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A new year, a birthday, and a trip to Orlando......

01/28/19 - A couple of days past my 60th birthday I sit on a plane heading to Orlando Florida. I am with my wife Jan, our son George, and his fiancé Claire Till. We are on our way to Orlando for the 2019 Pro Bowl. For the few of you who read this you likely know that George plays tight end for the San Francisco 49er's. Most of you would also know then, that he was selected to play in this year's Pro Bowl. It has been quite a season for all of us on this end, and for some weird kind of cosmic way, this season ends with one more game in relative proximity to my 60th birthday.

I might be just pulling the connection of all of these events together on my own, but with the beginning of the new year (a normal time for reflection), and then just weeks into it to have the great fortune to be able to celebrate my birthday at the same time as this accomplishment with George and our family, I have found myself reviewing in some depth many areas of my life.

So what of 2019 and all of these events? I will spare you from the "year in review" type of thing but will update you on other thoughts and developments. The year has been a time of ongoing reflection, contemplation, and visioning. Seeking to clarify where we are at, what that may mean if anything, and then thinking about where we might be heading (and where we might want to go instead!). The reality is that all of us were more than a little sidetracked (in wonderful ways) by the season young George was able to put together.

49er football coaches and fans forgive me, yes I care about the team and winning, and all of us were hoping for more wins this season then what actually transpired. That said, we still celebrate the big and small victories we had, and while the wins did not come as frequently as everyone around the team wanted, the team did keep playing and competing and working to get better, and all that was good. Thus, we are all excited and looking forward to 2019.

In the midst of the rest of our lives and all else we were doing, we were able to make it out to California for quite a few games and saw several on the road. It was a fun fall just getting to the stadiums, taking in the games, cheering for the team and of course George. Almost all parents yearn and pray to see their kid achieve a lifelong dream and then be able to thrive at it. George has been fortunate to have some great people around him and especially some great teammates. So with help and support from so many people, George was able to set some records, had some big games, and ended up in the pro bowl. Now here we are off on another adventure to take in the week and enjoy the game and all its festivities.

So as my son is settled in and loving life (got engaged this fall), I continue to ponder the days, months, and years as they roll by. Seems hard to believe that it is now almost 6 years since moving back to Iowa, to be with friends and family here, find work, and be able to take in George's final years at Iowa. My 60th has caused me to pause, to look back, and as I usually do, ask myself, what is the lesson from all of this? Why have you been in this space for these years? For what purpose? What were you to do? What were you to experience? What were you to learn and have you learned those lessons?

In my world view I have this idea that as we move through these life stages we have opportunities to learn things, to evolve, to grown, to more fully become who were intended to be. At least we should be gaining clarity on where we need to go if we have feelings that this is not that spot. I will admit I keep asking these questions and the older I get the less clarity some days I feel. There are so many things I would still like to do. So many places I want to go visit and/or live. What of my evolution? Am I progressing or stuck? Growing or regressing? Fulfilling my potential, or falling short?

Lessons I have learned? Wow. Life is an unbelievable journey and I just try to stay fully awake and alert for as much of it as I can. Continuing to work on all of that and will share more below. But on the pro bowl, we made it to Orlando and was great. Weather was great (for us from Iowa) but locals complaining about some rain and lower temps into the 60's! But all good for us. Hotel is great (Waldorf - thank you NFL!) and everything first class. Thanks and a shout out to NFL and NFLPA for all they do for the players at this event. Everything has been great and we are so appreciative of all the work that goes into making something like this work.

Did we make it to the parks? Yes, we made it to Universal and to two Disney parks, including the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. Have to say I was a bit hesitant because at 60 not sure how I would do on or feel about the rides. And then there is Disney itself and all it represents. Not sure if others have felt this but over my lifetime it has been a bit of a love-hate with Disney. George has always claimed that we severely traumatized him in his youth by never taking him to any of the theme parks. While it is true that we did not we had our reasons.

First, in the kids' prime years of our potential "Disney attendance" I was in seminary back in the 90's. Like many denominations we were concerned with social justice issues. We had some concerns about the disproportionate levels of the CEO annual salary verses what they paid workers in some of the countries in the factories where Disney products were manufactured. So we were on a boycott of sorts of all of their properties and products. So that was part of it but the other truth was that we just enjoyed going to Colorado with the camping and hiking, more than heading to a big city to walk around a park, rides or not. So I have always been a bit skeptical about it all and never attended except a couple of times while I was part of a team attending on a bowl trip or something like that.

