“Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” — George Meredith

A decade ago — on September 19, 2007 — I started this blog to document my journey as a PhD student in human and organizational systems at Fielding Graduate University. I envisioned it as a personal journal, academic endeavor, and professional platform. Although I withdrew from Fielding, I continued blogging.

A few years later I launched my website, but this blog was my first form of online expression and it has evolved into the anchor of my social media strategy. This blog has been a tool through which I have shared my story; I will continue doing so indefinitely.

As I begin to discover my PhD potential with the University of Leicester, my PhD plans are again becoming a possibility. Once I begin my program this blog will reflect those experiences along with my adventures in academia.  I look forward to the future with optimism and idealism. The worst is over and the best is yet to come.

Speaking of focusing forward, in the first week of the Discovering Your PhD Potential course I was asked to answer the following question: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? In ten years? (Consider carefully whether doing a PhD will help you to fully achieve this, and if so how?). My answers follow:

In five years I will:

  • Defend my doctoral dissertation and start my first year teaching with my PhD.
  • Apply for a promotion from being an instructor to assistant professor at AUE.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle that brings me comfort, calmness, and confidence.
  • Share my life with a partner who fills my soul with faith, hope, and love.
  • Expand my acting to include commercials and voice over work.

In ten years I will:

  • Publish at least ten papers in high quality journals, five book chapters, and two books about social media marketing, sports management, or my related research interests.
  • Work towards a promotion from associate professor to full professor before I turn 55.
  • Celebrate my sons living happy and healthy lives as they embark on adulthood.
  • Produce five online video courses and appear in a half-dozen podcasts.
  • Enjoy financial stability and the ability to travel at least twice per year.

The past decade has dealt me both unplanned obstacles and unexpected opportunities. Trying yet inspiring experiences have broken me while strengthening me. I have grown as a person and a professional; I am changed for the better, despite the scar tissue. This blog has documented these changes and will continue to serve as reflection of my progression. I am eager to make the most of each moment and invite you to join me on my journey.

30 days.

According to several theories it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to break a bad habit. As of October 28, 2016 30 days had passed since I last had a drink of Coke, Pepsi, or any other similar type of soda. I have also been avoiding sugar and carbs as much as possible.

Instead, I’ve been drinking water, iced tea, and fruit juices with an occasional tea or coffee. The results have been tangible: most significantly, I have no desire to drink it any more, which is a huge leap forward to improved health, especially since I previously drank 4 to 10 cans of it a day! I am much less tired, not as hungry, feel less bloated, and my state of mind is much improved overall.

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My experience is common; according to the website Medical Daily:

The evidence speaks for itself: Your health will drastically improve once you begin replacing your daily Coke or Mountain Dew with water. Pretty much every organ will benefit from quitting soda

The article further explains the health benefits of not drinking soda to your heart, brain, teeth, bladder, bones, kidneys, and reproductive organs. It also explains the positive impact removing soda from your diet has on weight loss, type 2 diabetes, and chronic disorders like heart disease. I see this as a positive step

Also included in the article are the results of a study published in the American Journal of Public Health which found people who drink a lot of soda also have shorter telomeres in their immune cells — this means their risk of dying younger was increased.

Telomeres are protective DNA units that are situated at the ends of chromosomes, and the shorter they get, the more a person ages and is at risk for disease and death. So cutting out that good-for-nothing sugary drink from your life will seemingly only offer you good things, by lengthening your telomeres as well as your life span, and improve your overall health.

Additional benefits of giving up soda are explained in a Yahoo! article titled 7 Amazing Things that Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Soda,” as listed below:

  1.  You’ll be less hungry.
  2. You’ll look younger.
  3. You’ll lose more weight.
  4. You’ll get sick less often.
  5. You’ll reduce hidden fats.
  6. You’ll stop bones from breaking.
  7. You’ll have more energy.

Notably, my main motivation for discontinuing drinking soda were some troubling blood work results related to my type 2 diabetes. I had been taking my medication, but had neglected my health overall. Something finally clicked and I am taking control of my health with the input and assistance from a top quality Aster medical clinic here in Dubai.

