Drive

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It’s 5:00am and the clock interrupts blue skies over a calm shoreline. I would swear there’s sand in my bed, but it really is just in the corners of eyes as I run my left pointer finger down and away. Jumping out of bed with both hands firmly planted, my feet almost face the ceiling and then hit the rug. In full stride, I step towards my closet to put on today’s coat of armor.

I think,’What battle is being fought today?’

Most days include a few, so I need to pack a bag get it loaded onto my silver horse before I forget.

Part hair to the left or right?

Then onto the easiest decision in the morning, breakfast. Same solution each morning, a super parfait made of greek yogurt, blueberries, apricot jelly on a bed of crunchy granola and honey topped with wheat germ and cinnamon. Every day, home & away for over 10 years. No coffee ever. A tall glass of apple cider or juice with as much apple cider vinegar as I can handle that morning. It’s going to be another successful day. There is drive is every fiber of my bones, tendons & muscles. But the direction of that power will be misguided if I don’t make my first creative attempt at a smile.

I look at our cat and wonder, ‘What he would be look like if he was human? What job would he do? What type of cat would he have? Alright, no more playing.’

I look at my online calendar to see conflicts and there are always a dozen or so. Drop, keep, keep, drop, drop, drop! If you want to know who and want you love… try overbooking everyday and going through this exercise in 10 seconds. A priori decisions tell plenty about you. Then I breath. I assume I was before that, but now I really breath. After going thru a few deep, full lung-busting inhales/exhales, appropriate game face goes on.

“Hello, Jake! What do you want to eat?”, I shout down into his room.

After the answer will determine the next 15 minutes and ability to catch the bus on-time. It’s this game face that I enjoy the most. Not hockey, yoga or any of the many hats in the rat race I hold. The elbow grease it takes to be a leader for my family. That is true reward. Cliche? If I really didn’t mean it, but I couldn’t be more sincere. With all the rushes I get each day, nothing stays with me as long as a hug for helping my son get a sandwich or my daughter a new app for her phone.

Oh gosh, I’m going to be late for work, I must stop digressing. I get my family into the car and we just get to bus stop on time. Switch face now to marketing mode. I’ve meet many marketing people in the last 25 years. Some just don’t get it and others get it but don’t care. The select group of less than 1% are leaders and make things happen. I believe this to be true of all things, only about 1% know, everyone else is so distracted or ignorant that the have little wins but are very inconsistent. Even a broken watch is right two a day. Do I care if the rest of the world acts like what I’m saying is wrong, I refer back to my 1% rule. In order to be better, lead better and achieve lofty goals that seem insurmountable, I must not allow what was done before to be an example.

I begin each work day with a new slate. The start is about the research. All the information available won’t mean I thing if I make the wrong connections. If I assume anything is correct, I’m not a leader. I’m a pencil pusher. So after I’ve done all the research I believe I’ll need to start my day, I’ll connect dots. Then connect them another way and then another. The information and multitude of possibilities are not used to solve the problem for create anything. They are my library for the day. All of them are possible. Going into a problem with no end game or expectation is by far the best way to remove emotion from the equation thus limiting distractions.

Some solutions need to be about emotion. In that case I’ll consider the problem using all emotions. “How would it be if I made them cry, laugh, angry, confused… what if that wanted to die or live with greater hope. Can I get them to love or hate?”

This all happens in minutes. Every permutation is considered and those I forgot will be added later. Then I been to focus deeper. Like putting a magnifying glass on sand, then a microscope. The big picture takes all things into account, but it only tells some of the stories. If I’m going to arrive at the best option and there will be thousands, I’ll need to know everything about it. Right done to it’s building blocks.

So after research, connecting dots, and deeper insights… I pause. The pause is to come back to reality, what matters. All the information in the world and details does not solve problems, simple steps solve problems. Sometimes it takes thousands of simple steps, but they are still just one action, followed by another. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so finally I talk to people. See what they think. Leaders can not be shy nor can exist without the next leaders. Those that will carry the torch.

