Checking in on 40 Before 40

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve mentioned 40 Before 40 and nearly 5 months since I finished the list. And while it may appear not much is happening in the dreams department, nothing could be further from the truth.

I currently own a Ford Explorer, which is still in production, although my version is a few body styles removed from the current vehicle. Does this count? Not really what I was expecting when the dream came about, so it currently stands as no.

And with that said, I still can’t lay claim to completing any of my 40B40 list (like my shortened version?), but I can feel myself getting close. The Tiger Swag is slowly making progress. At its current level, I don’t think it counts as being published, but it may lead to other opportunities. Opportunities like going viral (Tiger Swag was called out on a Gamecock message board), being on radio or tv or podcast (I would consider that a win), or even taking a road trip (press passes, right?).

In better news, I expect to accomplish a few goals this fall. October will be our annual Clemson road trip, which will take us to Winston-Salem, home of Krispy Kreme (emails have already been exchanged). Fall break may contain a trip to DC with the fam, which will certainly include a stop by Busch Gardens. And November will be renamed “No Shave November”, which will be followed by a Floyd the Barber shave.

Other work includes multiple offers for road trips – just need to find the time (and money), minor opportunities to cater an event, negotiations of a hot air balloon ride, research into using my engineering skills to solve problems, and inquiries into hosting a concert.

But more importantly, my list must change. Since I joined Facebook in support of The Tiger Swag, I have actually forever denied myself to accomplish one of my goals. So, rather than rename the list 39 Before 40, I’ve decided to replace Facebook with a new dream.

My new dream – invent something.

I don’t need to be a Di Vinci or Edison or Franklin. I don’t even need to be an Otis (elevator), de Mestral (Velcro), or Judson (zipper). I’d be honored to be like another Powell I know.

Terry Powell – aka Dad. He took used clothes hangers from department stores, sawed off the connector pieces to create his own version of chip clips. I’ve also seen solve many a problem without using the proper tools. Just gettin’ it done any way he can.

Honestly, I’d even settle for an idea. An idea like online police scanners (been done), putting all known leaves in an app so you can recognize vegetation (been done), or packaging crayons based on schools and conferences. Would you want your kids coloring with a Crimson crayon for Harvard or Blue for Yale? I know I would. Heck! I’d have seconds and then polish it off (see the 2:15 mark)…

Unfortunately, Home Depot upped the ante by selling official paint colors of the NCAA.

So, it shall still be called 40 Before 40: 40 goals before turning 40.

And I only have 40 more to go…

It Could Be Worse

At some point each of us must face some pretty harsh truths: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy – and most adults don’t get summer vacation.

But just because we don’t get the summer off from work doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. A few years ago, Tanger was in the process of being redeveloped. And with the redevelopment came three new restaurants.

Unfortunately, one of the restaurants (to remain nameless) was forced to have the majority of the construction occur in the heat of the summer.

On one Al Gore type summer day, the foreman, who I’d gotten to know quite well, called to ask a few questions. It was just after lunch and the heat was clearly taking a toll. He was short of breath and I could hear him wiping his brow.

When I answered, he started with “Holy S%#^, it’s hot out here!” Followed by further gasps for air and the sounds of him chugging water.

My response: “Really? It’s a lovely 74 degrees here, with a slight breeze. Matter of fact, I was a little chilly earlier and had to put on a sweater.”

His response: “Willy – F%#^ YOU!”

Once I stopped laughing, I helped him out and we both went our merry ways.

The moral of the story is this – just because you don’t get a vacation, doesn’t mean you should pity yourself. It could be worse: you could be laboring in the summer sun only to have some smartass in an air conditioned office giving you some lip.

A Great Dilemma & A New Adventure

There are times when lines are a little blurry and there are times when a line must be drawn. Since the beginning of the Facebook rage, I drew a stern line in the sand, promising to never cross over to the “dark” side. I was so adamant in my dislike for Facebook that I made never joining Facebook one of my 40 Before 40 goals.

