selective focus photography of brown hamster

Hamsters and Bowls


This afternoon, I sat down and shared lunch with somebody at one of my favorite restaurants in Lewisville. Hungry for ambition, they were admittedly money-hungry, and asked a lot of great questions about my journey through self-employment. In many ways, I understood their goals, while persistently asking them to try and view their life through a value-based mindset instead of a pursuit driven solely by the not-as-almighty-this-year Dollar.

While I’m certainly a fan of making money, I’ve reached a point in my life/career where I have what I need, and I’ve decided to contentedly pursuit other things with my time that aren’t necessarily work-related, such as teaching free classes at the local library and community center (which have all been a hit).

From a position of being content with what I have, I’ve found that a lot of life becomes much more clear, calm and put-together. Parenting, for example, is a lot easier on me when I’m at peace – and seems to be a total disaster when peace isn’t part of the equation, as I get to witness on a regular basis.

Whenever you try something new, I think it helps to have small wins along the way. Whether that be your first customer when starting a business, or getting a pump right on the quarter pipe at the skate park, it helps your spirit tremendously when you see signs that you’re tracking in the right direction.

“You skate a lot like I did during my first year.” My skate instructor told me this morning at the skate park. He, on the other hand, flew through the ramps and got more air than Jordan when powering through the top of them. It was incredible to watch, but also very helpful to have the personal instruction of somebody who’s a proficient skater and spent a large portion of our lesson watching, critiquing and giving feedback on my technique as I made my best efforts to skate the bowl.

Today, I reached the highest point of the bowl I’ve ever skated, while ‘pumping’ up and down the ramps to gain momentum. It was terrifying. Then, I did it again – and again…and again. Each time, a little less scary than the first time I hit the upward portion of the large concrete ramp.

For a brief second, you feel like everything is going to come crashing down, and a symphony of alarms go off in your head, telling you that you’re somehow somewhere that you weren’t meant to be. Then, it glide down and think “let me try that again.” – and you do.

Now in the later half of my 30’s, I see a lot of truths in life life happenings that occur on a daily basis, and piecing them all together has been something I’ve enjoyed doing during my ‘down time’ – whenever that may be. Lessons in persistence at the skate park translate really well to pushing through moments in my work that are less fun than others, while parenting as a single Dad has taught me more than any university or life coach ever could about what’s important in life – and how to find your values.

I’ve written a lot about a value-based way of evaluating your life, because it’s been the biggest change I’ve had as I’ve looked at myself for the last year or so. This goes back to small wins; if you look at yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing on the level of honesty, integrity or even respect that you maintain, a positive score card helps alleviate a lot of the ‘I’m not good enough’ feelings that often come when you evaluate yourself through the lens of your job title, salary or occupation.

When I volunteered at the shelter in Portland, there was something interesting I noticed about the people who came in each morning for their free breakfast. The people who had a fresh, whole cigarette would often take it and hold it in their hands after finishing their meal. Proud, as if they were holding a golden scepter. I’d also catch the eyes of those sitting at the same table, who would look at the cigarette as if it were a golden ticket – given they were often used to scrounging through ash trays and street corners to smoke the butts others threw away.

To the people holding the cigarette, you could see a beam of pride and joy in their eyes. Almost as if they were silently screaming “I GOT SOMETHING” – a fresh, clean, unlit cigarette, just waiting to be smoked as soon as they walked outside the shelter. For those who are used to having nothing, even this simple token of having something, meant something.

If you’ve spent most of your life feeling like you aren’t good enough, successful enough, married enough, spiritual enough, wealthy enough or anything else that isn’t-enough, doing a mental inventory of what you do have can make all of the difference in your own perception of yourself.

Perhaps you might not have a luxury car or fancy house, but if you’ve got integrity – baby, you’ve GOT SOMETHING. And you GOT SOMETHING REAL GOOD!

As I type this, I’m looking over at our [Atlas and I) hamster, and it brings me a lot of joy to see ‘Peaches’ run around in her cage. Is there any logical benefit to having a hamster? To most, no. It’s an obligation, requires regular clean up and care, doesn’t rush to the door to greet me when I come home (as Rocky does) or even give me a reason to take walks outside and talk to strangers.

Yet, there’s insane value to this hamster, because it represents something that has brought countless moments of joy, laughter and funny moments to both me and Atlas, who loves it dearly.

Atlas doesn’t know – or care – that this hamster was a $19 pet store hamster, rather than a purebred $2,500 dog. Rather, it gives him something to care for, and to look at and say ‘that’s mine’ – and I think there’s a lot of value to him feeling ownership in something even as small as a hamster.

In life, I think it’s important to find your proverbial hamsters. What are the things that bring you joy, even if they have no real monetary/logical value? Those are the marks of a life that’s well-lived, enjoyed and worth sharing with others – or a special somebody else.

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