What I love about this process it grows stronger each day with each project. Because I’ve gone through many solutions, the ones I don’t use today… I may use tomorrow. I’m in a sense, solving all types of issues when I try to solve one. I like to think it’s like driving. All the outside information is processed and you react, second after second. Driving eventually becomes second nature and when you add navigation, playing your favorite song and phone calls into your vehicle… it can be quite a busy place, yet you still drive. Looks like it’s time to drive home. “Dammit, traffic.”, I say while thinking now is a great time to get a jump on tomorrow’s problems.

S’later

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God

There is a god. There are a few gods, no countless gods. We each have and are a unique God. And then we share our beliefs and find common ground. Where our gods are similar. We ask “What is God to me, to us.” But when we also ask,”What is God to others, chaos.” It is these confrontations that non believers are quick to point out. I want to do the opposite. I want to take you into the mind of an one atheist and into the family dynamics.

I’m an atheist. I’m one atheist. Not baptized, never part of a Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, Born Again, The Way,  Muslim, Buddist or Jewish group. I can say my “God” is me and when I found myself, my parents and brother became gods. Then after learning to love more, my wife and kids. All of them Atheists except for my son Jakob.

Jakob Briggs is Catholic. He is the reason you all are my Gods. Friends and Foes. I learn from your words, your actions. But I don’t blindly follow. I may be inspired by some and taught by others. Your missteps are lessons on how not to live. Why be the test subject for personal pain, when their are countless case studies to draw from and learn. Jakob taught me that “faith” is a personal thing not to be taken lightly. Sometimes it is all that keeps you standing. And though I believe, or should I say know that hope is not a strategy (Thank you Peter Weedfald), it is a pillar some follow to keep moving forward.

I have no hope. I know of it.  I do not hold it dear as a leg on my table. But, Jakob explained to me that many do. And then I noticed it more in my wife. I also saw that Jakob is bringing faith back into my wife’s heart and soul. He is a glowing reflection of what is good is about in some religions. I know that as he grows, he might develop distractions that cloud his child-like vision of an almighty that loves us. Most do lose that. It seems to come after we stop believing in Santa. But maybe he won’t loss it.

My son is the God of unconditional love. If my son were to maintain the ethics he currently has, I’d worship him. He is the closet thing to unconditional love I’ve ever witnessed. His innocence and direct delivery of what life is about is inspiring. His ability to sense risk, identify evils and avoid them is incredible for a young child. We are so different. I run towards risk, try to experience everything and put all my cards on the table. I’m public and he is very private. A trait my wife shares with him. He just may be the good (God) in both of us.

My daughter, Sasha is the god of nature. She is also “bite from the apple, what can happen.” She is an atheist. Never baptised, she knows nearly nothing about God. She hates God. Mocks God. I have done wrong with her and will spend the rest of my days attempting to correct that in her. I find it to be upsetting that she crossed that line. It is not evil because she too is innocent in knowledge and her emotional maturity is legendary. She is well beyond her years and just keeps getting more strong in her convictions and personality. She has already gone through countless emotional torment that rivals anything I experienced in my 47 years. People are dying all around her, hurting and hurting others. Without hope like Jakob, she finds an inner strength and self awareness to stand, get knocked down and stand again. She reminds me of what I had to endure, but her lifetime has seen so much worse. So why do I say she is a witness to all this pain and evil while Jakob is hardly effected? Don’t they live together? Share the same family experiences? Yes and no.

Life is relative. Time is relative. Perspective is relative. Each of use have a vantage point we stand or, for most, sit or lie down. Jakob does not process the earthy meaning of negative experiences deeply, it’s impact emotionally. A bad day for him is physical pain, not emotional pain. His faith pillar gives him a place to stand all the time. Sasha absorbs emotional pain, runs to it. She’ll delights in taking a few hours to watch a horror film and consider the what if’s. Jakob finds moments in the Lego Movie to be terrifying. Sasha sleeps in her own cave surrounded by Walking Dead posters and even an autographed crossbow from a character that is far from “pretty”. Her bed is covered with images of darkness while Jakob sleeps with a bright blue and fluffy blanket. They both lost people they loved, saw them experience pain. They both know I will one day leave them. Each handle these type of thoughts in their own way, both ways work. You can imagine the verbal battles between each of their vantage points. I try to let them know, at the core of their beliefs/knowledge… they actually agree.

