Paul Fenn, Take a Shot Media

Graham Turns 10

10 years ago today on May, 29 2006, the morning sun shone brightly. The sky was robin-blue, and the temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees. It was the start, of what would turn out to be, a beautiful three-day Memorial Day Weekend.

My wife Kimberlee was extremely pregnant. Not just a little pregnant but about ready to pop pregnant. Officially she wasn’t due until May 31st but having been pregnant twice before, she was eager to put these final days of pregnancy behind her and move on to the motherhood phase.  And so with this in mind, she had climbed out of bed that morning bound and determined to have a baby.

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Graham along about the age of 2 riding on my shoulders. I always liked those glasses but they disappeared like all good glasses do. Bummer!

Somewhere around 10am Kim announced she was having labor pains and we should head to the hospital. “Are you sure” I said? It’s such a nice day, maybe we should head down to the beach and sit for a while just to be sure?” Kim was not known for giving birth quickly or on time. Our first son Will, had come 10 days late and had to be blasted out with the help of a stick of dynamite disguised as a drug called Pitocin. It had been a long poke before Will actually made his debut (he’s been late ever since, stubborn too). Mollie had come along about on schedule but still had taken her own sweet time before actually making her own grand entrance. So with this sort of track record, I wasn’t overly optimistic that things were really in motion. And while I was almost as eager as Kim was to have this baby, the thought of spending the entire Memorial Day Weekend in the hospital instead of out in the sun wasn’t something I was overly thrilled about. But Kim assured me that she was truly in labor and so after making arrangements for Will and Mollie, we threw a bag together and headed to the hospital.

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Graham about the age of 6 sailing off to some great spot, probably Block Island, RI

Sure as shooting, no sooner had we checked in then Kim’s labor pains stopped. The doctor (Dr. Wells) told us that things were definitely in motion though and that we should sit tight. The hours ticked by and soon morning gave way to the afternoon and the afternoon to evening. Somewhere around 6:30 or 7:00, I decided to run home, check on the dog and get something to eat. I tossed a frozen pizza into the oven and shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was Kim although Kim wasn’t on the line, Dr. Wells was. “Hello, anyone home? Care to join us?  You know we’re having a baby over here.” So as soon as the pizza was done, I slid it onto a plate and jumped back in the car. I made it back to the hospital just in time, pizza in hand. Moments later, at 8;02pm, Graham Austin Fenn was born. And somewhere around 8:30, I finally got the chance to eat my pizza. It had been a long day, especially for Kim who had done all the work.

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Graham and me building a fire on the beach. We had the place all to ourselves!

Today, we are celebrating Graham’s 10th birthday in the exotic Seychelles Islands just off the east coast of Africa, go figure. As with all my kids, I stand in awe at how fast the years have flown by. Will is starting high school in the fall, Mollie is heading into 7th grade and Graham, the baby of the family, is heading into 5th grade, his last year of elementary school. Time certainly does fly.Thankfully, at least for a few more years, we are all still flying together. Happy Birthday Graham. I’m so glad you came along.

On we go…

Note: Kim and I never found out ahead of time if we were getting boys or girls. We always enjoyed the suspense of wondering who was coming to join our family. We have always enjoyed surprises 🙂

Father’s Day, it’s More Important than You Think

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never put much stock in holiday’s such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I’ve always considered them to be mostly manufactured holidays created by greeting card companies in an effort to sell more cards. I know I’m not alone in this thinking but today, I am seeing things differently.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a neighbor of mine who passed away after a long bout with cancer;  he was only 51.  Generally speaking, a memorial service, even under the best of circumstances, is never a very cheerful event but this one had a surprisingly upbeat feel to it which is exactly what I am sure my neighbor Mitch would have wanted.

