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Happy 14th birthday to my sweet and smart son, Jacob! He has overcome many challenges in his short number of years, but he has always been happy and kind to everyone, confronting his issues with grace, determination, and humor. A natural musician he plays piano and saxophone, making the world more melodic and meaningful in the process. It’s challenging for us both with my living so far away, but he is always close by in my heart (along with my younger son, Max). I am so inspired by the person Jacob is and the man he is becoming!

Expat marks the spot?

Sheikh-Mohammed-3-FingersThree years ago today — September 8, 2014 — I first set foot in Dubai and took the first of many steps that have led me to my new life as an expat. Although emotionally anchored to my two amazing sons in Los Angeles, Jacob and Max, Dubai has revealed to me new friendships and opportunities I could have never realized in the United States.

Included among these opportunities is the very real possibility that I can finally earn a PhD, thanks to the American University in the Emirates (AUE). On a more personal level, my time in Dubai has opened my heart to new love, which has in turn filled me with hope and faith, two things with which I have long struggled.

I am thankful for Jumeira University, which first opened the door to this incredible experience, AUE for providing me with the next step, and for everyone who played a part in my process of self discovery and development. I am also filled with pride for my sons’ accomplishments and appreciation their increasing ability to understand why it was necessary for me to go overseas; despite being far from them physically, they are always close to my heart.

Most notably I am grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of Dubai, for making Dubai a place where even the wildest dreams can come true.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYxw8sjBuYy/

Two years ago I began my journey from California to Dubai. I took two United flights on September 7, 2014: one from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD); then my second from IAD to Dubai International Airport (DXB).

MG@LAX

After flying 9,357 miles and traveling nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles  — I arrived in Dubai the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever two days later.

My time in Dubai has presented me with many challenges and many rewards as well; it’s certainly shaped me as a person and a professional. I have been enriched with memories and moments I would have not encountered elsewhere. Being an expat has been a notable time in my life; I am fortunate to have experienced it.

Having taught only adjunct prior to leaving the US, I experienced an evolution from “feral to formal” (as I call it) at two universities: Jumeira University and now American University in the Emirates (AUE). I am grateful for those experiences and treasure the time I’ve had here; I feel I’ve made a difference and made an impact.

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The biggest challenge and source of uncertainty for me has been not being present in lives of my two sons, Jacob and Max; especially Jacob, who turns 13 on the 10th (which was my first day at Jumeira University in 2014). I’m mindful of the short number of years I have left until they leave for college.

I’m at a point of pause as I determine my next steps. I am unsure where I might find myself in the future and what I might be doing; remaining here is an option as well. I have enjoyed living in Dubai — where Bedouin meets Blade Runner (my idea for a new tourism slogan; what do you think?). It is a crossroads of cultures and has given me an experience unlike anywhere else.

So, here’s to two years; may the next two — wherever they are — be as meaningful and memorable! To further explore my experiences in or about Dubai, please read the following:

Some lessons last a lifetime.

Today would have been the 100th birthday of my grandfather Alan “Papa” Gilbert. Although he passed away in 2006, he was my most meaningful mentor and his influence on my life remains a constant source of inspiration. To celebrate his life I have shared the short story below; I first wrote it for his 80th birthday in 1995 and have revised and reflected on it many times since.

While I was aware of the impact of his insight when he first shared it, I more fully understand its importance and relevance to my life as an adult. I hope my sharing this story inspires you to positively influence others and appreciate individuals who have helped shape you into the person you have — and still can — become.


The morning sun yawned above the foothills, revealing the reservoir below, as Papa and I descended the wooden staircase towards the water’s edge. Stubborn fog, which had tightly held the surface of the water, melted away into daybreak.

“What a beautiful day,” Papa said as he bounded down the stairs like a child on Christmas Day.

We then walked along a narrow dirt pathway and, after a few short paces,  discovered our canoe: 15 feet of green fiberglass and aluminum. But for Papa, it was perfection. I watched as he gleefully approached the vessel and attempted to release it from the chains restraining it.

“How did I manage to do this?” Papa said, frustrated with the intricate web of chain links in which he had wrapped the boat a month earlier.

“Do you need a hand, Mr. Houdini?” I inquired. “Or shall I call you a nurse?”

“I stage one breakout and suddenly I’m a criminal,” Papa joked.

