April 2008: “Get Out There” a la Spencer

Spring is here!  It’s expected to be 80 degrees this weekend in Sacramento, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  I read something a few weeks ago that I wanted to pass on.  It was written by Spencer, my friend I wrote about in February, on his blog.  He was encouraging everyone to “get out there” and enjoy the weather, and life in general.  Here it is:


Yesterday’s (weather) was perfect…It seems not so long ago that a day like this would be all I would need for an excuse to get out and enjoy. Somewhere along the way things like paying mortgages and health care bills, meeting deadlines and closing deals became more important. Now I see the error in my way. The fact is that we are all living on a finite schedule and at the end I am going to measure our life not in the things that I have acquired or the amount of money I have made but in the experiences I have had and the differences I have made in other people’s lives. I can not make a difference in someone else’s life unless I am centered. The way that I get centered is to enjoy perfect moments. Days like yesterday…are so conducive to that perfect moment that there should be NO excuse not to get out and enjoy them.

You may be reading this right now and thinking “yeah sounds good but I have got to do XYZ thing or else blah blah blah.” Well you may be right but I would encourage you to ask yourself what will really happen if you take the day or the afternoon or morning off? I mean really what would happen? There is someone willing to watch your kids or do a trade with you. Your clients will either not know or understand that you need to take some time for “personal issues.” Your work will not bust you for taking a sick day. I can guarantee that all that stuff that you are working on will still be there when you get back and the only difference is that you will be refreshed and ready to go to work…

So call your friends, make a plan and get out and enjoy. While you still can…Go ahead, I give you permission. Your spouse will understand. The people around you will appreciate it because you will mellow out a bit and god knows you need it. Do this and I promise you this, you will be happier and better for it, and you will feel better than those who choose not to do it.

His message really inspired me.  For the next several weeks, Mary and I have made a conscious effort to “get out there” and do what we love most…travel.  We plan on going on vacation with some friends to Donner Lake, then with family to Dillon Beach, and then the two of us are off to Switzerland.


I encourage you to take Spencer’s message to heart, get out there, and live it up!

March 2008: C’est la vie

This time of year is a time of great anticipation for me.  I can’t wait for the warm weather to arrive.  When late winter teases us with a few days of sunshine I don my shorts and sandals, convinced that spring is here to stay.  Then suddenly the rain clouds settle in again and I wonder if spring will ever come.  C’est la vie…


“Such is life”…the weather can be a reflection of the tides of life.  Consider these little nuggets:


The weather never asks us what we want.  It has its own agenda.  C’est la vie…we never ask for many of the things we get in life, especially the bad things.  We must deal with the rain clouds of our lives, and have faith that a rainbow is just around the corner.


The weather is never constant.  It is always changing.  C’est la vie…no two days are the same, nor would we ever want them to be.  We all need to think about this blessing of change the next time we find ourselves complaining about the weather, or life in general.


There isn’t a single place on Earth where it never rains, or a place that never receives sunlight.  C’est la vie…we all have our ups and downs in life, and none of us are blessed with permanent happiness, nor cursed with constant depression.


The rain is a necessity in this world.  Without it, our flowers would never bloom.  C’est la vie…the struggles we face and the obstacles we overcome are what make us human.  Without them, we would not be the dynamic people God intended us to be.


The weather can be transcendent to each of us.  If you’re soaking up the sun in your life right now, that’s great!  Be thankful for your happiness everyday.  Or, if you have a rain cloud hovering over you, hang in there.  Your sunshine will come soon.


As I have collected my thoughts for this letter, I have found myself inspired to embrace this unpredictable weather, knowing that consistent sunshine will be here in no time.  I hope that you too find inspiration from this letter.  If not, at least you now know what “C’est la vie” means.

February 2008: Living in Gratitude

Gratitude…that has been the name of the game for the last several weeks.  Most of the time we find ourselves grateful for when life is rolling right along and everything is going our way.  To the contrary, I am currently witnessing a great friend live in gratitude while being dealt the worst news of his young life.  This friend has been diagnosed with cancer on the eve of his 41st birthday. 