Well I have to say, the trip here to Orlando allowed us to visit Universal with just the Pro Bowl teams. They closed the portion of the park we were in (about 1/2 of the entire place) and we had it to ourselves. Honestly it was great and really fun. The staff was friendly and welcoming and the areas we got to see (Harry Potter and Hogwarts!) were all beautiful and everything we thought they might be (Spiderman ride was terrific!).

Then the next day we had the chance to take a VIP guided tour of the Disney parks. We chose the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. We rode the Pandora - Avatar ride (AMAZING), Mount Everest Rollercoaster (AMAZING!) and a slew of others.

Our guide was fantastic (thank you Julia) and obviously having VIP access was so great. Not sure I could ever go on regular attendance after this experience as this really spoiled us. And after we were done, and seeing all the people, all the lines, and the cost of everything, both our kids said they got it and understood why we didn't take them back when they were younger. But we sure had a good time and are grateful for the opportunity we had.

Almost forgot to mention that Emma and I were able to dive at the Epcot aquarium. It is the 2nd largest in the US and just under 6 million gallons of water. Was very cool and we really enjoyed it.

Other than the park trips, the Pro Bowl was fantastic (other than game day of course, with non-stop rain and cool temperatures- brrr). George had the chance to do several interviews and participate in some longer segments for NFL films and the NFLPA. George got to sit with "Jaws" i.e. Ron Jaworski and Brian Baldinger.

They did a film breakdown session watching some of George's clips from 2019 and then talking about the play, who did what, why it worked and all of that. George and I both had a terrific time with it and are so grateful he got the invite and the opportunity to participate. Jaws and Brian were great and made it so much fun (although I did not get on camera for any of it, so think they missed an opportunity there!! : )

After that he also did a take with Brian Urlacher in celebration of 100 years of the NFL. George had the chance to pick a legend he would want to sit down with; to talk and watch their film and then his and share thoughts. Brian (or Mr. Urlacher if you will) has been a hero of ours since back in the day. We were always huge Bears fans and Brian was the heart and soul of that team for years and had an incredible career.

In fact, George's very first player jersey when he was young was a Brian Urlacher #54 jersey. We actually found it when we learned Brian was going to be at the Pro Bowl as one of the captains. George was just barely able to get it on and we did take it to the Pro Bowl with us for a signature. George has been a huge fan all his life.

But taping the show and getting the chance to meet and talk with Brian in a setting that allowed a little more depth was amazing. Again I think they missed it by not including me in the show ; ) but it was so much fun. I must give Brian a shout out for his amazing recall of his career. While he had some disputes with the record books (believing he had more tackles and more interceptions than listed!) he remembered plays, games, and players like crazy. We would show a clip of one of his prior games and he knew the year and the game, and had so many great stories about his playing years. They might want to do a follow up because the first segment just barely got into it all. But it was great and so appreciative George got to do it.

Also shout out to the 49er video crew who came out. They did a tremendous job of following the three 49er players around, taping them and getting the story. A really fun time to be able to spend more time with them and the other players. Really, the best part of the Pro Bowl (to me) aside from the trip, good weather and all the special treatment, is getting to spend time with some of the other players. The hotel we were at was shut down completely except for the Pro Bowl teams, coaches, and their families. So no fans crushing in to get any autographs (although players do get autographs of other players they admire and lots of jersey exchanges).

Special thanks to Lane Johnson with the Eagles (who I coached when I was at OU so really fun to see him and watch he and George play together). Also Mitch Trubisky with the Bears who was so gracious for letting us still be Bear fans and introducing us to his family. But having some secluded and safe space to relax and get to know other players and their families was really great.

OK, but back to the lessons already!! Seems like they are nonstop but here are a few I have been thinking about. First I guess would be to stay connected to your passions and listen to your heart. I know the articles on LinkedIn and other locations sometimes tell you not to follow your passion or heart for all kinds of professional career building reasons. But I would say at 60, and even with all the career killing things I done during my prime career years, I wouldn't change any of it all these years later (maybe just 1 or 2 things, but not much! : ). So the heart and passion thing I think is big. But even as I say that, I also know that it is not always an easy thing to do.

