Well son, it’s been about two weeks since I updated your blog and that is because for the last two weeks you and I have been hanging out all day (you’re actually bouncing around on top of me as I write this). I came back after being gone a while, and it was quite an experience meeting the son I only knew for two weeks.
You are big! I couldn’t believe it when I saw you.
You kind of recognized me from FaceTime and Skype, but I don’t think you were sure. It didn’t matter. Two weeks and we were best buddies. I think you were at a good age for me to return. Had I been away much longer, you probably wouldn’t have taken to me so well.
Now begs the question, “What to do with your blog?”
I think almost a year of daily advice is good enough, and right now I would be missing time with you to keep writing it daily. What would be the point of that?
So I’ll keep writing weekly, to keep up with things like “Top 100 Places to See…” and the other recurring topics, before I eventually bring it to an end.
One thing I never did was thank all your readers. My target audience was always you and I never addressed anyone else. I wanted you to know it was for you. However, they deserve to be thanked.
So for all the family, friends, and other readers, thank you.
I hope everyone has enjoyed “Charlie’s Dad” as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
It is difficult for me to talk about alcoholism, because I don’t think I have ever really experienced it first hand. There are probably better people out there to learn from. However, I am your dad and I figure the least I can do is try to relate a personal experience to help you understand how even you can become addicted to alcohol.
When I was stationed overseas on embassy duty, there was a culture of drinking that kind of dominated us. We had our own bar in our house, and we made a considerable amount of money compared to most economies where we served. Needless to say, we drank a lot. In fact, we encouraged the rest of the embassy community to drink with us during embassy parties, and they did. Most who have served overseas in diplomatic posts will tell you the “Marine House” s the place to be.
Anyway, during my second post (my last year or so on embassy duty) I started to go out and drink a lot. We worked shifts, so there wasn’t a lot of time to get out. But we managed. The hardest thing was to find someone to go out with. In a small detachment, it wasn’t uncommon to be the only guy who didn’t have to work in the next 8 hours or so.
This is where I noticed I was addicted to alcohol, because I remember getting frustrated when I couldn’t find someone to go out with. My goal became to find a partner every single night, and go out and drink. And when that didn’t happen, I started to get pissed. One day I thought to myself, “Why am I getting pissed about not going out to the bars?”
Up to that point I had convinced myself that it was because I wanted to have a good time, but the truth was I was craving a night of drinking. “Going out” was just what I called it. I was becoming addicted to alcohol.
That was the moment I realized just how addictive alcohol can be. Did I quit on the spot? No, I just calmed down a bit. Realizing what was happening to my body was enough to take a few steps back and prevent something worse from happening.
Make sure you do the same if you notice something similar to what happened to me. Don’t lie to yourself if you find you may be addicted to drinking. It is not beyond any one of us to become addicted to alcohol.
There are probably many ways to prevent it, but in my case I just had to be aware of the signs, and mitigate it before it became a problem.
Work Tip #85 - Preconceptions Stifle Achievement
During my first deployment to Afghanistan I served as the chief of a small team that was in support of a larger force. I took the job to heart, and did my best to prepare my team for what was to be a tough deployment. I also had a lieutenant that served as the team’s officer in charge, and I made sure to help him find his way through his own development as an officer. I had my own ideas of what an officer did, though, based on comments from other senior enlisted and the little I had seen in my career. Those preconceptions ended up biting me in the ass.
You see, when we deployed I quickly took to tending to the team’s matters. Supply, management, direction, were all things for which I felt a need to take responsibility. Meetings, headquarters, and liaising with the larger unit we supported was “officer” stuff. I made it a point to skip out on what I thought were “officer” meetings, “officer” conversations, etc.
It was a significant screw up as my lieutenant’s senior enlisted adviser.
Not only did I miss out on everything that was discussed at meetings, but I also was unable to effectively mentor and guide my lieutenant through his decisions … or at least provide him an experienced person he could trust to help with decisions. My understanding was that he led the team, and I made things work. That was a stupid understanding of what an officer/enlisted relationship is, and we could have done much better on that deployment had I deployed with a different mindset.
Son, my preconception of how I was “supposed” to act degraded my performance as a team chief. Had I deployed with a more open mind, more like my true self, someone who wants to help, participate and guide … I would have been a better chief. Had I not let the preconceptions I had of an officer and a chief control my behavior, I may have achieved something greater than a typical team chief. Instead, I perpetuated my own preconceptions.
Preconceptions are nothing more than road blocks on the path to better decisions son. You mustn’t act them out to be great, you must shed them to be great.
Learn to do that and you will undoubtedly be great at everything you do.
Life Tip #76 - Create an E-mail Trap for Marketers
Who knows what or how they will send you advertisements when you read this Charlie. In my lifetime, marketers have gone from post mail, to telephone, to E-mail and managed to stay annoying throughout it all.
When it comes to post mail or telephone, that’s easy. All you have to do is give fake info. However, E-mail is a little tougher, because often times to log in you have to receive the E-mail from the crappy site you are trying to gain access to. Not a problem.
