29 November 2007

Crying Thursday

These are old videos (earlier this year) of the two Finalists of Britain's Got Talent, but I've never seen the audition videos by six year-old Connie Talbot and Paul Potts before. Don't watch unless you have a box of Kleenex...

28 November 2007

Where to Go from Here

Last week, I spent a couple of days north of G-Vegas to define the path I should take over the next year, as well as the long-term plan for the next five years. Let me describe the process I went through as it may be helpful to you, as well as provide my current draft of goals.

Data Collection

I pulled together different data that I needed during the process, including Net Worth, Income, Spending Summary, Savings, etc. I'd already done a good bit of this previously, which made this fairly easy. If you haven't done this previously, I would recommend having this data for the last three (3) years.



For each of these categories, I completed the following: Current State, One Year Goal, One Year Stretch Goal, December Actions/Goal, Five Year Goal, Five Year Stretch Goal. Next, I would brainstorm specific goals or key measures (metrics). Some things are easy to measure, while others have been more of a struggle. The main area I've spent time on (still incomplete) is Career. I'll walk through what I've done in the other areas first (listing the metrics I developed after each category).

Faith Bible (mins/wk), Prayer (mins/wk), Service (mins/wk), Study/Discipleship (mins/wk), Tithe ($/yr). Current state for Bible and Prayer I had as 0. That may be too harsh, but I really don't spend time reading the Bible or in prayer outside of church. Service currently is 15 mins/wk as I sub in the Kids (under five) area during one of the church services. Study/Discipleship is something I've avoided. I am not involved in our church's Discipleship groups. I haven't been able to find a small group that is a safe haven and open to discussion (rather than simply reviewing the fairly conservative teachings of our church in these groups). Let me be clear that this is about 95% my fault as I've worked hard to find reasons not to invest in a small group. Tithing is something my wife and I have always done, so this hasn't really been an issue for us. I then drafted goals for each of these metrics, which would require specific actions on my part. Service (with a goal of 60 mins/wk and a stretch goal of 180 mins/wk) would require me to find something to be involved in, either at our church and/or outside of church. Having December goals also creates more immediacy rather than simply planning to plan.

Financial This is an interesting one. It is connected to the Career section obviously, but it also has to do with the discipline in our lives as well as an overall barometer of our life health. We are extremely fortunate that we are in very good shape financially. We have been very rigorous with avoiding debt. We don't carry any credit card debt nor any car loans. We work hard to avoid the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality. We paid cash for our cars and have kept them, with a 1998 Grand Caravan minivan and a 2000 Lexus ES. It is our responsibility to live a joyful, fulfilled life that is not defined by the lifestyle we choose to create from our funds. Too many people allow their lifestyle to both define them and consume them. Metrics that I developed goals for include Net Worth, Income, Retirement Funds, Savings, and College Fund.

Physical This is an area of significant struggle for me. My knee seems to have recovered, which eliminates one of the main excuses I've had to stay out of shape. Metrics here include Weight, Cardio (mins/wk), Lifting (pounds/wk), Tennis (mins/wk), and Stretching (mins/wk). We're not members of a gym or fitness club, so all of this will require things around the house (including bar bells for lifting). I included tennis as I think this will be an accelerator for me, meaning if I can start playing tennis again, it will drive my overall fitness. This will be a tough one for me as it will require a major life shift. I'm conservatively optimistic about my December goals (40 mins/wk Cardio and Stretching, 30 mins/wk tennis, starting to lift). We'll see.

Fatherhood Here I set weekly time with each of my three sons individually. Most of the time, we are running errands, so spending specific time with one of them is something easy to overlook. Prayer breakfast is also something I put here as both of our older boys really enjoy this.

Personal This was one of the more interesting areas as I think I have a really good start. The three metrics I have here are Soccer (mins/wk), Reduction of Internet (mins/wk), and Rounds of Golf/month. Soccer coaching is something that really keeps me healthy, something I really enjoy. I want to add to this and hope to do that. Reduction of Internet is pretty powerful to actually put down. I put that my current state for Internet Usage is 1500 mins/wk. I have no idea if that is accurate, but it probably is. My goal for 2008 is to get to 600 mins/wk with a stretch target of 300 mins/wk. Rounds of Golf is a shifting of personal time for me, and increasing this I think will restore a healthy hobby to me.

Marriage This was one of the tougher ones to try and define. I had Quality Time in mins/wk as one metric. When I shared the work I had done with my wife, she had some interesting insight. She told me that watching television together is important vs. me in the basement at night on the internet or playing poker while she is up in our room. It sounds fairly simple, but I understand the importance of it. I'm continuing to cook on Wednesday evenings as well as working with the boys to cook on Sunday evenings.