The eulogy was given by Mitch’s son Cameron. Cameron is just about 19. I had not seen him in a while but the last time I did, which was not that long ago, he was sporting a mop of bleached-out brown hair, blown out jeans and was rolling down the road pushing a long-board. In short, he looked like the typical happy-go-lucky surfer dude in search of the next wave to ride. Yesterday however, the surfer dude was gone and in his place stood a dashing young man, with short hair, wearing a crisp white shirt, charcoal gray suit, and striped tie. Cameron delivered a very personal, very emotionally charged speech that forced all of us in attendance to hold our breath and sit bolt upright with our backs flat against the wooden pew. He spoke about all the great times he and his dad had, had together. How they had learned how to snowboard together despite his father’s reluctance to give up his skis. He spoke about the times they spent on the water wake boarding and how his best memories were the two of them hosing off the boat at the end of the day and putting it to bed. He spoke about what a great provider his father had been, how he had been a great husband and a great father to his older sister too. His words were what every dad hopes their son will say after you’re gone. They were quite simply, perfect.

As I left the church and walked to my car, I was reminded of similar words delivered by my father at my grandfather’s memorial service in 1971, 42 years ago. He too spoke about how close he and his father had been, how my grandfather had loved to play games with his children. He talked about how he had taught my dad to throw an inside curve and an outside curve. How when things got to be too quiet at home he would jump out of his chair and say something like “let’s go cut down a tree, or let’s hike up the gully and pick raspberries, or who’s ready for a dip in the lake?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that while the two speeches were separated by more than forty years, the spirit of the words were identical.

Sunday is Father’s Day. But this year, thanks to my young friend Cameron, I am seeing it in a whole new light, a better and brighter light. This year I am seeing Father’s Day not as just another commercially created holiday but rather an opportunity for self-reflection and introspection. An opportunity to stand in front of the mirror and ask myself, “am I being the best father that I can be?” I’ll ask this question because I want to know that if I were to leave this earth tomorrow, would my children be willing to stand up for me, stand shoulder to shoulder at the podium and say, “our father was a great dad. He taught us how to throw an inside curve and an outside curve, he taught us to ski and to appreciate the outdoors.  He taught us how to sail and how to button up the boat at the end of the day after a fun day on the water. He was a guy who loved to laugh and go on great adventures. He loved dogs. He was a good provider, a good husband to my mom and we will miss him more than you will ever know.” This, is what I think Father’s Day is really all about, a day of annual self-evaluation of how I am doing as a dad, the most important job I’ll ever have. And if from time to time, the answer to the question is “no, you can do better,” I’ll take the truth to heart, adjust my compass and sail off on a better, more favorable heading. So to all you fathers out there, good luck and happy Father’s Day!

On We Go…

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Staying Healthy, Angelina Jolie and Living Large

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Last August my wife Kim and I took our three kids, Will (10), Mollie (8) and Graham (6) on vacation to the National Lakeshore which runs along the bottom of Lake Superior. We spent the first week sailing in the Apostle Islands which was totally fantastic. The second week we moved west and camped just off the beach with a beautiful view of the lake. During this second week, Kim noticed a small lump in her left breast. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, largely because she was only 43 and in great shape; seriously, she runs, swims, eats well, is a vegetarian, and is not over weight. In short, she’s in good physical condition. What’s more, Kim’s parents are both healthy, so what was there to worry about?

After we got home, Kim went to see her doctor and learned that she had breast cancer. I remember her calling me from our local hospital and saying “you should probably come over here, it’s more serious than they thought it was.”

Over the next several weeks, we learned more than we ever wanted to know about breast cancer and how to treat it. We also learned that even with all the advancement in medicine over say the last thirty years or so, there’s still a lot that is still unknown about breast cancer, especially why some woman get it and some don’t. The latest figures from the American Cancer Society are that 1 in 8 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, that’s a whopping 12%. To put that into perspective, It was estimated that upwards of 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and more in 2012; that’s a boat-load of breast cancer running around!

After wandering around like a couple of deer in the headlights for the better part of September trying to decide on the best course of action to take, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that if we had any chance of licking this thing we needed to go the conventional route which meant surgery followed by chemo therapy or as Kim put it “when in doubt cut it out and then spray RAID on it;” charming thought I know. We decided to go to Johns Hopkins Medical Center which wasn’t far from where we live and where we would have first-rate medical care.

