't cost you anything and you may be pleasantly surprised to see how much you get out of the experience. Helping others releases some powerful endorphins.
  9. Take pictures. Grab a friend or two, go somewhere cool and break out the camera. Take pictures of yourself jumping, acting silly, or trying to be models. Find the good ones and print them out so you can always - at a glance - remember the fun.
  10. Write. Get the words out. Use a journal, the back of a napkin, a chalkboard, or your laptop. Write about your feelings, make up a short story, or pen a letter to yourself.

Each of these activities provides focus, which is what you need when you're not feeling your best. Focus can take your mind off of the temporary pain or depression at hand. Then, you won't be tempted to drive somewhere and end up at the outlet mall.

What would you add to this list?

When you're feeling down, what do you do so that you don't max our your credit cards?

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Turning 2

Two years ago today, around 5:30 in the morning, my daughter showed up. At that moment, I held 8-and-a-half pounds of awesome in my hands and knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Lots of parents say this, but life has a way of blocking out how it used to be. Because it - life - changes so much, it has a way of helping you to forget how things were. This is good and makes the present much easier to be in. By taking away the detailed memory, you're unable to truly long for it, meaning your heart can invest fully with each beat in what is now. My wife and I were married for six years before our daughter was born. In that time, we never spoke of poop. Not once. Since I became a parent, we have talked about it at least once a day. I'm sure this will change when our daughter is out of diapers, but once you start discussing your child's bowels with one another, it's hard to stop, especially since regularity is an important part of parenting.

A night in is just as good as a night out. In fact, coming home from work and changing into fleece pants and a T-shirt so you can do puzzles, color, and count things on the floor can be as invigorating and tiring as drinking all night.

There is nothing like hearing someone call you dad for the first time. Or every time she sees you.

Your mind will amaze and scare you thinking about what you'd do for your child.

Parenting gets easier and harder at the same time. I don't know of any other role that offers this. Mastering one challenge or skill gives you the confidence to face the next one, which you'll fail at miserably. So miserably, in fact, that you'll hope no one at DCS finds out because they'll come take your kid from you.

If your child is two, happy, and loved, then you're doing everything right.

Being a Dad

The biggest reason you have to embrace the now - other than that you can't really remember the past fully - is because it will be gone. Her crying for milk, her impatience at waiting for the DVD to load, her waking up in the middle of the night in need of a pacifier, her struggle to put together words so you understand what she needs, her making a mess of every meal, her need to have what she wants when she wants it - this will all be replaced one day with a daughter who acts like she doesn't need you, who wants you gone when her friends show up, and who will pretend like you're not important.

So I will take today's struggles. They are laced with moments of pride, love, happiness, and joy. And I will fight hard to remember those parts lest the present dare me to forget them so that one day - in another present - I will be able to hold the best of the past and all the hope for the future together, knowing that they, too, manifest themselves in her. My love for who she was, who she is, and who she shall become is greater than any of today's challenges and is what will always make me her dad.

Being a Dad

Going On Record

Our devices are becoming increasingly complex. By embracing this, we'll realize that never before have we been able to capture so much in order to help us remember for so long. Very rarely do we now have to say, "I wish I had my camera" because our cell phone - which we never leave home without - lets us capture anything we'd like on record. It's time we leverage this tool for more than recording poorly lit stage performers or funny license plates. It's time we showcased some vulnerability and made some memories with those we love. Case in point:Make a Great MemoryMake a Great MemoryMake a Great MemoryMake a Great Memory

What good are these tools if they don't bring us closer to the people we love? What good is being more productive if we don't use our newly saved time by making memories?

Get on camera. Be silly. Look back and laugh.

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