A few years earlier Papa had an allergic reaction to medication while in the hospital. It was so severe that seconds after receiving the dosage, he became the Incredible Hulk. Highly agitated, he attempted to forcibly extricate himself from his bed to the great surprise of his nurse who quickly summoned backup.

Within minutes, four additional nurses were trying to sedate him.  With all other options exhausted, they confined him within a restraining jacket, which was then anchored to the bed.

When Papa awoke later that day – in a much calmer state – he took issue with his restraints. So, he successfully liberated himself using brains over brawn. When the floor nurse returned to check on him, she discovered the discarded restraints and deserted bed. By the time she returned to the room with a search party, Papa had returned and was resting comfortably in the bed.

With the defeated device dangling from his fingers and a grin that would put the Cheshire cat to shame, Papa calmly inquired, “Were you looking for me?” Even with clipped wings, Papa found ways to fly.

“Let’s go!” Papa exclaimed after unfurling the lock and chain.

Me and Papa in 1976

We squatted next to the canoe and grabbed onto the edges. Papa positioned himself towards the front of the canoe, while I awaited his instruction at the stern. I stretched briefly and inhaled the rejuvenating air that surrounded me.

“One, two, three!” Papa said. “Up she goes.”

With the craft elevated over our heads we began walking towards the dock. Small pieces of gravel crackled beneath our feet as the weight of the canoe traveled through our bodies and into the ground on which we walked.

Beads of sweat amassed on my forehead like troops awaiting the signal to advance into battle. The pace of my breathing increased dramatically.  My arms quivered as they strained to balance the weight.

Looking ahead, I saw that, despite his advanced age, Papa was in great condition. Biceps the size of grapefruits rippled underneath his shirt while he easily supported his end of the canoe – and a portion of mine I suspected.

Maintaining Papa’s quick saunter was challenging. His vigor and vitality often masked his years just as his mature wisdom serves as an odd counterpart to his progressive ideas. Wiping the sweat from my forehead with an elevated shoulder, I persisted.

“Are things all right back there? You’re awfully quiet.”

“I’m just trying to keep up with you!”

“I disagree. You’ve been pushing me this whole time!”

Within a few minutes we arrived at the end of the dock and our two-man army came to a halt. I felt the wooden platform rock slowly beneath me as I tried to maintain my balance.

Firmly grasping the metal rails of the canoe I awaited the next command like a soldier at inspection. The aluminum lip burrowed into my shoulder and my arms slackened. I ignored the pain and glanced at Papa for inspiration.

“Up and over!” he instructed.

Following his lead, I slowly lifted the craft over my head and – in unison with Papa – gently placed the green fiberglass hull into the murky water. I seated myself in front, allowing Papa the helm, an honor he earned long ago during a family canoeing trip on  the Russian River.

After recovering our spinning canoe from a whirlpool with the calm and command of Odysseus, Papa heroically rescued several other craft from the same fate.  Papa was my personal hero: strong, gentle, humorous, sensitive, reliable, generous. Adjectives cannot adequately define who this man was and what he meant to me.

“Off we go,” Papa explained as we pushed away from the dock.

“Into the wild blue yonder,” I added.

“Right-o,” he said.

Silence engulfed us, save the soft splash of the paddles stroking the water. We didn’t speak, words were unnecessary. Though void of sound, our time was full of meaning. Papa was always more of a friend and colleague to me than a grandfather. As a child, he was my favorite playmate. During adolescence, he was my ping-pong partner. When I became an adult, he was my confidant.

When I became a parent, he reprised his earlier role and became a playmate to my son, Jacob, who embodies Papa’s kindness. My younger son, Max, was born six months before Papa passed away. While he never met Papa personally he possesses his joie de vivre; adventure is his middle name!

Forever my protector, Papa always appeared when I needed a shoulder to cry on or an arm to lift me up. He was always very giving of himself, his abilities, and often, his well-being. Papa had an innate ability to understand people and bring them joy.

When World War II involved America, Papa was 26 years old. Although newly married with a promising life ahead of him, Papa volunteered to fight. Sacrificing his own future for the survival of his nation, Papa answered the call of a country in need.