That common ground is where I raise my family. Where we share is where we live. Where we diverge are points for conversation and further personal development. My family would be easier to manage if we all shared all thoughts, all beliefs… But easier is not fair. Easier for me might mean changing coping mechanisms in the ones I hold dearest. I could destroy their pillars that make them stand. I’m maybe a standing person, might even say a person that is alway in motion, always on my feet. Sitting and especially lying down are beyond my understanding. I’m learning about them. I understand movement and the rewards. I understand action taken by leaders, but fail to see how sitting ideally by can be good. But I’m learning I’ve been very wrong.

And all this brings me to a recent change in me. I’ve found stillness in a relatively new practice for me. Yoga was brought to me by my wife, Kelly. My wife is a god, one of stillness. She found it through a friend and created dozens of new friends by just being. It is through yoga that I’ve learned that there are selfish actions we take in life that are damaging others ability to stand. But these actions also can effect how we sit. How we find stillness and accept the world into our mind and body. I lived knowing that sitting was not standing. It was not leadership. I know far different now. Sitting is healing. To sit is to feel and work through the pain and enjoy the pleasure. So learning how to sit correctly or ever so important to me know. I was able to jump right into the standing poses, the strength, the balance, the flexibility. I can handle the pain. But sitting poses hurt me more. I’m learning to feel right. There is a conflict of “gods” during my stillness. I need to find focus and control my thoughts better. I know I’ll get there.

Once I truly learn to sit, learning to find stillness on my back will be next for I know there comes a time that I’ll need that for the “rest of eternity”.

Game

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Sasha Elise Briggs #21 – back right

How do we teach what we never truly experienced?

I’m sure I’d be a pretty good field hockey player if I practiced a few hundred hours & competed as much as I do the other hockeys. Actually, I’d be really good. But I don’t need to play it, I need to teach it and train my daughter to be better at it. So I can’t with good conscience teach her about body position or how to develop the right muscle memory. And I’m not sure she is ready for the cerebral aspect of the “game” itself just yet. And I’m also highly aware of not teaching her about a “skill” that will hurt her in other aspects of her life. We all know dedication, determination and the will to succeed are pretty strong traits universally. That I can teach. But what about imposing your will to break your opponents will?  Or developing a physical body that is geared for one thing and one thing only, field hockey. If I teach her to swing with force and intent, will she be learning a valuable skill or one that can used wrong? It’s a fine line for boys, and a fine line for girls.

So I believe before skill training, physical development and the will to succeed there is something that trumps it all… emotional maturity. Something that is in us already. Win or lose, it’s a journey with a finite timeline. Facing pain along with pleasure creates great leaders. Understanding the journey and the lessons with maturity and strength guides all else when it comes to sports. Being proud and humble, having humility and will power…the ying/yangs of athletes. The greats try new things all the time because emotionally they are prepared for all results. We’ve all heard the wonderful quotes from athletes about trying hard and accepting lose, but how many of us are prepared to face the real world situations that arise? Many adults have apathy, depression or fear of facing loss head-on because of the pain. But I do not. When a moment arises, I do. If I can pass along one thing to my daughter that would improve her “game”, it would be… stand tall and stand often!

Get up, get up, get up…What it takes to pull that out from someone is letting them know it’s there. We all have the ability to face pain as well as we face pleasure. Supporting their actions & respecting their entire being. You are not alone in the struggle. You’ll find many athletes will discuss the loss with the other losing players on there team to share in the misery. Coaches are there to guide wins to manage LOSS.

The next Bri99s BLOG will be about god.

S’later.

Pain

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In 1991, my father was visiting his dad daily. Stopping by to say hello, dropping off something he needed to help do work around the house or just driving by to make sure the house was secure.