Kim had a total mastectomy on her left side in the last week of October and began the first of four rounds of chemo in November. By December, she had lost all her hair but she never lost her drive or her sense of humor. As a family, we trudged through January. Thankfully our friends and neighbors helped us out and before we knew it, it was suddenly the end of February and her treatments were over. She felt pretty crummy most of March but by early April she was sprouting new hair and beginning to feel like her old self again. She began running a few miles every other day and then at the tail-end of April, with some help from her good friend Margaret Osborne, she ran the Iron Girl Half-Marathon and finished. Two weeks after that, she was back at John Hopkins for reconstruction surgery.

Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon
Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon

Over these past many months, I’ve had a variety of different thoughts and ideas of how we should lead our life so that as a family, we are healthy, happy, and prepared for the unexpected. As a result, I came up with these 10 points:

1. Stay Fit: It’s always amazing to me how many overweight, out of shape people there are in America. Last time I checked exercise wasn’t a dirty word. Granted, it’s not always easy to find the time to get to the gym or to go for a run or take a bike ride but it’s so good for you in so many ways and your body is craving to be worked out on a daily basis. In the best-selling book, Younger Next Year, authors Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge state very matter-of-factly that you can turn back your biological clock if among other things, you exercise at least 6 days a week for the rest of your life. I’m game, who’s with me?

2. Eat Healthy: This is easier said then done I know, but for all you people running around slugging down gigantic cheese burgers with extra-large french fries, you’re killing yourself, really! Want the straight dope? It’s simple, eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. The pepperoni pizza with extra cheese is good I know but the question is, is it good for you? Let’s move on.

3. Don’t Smoke: Talk about an easy basket! They put those large warning labels on the side of the cigarette packs for a reason you know, smoke too many of them for long enough and they will KILL you. Breathing fresh air is a gift, don’t squander it by deliberately filling your lungs w/ poison… hello!

4. Watch the Alcohol:  Drinking too much will make you fat, dumb, and lazy. Kim and I love our wine, we admit it. We usually have a couple of glasses of good Cabernet or Pinot Noir every night. I had to fill out a health form recently and there was a question asking me how many glasses of alcohol I drank each week, I lied and put down 14 (It was probably more like 20!). When my doctor saw that he looked at me and said, “WOW, really?” Bottom line, go easy on the booze!

5. Unplug: Too much TV, video games, game-boys, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and handheld electronics in general are a bad idea. It’s a big world out there and most of it is still 100% natural so unplug now and again and live a little. We did this for a week last year while sailing in the Apostle Islands and it changed our life, seriously, try it.

Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started
Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started

6. Take a Break: As Ferris Buhler said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. “A good vacation away from the stress and strains of the daily grind will put a fresh breeze in your sails and give you a new prospective for what’s really important.

7. Laugh More: We try to laugh a lot in our house and not take ourselves too seriously. I remember one time when Kim was going through chemo, she was taking an excessively long shower. I yelled through the door, “what are you doing in there baking bread?” My daughter Mollie piped up and said “well she’s definitely not washing her hair!” We all cracked up over that one, especially Kim. Bottom line,  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff.”

8. Marry Well: Like so many people, I was impressed with Angelina Jolie’s New York Time’s article, My Medical Decision which detailed her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.  One of the many good points she made was how important it was to have someone by your side to love you and help you through the storm. When Kim and I got married, we stole a quote from Life’s Little Instruction Book that said “a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.” Having the right person by your side when things go sideways can make all the difference. Choose your life’s partner well and stick with them.

9. Have Kids: Making the decision to have kids was one of the very best decisions Kim and I have ever made. We have three but knowing what we know now, we would have had more. Having kids allows adults to enter into a whole new world that without them you would never be exposed to; dance lessons, baseball games, soccer tournaments, school plays, sleep-overs, pumpkin carvings, father-daughter dances, beanie weenies, it’s all part of a magical ride called parenthood. Go for it!

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Mollie, Graham and Will climbing on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island on Lake Superior

10. Live Large: Just before Kim was diagnosed w/ breast cancer, I surprised her w/ the purchase of a 2006, black, BMW convertible with a tan interior and a 5-speed manual  transmission. The car was mint and was exactly what I had been looking for. At first, Kim saw the car as an unpractical, unnecessary addition to the family. And I had to admit that the car did look a little out-of-place parked next to our 2004 minivan and our 1993 Volvo wagon with the dent in the side. However this quickly changed the first time we dropped the top and went humming down the road, shifting through the gears on a perfect summer’s evening. We were living large and knew it. After Kim’s diagnosis, she said that one of the things that she was most thankful for was that we had bought the BMW. It was unpractical for sure, unnecessary no doubt, but it was also fun and if you can’t allow yourself to have fun, what’s left? Live large, especially in small ways.

