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Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas | 4 comments

What Strength Really Means — A Story of Two Cowboys

 

Personal Note:  In the coming days, I’ll be posting stories of people and incidents that have inspired me.  Hopefully, these special people will inspire you, as well.

 

How would you define strength?

Ponder this question for a moment.

How is strength best defined?  Take a moment and consider the possibilities.

Okay, so perhaps you have an answer.  Now, permit me to have a go at this.  Perhaps by the end of this essay, you may want to re-think your answer and consider alternative ways that strength is revealed in our society.

Here’s my take.

Strength isn’t manifested in achieving superiority, nor by making others inferior.  Strength isn’t exhibited in anger or intimidation.

To the contrary.  Real strength is embodied in personal sacrifice.  It’s going out of one’s way to help a fellow human being.  It’s putting another person’s comfort above your own.  It’s dealing with the bad breaks in life and making the most out of them.  That’s real strength.

I still have a lot to learn.  I have a long way to go.  No doubt, I have inner demons to conquer.  But life has taught me it’s the small things that really matter.  It’s the small things in life that bring joy and nourish optimism.  Small things, like a glass of vintage wine, a meaningful conversation with family or friends, a comfortable resting place beside a warm fireplace, hearing your favorite Christmas carol, or watching a golden sunset.

Each of those things might not seem exceptional.  But they are!  They are indubitably rewarding.  When we look back at our lives, I think most of us remember the simpler things we have done and experienced that brought us the most happiness.

It’s also the small things that often provide us with the most profound lessons.  A seemingly trivial moment in the middle of the day can reveal a great deal about what’s really important.  Our values stem not so much from formal education or access to the most learned academics.  Life’s most meaningful lessons are taught in the classroom of daily life and come directly from one’s own experiences and observations.  Our values are challenged and often reaffirmed by things that happen to us every single day.

 

………………..

 

The National Finals Rodeo is in town this week.  Every December for the past 27 years, thousands of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls come to Las Vegas from all over the country — indeed from all over the world — to watch and participate in the national championship finals rodeo.  Up and down the Vegas Strip, it’s backed up bumper to bumper with pick-up trucks and horse trailers — with license plates from Oklahoma, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Manitoba, Texas, and all points in between.  Cowboy hats are everywhere — whether it’s elegant Venetian or down-home Sam’s Town.  Almost every visitor has shiny new belt buckle and wears a pair of blue jeans or coveralls.  An “invasion” of cowboys would not be too strong a word.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 1 comment

Listening to Your Inner Voice

 

Thanksgiving 2012 at South Lake Tahoe

 

Writer’s Note:  Tonight I had the great fortune of enjoying yet another extraordinary dinner and deep discussion with friends and colleagues.

Steve Schorr, Race and Sportsbook Manager at Harveys Lake Tahoe (pictured standing at center in photo) made the mistake of including me in his good graces, an invite that’s always sure to result in an assault on the liquor cabinet, several off-color comments, and a sink full of dirty dishes. 

Gracie, his longtime companion and our host extraordinaire for the evening (standing with Steve in the photo) served a dinner that would have made Henry VIII bust his pants. The only thing more pleasing than the fresh salmon and glazed lamb chops was the company.

On second thought, while the company was indeed wonderful, those smoked lamb chops served with a reduction sauce were pretty damned good. Sorry Steve, you’ve been upstaged by a slaughtered lamb.

Naturally, with good friends and wine comes interesting conversation. The following essay was prompted by our discussion.

 

 

Another dinner.

Another epiphany.

If we have a sixth sense beyond the known five, it’s probably instinct.

Think about that for a moment.

Instinct.

An inner voice.

A feeling.

Were I to define instinct, it would be perception which cannot be measured nor transposed.  But it’s real.  Just as touch is a tangible sensation — a neurophysiological process of transmission from body to brain — it’s not necessarily defined in the abstract.  After all, we see objects, we hear sounds, we taste flavors, we smell odors.  But touch isn’t quite the same.  Accordingly, isn’t it quite possible – even probable — that all the evolutionary tools we’ve come to master over hundreds of thousands of years are now manifested in a greater awareness of our surroundings and a dominion as to how to optimally react to stimuli?

Alas, this is what I call instinct.

It’s taken me most of my life to erase what amounts to fifty years of ignorance or indifference to instinct.  I’m hardly alone.  We’re all inundated with second-guessing and self-doubt.  Killers of human instinct.  Assassins of truth.  Which gradually leads to loss of confidence — and ultimately to sadness and depression.

Why is this so?

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Posted by on Nov 18, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 3 comments

Who Would You Most Like to Have Dinner With?

 

Top of Harvey's Lake Tahoe 2012

 

Photo Caption:  Dinner tonight at “19,” which is high atop the Harveys Resort and Casino at beautiful Lake Tahoe.  I wolfed down a 20-ounce coffee-rubbed rib-eye, with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, a house salad, a full bottle of Pellegrino, two double expressos, and two bottles of Caymus (shared, of course).  Epic dinners like these always bring about great conversation, especially when you are with great company like Steve Schorr (Race and Sportsbook Manager) and Glen Cademartori (Caesars Entertainment Marketing Director for Northern Nevada).  Dinners like this are what living life is all about.  Tonight’s dinner prompted the following thoughts and column:

 

I wish there were 36 hours in the day, instead of 24.