You may know this friend…he is my co-worker of seven years, Spencer.  In the face of this battle with cancer, a battle that so many of us would face with anger, resentment or self-pity, I have witnessed Spencer begin this battle in gratitude.  He isn’t grateful to have cancer, but rather he is grateful for the circumstances, tools, and people in his life that will allow him to fight this battle fiercely.  He is grateful he will fight this battle instead of a loved one.  He is grateful for the support he has around him that won’t let him fight this battle alone.  He is grateful he has reasons to fight.


As for me…I am grateful to have the opportunity to watch Spencer be a shining inspiration to those around him during this difficult time.  He reminds me to not face adversity with fear, but with gratitude.  He reminds me that it is attitude, not actions or accomplishments, that makes a great man, father, leader, and friend.  Spencer has been all of these things during the best of times.  Now I get to watch him be so during the hardest of times.


I pass this story and my feelings towards it on to you for three reasons:

1.) I want you to keep Spencer, his wife, and two young daughters in your prayers;  

2.) I want you to be as inspired by Spencer as I am; and

3.) I want to challenge you to face your adversities in gratitude. 


As Mary, my wife, so eloquently said this past weekend…the importance is not what happens in our lives, but rather how we handle life as it happens to us.  We are all faced with things in our life we didn’t ask for, deserve, or control.  What exactly these things are is immaterial.  Instead, our character is defined by how we decide to approach these challenges life throws our way. 


When life gets rough, will you chose to live in fear, anger, isolation, confusion, and bitterness…or in gratitude?  I promise you that single attitudinal choice will do more to determine the outcome of your battle than any other action. 

Choose well.

December 2007: Life-To-Do List Revisited

This time of year is perfect for reflection, appreciation, and goal-setting.  As 2007 comes to a close and 2008 rapidly approaches, I can’t think of a timelier topic than a Life To-Do List. 


In August of 2006, I wrote about creating a Life To-Do List, and how I believe it’s a tool to help you discover yourself and identify what’s truly important to you.  As you may know, my Life To-Do List is one of the most important internal compasses, other than core moral values, that guide me.  I spent serious time focusing with myself and discussing with Mary the things I really want to see happen in my life, and then I made a list of these aspirations.  Some of the items on my list I wonder if they will ever come true, but I recently realized that when it comes to goals, if you dream it; they will come.  I know it sounds corny, but let me share with you my experiences with my Life To-Do List and encourage you to create your own Life List.


Last August, I shared some of the items on my list.  Taking a sailing vacation in the Caribbean and running a marathon were on that list, and they were two major events that I wondered if they’d ever occur.  A sailing trip is quite an expense, and it requires many things to fall perfectly into place for it to happen.  And a marathon…I’ve never been a strong runner so the idea of running 26.2 miles was a distant hope.  I had no substantial plans to tackle either of these goals, but nevertheless, both were things I wanted to see happen in my life, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to put them on the list and see what happens.


To make a long story short, Mary & I went sailing in the Caribbean with some of our best friends in June, and I completed my first marathon at the 25th annual California International Marathon earlier this month.  In one short year, two monumental events that I thought may never happen actually transpired, I believe, simply because I had my internal compass set on the goals that were truly important in my life.320-img_0645



As you reflect on 2007 and look forward to 2008, I challenge you to dig deep into your soul and identify what you would like to see happen in your life.  Create your own Life To-Do List, and watch how it guides your life in extremely powerful ways.


Enjoy your goal-setting process for 2008, and dare to dream big!

July 2007: Working and Playing Smart

Last month, I wrote to you about my excitement for an upcoming vacation.  This month I am happy to report the vacation was as incredible as we all had hoped!  I’ve been back for a few weeks now, still reflecting about the good times that were had.  Reminiscing about our vacation also led to me to reflect about my business too; a result of me approaching both business and pleasure in the same manner.  Let me tell you about one characteristic that heavily influences both my work and my play, and also ask for your help in addressing it.