You’d think I would have embraced this change sooner, as I’ve been dealing with diabetes since my diagnosis on February 7, 2012, but I can sometimes be slow to change and stubborn to admit the errors of my ways.

Maybe I have finally resolved to evolve?

Sometimes dates make a difference.

August 2, 2006 is one of them: it was on this date that my older son, Jacob, received his official Autism diagnosis from Robert J. Rome, PhD of the North Los Angeles County Regional Center. At the time, Jacob was slightly more than a month away from his third birthday.

Receiving the diagnosis was an emotional experience, though it was not entirely a surprise. Actually, in many respects it was a relief because having the diagnosis allowed Jacob to receive an array of helpful services for which he did not previously qualify.

Jacob and MeAt the time of his diagnosis Jacob had very limited speech (3 to 6 word sentences were the extent of his verbal communication). He also lined up items, heavily stimmed and exhibited many obsessive compulsive behaviors. In addition he had many fears and also lacked basic social skills. Despite these challenges, he emanated a beautiful and loving spark that just needed some help to shine more brightly.

Since then Jacob has made remarkable progress, most notably due to early intervention services such as Applied Behavior Analysis services provided by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD).  Founded in 1990 by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh CARD is a leading provider of autism services.

Due in large part to CARD, Jacob’s inner light now shines brightly. He has truly emerged into the wonderful, thoughtful and intelligent little boy he always was. Grateful is a word that barely communicates how I feel.

He is fascinated with numbers and can calculate large sums. His favorite number is “infinity!” Not surprisingly he also loves Buzz Lightyear (“to infinity and beyond!”). For a while he could even tell you the day of the week on which your next birthday would fall! Actually, I suspect he still can, but his therapists have discouraged the behavior.

Jacob and MeHe also loves to tell bad jokes — specifically those in the classic “knock, knock” variety. He is also a wonderful artist who loves to draw and paint. Although I am his Dad, I can honestly say he has an impressive talent.

It makes me smile that he can now not only communicate verbally but artistically as well. Occasionally he enjoys playing music with his brother, Max.

He is also an “old soul” and has engaged me several times about topics seven-year old boys don’t often ponder.  Once he asked me “Dad, do you have to be dead to be in heaven?” I replied, “I suppose you do.” His response: “But God is in heaven and he isn’t dead!” Nietzsche retorts about God possibly being dead aside, I was stunned that this little boy was thinking about such big concepts. More recently he asked me what is on top of heaven!

Impressively, Jacob’s success story is more common than it is rare, as evidenced by the inspiring 20th anniversary video from CARD, below:

Looking to the future,  one of my goals is to eventually create an organization called the “Ourtism Association.” The mission of the organization — named to recognize how autism affects everyone in a family and that it is “our” responsibility as a society to help — is to provide supplemental income to families and adult individuals with a diagnosis.

Right now it is only a dream, but I am working to make it a reality someday. My “big harry audacious goal” (nod to Jim Collins) is to raise enough money to provide $50,000 to 50 families each year.

I suppose that isn’t outrageously audacious (it is “only” $2.5 million!), and 50 families is the tip of the iceberg, but my own experiences have inspired me to make a difference. This would be my contribution to that noble mission.

Jacob and MeOn a personal level, I will continue to encourage Jacob as the unique individual he is.

I enjoy experiencing educational activities with Jacob, but also recognize his need to be silly. Despite his uncommon maturity, the last thing I want to do is rush him into adulthood.

It is my hope that Jacob can always exist in his ebullient essence.

I remain committed to Jacob’s enduring progress and will forever be his most ardent ally. I continue to make the most of my moments with him and my younger son, Max, and celebrate his achievements every day.

Speaking of Max, the other night when I called to say goodnight to him, Jacob told me a “knock, knock” joke:

“Knock, knock!”

“Whose there?”

“Max.”

“Max who?”

“Max no difference!”