It cost me a few friends (literal – not the digital kind), but also helped me forge others (great minds do think alike).

This whole idea of interacting with people, in tiny insincere methods, has never been attractive. My main thinking has always been: “If I haven’t spoken to you in 10 years, there may be for a reason for that.”

But taking risks means putting your pride aside. And for me, that means my Facebook aversion. I am willing to swallow my pride and redo my goals, all in the name of going out on a limb.

And starting a new website, devoted strictly to all things Clemson, is a large risk on a small, tender limb.

Don’t believe me? Let’s review:

  • I’m an engineer with a math passion, not a writer
    In high school and college, I dreaded any form of required reading and writing. I failed the only AP exam not tied to math and in college, my wife “edited” my papers just so I could get through the basic English & Literature courses. And even when I chose a non-math based class, they were rooted in things I already enjoyed: technology and sports.

  • I live 4.5 hours from Clemson – and am able to visit 1-2 times per year
    I don’t have the ability to walk across campus and interview players, watch practices, or get a vibe on the current state of affairs. I am not surrounded by newspapers and articles letting me know what’s happening. I have to pick my chances – and that usually means trying to find a game suitable for the girls.

  • I have no access to the University, Athletics Department, Sports Information Department, or any other department with the school
    I can’t pick up the phone or drop an email asking for an interview. I’m not able to learn about news events before the general public. Everything I learn, I learn from the media or message boards. Which brings me to my next point:

  • There are already multiple websites which offer similar information
    I don’t have the writing chops to be a leader in Clemson info. I don’t have the access to get the kind of info most people want. I don’t have the location to get a feel for the campus. And I don’t have the web skills to develop a website and message board capable of doing something different. And there are already places that have this info. And most do it pretty well, not to mention the national media (ESPN, Yahoo!), which have their own comment streams and message boards.

  • I already have a full-time job, a wife, two kids, and my own blog
    My wife and I need a vacation. So does our entire family. I log nearly 45 hours per week at work, not counting the hour and a half I spend in the car getting to and fro. There have been weeks that go by here without fresh content and here I am thinking of starting a new website. One that requires frequent content, differing thoughts, and more time.

  • And finally, I love Clemson sports for what it is, not what happens
    I realize we may never win a championship in any sport, let alone football. I realize we haven’t beaten our rival in three years. I realize our best days may be a quarter century in the rear. I realize millions of dollars are spent to support this university – and that demands results. I realize hundreds of other fan bases would give their left…for what we have. I realize all these things, but they don’t change my mind. I love Clemson for what it is, where it is, and what it represents. Not how they perform.

So, why am I starting a website that I don’t have the time nor tools to handle, that duplicates the market, and that is not results driven?

Because I love Clemson. The Town, the Team, the University. I love the orange and purple. The Hill, the Paw, the Rock. Tiger Rag & Tiger Shag.

And any chance to share that passion is an opportunity I can’t pass up.

This new website, thetigerswag.com, will be dedicated to bringing unique content and takes on all things Clemson. We will esteem those worthy of esteeming, ponder that which needs pondering, question everything, and above all – laugh. At others. At ourselves. And most of all, at our rival.

The new site will also have an email address: thetigerswag@gmail.com, a twitter account: twitter.com/thetigerswag, and (wait for it) a facebook fan page: facebook.com/thetigerswag.

So, if you’re ever in the area, please check it out, drop a line, and let me know what you think.

And hit me up on Facebook, too. Make it worth my while to be there.

Power versus Bliss

“Knowledge is Power” and “Ignorance is Bliss”

I’ve only believed in one of these two statements. The former.

I have an appetite for information. I will think of a random question and drill down through 5-10 pages of information, just to get the full picture. And what I’ve found is the more I know about a subject, the better I understand it. And the better I understand a subject, the more confident I am in it. And the more confident I am in a subject, the more power and influence I can wield regarding that subject.