I’m the type who’s always looking to improve from one experience to the next.  On our vacation I was the unofficial captain of our sail boat, so I had the responsibility of protecting my crew and our boat (and barking out orders too!).  Thankfully, everyone came home in one piece and we didn’t run into anything all while having a fantastic, uninhibited time.  Once back home, though, Mary and I were discussing the things we learned that can be applied on the next trip to make it that much more enjoyable.


I am the same way about my professional life too.  In my business of serving you, I am always trying to identify better ways to make my business more valuable to you.  Most notably, I expanded my services four years ago to include one-stop shopping for both mortgage and real estate services at discounted prices.  My working goal is to find ways to make your next transaction that much more enjoyable for you.  The only problem is, however, I have no way of fully knowing how I can better serve you unless I ask.


Included with this letter is a survey that will immensely help me in improving my business of serving you.  It is comprised of questions to address our past, present, and future workings together.  I would greatly appreciate it if you took two minutes to complete the nine question survey and return it in the included pre-postaged envelope.  As a thank you, I will also send you a gift card of your choice.


Most of us work the same way we play.  Some folks work hard and play hard.  I would like to think I work smart and play smart by striving for improvement in all I do.  It is my honor to work for you and those who you refer, so thank you in advance for helping me identify ways to better fulfill this honor.

May 2007: Thanks for the memories (and great expectations)

In writing this letter, I find myself on the eve of something great.  For the first time since Maddison was born (she’s 21 months now, by the way), Mary and I are going on vacation.  It’s a vacation we have wanted to do for sometime.  In fact, in August 2006 I wrote to you about making a “Things To-Do Before I Die” list, and this vacation was on that list!  We are going to the Caribbean with some of our best friends and bare boat sailing in the British Virgin Islands.


Our trip will last a total of 16 days.  I’m sure it will go by in the blink of an eye.  But let me tell you, the thought of this trip has made me walk lighter on my feet for the last 5 months since we made our reservations, and the memories we make will be cherished for years to come.  This 16 day trip has had an impact on me before I’ve even stepped on the plane, and it will continue to do so well after I return.


This is true for every great day in our lives.  Our positive experiences influence us well before they arrive and well after they’re over.  Weddings, graduations, vacations, and births of new babies are all anxiously awaited for months, and fondly remembered for years. 


Someone once told me to beware of anticipating something too much for I might love the thought of doing something more than the real-life experience.  It would be like waiting and hoping to see a summer blockbuster movie sequel (Spiderman, Shrek, Pirates…take your pick this summer!) ever since the original became your favorite movie of all time.  But, because your expectations were so high for the sequel, you are let down when you finally see it.


While I agree with this advice when it comes to movie going, I completely dismiss it in other areas of life.  Our ability to hope for things in the future and to fondly remember the past doesn’t take anything away from the actual experience.  It is rather a way for these brief, marvelous moments to have a longer-lasting affect on our lives.


As we all steamroll into a summer that is bound to be full of deeply anticipated and memorable moments, keep this parting thought in mind: great expectations let the future shape your life today; and fond memories let the past enhance your life forever.

September 2006: Dreams Fascination

Lately I have been fascinated by people’s dreams.  Not the sleeping kind, but the ones we have while we are awake that dare us to become something great.  It is my opinion that our greatest desires define our minds, bodies, and souls. 


These dreams and desires, however, can be intimidating and chasing them is much easier said than done.  Most of us allow ourselves to be stripped away from our dreams that seem out of reach as we become consumed by what’s safe, predictable, and conventional.  I want to tell you about someone I know that is a dreamer.  In sharing his story, I hope to inspire you to reach for your dreams.


My friend Jordan is a musician and songwriter.  For as long as I’ve known him, he has had dreams.  One of those dreams is to record music as a living.  As you know, this is a very common dream amongst musicians.  But, of all of the talented musicians I have ever known, Jordan is the only one courageous enough to take this dream and put into action. 