Jeanneau SO 41 DS sailing in Annapolis, MD.

That’s it, these are my thoughts and the way I see things in this post-cancer world. Will any of these 10 pieces of advice keep you healthy? It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure, if you do get sick or have an accident, you will be much better equipped to deal with things and recover from it, if  you’re in good physical and mental shape and hitting on all cylinders. I have always believed that life is meant to be lived on the balls of your feet. That way, when the unexpected comes your way, you can easily adapt to the new tempo and dance to the new beat wherever it may take you.

On we go….

Staying Healthy, Angelina Jolie and Living Large

DSC00323Last August my wife Kim and I took our three kids, Will (10), Mollie (8) and Graham (6) on vacation to the National Lakeshore which runs along the bottom of Lake Superior. We spent the first week sailing in the Apostle Islands which was totally fantastic. The second week we moved west and camped just off the beach with a beautiful view of the lake. During this second week, Kim noticed a small lump in her left breast. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, largely because she was only 43 and in great shape; seriously, she runs, swims, eats well, is a vegetarian, and is not over weight. In short, she’s in good physical condition. What’s more, Kim’s parents are both healthy, so what was there to worry about?

After we got home, Kim went to see her doctor and learned that she had breast cancer. I remember her calling me from our local hospital and saying “you should probably come over here, it’s more serious than they thought it was.”

Over the next several weeks, we learned more than we ever wanted to know about breast cancer and how to treat it. We also learned that even with all the advancement in medicine over say the last thirty years or so, there’s still a lot that is still unknown about breast cancer, especially why some woman get it and some don’t. The latest figures from the American Cancer Society are that 1 in 8 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, that’s a whopping 12%. To put that into perspective, It was estimated that upwards of 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and more in 2012; that’s a boat-load of breast cancer running around!

After wandering around like a couple of deer in the headlights for the better part of September trying to decide on the best course of action to take, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that if we had any chance of licking this thing we needed to go the conventional route which meant surgery followed by chemo therapy or as Kim put it “when in doubt cut it out and then spray RAID on it;” charming thought I know. We decided to go to Johns Hopkins Medical Center which wasn’t far from where we live and where we would have first-rate medical care.

Kim had a total mastectomy on her left side in the last week of October and began the first of four rounds of chemo in November. By December, she had lost all her hair but she never lost her drive or her sense of humor. As a family, we trudged through January. Thankfully our friends and neighbors helped us out and before we knew it, it was suddenly the end of February and her treatments were over. She felt pretty crummy most of March but by early April she was sprouting new hair and beginning to feel like her old self again. She began running a few miles every other day and then at the tail-end of April, with some help from her good friend Margaret Osborne, she ran the Iron Girl Half-Marathon and finished. Two weeks after that, she was back at John Hopkins for reconstruction surgery.

Over these past many months, I’ve had a variety of different thoughts and ideas of how we should lead our life so that as a family, we are healthy, happy, and prepared for the unexpected. As a result, I came up with these 10 points:

Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon
Kim and Mar finish their half-marathon

1. Stay Fit: It’s always amazing to me how many overweight, out of shape people there are in America. Last time I checked exercise wasn’t a dirty word. Granted, it’s not always easy to find the time to get to the gym or to go for a run or take a bike ride but it’s so good for you in so many ways and your body is craving to be worked out on a daily basis. In the best-selling book, Younger Next Year, authors Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge state very matter-of-factly that you can turn back your biological clock if among other things, you exercise at least 6 days a week for the rest of your life. I’m game, who’s with me?

2. Eat Healthy: This is easier said then done I know, but for all you people running around slugging down gigantic cheese burgers with extra-large french fries, you’re killing yourself, really! Want the straight dope? It’s simple, eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and grains. The pepperoni pizza with extra cheese is good I know but the question is, is it good for you? Let’s move on.