Fortunately, his military service well suited his personality: he was captain of “The Biscuit Bomber,” an Army Air-Corps C-47 Skytrain as part of the Troop Carrier Command. Based in New Guinea, Papa logged nearly 4,000 hours flying missions throughout the South Pacific. During three years of service in this unarmed aircraft, Papa continually risked his life to ensure the survival of others.

Alan

One particularly poignant situation occurred when he was transporting Japanese prisoners of war who were under guard by Australian soldiers. Midway through the flight he heard a commotion in the cargo area. Upon investigating the situation he found the Australian soldiers trying to extract the gold teeth from the Japanese soldiers’ mouths.

Incensed, he pulled out his sidearm and aimed it at the Australian soldiers, instructing them that the POW’s were his responsibility and he would not tolerate them being harmed or harassed in any way. The Australian soldiers acquiesced. In the bleak circumstance of war, Papa shed some humanity. Had he been a fighter pilot his stories may have been more exciting, but they would have been less meaningful.

Anyone can kill. It takes someone special to sustain life.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from him was to always help someone in need, even if doing so was inconvenient or promises no recognition. Considering all he did for me, I can attest to the power of this philosophy.

If only everyone were as kind and generous as Papa, perhaps the world would be a more positive place. Sadly, I have found that, more often than not, people are less like Papa than they are like him.

Nevertheless, I strive to live in the same sincere and sensible way as he did, although he was often too agreeable to the demands of other people. Despite his incredible generosity to others, he often gave away too much of himself to make others happy.

The one unintentional lesson I learned from him is that if you give too much of yourself to others you can lose yourself in the process. As a result, I often felt he was a bit unfulfilled, yet, admirably, he never said as much. I appreciate his fortitude in this regard, but often wonder what might have been for him, had he embraced his promising potential.

After World War II he could have enjoyed a lucrative career as an airline pilot. The plane he flew during the war, the C-47, was the military version of the very popular DC-3, which was widely used in commercial aviation after the war (many are still flying and being used commercially).

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He would have easily been hired by any of the airlines and enjoyed a rewarding and meaningful career. Instead he chose — though I often feel he was pressured — to stay close to home. Whereas he could have been flying the friendly skies, he commuted every day from New Jersey to New York and managed a dry cleaning store. He did this for many years until my Dad hired him to work for his company.

While I admire his fortitude as a father and grandfather,  I often wonder if he was truly content as a man? After he died my family discovered that he had been taking rides with a local private pilot in a small twin engine plane. Some dreams never die, I suppose, and I am glad he never fully deserted his dream to keep flying.

I can also say that while he never made $400 an hour to turn a phrase, $1,000 a day trading stocks, or $10,000 a week as a professional musician, he was richer in character and wealthier in spirit than any one of those people could ever hope to be. Money and material possessions can never replace integrity, humanity, and authenticity.

Although he never accumulated a huge fortune, Papa contributed more to the world than most people I have known in my life and, presumably, will come to know in the future. He also never felt the need to elevate his ego by trying to make others feel inferior.

Ultimately, he made the most of his life and, in doing so, helped others make the most of theirs. Papa’s unique approach to life provided me with many priceless lessons. One of those lessons took place that day at the reservoir: spending time with someone special is worth more than anything that person could purchase for you. Although, that doesn’t mean letting that same someone cook for you had no allure!

“How would you like it if we head home and I make you some Belgian waffles?” Papa asked, breaking the silence and inviting me out of my introspection and into the present.

“You just said the magic words!” I exclaimed as we made our way back towards the dock. Like the canoe, Belgian waffles had been one of Papa’s trademarks. Whenever I stayed over with him, he would whip up a batch of waffles covered in whipped cream and strawberries.

As we approached the dock, just before we reached out to pull ourselves in, Papa said something that surprised me:

“I think next month you should take the helm.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. But only if you feel ready.”

I briefly considered his offer.

“I certainly do,” I asserted. “After all, I had you for a teacher!”

Facebook favors the bold. Okay, technically fortune favors the bold, but I was recently bold on Facebook and that risk paid a handsome reward. On the morning of Monday, October 19, 2015 I saw a Facebook post by Robert Scoble announcing his arrival in Dubai for Gitex Technology Week. Intrigued, I reached out to the noted blogger, technical evangelist, author, and futurist whom I have followed virtually for many years.

