Use your money to buy happiness

buying happinessThis weekend you, your mom, your grandmother Mita and I drove five hours to meet up with my brother, Ralph, my nephews Gio, Joshua, and Ralphy as well as their families. There were 16 of us in total (I wish it could have been the entire extended family) in a huge cabin that was so far from civilization that there was no cell phone service or internet service. We were there from Friday to Sunday, accompanied by thousands of stars in the night sky.

I’m pretty sure that you’ll never forget it and I know for sure that I never will.

It was actually a fairly affordable getaway because of the location, but that’s not really relevant. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s nothing wrong with amassing financial wealth, but just make sure that you spend a good portion of that wealth on experiences that strengthen bonds with friends and family. Experiences that will stay with you as long as you live.

Debunk that old cliche and spend your money buying happiness.

Balance is key

What’s up little man. You’re down in Miami vacationing while I’m up in Hoboken working and enjoying some free time. Funny enough, I thought that I would spend every single night playing a live gig or producing music, but it didn’t turn out that way.

I have played plenty of music, but I’ve noticed that some of the passion and excitement that usually accompanies playing and singing has fizzled. The reason? Because you and mom weren’t here.

I realized that while things like skiing, playing soccer, and playing music are by far my favorite ways to pass the time they are best enjoyed within the context of family life. Always remember that. Love what you do but make sure to build and maintain strong bonds with both friends and family. Those social bonds will ensure that you get the most out of your favorite pursuits.

Learn to fail graciously

A fascinating thing happened this weekend. I took you out to swing at some baseballs for the first time (on Saturday, April 19 2014 to be exact) and you hit the first two pitches that I lobbed at you. As impressive as that was to me, what was equally remarkable was your reaction after swinging and missing at a few pitches.

You threw your bat down in frustration and anger and decided that you didn’t want to play baseball anymore. I tried my hardest to explain that swinging and missing is part of the game. We even ran into my buddy Carmine – who happens to be a little league baseball coach – and he explained to you that even the greatest baseball players of all time swung and missed 7 times out of 10, but there was no consoling you.

Interestingly, I told this story your grandmother (my mom) and she pointed out that I was more or less the same way when I was your age. That gave me a sense of comfort because I know that with time I’ve learned to not only deal with failure but to seek it out in some sense. Why? Because more often than not it’s a path to breaking new ground and developing real skill and proficiency.

A lot of people – especially once they become adults – stick to their regular routines and ways of being. They rarely branch out into new disciplines, career fields, hobbies, etc. because they would rather stick to things they know well and rarely fail at. That’s perfectly fine, mind you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are also folks out there that enjoy tremendous success in various areas of life – from relationships, to business, to general life experience and adventure – mainly because they seek out new ways of living that often require a fair amount of failure early on.

My advice would be to learn to fail gracefully my boy. It will serve you well.

 

Spend a lot of time contemplating empathy

empathy bearHey there little man. This post is going to be short and sweet. Spend a lot of time contemplating empathy. I mean really think it all the way through.

I’m thirty-seven years old and still digging into what that word truly means and how to practice empathy in my every day life. And I’ve found that doing so has helped me free myself from all sorts of stress – everything from being stuck in traffic to dealing with the difficult personalities in my personal and professional life.

For me, empathy means feeling for others even when they have slighted you in some real – or even imagined – way. The jerky that doesn’t know how to treat you with respect at work. The family member that seems to often let you down. The stranger that bumps you because he/she is in too much of a hurry to show some manners.

Before getting angry or confrontational, consider what it must be like to live with these psychological mindsets. Remember that like you, other people have bad days too (or weeks, months, years, and entire lifetimes).

And if nothing else, remember that you get to move on to living your own life while that other person has the distinct melancholy of having to live with themselves. So feel for them instead of taking on a vengeful, spiteful, or general unsettled state of mind.

From what I’ve learned thus far in life, empathy definitely seems like the right way to go.

The day you cried because I had to work overtime

It was a real heart breaker moment, kid.

I found myself holding you tight in my arms as you cried inconsolably. But I had no recourse. I had to get some work done and it needed to be done that very minute. But you didn’t understand that. All you knew is that I had just gotten home and it was time to play.

Mind you, I had the luxury of working remotely, so at least I was there at home with you and mom as opposed to being stuck in the office late into the night. And as I thought more and more about it I realized that you’re truly one of the lucky toddlers in that your mom stays home so that she can shepherd you to and from school and generally nurture pretty much all day. I’m also around a lot due to a relatively sane 9-5 work schedule, minimal travel, and relatively short daily commute.