3. Don’t Smoke: Talk about an easy basket! They put those large warning labels on the side of the cigarette packs for a reason you know, smoke too many of them for long enough and they will KILL you. Breathing fresh air is a gift, don’t squander it by deliberately filling your lungs w/ poison… hello!

4. Watch the Alcohol:  Drinking too much will make you fat, dumb, and lazy. Kim and I love our wine, we admit it. We usually have a couple of glasses of good Cabernet or Pinot Noir every night. I had to fill out a health form recently and there was a question asking me how many glasses of alcohol I drank each week, I lied and put down 14 (It was probably more like 20!). When my doctor saw that he looked at me and said, “WOW, really?” Bottom line, go easy on the booze!

5. Unplug: Too much TV, video games, game-boys, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and handheld electronics in general are a bad idea. It’s a big world out there and most of it is still 100% natural so unplug now and again and live a little. We did this for a week last year while sailing in the Apostle Islands and it changed our life, seriously, try it.

Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started
Dad and Graham work on getting the fire started

6. Take a Break: As Ferris Buhler said, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. “A good vacation away from the stress and strains of the daily grind will put a fresh breeze in your sails and give you a new prospective for what’s really important.

7. Laugh More: We try to laugh a lot in our house and not take ourselves too seriously. I remember one time when Kim was going through chemo, she was taking an excessively long shower. I yelled through the door, “what are you doing in there baking bread?” My daughter Mollie piped up and said “well she’s definitely not washing her hair!” We all cracked up over that one, especially Kim. Bottom line,  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff.”

8. Marry Well: Like so many people, I was impressed with Angelina Jolie’s New York Time’s article, My Medical Decision which detailed her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.  One of the many good points she made was how important it was to have someone by your side to love you and help you through the storm. When Kim and I got married, we stole a quote from Life’s Little Instruction Book that said “a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.” Having the right person by your side when things go sideways can make all the difference. Choose your life’s partner well and stick with them.

9. Have Kids: Making the decision to have kids was one of the very best decisions Kim and I have ever made. We have three but knowing what we know now, we would have had more. Having kids allows adults to enter into a whole new world that without them you would never be exposed to; dance lessons, baseball games, soccer tournaments, school plays, sleep-overs, pumpkin carvings, father-daughter dances, beanie weenies, it’s all part of a magical ride called parenthood. Go for it!

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Mollie, Graham and Will climbing on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island

10. Live Large: Just before Kim was diagnosed w/ breast cancer, I surprised her w/ the purchase of a 2006, black, BMW convertible with a tan interior and a 5-speed manual  transmission. The car was mint and was exactly what I had been looking for. At first, Kim saw the car as an unpractical, unnecessary addition to the family. And I had to admit that the car did look a little out-of-place parked next to our 2004 minivan and our 1993 Volvo wagon with the dent in the side. However this quickly changed the first time we dropped the top and went humming down the road, shifting through the gears on a perfect summer’s evening. We were living large and knew it. After Kim’s diagnosis, she said that one of the things that she was most thankful for was that we had bought the BMW. It was unpractical for sure, unnecessary no doubt, but it was also fun and if you can’t allow yourself to have fun, what’s left? Live large, especially in small ways.

Jeanneau SO 41 DS sailing in Annapolis, MD.That’s it, these are my thoughts and the way I see things in this post-cancer world. Will any of these 10 pieces of advice keep you healthy? It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure, if you do get sick or have an accident, you will be much better equipped to deal with things and recover from it, if  you’re in good physical and mental shape and hitting on all cylinders. I have always believed that life is meant to be lived on the balls of your feet. That way, when the unexpected comes your way, you can easily adapt to the new tempo and dance to the new beat wherever it may take you.

On we go….

Rush Towards the Ball, Rush Towards Life

DSC01068So last night, my son Will had a baseball game, he turns 11 next Monday, April 29th. This year he moved up from the Minors to the Majors and is now playing with 11 and 12 year olds. Most, if not all of these kids, have been playing baseball for several years and at this point are pretty good. In fact, I was surprised at just how much more intense the level of play was with this older group compared to last year’s younger group. Gone are the days of teaching the kids how to throw, catch and bat and teaching them the love of the game. Now it’s all about how to play well and win games. If a kid isn’t qualified to play first base then he plays some other position, like left field or maybe third base. Will is not a first basemen but he has a decent arm and is fairly good at getting his glove on the ball so he often plays second or third base or sometimes shortstop, occasionally he’ll also play in the outfield.