Travel This was an interesting one as well. One of the things my wife and I did earlier in our marriage was to identify places we wanted to travel. We've knocked off many from the list, including Hawaii, Paris, Italy, and Maine. I've gone all over the world, but my non-business travel hasn't been as good. My wife and the boys often go to the mountains north of G-Vegas to visit her parents, and they also made a trip to Memphis while I was at the WSOP this summer. My own non-business travel totaled 24 days (or will including December trips): Memphis (5), Mountains (12), Sweetie/CC Trip (4), Personal (8). The days with my wife have been two Atlanta weekends, which were really one night in a local hotel (albeit a super nice one). We haven't had a real vacation, nor have we taken a family vacation excluding family this year (last year, we went to London for Thanksgiving). My goals this year include 10 days in Memphis with my family, 4 days to visit my brother and his family in Waco, 15 days in the Mountains (G-Vegas), 6 days for a family vacation, 5 days with my wife, and 4 days for personal travel. It is exciting to have a goal to have a vacation for the two of us, as well as a family vacation and time with our families.

I'll add to this later, as well as tomorrow get into the toughest area that I'm working on: Career.

27 November 2007

Are There Any Stewards of the Game?

Monday's Steelers-Dolphins game was just another reminder of how the last bastion of sports/competitive integrity (the NFL) has fallen by the wayside. There was a time where the NFL was the model of how to run a sports league, how to stay true to the game while driving a business and marketing juggernaut. While other leagues invented moronic gimmicks to theoretically pull in viewers (e.g., NASCAR's Chase, small parks and steroids in baseball), the NFL understood that it had the best game in town if it continued to protect the game and the fans.

On the heels of the NFL Network's exclusionary stance toward the American public, the NFL/Steelers/ESPN/Vegas/whomever decided to play a football game on what Steve Young continually called "...a bog." I only caught the last quarter of the game, but it was a farce. In European soccer, it is commonplace for the pitch (field) to be deemed unplayable due to a variety of factors, and a game is then postponed to the following day or a future date. It is so rare that a situation like last night's occurs in the NFL, but they did a huge disservice to everyone involved by forcing the players to take the field. If Hines Ward or Jason Taylor had torn an ACL on consecutive plays with their foot stuck in the muck, would that have been enough to abandon play? Was the Machine that sacred that the game could not have been rescheduled? Was it fine since the Dolphins are winless and the Steelers boring down on the playoffs? Would it have been just as well if the Jaguars had been in Pittsburgh or the Chargers or Browns?

NFL, you are better than this. You owe the Steelers and Dolphins an apology, as well as the rest of the teams in the league.

Pittsburgh-Gazette story on the field

25 November 2007

NCAA Football Playoffs--I Wish

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I had a really nice week, alot of good work on my big picture that I'll update Monday or Tuesday.

I had a big rant last year about why on Earth we need a playoff system in college football for Division I-A (or whatever it is called now). I-AA's sixteen team playoff started this weekend, with Wofford upsetting top ranked Montana and Appalachian State sneaking out a victory.

I've taken the BCS rankings and propose a sixteen-team playoff using this as the end of the season. I suggest this as the conference championships are not a consistent feature of college football (e.g., Big Ten, Pac-Ten, and Big East without a playoff). I simply made one tweak to the set-up for the tourney, with a rule that teams could not meet another team from their own conference in the first round. With that, here is the first round.

1 Missouri v 16 Clemson
8 USC v 9 Oklahoma

5 Kansas v 12 Hawaii
4 Georgia v 13 Arizona State

3 Ohio State v 14 Tennessee
6 Virginia Tech v 10 Florida

7 LSU v 11 Boston College
2 West Virginia v 15 Illinois

In a playoff, injuries will play a part, and this would be no exception. Florida's Tim Tebow has a broken right hand, which would either keep him out of the first round game with Virginia Tech or would surely affect his play. I've become tired of all the rhetoric about the sanctity of the bowls, as if there were hundreds of thousands of orphans who would be sent to sleep on the streets if the Fiesta Bowl or the Carquest Bowl disappeared. If you want the bowls to pick up in the second round, I'm fine with that. We'll say the first round is hosted by the higher seed. USC-Oklahoma jumps out as the top first round game, but I really like Boston College to hang with LSU as well. And if the games went to form, it's hard to argue that these second round games wouldn't be terrific ones to watch:

1 Missouri v 8 USC
4 Georgia v 5 Kansas
3 Ohio State v 6 Virginia Tech
2 West Virginia v 7 LSU

Instead, we're going to have two teams in the title game that will be difficult to get excited about regardless of who gets there. Missouri-West Virginia will be a letdown, West Virginia-Ohio State will be an outrage, and Ohio State-Georgia? Ridiculous. Yet if any of these teams met after a tournament was completed, we would all be on board, we would be pulling for one or the other, we would have the context of the games before. Two would rise from the ashes and meet for a title game that arguably rival the Super Bowl for ratings and interest (read wagers).