Grandpa was getting bored it seemed. New Jersey had lost it’s appeal and all he would do now is watch cowboy & indian movies and sit in the backyard. You see my grandpa, Cleo Briggs grew up in a small Maine log cabin at the foot of Mt. Katahdin near Moosehead Lake. His dad, James worked at the Paper Mill as a lumber jack. The town was Millinocket. As you could imagine, they could hunt. Guns, knives, a hook and even their bare heads would be used to catch their meals. I heard stories of hiding in the forest brush and grabbing a passing deer. Imagine your son coming home tonight with such a tale of his day covered in deer blood and a big smile? He lost 2 fingers when his older sister, Mabel was chopping wood for a fire. He was only a baby. The surgery scars I recall, looked like sausages tied at the end. Yet he always had a smile, more than any man I ever meet. It was a smile of fake teeth and one blind eye, but I forever remember it’s unique features.

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Cleo Briggs – far left

 

Both Cleo and my father, Wayne were marksman. They could fire a gun with perfect precision. I only got to witness it in the woods shooting cans or in grandpa’s backyard, where he would pick-off a squirrel that was digging up his grass. I’d also get to see it over the years down shore. Many large stuffed animals would come home after my dad shot out the entire star out of a piece of paper only 10 feet away. A sucker’s bet turned into a kid’s windfall. But it was one particular gun I remember most, the one my grandfather would get from a friend.

It was a sunny day and my dad made his daily visit after work. As he approached grandpa’s home in Clifton, the door was open. Grandpa would do that sometimes for grandma, Ann . so she didn’t have to look for her keys. She came home after  getting her hair done or shopping usually moments around the time my father would visit. One this day, grandma was not home yet. So dad yelled into the house for his dad and waited for the regular reply, “Briggs!” He heard nothing. As he walked thru the kitchen of this small 1 bedroom apartment, it was dead. No sound to be heard. Then as he looked upon the floor in the TV room, there was Cleo lying with a pillow he had used to find some comfort. Upon a closer look, the full story quickly  became apparent. Cleo, his father had inflicted a gunshot to his temple. The entire left side of his forehead was swollen from the bullet that become lodged in the skull. Yet with this, he survived that first attempt. So my dad in disbelief spoke to him to get answers. He mumbled, “It was over, no more.” Then he shot another round into his belly thru a small pillow so to muffle the sound. My father asked why once more. “I need to go, not me anymore.” Quickly Wayne called 911 and described the horror. Within 30 minutes, a helicopter landed in a small field near the home. During those minutes, much was revealed including that there was a note on the table. He claimed, thou,gh we never confirmed this, that his doctor said he had cancer. He also said his goodbyes to his wife, his son and my brother and me.

I meet my dad at the trauma hospital in Newark, NJ to help. It was dad that needed help from me. As soon as I arrived he asked,”Do we let him die?” The doctor wanted to do surgery to remove the bullets, but needed consent from Wayne. He could not say yes. Cleo told him not to save him. So he asked me to decide. The doctor said the attempt would most likely kill him but it was his job to convince me to allow the procedure to be done. I said, “If it will most likely give him peace  quicker, do it!” I saw Cleo lying there moments later to what would become my final goodbye. What I remember thinking is this would be the last time the 3 Briggs generations would be together alive.

My father immediately noticed that my decision was quick and firm. He hugged me and said, “Thanks, Briggs.” Grandfather died of a heart attack during surgery an hour later, but he really died when we decided to carry out his wish. Grandma would never forgive him. Forgive him for wanting to leave her. We tried to lighten the burden, but she could not.

My father would come to me with other emotional decisions that needed to be tilted, but none as big as that. I will never shy away from the fire and remind him all the time.

Next month we retire together. You can only imagine the bond we share and I will not attempt to describe it. Where I fall short, he fills in and vice versa.

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We laugh all time. But know under that lies memories that we both never will speak about again. This serves as the final resting place of that day.

Love

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We so often look for acceptance into a group that we loss those differentiators that make us unique. If you find yourself altering words, it can be one of many things. A few are:

1- The moment calls for small talk

2- You have no time

3- You don’t care

4- The person you are talking to is ignorant or evil

5- You like the sound of your voice

6- You are looking to improve how you’re viewed

7- You want something

8- You love the person

It’s number 8 that I want to speak about. When we love and loss a piece of ourselves to fit the other person it can be glorious. I say this because the intellectual mind will try to replace the part that we hate the most about ourselves while the emotional mind will try to replace the greatest sorrow we feel. Love is a healing power when it’s pure. Even those with very high regard for themselves find the worst of the best to replace. So finding the space to love many can build a large foundation of strength were you once had weakness or pain.