He replied to my comment quickly and then, via direct message, graciously invited me to a dinner that night hosted by Rackspace Hosting. As it turns out, this would be one of the most exceptional experiences of my life. I found myself mingling with more than two dozen technology industry insiders and thought leaders at the Exchange Grill in the Fairmont Hotel (near the Dubai World Trade Centre where Gitex was happening).

Ben Parr, Robert Scoble, and Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA.
Ben Parr, Robert Scoble, and Matthew A. Gilbert, MBA.

I had the pleasure of getting to know people from Afkar.me, Cazar, Middle East Global Advisors, Rackspace HostingRockefeller Innovation, SQREEM Technologies, uBeam, and other impressive organizations. I also chatted with Ben Parr, former Mashable editor and author of the book Captivology, along with Creative Content Agency founder and DJ Raj Kotecha, plus Dubai-based social media personality Literally Anika.

We talked about a range of topics including:

  • Behavioral Intelligence
  • Being an Expat Entrepreneur
  • Big Data
  • Burning Man
  • Fantasy Football
  • Future of Robotics
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Mobile Phone Industry
  • Next Steps for Twitter
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Self-Driving Cars
  • Wireless Battery Charging
  • Venture Capital and Innovation
  • Why Facebook is “Where It’s At”

Having both grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area (with an interest in journalism and technology), Robert and I found ourselves sharing memories from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. We also talked about being fathers to sons with an autism diagnosis. It was an enriching experience getting to know someone I knew much about and with whom I had much in common, but before that evening had never met in person.

As a lifelong learner it was an opportunity to immerse myself in an ocean of ideas to inspire my research and catalyze my creativity. As an educator it was a chance to connect with individuals who want to enrich my classroom as speakers and strengthen my students’ learning via internships, involvement with business incubators, and engagement in experiential education.

It was a night unlike any I have experienced before; it was definitely a moment when I was delighted to not be the smartest person in the room (as the popular saying goes). I look forward to what dreams may come from this transformational evening.

Thank you, Robert Scoble!

So this is 40.

This past Saturday my odometer clicked over from 39 to 40, changing my age and my paradigm for personal identity. At least it’s supposed to, right? While 40 is the new 30 (or is it 50 is the new 40?), it remains a significant point in most people’s lives. According to Louis C.K.: “I’m 40. I’m half dead.”

Despite the truth in the clip above, I feel more positively about myself than ever before. While the past several years have been challenging personally and professionally, out of that adversity has arisen a greater sense of self.

Notably, Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” (but check with Phil Davison about that).

Upon reaching 40 many people look back at what they accomplished, thinking their best days are behind them. I certainly take pride in my achievements, especially creating a new career as a teacher and trainer. Yet I also chose to look forward to that which I have not yet achieved; I see many bright days and electric nights ahead. A big part of my future is a huge part of my present: my sons Jacob and Max.

Two years ago I celebrated my birthday teaching a class at UCSB; this year I got schooled by my kids in miniature golf and arcade games. And so, the teacher becomes the student. Taking that metaphor one step further, earlier this year Jacob wrote nine “rules” for life. I am unsure of their inspiration, but they are beautifully simple and remarkably poignant for a child of only 10 years old.

Looking to my future after 40, Jacob’s list provides the perfect prescription for inspiration:

1. Always be kind.Jacob's 9 Rules for Life After 40
2. Play fair.
3. Always avoid bad words.
4. Really work on good behavior.
5. Tell the truth.
6. Mean it if you’re good or bad.
7. Everyone makes mistakes.
8. Never tell a lie.
9. Try your best.

George Bernard Shaw might have been right when he proclaimed “youth is wasted on the young,” but perhaps my son is an old soul after all?

Déjà blue — or seeing red?

With the 2013 NFL Season now upon us (and today being the New England Patriots‘ first game) I felt compelled to look back at how the team did last year and discuss how they might fare this season. My big question: will their good or bad history repeat itself?

As you might recall — or, if you’re a Pats fan, as you might like to forget — last season the team lost their first home opener in 10 years to the Arizona Cardinals. This after having looked like the class of the NFL the week before when they handily beat the Tennessee Titans on the road.

It was an awkward reminder of their most recent Super Bowl loss, which in itself was a bizarre replay of the one they had lost four years earlier. Lately, being a Patriots fan has some striking similarities to the date made famous by Punxsutawney Phil: Groundhog Day.