Will is also a decent batter. He doesn’t have a lot of power but his accuracy is pretty good and when he connects, he usually manages to get the ball over the heads of the infielders and out to the outfield. His real talent however is as a base-runner. Will is fast and willing to take risks which makes him the ideal player when it comes to stealing bases. And, since Will loves to be on stage and the center of attention, stealing bases to great applause is right down his alley!

DSC01064A team is only as good as the coach and this year the coach is especially good. For one thing, he’s especially good at being in charge and giving the boys clear direction of how to do things or how to do things better the next time around. He has a knack for using just the right amount of sarcasm to make his point without going so far as to embarrass the kids. For example, “Billy, don’t you think you would have a better chance of stopping that ground ball if you put your glove down?” “Yea” says Billy in a not-so-sure voice. “Well get it down then, glove in the dirt, glove in the dirt” he’ll shout. Or, “You know, we’d have a much better chance of winning if you guys would actually catch the ball instead of letting it hit the ground!” My favorite however was directed at Will on the first day of practice when he said, “Hey Will, is that a batting stance you have there or are you planning to take a dump on home plate?” All of us parents standing along the baselines that day got a real kick out of that one, especially me!

So the game is underway and our team, the Philly’s, are playing pretty well. Will’s first time to bat results in a walk,  From there he goes on to steal second and third base and then steals home. As I said, Will loves to be the center of attention and there simply is no better way to do this in baseball than hitting a home run or stealing home plate so Will is now in his glory with lots of yelling and screaming and back slapping from his teammates.

Sometime in the 5th inning, a kid from the opposing team knocked the ball out of the infield but well in front of the guys playing in the outfield. The coach was immediately on his feet shouting “don’t just stand there, rush towards the ball, rush towards the ball.” I started thinking about this statement, which was really more of a command, and it struck a chord with me. “Rush towards the ball” I repeated to myself “rush towards the ball.” 

As a marketing guy trying to push high-priced yachts in a tough economy, this concept of rushing towards the ball or in my world, rushing towards the customer or the market, makes complete sense. In a tough market such as we have had for the past few years, the only effective way I could see to possibly win the game was to tune up my advertising, marketing and sales program and run full steam ahead towards the market with the enthusiasm and the attitude that screams, “we’re your guys, buy from us.”

Rushing towards the market, especially a slow one, is not always easy or instinctive. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. One reason for this is that it’s not always clear how to reach the market or more difficult still, what it will take to capture the market. Another reason is that to capture the market and catch the customer, means spending precious resources which you either don’t have in the first place or are unwilling to spend in the second place, especially when there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful. And lastly, it’s always easier and safer to stay put and let the market come back to you rather than for you to venture out into the field to get it. Unfortunately, the problem with playing it safe is that by doing nothing, you run the risk that your competition might be going with a more aggressive game plan and taking your customers and the market.

It’s not always clear what course to take but history has shown time and time again that those companies that turn up the heat during slow times always come out ahead when better times return. In other words, those companies that rush towards the ball do better than those companies that don’t. For me, the time to rush forward and discover what lies ahead is now.

By the way, during the last inning of the game, Will managed to get a solid hit that was good enough for a stand-up double. One of his teammates got on base with a single and while he was doing that, Will stole third. Another teammate hit a nice fly ball that went deep into center field but unfortunately was picked off by a tall lanky kid on the opposing team. The kid knew what he was doing and immediately threw the ball to the second baseman who managed to tag out the runner coming from first. While the opposing team was busy dealing with the runner at second, Will, who had been leading off third, ran back, tagged the bag and made a beeline for home. All of a sudden there were lots of cries of “he’s going, he’s going, throw it home!” Will dug hard as the second baseman wound up and fired the ball towards home plate. “Slide” the coach yelled, “slide!!” Will did slide, in fact it was pure textbook. That catcher did a fine job and he almost got him but just as the ball was about to hit his glove, Will slid neatly under the catchers arm and got his toe on home plate. “SAFE” the umpire said as he waved his arms over the plate. Again there was lots of screaming and back slapping and “way-to-go” being yelled. The coach just smiled and shook his head. It was a fun moment for sure.