Want to expand it to 24 or 32 teams? No problem. Reduce it to eight? I don't see the point. Have automatic bids? Unnecessary. Why select the playoffs now? I'd prefer to have more consistency in college football if the sport wants to level the playing field. Require ten conference games (if you don't have eleven or twelve teams, then add one or two in your conference), or require nine conference games. Eliminate play against I-AA teams. Have a thirteen game regular season (have everyone play the same exact number of games). Independents? I'm not sure. Bowls? Let the bowls play a part in this or not, whatever. Let the bowls participate outside of the playoffs for the other teams (17-x).

Good night, and chime in if interested.

19 November 2007

Weekend of Life: The Police

Quite the eventful weekend here. I somehow avoided injury and cardiac arrest while playing soccer on Saturday then finished off the weekend with one of the best concerts in my life.

This was the peak of my athletic prowess during the soccer coaches game. Note the full sprint with one leg up in running position.

This is the more typical shot during the game. I spent most of the time staring at play as I walked back toward the goal. I had volunteered to defend then would find myself on some crazy run forward, making a mockery of the beautiful game.

I switched to goalkeeper once the game was well out of reach. This was a highlight, where I rolled over the ball as I tricked the player into crossing the ball instead of taking a shot on goal. I made it through without an injury, although I think we had a couple of hamstring pulls and an ACL tear/strain. I'll take that. My knee, which was operated on a few years ago, made it through fine.

Last night, my wife, her best friend from Hilton Head, and I went to dinner then headed to Philips Arena to see The Police. I grew up as a hardcore R&B fan (Soul or Black music is what we called it), while most of the white kids at my school were into Southern Rock. My music included Prince, Luther Vandross, Cameo, Earth Wind and Fire, Lakeside, etc. I got to see Cameo and Rick James in concert, as well as Luther Vandross with Whitney Houston opening for him.

When I went to Tulane, my roommate and I battled over music constantly. He had been a DJ at the local small town AM radio station, and he was into The Police among other groups. One of our best friends was a fanatic, with hair that matched Sting's. The Synchronicity Tour came to Baton Rouge, and I militantly refused to go, arguing that Michael Jackson was more of a musical genius than Sting and the Police. I have regretted the decision ever since. Our friend went to four cities to see them in concert, having caught them previously through the years (he had a towel thrown by Sting as his prized concert possession).

We were on the floor, and I was like a kid as I jumped and screamed, oblivious of the bad date couple to our right. My wife just kept jumping then gazing at me throughout the night, a huge grin on her face. Of course, she was lusting after Sting for big chunks of the night, but I think she was so happy to see me so happy.

None of my photos really came out, and I got bored trying to video one of the songs. Head here for the set list as well as a Wiki overview of The Police.

I'm heading up to G-Vegas early by myself to work on fleshing out answers to my questions I've posed. I'm sure I'll check in from there but not sure when.

16 November 2007

Vegas: Democratic Presidential Candidate Debates

As always, a qualifier is in order here.

I consider myself an Independent, fiscally conservative, socially moderate to liberal person. I was against Bush's policy originally in cutting off negotiations with North Korea as well as the halting of the Kyoto Treaty, probably the first two actions he took as President which were red flags to me that he had a broader agenda to undo most everything Clinton had done. I was vigorously opposed to the war with Iraq from very early on, feeling that it was a fait a compli that we would attack Iraq. I also consider myself a Christian Moderate, a believer who has always felt uncomfortable with the Christian Right. I have felt that God was wrongly claimed by the Republican Party and the Religious Right, that they alone were followers and understood God's will in all things.

Having said all of this, I haven't been involved in politics, haven't actively supported any candidate since campaigning for Gerald Ford when I was eleven. The dynamics of this upcoming election, though, pull me in. In my lifetime, the world has become smaller, time has quickened, and change impacts each of us wherever we are more and more quickly. Is this a momentous time in our world, is the upcoming selection of a new US President over the next year a ground breaking decision for our future here as well as throughout the world? Yes, and the big decisions will come more and more quickly in our lifetime.