Now what about being loved? It feels good to be loved for most. But taking the same point about altering our words, it gets tricky. If a foundation is being built with love we give, then what happens with love we receive?

We learn how to love more.

It can happen so fast.

So by expressing love and receiving love, thus the expression “sharing love.” Sounds great in theory, but we fear the pitfalls when we expect love or take love in without learning. And with so many distractions and noise in our heads, we miss that love is being shared.

It is this very simple dance of give and receive to share that all emotions and actions take place. I used love as a shining example because of the power of its four letters. If you replace what I’ve stated with any interaction or emotion you share, the same holds true. Expecting or assuming you are sharing has become the breakdown in society. With so much being tossed around with social media, It’s very hard to know who the words are being directed to if anyone. So much is just to hear the sound of one’s own voice. We are shouting at a crowd, a huge crowd. And responses are like crowd sourcing with those paying attention at the time trying to help, make a joke or further the conversation to a deeper space.

With an understanding of this, can you try for a day to approach interactions without altering your words? Can you tell that person you love, “I love you.”?Can you let down your defenses for a moment. Long enough to share. Because in the strictest definition of sharing, there needs to be honest interaction. You are not really sharing unless another is receiving and learning and returning. Not just with love, but with intellectual learning, healing and even entertaining. So touch and be touched. It’s simple.

S’later

Treasure

Searching for treasures are my life. I research the tides, check the weather and look at photos/drawings/paintings to gain clues of their whereabouts. I invest in dive equipment and tools expecting to find artifacts that build a story of the past. It never crosses my mind that my theories can be wrong until a new theory has a stronger probability.

In 1990, I began a new job fresh out of college. In the beginning, there were few “treasures”. But each time their was an opporrunity to make more money because I had the leverage, seized the day. a few times, it just wasn’t in the cards. And I also knew when to pull back the troops and fight another day. But regardless of my salary, I had a “Now” plan and a “When” plan.

The first step was shelter. Moving out but not stepping back. After meeting a wonderful woman then only 17, we each had big goals, take on world goals. The plan was to get married when we had enough and made enough to do it without debt. That plan changed fast. Getting into home of our own meant giving up her savings and I had to immediately borrow my parents. I’d pay them back every dime, but I learned immediately investing sometimes meant taking steps back. But not for long. We looked for a two-family home that already was generating income. By living in one unit, we could pay $600 with the rest of the mortgage offset by the rent flow. We then opened mutual fund accounts instead of bank accounts to save and earn more equity. We paid cash for everything else so we never spent what we did not have. Important note here is I never paid any credit card interest, ever. Still can say that today. So, those three things 1- two-family home, 2- save were you can increase wealth and 3- never spend what you don’t have… are the theories. I call them that because a theory is tested and adjusted, or proved to be sound.

The next step was food. $50 a week was the number. Makes me hungry just thinking about how we stuck to our guns and ate all our meals prepared at home. There was no dining out until that budget went up to at least $100/mo. And even then, most healthy places were off limits. We liked Park & Orchard in Rutherford. Would go with my wife’s parents in hopes of them picking up the bill. It takes a village and we were beggars with a sence of humor about it. Our pride did not taste good so we opted for free fine food. We were lucky too. Our families are special. They all shared and helped the next generation learn and earn self-respect. We gained it fast.

Finally we needed earthly delights. I’m an atheist and though frugal in the beginning, I did not want to be there very long. But we waited. My wife went to a few medical schools finding her way while I climbed the ad agency ladder by forcing hands when the leverage was there. I still remember the day, she came home, after already receiving a degree in nursing, and said she was hired full-time. Work was not foreign to her. While attending school for nursing, she worked at a hospital reception desk. and that brings me to another plan. spend money that can directly deductable on our taxes. I’d try to keep my toys to advertising related, while she could write-off education and supplies. I learned enough tax law to open a practice, but I still paid a great accountant to sign off on my work. So both of us working full-time with great drive to be leaders combined with understanding every pennies value in the USA tax system lead us down the road of success.