I wish there were eight days in the week, instead of seven.

I wish I had more time.

 

There’s not enough time to read all the books I want to read.  There’s not enough time to listen to all the music I want to hear.  There’s not enough time to travel to all the places I want to go.  There’s not enough time to make all the friends I’d like to meet.  There’s not enough time to covet those family relationships and friendships that I’m already blessed to have.  There’s not enough time fulfill a vast cauldron of desires.

Indeed, each of us lives inside an hourglass.  The sand beneath our feet is always shifting and slowly disappears, one grain at a time, one ticking second at a time.  At some point — no one knows exactly when — the sand runs out.  Our hourglass becomes empty.  And then, we will be gone.

When you think about it, other than our good health, time is our most precious resource.

Why then do we waste so much of it?

 

Tonight at dinner, the conversation turned to living a good life.

A random question came up that made me to pause and think.  And quite frankly, I got stumped.  I usually have quick answers for just about everything.  That’s what comes with being opinionated.  But a question was asked that I still have trouble answering.  Perhaps you’d like to pretend you’re dining with us over a few bottles of wine and you suddenly get asked the following:

If you could pick one person in the world to have a long one-on-one dinner conversation with, who would it be?

Let’s embellish this just a bit.  You must make two choices.  The first choice must be someone living.  The second choice must be someone deceased.

I find this a very difficult question to answer.

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Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

58,278 Names Etched In Granite

Names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washingtoon

 

A visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC is an emotive experience.

One need not be a military veteran nor even an American citizen to recognize the immense power of this extraordinary artwork, which pays tribute to those a generation ago who went to a faraway land and never returned home alive.  It was our most tragic — and I might add senseless — military conflict.

I lived in Washington, DC for 12 years.  During that time, many friends and relatives visited what remains a mesmerizing city.  I always used those special occasions to travel around our capital, playing amateur guide to our nation’s most impressive monuments.  For me, each accompanying visit was a reminder.  A reinforcement of what patriotism really means.

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Jefferson Memorial and so many other attractions are powerful places to visit.  They should be seen by everyone.  In fact, I’ll go so far to say that every American has an obligation to make at least one trip to our nation’s capital to see and experience these sites firsthand.  I’m not even sure one can really call himself or herself a true American without having stood next to these structures which represent the very essence of our nation.

However, one memorial above all the rest deserved to be seen.  It moved me emotionally each and every time I visited — and always in a different way.  I must have touched the granite wall perhaps two dozen times.  Instead of becoming bored or indifferent to something I had laid eyes upon so many occasions before, each visit gave me a new perspective about our history, what personal sacrifice really means, and the value of life itself.

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Posted by on Sep 16, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

The Dropped Third-Strike Drill

 

 

Writer’s Note:  This is the second in a two-part series.  This blog is contributed by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  All names of those in this story have been changed at the author’s request.  Please take the time to read this.  It’s beautifully written — and a wonderful inspiration to kids and adults alike.

 

PART II.

 

If you’re a kid playing baseball, there is nothing that causes more disappointment than striking out.

You walk up to the plate and every eye in the stadium is focused on you.   Regardless of what the statistics indicate about your potential for success, the level of expectation is still high.  When a pitcher gives up a home run, it is certainly a disappointment for him.  But everyone knows that in order to be effective in his role a pitcher must throw strikes.  Pitches in the strike zone are, for the most part, hittable and sometimes they are hit out of the park.

When you’ve struck out however, you have either missed the pitches that were in the strike zone, or swung at pitches that were not.  Sometimes both.  You were given multiple opportunities and you wasted them.  To make matters worse you must now take a long, lonely stroll back to the dugout, which affords you ample opportunity to contemplate your recent failure.

But you are certainly NOT a failure — for in the battle between pitcher and hitter, a significant advantage belongs to the pitcher in almost every case.

It has been said that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the hardest fundamental task in all of sports and yet each time you come up to the plate, you expect to and are expected by others to, hit the ball.

When a player makes an error, he may be given the opportunity to redeem himself on the very next pitch.  A diving catch or a perfect throw results in a stadium full of cheering fans, and the dejection that was felt mere seconds ago has now been drastically reduced if not completely eliminated and replaced by a sense of joy and accomplishment.  Strike out however, and several innings will likely pass before you get another chance to bat.  You will carry that sense of failure with you from the batter’s box to the dugout and when you take your position on the field, that sense of failure will continue to haunt you.  It will likely persist even as you take your next turn at bat.  Striking out can be horrible.  Indeed, the disposition of the entire town was adversely affected — their hopes gone, their dreams crushed — by one single example of missed opportunity when The Mighty Casey struck out.

Every summer there are kids on diamonds all across America striking out.  They walk back to their dugouts with their heads hung low while their parents either sink in their seats trying to hide, or scream at them to keep their eye on the ball, or worse yet, telling them they suck.  Right, as if that beer-bellied dad could hit a 65-mph fastball on the inside corner thrown by a 11 year old from just 45 feet away.

Pick any team, on any summer day, on any diamond in America and I guarantee you’ll see it — unless by some miraculous improbability the team you pick happens to be one that I coach.

When coaching youth sports, I believe that it’s important to be as positive as possible.  Emphasize successes, not failures and look for opportunities to promote success in difficult or disappointing situations.  Give the athlete something specific to focus on improving rather than dwelling on the negative result.

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