Tag: life

Blue Skies and Sunshine

Blue Skies and Sunshine

The View Down South

How do you make the most of your senior year in high school?

It’s a question that takes up way too much mental space when you’re that age. Of course, I had to get good grades and a good scholarship. Mom said so.

Of course, I was going to finally get a girlfriend and my first kiss before school was over.

But what else was there… oh yeah, how about I give this whole football thing another shot. That’s right, guys! I played football.

I was never a jock or athletically gifted. Mind you, these were in my low self-esteem days, so I was also just too in my own head and anxious to have fun with it.

But man, I really bonded with my coaches.

And I’ve talked time and time before about how important it was for me to have role models in my life. The head coach at the time, Coach Barnard, he gave me some great quotables I still remember to this day. Classics like:

  • Y’all are acting like a bunch of titty babies!
  • If you’re running around acting like a piece of crap and talking like a piece of crap, guess what? You’re probably a piece of a crap!
  • Jiminy Christmas!

He was so good at not cussing.

Coach also had this kind of wit that I was never prepared for at that time. When we’d complain about the difficulty of his chemistry class, he’d respond, “I don’t know– seems pretty easy for me!”

This other time, he made a half-court shot during gym. I was super impressed and asked him how that happened. He just shrugged and said, “Even a dog’s butt gets some sunshine.”

Humility at its finest!

When I first quit, he was bummed. He had all the other assistant coaches try to give me a pep talk. Things like, “You won’t get better if you avoid putting in the time.” and “It took me years before I got any good.”

All true blue stuff, but I just wasn’t having any of it.

Then, in my senior year I finally made the resolve to join again– to have one more hoorah. I was pretty psyched. Not so much to be part of the team, but to be in the environment of Coach’s guidance.

I wanted to work hard for him. I wanted him to be proud of me.

And I remember how happy he seemed when he heard I was coming back.

But then the very next week, that bubble burst. His Mom wasn’t doing well. He was going to be moving, so he could be closer to take care of her. He was a good coach and a good mentor, but he was an even better son.

I cried.

I mean, a lot of the football team cried too. And for them, that made way more sense– they’ve spent years under his coaching. They had the blood, sweat, and tears accumulated through all the games and time spent on the field.

The impact he had on me was in a much more limited capacity, but it still stung all the same.

Morale was low, so the other coach, Coach Keller took the team out to the bleachers for a little pep talk:

“All of you are feeling down, and so you’re looking down. But if you raised your heads up, ya see we still got blue skies and sunshine…”

And it was true, that day we had some of the most beautiful weather to ever hit Arkansas. It was hard to imagine how things would be okay, but the guy to follow Coach Barnard turned out pretty great.

To the Mountains of Toyama

Years later when I was in Japan, this proverb hit me again.

I never knew how much growing up in Arkansas influenced me. I’d never say I was a good ol’ southern boy, but I did have a sense of southern hospitality. I had the reflex to greet people I passed by.

But in Japan? You just don’t talk to strangers. (I later learned this is the case in Boston too.)

In Japan, even if you’re outside of Tokyo, there’s just this smothering air of hustle and bustle. People are pre-occupied with their own thoughts– their own troubles. Most of the time you’ll see people looking down at the ground.

And sure enough in my first year, despite my dreams and ambitions, I got wrapped up in my own thoughts and my own troubles. But I had no idea I was looking down so much until one of my students called me out on it.

“Jon! Look up! Look up and you can see the mountains. They’re beau-ti-ful!”

The view during my commute every day

And yeah– he was right. Thanks, Eiguchi!

And One More Reminder

I’ve retold that story about Coach Keller’s speech a lot. So much so, plenty of people were surprised that Keller wasn’t on my original Top 10 Heroes list.

I don’t know, maybe it was just too on the nose.

And yet, it’s funny that even though I kept that message close to my heart, I could still forget it. When I’d dwell on the negative, “blue skies and sunshine” would be a mantra I’d try to chant to myself.

Bad days will pass.

But even then, there’d be times where I felt like I was lying to myself. Some days that just felt too dark and too bleak.

I credit my big sis in Japan for pointing this out to me: blue skies and sunshine never really go away. Sure, they can get covered up, but even above the clouds and darkness, they’re still there.





“The Toyota Effect”

“The Toyota Effect”

Why do you care so much about getting a girlfriend?

I remember being asked that by my friends, my brother, and my Mom. Being so fixated on relationships really effected the way I carried myself. My enthusiasm was just short of being desperate.

I wanted a “special someone”, but with each and every rejection I faced, I was constantly re-evaluating what that meant. I ping-ponged back and forth between thinking I was too picky and not picky enough.

And that was the truth! Back then, I rarely got the timing right. I’d be too idealistic when I needed a reality check. Then, I’d shoot for whoever when I should’ve had some standards.

Something that really helped me put everything in perspective was “The Toyota Effect”.

Getting a car is a huge investment. (People aren’t cars, Jon! Yeah, I know– just hear me out.) You really want to be sure that you get one that suits you. Horsepower, year, model, color– each factor’s importance depends on the person.

But once you’ve got your sights set, once you’ve clearly established your focus, a funny thing happens. You start to see more of it.

Let’s say you’re dead set on a blue Toyota. Suddenly, you start to see more blue Toyotas around you. Did everybody buy a blue Toyota overnight? No, of course not. They’ve always been there, but you just weren’t in tune to notice them.

Now to apply this to dating– Allan and Barbara Pease recommend making a list of what you’re looking for. Be open and honest as possible because this is yours, and you don’t have to share it with anybody. You might think this feeds into building impossibly high standards.

Actually, my list helped call me out on my bullshit.

Whenever I’d be all down and feeling sorry for myself, I’d check my rejector against the list. In the moment, it’s fun to get caught up in the butterflies and think of how things might work out. But the reality was– that girl wasn’t really what I was looking for in the first place. So sayeth the list.

My list kept me accountable. And remember, the list is adaptable! Over the years, I’d cross things off and add others. It helped me prioritize what really mattered.

What’s on your list?