As a Patriots fan, the proximity of the Groundhog Day holiday and the 1993 movie of the same name to the Super Bowl has a unique significance: Just like how in the movie the same day happens over and over again, on Sunday, February 5, 2012 the Patriots fell to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 46 — their second championship loss to the same team in four years.

Although disheartening, the Patriots’ Super Bowl 46 loss was nowhere near as gut wrenching as their Super Bowl 42 loss to the Giants. That failure also ended the Patriots’ quest for a perfect 19-0 season.

While emotionally I wanted the Patriots to win Super Bowl 46, rationally, I had my concerns throughout the season as the team somehow stayed alive with a patchwork defense and an inconsistent offense.

Despite being disappointed by the Patriots’ inability to bring home a fourth Lombardi Trophy, I realized failure presents pathways to personal progress and, in response, devised the seven introspective insights below — one for each of the New England Patriots Super Bowl appearances:

1. Expectations Undermine Attitude:  When you feel entitled to something, that expectation creates an assumption that you will get it because you “deserve” it. Generally, when this occurs, you become complacent and assume the outcome is inevitable. This is a recipe for disaster.

During their (almost) perfect season, despite claims of “humble pie,” there seemed to be an expectation that the Patriots would win Super Bowl XLII and make NFL history. Brady was even dismissive in response to then New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress’ prediction that the Patriots would lose 17-23.

Ironically, the Patriots would actually only score 14 points in their 14-17 loss to the Giants (though they did score 17 points in Super Bowl XLVI, but once again the Giants outscored them with 21 points — cue sad trombone).

2. Junkyards Don’t Always Make Juggernauts: No team has done more with less than the New England Patriots. Since the beginnings of their dynasty, the Patriots built from the draft and reformed players like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss who had lost their way with other teams.

Former Patriots Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli is famously quoted as saying “we’re building a team, not collecting talent.” This is a philosophy similar to that portrayed in the recent Brad Pitt film Moneyball (affiliate link) which is ardently embraced by head coach Bill Belichick.

While this Moneyball inspired approach might’ve brought the Patriots success, two successive Super Bowl losses and a string of post-season upsets call that into question. Realistically, Moneyball never lead to any World Series wins for Billy Bean’s Oakland A’s.

The Patriots are notorious for collecting picks in each year’s NFL Draft, but then “trading down” with other teams to pick later and pay their players less. Notably, in an article titled The Clutch Enigma: Tom Brady the author argues “It’s not that Brady has lost his ‘clutchness,’ it’s simply that the Patriots’ teams (namely the defenses) have gotten worse, and Brady has become the focal point.”

Miraculously, the team traded up in the 2012 draft to select Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. In Week 1 of the 2012 season Hightower and rookie Defensive End Chandler Jones demonstrated the potential immediate impact a top tier player can offer.

Certainly signing high profile players is no guarantee: see Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco — and also consider former Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick’s warning “…each free agent should come with a warning label stamped to his chest. What should that label say? Buyer beware.” At the same time, asking players to continually do more with less is more of a weakness than a strength.

Fortunately, the 2013 Patriots rookie class is off to an impressive start, adding youth and optimism to the team — so maybe this year’s draft will bear championship fruit.

3. Win or Lose, Players Get Paid: As a fan of a sports team, there is a good chance you are more emotionally invested in the success or failure of your teams than the payers. As Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plashke pointedly explains in his February 9, 2012 article For the pro athlete, it’s just a job, “The players don’t care as much as you do.”

Even Chad Ochocinco — with his abysmal record with the Patriots of 15 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown — was still paid (I am reluctant to say earned) a base salary of $6,000,000 for tweeting and updating his Facebook status all season instead of contributing to the team!

And, if you’re curious how much your favorite player gets paid, have a look at this interactive infographic that lets you see the 2013-2014 season salaries of each NFL player, by team and position. I’ve set it to Pats on both sides, because if I don’t it defaults to Ravens and Broncos (shudder). Make it rain!

So, since playing is a job for the athletes, does it really make sense to so heavily invest ourselves emotionally in their performance?

4. Failure is a Launchpad for Learning: When failure occurs, it is human nature to look for a reason — a scapegoat — to explain why that which was never considered possible has now become reality.

Arguing over whose fault it was is relatively meaningless: in my opinion you can win a game on one dramatic play, but losing a game is the result of an accumulation of errors.