The more I know about engineering, the better engineer I can be. The more I know about parenting, the better parent I can be. The more I know about Scripture, the deeper my faith.

This holds true for nearly every subject and situation. Knowledge equals power.

But recent events have begun to make me think otherwise. That maybe this is not a universal truth.

Just this week, I found myself in a situation where I accidentally ran across some information. Important information regarding myself and others close to me.

To me, this information was going to be a source of power. I have facts and those facts need to be discussed.

But as I began to use my knowledge base of facts and information, my confidence and power quickly eroded. Instead of confidence, I felt fear. Instead of power, meekness.

And this made me take a hard look at how much power is gained from knowledge. Does it do me a disservice to actually know more?

In times and situations – yes.

Because knowledge is permanent. And it’s irrevocable.

My memory cannot forget what it has learned, like the eyes cannot toss aside what they have seen.

And following these recent events, I felt regret. Regret over what was seen and learned, knowing it could never be undone.

And in these situations, not knowing – living in a state of bliss and naivety – is certainly better than knowing.

And I found myself wishing I had never gained such knowledge, wishing my eyes could forget what they just saw.

But I saw it. And they’ll never forget.

And sometimes, bliss is so much better than power.

All In a Day’s Work

At the end of the day, do you ever stop and spend a few moments playing the day back in your mind. The good, the bad, the weird, the funny, and the just plain random?

Me neither.

But tonight, as I’m sitting here writing, I saw four deer grazing in the front yard. I had to chase them off just to keep the few plants we have alive.

And this was just one of the many good, bad, weird, funny, and random things that happened today – and everyday.

Just on the animal end, I’ve chased deer while the girls have chased rabbits. We’ve captured ladybugs in a kid’s meal toy and watched squirrels play chicken – only the squirrels survived.

I swung a baseball bat for the first time in a decade and wiped makeup off my girls’ faces.

I spent 2 hours, with kids, at Sonic only to spend the last few minutes stalling in an effort to get half-priced milkshakes.

I’ve done actual work.

I’ve even solved a crime. It was Miss Scarlett with the revolver in the Billiard’s Room.

What does all this mean? Not really sure? Probably nothing.

But it makes me smile.

And reminds me of the scene from Spaceballs:

Is There a Correct Color?

I’ve never really been in a fight. Took a swing at a kid once in high school, but he’d already turned around and was walking away. Needless to say I missed – and he never even knew.

My freshman roommate and I wrestled once – over video games.

I was nearly involved in a melee at a Georgia Tech game, but luckily (for them is how I remember it) their frat boys walked away at the first sign of beer.

And then there is my run in with the small town of Jackson, South Carolina.

It’s bright and early on a September Saturday and I was feeling a little frisky – and rightfully so. My wife was pregnant and we were nomads living in a house with someone we didn’t know. As such, I decided to go “All In” for this adventure, which meant orange everything: shoes, socks, shorts, drawers, shirt, and hat.

My buddies not all that thrilled, but not surprised. But not embarrassed either.

The trip to Clemson starts off innocently. And then we realize no trip is complete without boiled peanuts. As we leave the Bomb Plant (just Google it), we decide the next place selling boiled peanuts is getting our business.

We came down a huge hill that leads into Jackson and we could see the sign from about a mile away. We ease into the right lane and make our stop.

As we pull up, the worker is watching college football by antenna on an old black and white tv. He looks at us, stares, sneers, and then says: “You boys are wearing the wrong colors!”

Uh-oh.

I don’t do well in discussions about my team. Especially when I don’t start it. Especially when the last time Clemson and Carolina played, Clemson won 63-17. Especially when I am with someone my size. Especially when speaking with someone who’s accent is more pronounced than mine.

Rather than let the comment slide, I ask: “What color should I be wearing?”

His answer: “Carolina”

Uh-oh. Again.