It is now easier for each of us to understand issues, to understand the positions of candidates, to get involved directly in change, to get involved in a candidate's campaign, to voice our support and concerns. It begins with understanding. I don't prowl political blogs, relying on news sites and my own life experience to form my own opinions. Admittedly, many of my opinions are based on little data and sources on most everything. I assume that is the case for most of us around the world. I want to move with more diligence to form my own opinions and views.

With that, I'm listening to the video from last night's Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate in Las Vegas. I've felt like our choices previously haven't been America's best and brightest. What I'm hearing is a mix good stuff and rhetoric, which is fine and to be understood. From these debates from Democratic and Republican candidates, from the caucuses, primaries, and general election, can we as Americans select the right person to lead us and reshape our direction and that of much of the world? Is the right person electable? Is there a prioritization of important issues which should guide our selection?

If you listen to the entire two hours of this video (if you have the time to do this while you're working), it's hard to ignore how articulate these men and lady are. It is easy to nod occasionally when I hear something I agree with and shake my head when I disagree. It is time, though, that we find the best person whomever he or she is to take on the big, hard questions.

The big, hard questions (in a particular order):

1. How do we re-chart America's place in the world, a position where our influence has declined over the last six years?
2. How do we address the following groups and countries over the next five years: Active and Future Terrorist Groups, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Religious Extemists?
3. With the growth of economies in India, China and other Asian Tigers (e.g., Vietnam) how do we alter our core education system to create more capable young people, especially in socio-economic disadvantaged communities?
4. What is our path back to fiscal responsibility, including the viability of Social Security, the funding of a volunteer military in our current situation (e.g., with outsourced areas of responsibility)?
5. How do we change our environmental policies in light of the current situation and momentum around the world, including population growth, increases in life expectancy, higher living standards around the world?

Are these the right questions we need to be grappling with in the right order? Are there a few others to add?

14 November 2007

Two Key Questions

I have a new vlog up at YouTube (see below), where I lay out in more detail the key questions I am confronting in my life.

The key questions?
  • Am I OK on the path I am on?
    • Am I achieving my goals in all parts of my life?
  • Am I fulfilling my potential and using my gifts?
The vlog addresses the first question, which is really defined above. What are my goals in all parts of my life? Am I executing on these goals and achieving positive results? I lack concrete, measurable goals in almost all parts of my life, and I believe my ability to execute has fallen significantly. Not a very good recipe for success, believe me.

Let me know any thoughts you have, any feedback from the vlog or here. I look forward to the end of this and heading in a great new direction.


We like to think that the path of our lives are charted by the big, monstrous decisions. In many ways, this is true. Deciding where to go to school, what to major in, what job to take, who to marry, where to live. I can remember many of these huge decisions in my own life. Some came easily, some were gut-wrenching selections. Some were wrong, taking me down a path fraught with outcomes that haven't been ideal.

I've now come to a time and place in my life shaped not by the big decision but by the lack of a decision. Contentment would be too strong a term, implying a choice that led to a comfortable existence. No, I've come to this point in many aspects of my life by the lack of a decision. Business and career decisions more about making money for the next three months rather than building something great for the future. Faith choices to avoid asking hard questions and putting myself at risk rather than to serve, to accept, to humble myself. Relationship choices where a smile is enough, where allowing my wife to find her own ways to grow and connect is good enough for me.

I'm not one to make grand proclamations of intent, having been burned by my own words too many times to even mutter something to myself. Yet it is this that I now struggle with, crafting a new definition of who I will be, of what I will achieve. I told my wife at lunch that this will lead to a time of great risk for us, regardless of what our choices end up being. If I decide to get a job, if I decide to reinvent my own company, if we decide to move. Any of these and other choices bring great risk to our lives and our relationships.

I've always been a change agent, one to embrace risk, ideas, and a new way. I've gotten away from all of that. I've gotten away from people as well, living here in my basement in front of this monitor with these Bose headphones on my head. We have money in the bank with minimal debt, yet I'm making no contribution. I'm not around smart people anymore. I'm not challenged in my life.

I'll be working to figure all of this out, and I'll put it in front of you to chime in, to follow, to laugh at, to commiserate with, to relate to. Feel free to give your thoughts and ideas, either through comments here, emails to me at csquard@gmail.com, or to your own posts. Thanks to everyone who left comments and sent me emails. It's great to know I'm not alone.

13 November 2007

Back Here

I'll be posting here unless I figure out something else. Thanks for dropping by, and let me know what direction you'd like me to head with my blog and vlog.
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