Just create another e-mail address that you use for all the worthless Internet sites you want to gain access to. Use it for the sites you know are going to inundate you with E-mail even though you only used their site once. I started to do this about two years ago, and my junk E-mail has gone down to zero.
I logged into the e-mail once to see how it looked and it was crazy in there! Like some kind of cesspool of premature balding, sex-crazed, get-rich-quick lunatics. Actually, that kind of makes the sites your old man is going to a little suspicious. ;)
The Power of the Pen
The military is known for having decorations and awards, and for the most part they serve their purpose of rewarding people for their accomplishments or hard work. However, the most underutilized form of recognition is a simple letter of appreciation. I think it is underutilized because people really don’t think it means much, but they are wrong. A simple letter means a lot to the person who receives it, and it takes nothing to create.
I have a simple criteria for writing letters of appreciation. If someone goes out of their way to help me do my job or if a person helps me when he’s not required to, I write him a letter. If a person helps me even once during my mission and her small part plays a role in something greater, I write a letter (in those instances I make it a point to say she played a part in something important). Sometimes I’ll address it to the person who helped me, but often times I’ll address it to his or her boss.
If the person is a peer, I get my own boss to sign the letter. In this case I typically talk to my boss in person first, and then I offer to write the letter for him. That is especially important, because people are typically lazy or disinterested in what someone else did for you, and won’t bother to write it. I also make sure there is an organizational letterhead that looks important (especially if I work for an important organization), and bug the hell out of my boss until it is signed.
I have probably written dozens of these letters and I am sure some think I overdo it, but I don’t see what the hell the big deal is. It is a simple letter. I am not advocating a promotion or praising the person’s overall performance. I am simply offering a formal “thank you,” that will stay with that person for the rest of his career. And that is important, because often times good work goes unnoticed.
It is simple, Charlie. You have seen the impacts plenty of times, from teachers’ positive comments on homework to comment cards you fill out for a waiter at a restaurant. A letter of appreciation is just a more formalized version of those examples. It is a powerful thing to formally thank a person for his hard work, so don’t ever miss an opportunity to do so when the situation presents itself.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of the pen.
100 Places to See Before You Die #7 - The U.S. Open Road
So my “100 Places to See…” list isn’t very traditional Charlie, but that is exactly my intent. It is too easy to pick 100 places that look pretty in pictures or make me seem really cultured. Instead, these are places I truly think you should see and appreciate.
That said, let me tell you about the open road.
Many people, when they travel, fly from one place to another. They spend a lot of time in cities, hotels, resorts,on ships, etc. Very few get to experience the open land between these places, and there is no better place I have seen for experiencing the open road than the United States (pictured above).
In a matter of days you will drive through snow-capped mountains, beautiful plains and barren desert. On a perfect night you will see more stars than you have ever seen in your life, and on that same road you will see fewer cars and people than you have ever seen in your life. It is the ultimate escape in many ways.
The U.S. isn’t the only place I have seen like this. In Europe and South America too, the open road can be a place of extreme solace and beauty.
So while you may not be able to pin it on a map or post it to your social media page, the open road can be as amazing of an experience as almost any one spot you will read about on any other “100 Places to See” list.
I’m sure you will take many road trips with your me and your mom, but just in case, here are a few trips to get you started:
- San Diego to Seattle (drive the inland up, and the coast down).
- Washington D.C. to San Francisco (take Interstate 90 through the Dakotas and cut down to Interstate 80 through Wyoming).
- Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Mountains.
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida to California (take Interstate 75 along the coast to Interstate 10 … and lastly Interstate 8).
- Washington D.C. to Alaska (through Canada … this is our next one!).
Work Tip #48 - Controlling Panic
One day you will probably find yourself in a stressful work situation, son. It will most likely be a situation that includes a condensed timeline and a requirement to perform a task within that timeline. When that happens it is very probable that some sort of panic will set in. It happens to almost everyone.
The difference comes in how you respond to it. Some people let it consume them. They lose cognitive skills, small motor skills, and sometimes can even lose hearing! Really, it can consume you that much. I have seen it plenty of times.
The trick to keeping your composure during times like these is understanding what is happening to you. We all have that rush of adrenaline when we get into a stressful situation, so that part is completely normal and mostly uncontrollable. However, understanding what your body is going through allows you to focus and accomplish your task. It prevents you from “freezing up.”
It is somewhat of a learned skill, but one highly valued in the workplace. No one wants to work with someone who panics, even if it’s during the most stressful situations. No one wants to work for someone who panics. People respect and even follow those who can control their anxiety and function. People admire those who can calm and lead others through their own panic.
Remember this when you find yourself in your first few stressful work situations. It is one of the most valuable skills you can have.
Life Tip #65 - Dry-Erase Boards
I think talking to you about dry-erase boards is about as worthwhile as talking to you about chalk boards, but here it goes.
Sometimes you accidentally write on a dry-erase board with a permanent marker. Not to worry. Just take a dry-erase marker and mark over what you wrote with the permanent marker several times. Then wipe it all away.
Works every time.