A part of me felt like I should perhaps tell you to toughen up and stop crying. Maybe suggest that you learn to appreciate all that you do have instead of throwing a tantrum because our play time would be delayed for a little while.

But that would be stupid.

Because I love you very much and I know that you treasure the time we spend together. And I found myself recalling the sage advice my childhood friend – and fellow father – Miguel once told me:

“Spend all of the time you can with them, because you can never get that time back once its gone.”

Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing, of course, because it’s likely that Miguel shared that beautiful insight during one of our semi-drunken hang-out sessions. But I digress.

I hope that you always relish our time spent together, and I’ll always serve as non-judging shoulder to lean on as long as I have breath.

P.S. We had a great time hanging after the work was done.

Don’t be afraid to spend money on great experiences

Hey there little man. This past Monday, your mother and I went to see Woody Allen’s old-time jazz band play at the Carlyle. I had to call way in advance to reserve a table and it cost a pretty penny. But you know what? It was well worth it.

woodyWe had a great time watching one of our all-time favorite film directors jam out and show off his lesser-known talent with a handful of extremely talented and fun-loving musicians in a room filled with energy and history. Moreover, we enjoyed chatting with the fun-loving folks sitting all around us (the room was packed tight and super intimate). Both of us came away feeling like it was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had.

I bring this up to contrast it with a very different experience that I had when I was a teenager. In  a nutshell, I rarely bothered to join my good friends when they would go check out a concert (ex: Pink Floyd) because:

a) I didn’t feel like shelling out the money

b) I figured I could just catch whatever band or performer some other time.

Then came the Summer of 1995. I got the heads up that the Grateful Dead would be performing in South Florida, and since they were one of my favorite bands, which I had missed several times before due to my aforementioned apathy, I decided to make it to the show. The concert was slated for October of that year, but sadly, in late August the leader of the band – Jerry Garcia – passed away. The concert never happened and I realized that I would never see my beloved Dead perform live.

I don’t have many regrets in this life, but this is definitely one of them.

Take the time and spend the money. And when possible, bring along a lot of friends and loved ones. Because as my old and dearly departed childhood friend, Jason Ellis, used to say, “the best things in life aren’t things.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

When I was a kid I had a friend whose mom would often advise “don’t take yourself too seriously.”

I always found that to be sage advise, but now that I’m an adult with an adult job and adult responsibilities, I’ve come to realize just how wise this suggestion truly is. All too often, I come across people with relatively greats jobs, relationships, financial standing, etc – in other words, great lives – that are felled by a sense of seriousness and/or an adversarial disposition.

And more often than not, their inability to take it easy and enjoy life is fueled by a delusion that the work that they do and the conversations they have are life and death matters. Even as I write this, I realize that I get caught up in this illusion myself from time to time (much more often than I care to admit).

Well guess what. Unless you’re out on the front lines of the war on homelessness, hunger, abuse, malnutrition, disease, economic inequality, etc. Your decisions are not life or death. Getting your point across is not that important. That Powerpoint deck you’re working on isn’t going to change anyone’s life in an appreciable way.

So take it easy my boy. There are times for seriousness and circumspection. But more often than not, you’re better served by heeding my friend’s mother’s advice.

Cultivating a formative love for visual arts

Hey little man. Just wanted to give your mom some props for instilling a love for visual arts in you – photography in this particular example – at a young age (3.5 years to be exact).

She’s been letting you borrow her SLR camera for some time and recently put together an album of some of your best pics to date. Below I’ve shared some of my personal favorites but there’s definitely more where these came from.

We’re trying hard to immerse you in art and physical/outdoor activity, hoping that it pays dividends as you grow into a young man.

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Thomas looks a little bit freaky, but it’s a great closeup nonetheless. Maybe just back up a few inches next time.
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That’s better (nice light and angle as well).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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sebiphoto4A pic of your buddy, Charlie, doing what he does best (e.g. nothing).
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Managed to capture an up-close view into Thomas’ extreme happiness but this one is less freaky for some reason (probably due to the better angle, etc.)

 

 

 

 

Not sure what this guy’s name is, but you definitely captured his groovy, hazy 1960’s spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

Your buddy “Little Bobby” Generale (Look closely and you’ll notice papi preparing refreshments in the background)