I sit here pondering the remaining years of my career, whatever that might be, and for me the road ahead is not entirely clear. We moved back to Iowa originally in order to be able to follow George through his final years at Iowa. Well we did that and now he is off and seems to be doing OK. Daughter Emma has moved from Iowa and is now pretty well settled and into her things. So if both kids are are good, now what?

Don't tell my current employer (not really a secret) but I probably will not be spending my final years there. It has been fine and allowed me to make a living, attend games and travel and I am very grateful for all of that. But passion, heart, and purpose? Probably not and I know those things will be found somewhere else. But asking this question while itself is easy, finding an answer and acting on it is not.

I am aware that our tendencies in life (at least mine) can be to gravitate back to or stay in what is comfortable, to do what we know. But being comfortable and staying in the comfort zone with things we know does not necessarily mean you are following your heart or fulfilling you purpose. It may mean I am just too scared to make another choice, to take a risk, to move on to something else. We all want some guarantees and certainty in our lives and staying put is often the best way to do that, and many times a good thing to do. But the truth is that life does not always allow us to stay comfortable. So to reach something new and to get to a spot we think we want, we often have to let go of what we have, walk out on to the ledge, and get closer to a fall, and that is not easy. It often comes back to that leap of faith. But I can tell you the older you get the more faith it feels like you need in order to make that leap.

But if I am not in my current position doing criminal defense then what? I just listened to one of my favorite podcasts "Work in Sports" with Brian Clapp. They were just talking about folks as they get out of college and getting frozen, worried about making the wrong decision as to a degree program or selecting the first job. He was trying to comfort them and explained that the average college graduate now will change careers (not just jobs) on average 5-7 times within their lifetime. So the theory is to continue to build skills through the various jobs/careers you take and then work to leverage those skills into new positions as you grow and evolve throughout your lifetime.

That all certainly resonated with me as I have done a more than a few other things spread out over my years. Coached football, went to law school, practiced law, went to seminary, did clinical legal representation in the Wisconsin prisons through the UW law school, did mediation and restorative justice work, worked for probation and parole, pastored a church, and then back to college football coaching and now law again. Have I built on skill sets and continued to grow? I would say absolutely. But being able to do what he talked about (leveraging those into new jobs) has not been as easy as they make it sound on the podcasts.

One problem is that after all I have done I find myself now not fully grounded in any of those careers, and that is certainly the risk one takes when moving around. When I speak to employers and those looking for new hires, they seem to want at least 10 years in the industry, especially when looking at a resume like mine, with 30 years worth of work history listed.

The other thing I have found is that when you move around you really need to work on networking and staying connected. I have changed jobs and/or career paths and sometimes changed things so dramatically I did not have a lot of connection to my prior career and thus lost contact with the people in that field. Which isn't a problem if you stay in the new field. But if you ever want to go back or realign yourself to something else but still related to or parallel to that prior career, without people to connect with it is very difficult.

That is one of the challenges of my own career path and changing not just jobs, but essential completely different areas of work. Future employers fear you do not have the years of experience or depth in an area now to go back to (unless you want to start at the very bottom, where you do not need experience or years of service). On top of that, many of the mentors that I had in these industries are now retired and no longer in the field. Thus their influence and/or ability to assist me in networking is not what it once was. Each year I lose more of my network and it makes it harder to reach across career paths to make connections.

Plus now crossing the 60 year mark it seems everyone wants youth, social media savvy, and all that goes with it. I think there is a feeling now among employers that people in my generation can't relate outside our own age groups, that we can't learn or fully understand the new technology and how people now relate through all of that. I do not think there is a flat out bar to hiring from my age group as I know there are plenty of 60+ people getting hired all the time. But generally I think there is a hesitation unless you can clearly demonstrate via experience, skills, and training within your career (and on your resume) that you have those skills and can be a good fit within their company.

The truth is that after being at Oklahoma and being back into football and coaching, I always thought I would eventually get back into it. Maybe not coaching necessarily, maybe not at the college level, but somehow and someway I would still be able to find meaningful work within the game. So I am just now starting to look at all of that more seriously. But as I noted above, the reality for me is that most all of the connections I had in football are now retiring and leaving the profession. Most of them after spending their entire careers in football, having done very well and now moving on. I am thrilled and happy for them. But it makes it tough to get introductions, make connections, etc with my old sources no longer active in the field. Trying to do cold calls, or meet people at conventions etc is pretty tough. And it is very tough if you are not currently in the field working. Trying to jump back in from criminal defense work back into football for most employers and other coaches, is not a natural transition, especially if they do not personally know you or know well someone that knows you.