SliderAfter the game, one of the other fathers came up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Wow, Will sure does like to take risks.”  “Yes he does” I replied; then added, “He always has and I hope he always will.” “Rush towards the ball,” I thought. “Rush towards life.”

On we go…

Don’t Forget to Unplug Before Leaving the Dock

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A beautiful view of the unspoiled Apostle Islands located on the western end of Lake Superior.

This past summer my wife Kim and I chartered a 40 foot sailboat on Lake Superior and cruised through the unspoiled and mostly deserted Apostle Islands with our three kids, Will, Mollie, and Graham. We had never sailed in this area before and although eager to experience all that the islands had to offer, we were also nervous that our kids, ages 10, 9 and 6 would get bored with no on-shore activities to entertain them. This is rather a pathetic statement I know, but let’s face it, kids today and even us adults have come to expect being entertained in one fashion or another every minute of every waking day. Because of this, and because we didn’t want our vacation ruined by cranky kids whining about their being nothing to do, we literally left the dock with three laptop computers, one Itouch, one Ipad, an Android smart phone, my old Blackberry, and plenty of movies to watch. The one thing that we forgot to bring however was a 12 volt/ 110 volt inverter. In short, we had no way to charge all that we had brought so once the batteries ran out, we’re talking game over.

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Our beautiful Jeanneau 409 that we chartered from Superior Charters out of Bayfield, WI

We had a smoking good sail the first day before dropping the hook (that’s nautical lingo for anchor) just off the beach of Stockton Island. The day slipped away into a clear, beautiful, star-lit night and after dinner Kim and I sat in the cockpit sipping our wine and taking it all in. Our kids on the other hand sat down below fighting over which movie they would watch, where they would watch it, and who would hold the computer. We spent two nights in Stockton Island before sailing onto Raspberry Island about 12 miles to the west. One of the great things about sailing in the Apostle’s is that the islands are close together making for quick passages between harbors. We set our anchor in a well-protected cove just off the sandspit in about 15 feet of clean, clear-blue water. It was a sweet spot for sure and we made the most of it by swimming and diving off the back of the boat. But once the sun went down, there were all three of my kids once again glued to the screen of the Ipad, the last remaining device with any juice left. Then a funny and unexpected thing happened almost immediately after the Ipad gasped its final breath and the light faded from its screen. Will appeared in the cockpit with a deck of cards in his hand and said “anyone interested in playing a game of Michigan Rummy?”

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My oldest son Will discovered this great spot to jump into the water from. The water was cool and deep. We all had a blast jumping off!

From that point forward the trip took on a whole new feel, a real feel, one without beeps, clicks, electronic tones, or video games. From that point forward we spent our time combing the shore for cool looking stones and driftwood. At night we made fires on the beach, told stories and sang songs. We played cards, board games and read books. We did all those things that families used to do before the invasion of portable, hand-held electronics. No one was fighting that they couldn’t see or couldn’t hear. No one was arguing over which movie to watch or who would hold the computer. All that was gone.

We spent several more days on the boat cruising from one island to the next. They were all beautiful, unique and for the most part deserted. And while there was no commercial entertainment to be found, we never lacked for being entertained. It was all there just as it was for our parents and grandparents, simple entertainment but oh so much better than what we have today.

My youngest Graham and  me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!
My youngest Graham and me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!

After we got home, we called our cable company and disconnected our TV. We still have the internet and the kids still play too many video games when we’re not looking but there’s also more chess and scrabble being played; there’s more music flowing through the house, more family conversations and a few more fires burning in the fireplace at night; all good things.

Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island
Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island

This Christmas, Santa brought us a new tent and we’ve started looking at the idea of buying an Airstream trailer and doing a little camping. We’re not sure exactly where we’ll go but one thing is for sure, when we do go, we’ll be sure to unplug, leave the electronics behind and experience all that life has to offer, for real.

On we go…

P.S. Interested in exploring the Apostle Islands for yourself? Contact Superior Charters at www.superiorcharters.com. They have a great fleet of Jeanneau sailboats to choose from and are a treat to deal with.