This occurred after the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl 46, where pundits pondered whether Wes Welker dropped what could have been a game winning catch or if Tom Brady threw an inaccurate ball. The argument can be made that consistency kills competition, and the Giants were the more consistent team that day.

This is not easy to do, but the upside is excellent if you can turn adversity into opportunity. Regardless of the reasons for failure, if you treat it as a learning experience, you never really lose — at least philosophically; I realize they keep score in sporting events!

5. Family — not Football — Comes First: I was most concerned about my younger son, Maxwhen the Patriots lost Super Bowl 46. When he went to sleep just before half-time, the Patriots were rolling.  The next morning he awoke to reality, but he just brushed it off  and was on to his next adventure.

He took their loss to the Ravens in last season’s AFC Championship Game harder (likely because he watched it unfold in real time), but again by morning the sunrise had dried away the tears.

It’s amazing what adults can learn from kids if we pay attention. It’s also amazing what a good night’s sleep can do!

Poignantly, following the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox — the teams my Dad grew up with — was a way for me to maintain a connection with him even during a long period when we were estranged.

Having that unique shared interest with Max (my older son, Jacob, has little interest in sports), creates a similarly compelling connection.

Talking about Boston sports teams with him and having been able to attend a Red Sox/Dodgers game last month is priceless Father/Son time.  A trip to Foxboro is in our future.

Notably, in a touching Los Angeles Times article published four days after Super Bowl 46, Chris Paul shares lessons on the importance of family in his life — in a very similar way as I wrote about my maternal grandfather, Papa.

6. Being with Friends Lessens a Loss: The next best thing to family are friends, and through a mutual love — or is it obsession? — of the Patriots I’ve found my way to a great group whom I would have otherwise never known.

Me watching the Patriots at TGI Fridays with AnnetteBoth virtually (via Facebook or a fan message board) and personally (at TGI Fridays or an equivalent place to watch a game), I’ve connected with a network of fans who are also friends.

Many of them have been there for me during challenging times and moments of celebration as well.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving with some of them and shared my first time watching a Patriots game with my younger son, Max, with the same “football friends.”

While I hope to never watch the Patriots lose another Super Bowl, watching it happen at the home of my friends Tom and Coni made the loss less significant because my friendship with them and their family is so significant.

7. There’s Always Next Year: Many Patriots fans didn’t expect the 2012 team to get as far as they did; so any of the wins after the regular season felt a bit like bonus content on a Blu-ray DVD. Despite that, it was hard not to get caught up in the moment and start believing (but see “Expectations Undermine Attitude” above).

On the bright side, the team “almost” won the Super Bowl with marginal talent in key positions. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain a powerful pair and, if they can finally add a deep threat receiver (or two) and actually field some quality defensive backs, who knows — they could make an eighth trip to the Super Bowl this season.

Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins already seems to have the makings of the next Randy Moss — let’s hope without the drama. Perhaps there is hope for #85 to rise from the ashes of Ochocinco? [Update after the game: put that hope on hold — with a dash of optimism]

Imagine if I liked the Chicago Cubs or any team in Cleveland?!  I’d really feel a sense of déjà vu like  former Major League Baseball first baseman Keith Hernandez in the short video below:

In Conclusion

To summarize the seven points above:

  1. Expectations Undermine Attitude
  2. Junkyards Don’t Always Make Juggernauts
  3. Win or Lose, Players Get Paid
  4. Failure is a Launchpad for Learning
  5. Family — Not Football — Comes First
  6. Being with Friends Lessens a Loss
  7. There’s Always Next Year

Given all the insights above, the one remaining question: should the Patriots replace Tom Brady with Punxatawney Phil? More importantly, will the Patriots return to — and, if they do, win — the Super Bowl this year?

  • January 19, 2014 Update: One game away from returning to the Super Bowl; a good run for a team with so many injuries and off-field issues. I am proud of what the Pats were able to do with the limited resources they had. And, of course, there’s always next year!

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day, but Autism is no laughing matter.

What is Autism? According to the National Institutes of Health, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”

Autism often locks individuals in a world of their own, but on Monday, April 2, 2012, the planet will join together to “light it up blue” today for the fifth World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The inaugural WAAD was observed on Wednesday, April 2, 2008.

