You Are What You Do. So, What Are You Doing Today?

We are what we do. It’s so simple really yet it’s easy to forget. Each and every day throughout our lives we make multiple decisions about what we will do with the day, moment or hour. How will you react to something specific when it happens whether it’s good or bad? What decisions will you make?

If you haven’t visited the TED site on the Internet, give yourself a treat and go browse their large video collection of inspiring speakers. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then, its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, they offer TED Global. It’s a conference in Edinburgh each summer. They have started a TED Fellows program and TEDX programs. And, There’s the annual TED Prize. Michael Karnjanaprakorn, a 2007 Brandcenter grad just became the first TED fellow to be featured on their blog. Michael’s created Skillshare, an online educational company that allows anyone to share their knowledge with people interested in gaining it.

I love TED’s choice in visionary speakers. Each video features a riveting talk by a remarkable person. All these talks over the years have been filmed and all are free to anyone in the world. Not much on TV is half as good as spending 20 minutes being inspired by one of the gracious people sharing their vision. Sometimes I DO treat myself to two TED talks at the end of a day.

The last three weeks have been very productive for me in a number of ways and I feel good about the decision to spend time both working in advertising and racing my boat. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to put in a lot of time out on the water in two big Chesapeake Bay regattas during the past two weekends.

Allow me to share some of what I’ve accomplished during this time, not to pat myself on the back but to make the point that I do choose to make my hours count.

In the pro-bono area I recently created 2 small space ads and flyers for our town’s Village Improvement Association and its Farmers Market and Concert Series. I’ve started a public relations and communications plan to help launch a book that I’ve committed to design on the unique architecture in Irvington, tentatively called “Irvington, America’s Village”. I created a quick poster to help ramp up the news about a new regatta for Rappahannock River Yacht Club and continued working on a blog and Facebook page for this group’s Typhoon racers.

Irvington Farmers Market 2012 September Ad

The August 2012 Irvington Farmers Market Ad

Irvington Farmers Market Concert  Ad July 2. 2012

Bags and T-Shirts for Rappahannock River Yacht Club’s new Regatta were needed and I took care of it. Racers loved their shirts and the canvas bags that were given away as door prizes.  Larger, more impressive versions of the one here were given as “trophies” for race winners instead of the usual, engraved Jefferson Cups.

2012 RRYC One Design & Junior Invitational Regatta Poster

Merchandise for 2012 RRYC One Design & Junior Invitational Regatta

I’ve finished a “big-picture” review of an agency’s communications and new business plan.  It’s with a professional proofreader, now. They contacted me after seeing my post on this blog called “To Hell With New York”. That post focuses on choosing your mentors carefully and taking the time to really focus on your goals.  Working on my new startup business idea, I’ve met via phone, with my former grad assistant and current Director of Marketing for Converse, Greg Gailbraith.  Greg is an international branding leader, having worked in marketing for both Converse and Nike for over 15 years.  Additionally, I enjoyed a great meeting with Jerry Gorde, Founder of VATEX.  Jerry is a lifetime advocate for an economically just society.  His company VATEX, founded 35 years ago, is a four-time INC 500 company.  He graciously spent half a day with me discussing the pros and cons of my startup, helping me better form ideas about it and its niche.  A 25 year member of the Social Venture Network, Jerry’s experiences and connections with successful founders and investors behind startups is vast.  You may be familiar with a few.  They include the founders of: Ben & Jerry’s, Tom’s of Maine, Stoneyfield Farm, Seventh Generation, Eileen Fisher, Bright Horizons, Birkenstock, and more.

This year, one of my goals is to become a good sailor and racer. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to learn from Dwight Timm who’s crewed with me since May. He’s just turned 79, the age my father would be if he were still alive. Unfortunately, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack at 43. My mom also passed away quickly at 56. She had a rare cancer – a sarcoma of the pulmonary artery. It blocked her heart, causing a massive heart attack during an operation that was supposed to remove a benign lump in her lung. It turned out that the docs had gotten it wrong but we couldn’t blame them for missing a cancer that had only been documented in a 100 cases before.

Just a few weeks before my dad died, I’d finished putting myself through a private college’s art program, even earning a double major in graphic design and illustration. I was able to pay all my living expenses in addition to the tuition, books, and material costs by driving big gravel trucks. It was unusual – but by putting in 10 hours a day, six days a week each summer, I was able to pay off all my college debts in five summers. This job was deadly dull, but the upside was that it created great motivation in me to do well in school. I was left feeling that I didn’t want to end up spending too many more weeks in a truck’s cab after I was 21.

My parents were great role models and while supportive, they expected all of us to also be self-supporting by the time we were 18.  I have to admit that it does feel a bit strange to know that I’m now older than either of them.  For the past four years, I’ve chosen to go to a great YMCA about six days a week to work out with weights and do cardio.  Thank goodness my folks instilled a real work ethic in my three sisters and me. I don’t know where we’d be today without it.

I’ve been totally on my own without parents since the age of 29. No parents to talk with about any of life’s decisions. (I can hear what they’d say or suggest though if I just take the time to think about it.) I’m the oldest of four siblings so I was very lucky to be able to spend time with my young dad until I graduated at 21. My mom’s true strengths and goodness weren’t fully appreciated until I had my own two daughters. When she passed away, I was just 29 with a one-year old. What I wouldn’t give to spend just one day with her, now.

My parent’s early deaths are part of the underlying reason I celebrate each day and have paid careful attention to what I do with every one of them. We only have so much energy and I’d prefer to spend mine in ways that will enrich my family, friends, and self. Life doesn’t always go this way but it is a conscious effort I choose to make daily.

I’ve also chosen my mentors carefully. They don’t know it but they’ve all been surrogate parents to me. From Mark Moffett to John Siddall to Harry Jacobs to Mike Hughes to Dean David Hiley to VCU’s President Trani to Dwight Timm. I’ve learned so much from each and now am learning so much from Dwight. I’m so grateful for all the time they chose to spend educating me.

So, What will you decide to do today? Where will your decisions take you along your path? Are you going to lay around and play hours of video games? Are you going to watch a movie for the 20th time? How will you enriched yourself, and who will you choose to enrich?

Life is worth celebrating each and every day. I hope today’s a good one for you. Even when I have a lousy one, I always think that I’m so very lucky. I’ve enjoyed so many good times and such great experiences in all days and years I’ve been given – years my parent’s never got the chance to enjoy.