Ultimately we earned enough to enjoy life, but we also learned another big thinking idea… saving. You can save up some for later. Yes, we enoyed our leftovers, we also put money aside for a marriage. Oh, I didn’t mention that. We had no right being married or having children without seeing if “The Catucci-Briggs corp” could generate profits. Profits would be measured in units of dollars, but also smiles. We laughed a lot even without money. I think that laughter fueled our drive to get to the next steps and make money very strategically.

So when we had a few dollars, we joined legally. We also decided no children until we truly lived and explored. A 7 year of adventure it became. We moved into a new home and keep the rental home as an invest and retirement income. We had kids. And during those years, with all the great experimenting of life, we learned about things. And Apple computers and medical supply companies were making great products. So we invested in other peoples’ great plans, but only in things we used and knew very well. I still to this day, will not invest in boring, stagnant or dying industries. No banking, no insurance, no energy, no Microsoft, IBM or HP. That approach earned us 15% on average returns for 20 years.

Then came the collapse of the world economy in 2007-2008. We had just purchased a Bermuda property and I’m being told by every news media that things suck. And they suck bad and long. So the fed rate was dropped to nothing. Well, we were not able to take a mortage out for Newstead, Bermuda. So I opted for a line of credit. Well that rate dropped and I refinanced until it below 2%. Then in a moment of clarity and resolve, I used that low interest line of credit to pay off all mortage debts. Our rental home, our primary and the remaining money from Bermuda. Then instead of burning through the monies we had spending on our mortgages, I paid down the LOC until it was gone.

So today, debt free with stock portfolio in tow and wonderful past experiences, I’m taking a new step. My wife will continue to strive for her goal of running the world for a few more years and that helps with healthcare, but I think a yoga/hockey school is in her future.

My next blog will be about you. We learned plenty from you, what to do, what not to do, so yes…you.

S’later.

Awe

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Many years ago and many words, I started a Facebook account. As with Twitter, MySpace and Pinterest, it was during their early moments. But I knew then that I’d be able to use these free services to record my life. It would need to be open to the public so I could get reactions to my actions, honest reactions. Then using these reactions, I could understand society as a whole and its parts. Don’t get me wrong, I would never “just” reduce us all into a marketing experiment to gather big data. I feel emotion for the individual, but there is no place to pee along the road of marketing research. You just drive, look around and pick-up souvenirs in each town. I not the only one recording their life with social media, oh yes… I may go deeper than most with my emotions, but I’ve learned so much about all of you, good & evil.

When I joined Facebook, I came up with a statement that I wanted to strive for. “Look back in Awe.” A war was being fought by our brave soldiers, which I’m not. But the term “Strike & Awe” had become part of our lexicon. I thought that is what I’d like to do on Facebook. What better way to get reactions then to strike with such raw emotion and feeling and watch in wait for the response. Get the most out of the medium. Looking back in awe became my drive. We all need some motivation, thy was mine. I’m not a paid entertainer, so why? Because I care about words and feel they should be true. The truth is not always comforting, it is not always beautiful, but it always the truth. My truth to clarify or your truth for me to acknowledge, agree or argue.

These final days of work are tough because of the same thing. I think I’m supposed to look back in awe and smile. That is not how it works with me and work. The process was always the fun, not enjoying the result. So what I’ll do in “retirement”, and I only use that word so people understand I’m not working for money, is continue the processes. Then I’ll record those steps on social media. When you enjoy the process, the journey, you will do it over and over. If you know me, that is my life.

I hope in the last two blogs, I was able to sum up the emotion and process by which I’ll approach “retirement”. I’ll need to come up with another word.

Now if you think that this approach is a bit methodical and based too much on strategy, manipulation and research… You are not in advertising. You are on the other side, the side I hope to get to once I can put 25 years of watching people behind me.

I do care for you all, but you gave me such valuable data to help me retire.

My next blog will involve some of the data I was able to parlay into financial windfalls along with other positive gains in life. I left clues and hints. I hope all of you were able to profit from something I posted or said. Not just monetarily, but politically, morally, scientifically and socially.

I learned so much and have so much more to learn.

S’later.