One of only three official health related United Nations Days, WAAD  “activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of the autism epidemic and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe.”

The incidence of autism diagnosis has exploded in recent years: in 2000 1 in 150 children were diagnosed, whereas the most recent figures indicate that 1 in 88 children have received a diagnosis.

This is a 20% increase from the previously reported 1 in 110 children who received a diagnosis! More troublesome, according to noteworthy additional facts, Autism affects boys more commonly than girls — the incidence of diagnosis is now 1 in 54 boys! Previously, that number was 1 in 70.

As I have previously noted, I am personally touched by this increase in autism diagnosis:  my eight year son, Jacob, received his autism diagnosis just before his third birthday.

Since then he 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). Due in large part to CARD, Jacob’s inner light now shines brightly.

He has emerged into the thoughtful and intelligent little boy he always was.

He loves to tell bad jokes, do math, learn about the life, and he even recently tried out a batting cage!

He can now overcome his obstacles with eagerness and enthusiasm.

All this — and much more — from a sweet little boy who initially only spoke in 3 to 6 word sentences, lined up items, heavily stimmed and exhibited many obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Grateful is a word that barely communicates how I feel.

Despite the many challenges he has faced, Jacob continues to inspire and impress me. I am so proud of the progress he has made, and will continue to make. It is my hope that Jacob can always exist in his ebullient essence. By all accounts, Jacob is blooming!

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.

And so, even if you aren’t personally affected by Autism — although the chances of that are continue to decrease while the number of diagnoses increase — I encourage you to make an effort today to learn more about autism and understand the unique individuals who share that diagnosis.

Are you grateful for the gifts you received this holiday season?

Hopefully, if you wanted an iPhone 4S (affiliate link) and didn’t get it (or got something you didn’t want), you were not devastated like these horribly ungrateful individuals. For more humorous commentary, consider comedian Jim Gaffigan’s thoughts on getting unwanted gifts. If you did receive a gift for which you are not grateful, remember that somebody always wants — or at the very least could use — what you have.

Also consider that, during the “holiday season,” consumers bravely endured pepper spray on Black Friday, delivery drama for items ordered online, travel trauma, and the frenzy of family feudsWhy? To purchase the “perfect” gift for you (just as you might have done for others).

Interestingly, despite the many challenges with which consumers were presented, in addition to the overall economic uncertainty, shoppers came out in force this past holiday season.

According to a December 15, 2011 Associated Press article, “the National Retail Federation…now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion.” The article further elaborates, “the projected gain is still below the 5.2 percent pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, but it’s well above the 2.6 percent average increase over the past 10 years.”

Impressively, despite the odds against it happening, consumers collectively spent nearly one-half trillion dollars buying goods and services that, were it not for the holidays that necessitated the purchases, those items would have most likely never been purchased.

And now, with the holidays fading into the past, everyone is turning their attention to their soon-to-be-forgotten New Year’s resolutions.

When it comes to resolutions, people often list grandiose goals they intend to accomplish and, much like expectations for gifts, often the reality doesn’t match the fantasy. So, how can you start this new year with intention and reflection? My suggestion is to instead make a list of three gratitudes — three people, experiences or things for which you are thankful and:

  • Provide a foundation upon which you can build your life;
  • Whose presence in your life gives you direction;
  • Act as wings that lift you through tough times.

Similarly, Chris Brogan encourages people to “forego the idea of a resolution, and instead, to come up with 3 words that will help you define your goals and experiences for the coming year” with his “My Three Wordsmeme.

So, what are my “three gratitudes?”

  1. My Sons: My boys, Jacob and Max, are my inspiration and motivation. Whenever I am with them, my heart fills with joy and my life is filled with meaning. Both have overcome — and continue to work through — unique obstacles, but they do so with grace and gumption. Their presence fills me with pride, love, and laughter.
  2. My Friends: I have a small core of friends — maybe 5 really strong connections, mostly from my undergraduate years at UCSB, but one or two from more recent years. While small in number they have provided me with unconditional support that has made a large impact.
  3. My Career:  Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying  ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ I interpret this to mean that most people spend their lives pursuing practicality while foregoing their passion. While both are important, I am grateful to have transitioned into teaching, a career that is both challenging and rewarding.

Those are my three gratitudes…what are yours?

Photo Credit: “thank you note for every language” by woodleywonderworks.