Me: “I didn’t realize Carolina was a color.” And I follow with: “How did the color Carolina do against the color orange last time they played?” And then: “How does the color Carolina usually do against the color orange?”

He snorted. And sold us some boiled peanuts.

Then said: “My paw wants to talk to you”

Uh-oh. Serious uh-oh.

Paw comes around the corner standing less than 5′-6″ and weighing just under 150 pounds. All muscle. And he has two friends. And they’re all smiling a crooked smile.

Then the son fills his paw in on the story – his side.

They’re about ready to “do this”. Us? We’re more talkers than doers.

At this point, it’s time to go. But I’m still caught up in the moment.

My buddy turns to get the car. I start slowly walking to the car, backwards, saying something I’m glad I don’t remember. Paw and crew keep walking toward us.

My buddy runs to the car.

Paw, very calmly, asks: “Whachu runnin’ fer?”

My buddy yells: “Willy! Run!”

I do some quick math. I don’t like what I’m coming up with.

I run.

Paw: “Why you runnin’?”

Us: Gone

About six hours, a bag of boiled peanuts, and an incredible story later, karma made her appearance and the world was introduced to Calvin Johnson.

My only regret, besides everything I said and did during that brief lapse of judgment, was that I never figured out the correct color.

So you tell me – what is the correct color?

I Just Don’t Get It

As I grow older, I am becoming more and more convinced of one thing: I cannot be anything or anybody I want to be. There are limits to my abilities and regardless of how hard I try or train, there are certain skill sets I will never attain.

I have saws, drills, levels, and tape measures, but I’ll never be a carpenter. I can barely build a tree house or install trim without needing wood filler, extra nails, and a sore thumb. I just don’t get it.

I have paint rollers, brushes, paint, and smocks, but I’ll never be a painter. All the painter’s tape in the world won’t keep me from making you feel sea sick as you inspect my work. I just don’t get it.

I have pipe, wrenches, glue, and tape, but I’ll never be a plumber. I can change out a faucet, repair a toilet, and even look like a plumber while performing these tasks, but the multiple trips to Home Depot and the hours staring at the fittings tell me I’ll never make a living doing this. I just don’t get it.

I have a garage full of motors, fantastic tools, a stereo playing classic rock, and hand cleaner, but I’ll never be a mechanic. Some people, like Dad, can just stare at an engine and get it to crank. Not me. I can read mountains of manuals, listen intently, get my hands dirty, and watch videos, but I can’t get it to work. I just don’t get it.

I have landscape beds, hanging baskets, grass, and a little land, but I’ll never be a gardener or landscaper. I can barely keep native trees and weeds alive, nevertheless actual plants, fruits, and flowers. I can buy the best equipment, get the advice of buddies, and pray for rain, but nothing grows for me. I just don’t get it.

I have a cabinet full of tupperware, an attic full of stuff, a messy garage, the closets of two little girls, and a degree in engineering, but I’ll never be organized. After dinner, I have nine green beans in the largest container, three pounds of rice in sandwich baggies, and the steak wrapped in foil. The fridge is stacked three deep with last month’s milk stuck in the back. When I try to clean the garage or the girl’s closets, I just sit there in a Xanax filled state, sucking my thumb. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get organized. I just don’t get it.

I have two piles of wood, reams of paper, cool utensils, and a large pack of lighters, but I can barely start a fire. And even if I do get it started, I struggle keeping it burning. This may not be a bad thing – unless you like slow cooking succulent meats for long periods of time! I spend most of my time tending the fire rather than prepping the meat. I just don’t get it.

However, if something stops working, bring it over here. Have a new electronic device? Let me show you how it works. Don’t understand a sport? Pull up a chair. Math problem got you frustrated? That’s no problem. Your young child is crying? Watch this. Random song or fact stuck in your head? We’ll figure it out.

While my talents may not solve practical problems – or save us money – they’re still my talents. And someone somewhere needs them. And I’m okay with that, because that’s how God made me.

That I get.