So I will just keep reviewing options, keep working to stay ready and prepared, meet people where I can, and see what happens. But the other side of it is that at my age it feels like the clock is ticking (quite fast right now!) if you know what I mean. The longer I am out of it and the older I get, it just compounds all of the issues I am facing. So I work to find a balance between developing a plan and working on it, verses squeezing it all too tightly, pushing too hard, so that it all gets twisted. So the path seems to lie somewhere in between.

But you can't just sit back and think the universe is going to just magically drop something into your lap. Yes I believe in "manifestation" and all of that. But I still believe that the wood pile won't get moved and stacked unless I roll up my sleeves, walk out to the wood pile, and start loading it into the truck. You still have to do the work. But given where I am and where I want to go, what exactly does that mean?

Yes Bruce that is all fine and dandy, but what about the lessons? Well if you have a sense you are not where you are supposed to be or where you want to be, what do you do? Well you work on it, make plans, and try to get where you want to be. At the same time I also feel that wherever we are in life is probably exactly where the universe wants us to be (at least for a while) for whatever reason. I am not sure of what that reason is right now for me (although I could list a few possibilities), but all of that takes me back to the question of what is the lesson? Somewhere in the back of my head I have it set that if/when I can learn the lesson of this stage I will then get to move on! Yes that sounds crazy but that is how it feels. Almost like a "Groundhog Day" experience (an old movie with Bill Murray).

For me then I am where I am at because I have some lessons to learn, things to experience, people to meet, creations to create, whatever. All of this is part of my development, evolvement, and growth. So I won't get anxious about any of it and will try to ride it like the wave it actually is and see where it takes me. I trust through it all I will discover who I need to meet, what I need to learn, and who I need to become in order to create and live into the life that is ahead of me. Accepting that all of my past life experiences and choices have led me exactly to this place.

And that is one of the lessons. For I know that I got myself here so if I want to change it I can. Because I created it, I can change it. It lies with me, I am responsible, I own it and am good with it (which is another lesson - do not blame others for your life, it is not anyone else's fault or responsibility. But that is another full blog on another day....).

Even with that responsibility, and still believing I am not done yet and that I have more chapters in this wonderful book called life, I will choose to live daily in gratitude, joy, kindness, and humility. Those principles keep me grounded, help me live in the moment and stay present. To appreciate all aspects of my life and the people in it. And not look so far down the road I forget what is important. The people and the relationships.

So I will keep paying attention, trying to see clearly, to learn the lessons as they are presented, and to give thanks each day for each person in my life and each and every day that I am able to rise and see that sun in the sky, the moon at night, the water in the ocean, and all the people who make this life what it is.

Blessings and peace to each of you in 2019. May it bring all the lessons you need (and here are a couple more of mine that I have been musing over....).

  1. That it is good to follow your heart, and to love deeply and fully.

  2. That each day is a gift and all of these moments, good and bad, will pass. So take them in and enjoy the good and do not get to hung up on the bad.

  3. Forgive freely and let go of grudges and pain because they do not serve you over the long haul, they only eat you up and destroy your life energy.

  4. That money thrust into a situation will ALWAYS change it. Can be for good or bad but it will change people and relationships. You have to be on guard to protect against letting it seep in. It is wonderful to have but you have to be very aware of what you have, how you use it, and what it is doing to you and the people around you.

  5. Do the things in your life you want to do, that are import to you, and do not worry about what others think or what they want you to do.

  6. Get rid of the limiting tapes in your head where someone, somewhere, somehow told you that you couldn't do something or was not good enough. Those are lies.

  7. Time is elusive and slips through our fingers before you know it. Plan and prepare for the future, but do not spend so much time looking ahead that you forget to live in the moment and be present for who and what is here now. Cherish the moments and the people, savor them for they too will be gone some day.

  8. The great mystery/spirit fills our bucket/cup but only as she passes through it. When we try to capture it, try to cap it off and hold onto it in order to protect ourselves, the flow stops. Receive the abundance but let it flow through you.

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