One of the things about dreams is they are not achieved without obstacles, and this has been the case for Jordan.  After college, when the rest of us were signing up for safe “9-5s,” he sacrificed much by moving down to Southern California to chase his dream.  When no record company signed him on, he created his own record company.  When his first CD became a success amongst a select following but didn’t hit the “big time,” he became determined to write a 2nd CD.  After nearly 3 years of devoted hard work, this new CD was just released last week. Jordan’s musical accomplishments embody everything dreams are about: desire, bravery, hope, and faith.



Jordan’s dream is very much alive, and he is still chasing it.  To me, whether he catches it is not really the point.  It’s the courage, ambition, and confidence that he and other dreamers possess that make witnessing them so inspirational.  As the Chinese proverb says, “it is the journey that is the reward.” 


Did you once have a dream you didn’t pursue?  Was it unconventional?  Did people say you couldn’t do it?  Was it too scary to try?  I urge you to forget all of that.  It’s never too late to follow a dream.  Challenge yourself to chase your dreams.  Whether you succeed or fail is immaterial.  The committed journey you experience will help transform you into who you were destined to become.

August 2006: “100 Things” List

I hope you’re having a great summer – I sure am!  One of the reasons I’m feeling so good about summer – and life in general – is that I’ve learned a system that’s really helping me focus on what’s important and how I want to spend my time.


I recently attended a training seminar, and the main speaker talked about a list he called, “100 Things I Want to Do Before I Die.”  The purpose of this list, as he described it, was to make sure that when you reflect back on your life, you’ll smile at all the memories and know that you spent your time in ways that were meaningful, fulfilling, and made the most of your life.


The speaker passed out copies of the “100 Things” list, and I admit I was daunted at first.  Staring back at me was a piece of paper with lines on it numbered one through 100.  It was up to me to fill it! 


My hesitation came as a surprise because I’m a “list” person.  You may be like this too.  I look forward to creating to-do lists for weekend projects and grocery runs with the ultimate goal of checking items off these lists.  But to create a list of things to do before I die felt incredibly daunting.  Where do I start?


I decided to just take it one step at a time.  After a few minutes, I got into a groove and recalled some of the things that I dream of from time to time.  These thoughts tend to be suppressed by day-to-day routines and the everyday nuances that tend to keep us all so occupied.  Once I stripped my brain of all of that, I was freed to dream.  These were some of the first items that found their way onto my list.


·  Live in a foreign country for a year

·  Own my own business

·  Buy a new ski boat

·  Run a marathon

·  Volunteer at the SPCA

·  Coach a kids sports team

·  Go bareboat sailing in the Caribbean

·  Learn to surf

·  Go sky diving

·  Be a mentor


And the greatest thing about the “100 Things” list is that you don’t just check things off – you keep adding to it.  You talk to other people and they give you ideas to add, as well.  Before you know it, you may have 200 things on your list.  I encourage you to develop your own list.  If you are honest with your list, you will find yourself discovering who you truly are and what makes your soul fly.  What can be more fulfilling than that?


Celebrate summer – and spending your time doing the things you most want to do!

May 2006: Goldilocks

I’ve been thinking about the children’s story Goldilocks lately.  You remember Goldilocks, don’t you?  She got bored playing in the meadow so she ventured to the bear’s house in the forest.  She tried all of the porridge until she found a bowl that was not too hot or too cold but just right.  Then, she sat in all of the chairs until she found one that was just right.  Then tried out all of the beds until she found one that was just right…


The reason I’ve been thinking about that story is because many people have been telling me lately that Maddison, at eight months now, is in a “Goldilocks” period.  She’s not a fussy infant, but not a mobile toddler; she’s just right.  Ironically, these Goldilocks phases are rare in our lives.  Most of us spend our life either looking forward to what’s ahead or looking back to what we’ve lost, thinking that our current situation isn’t quite right.


Mary and I were talking about this subject with our great friend Emily several weeks ago.  She said something I hope to soon not forget.  She said, “We have to live life today.  If we’re always hoping for better things in the future, or trying to hang on to things in the past, we never give ourselves a chance to enjoy life here and now.”


How true this is!  I’ve found myself looking forward to the days when Mary and I can take Maddison to the zoo, watch her run around in the backyard, and teach her how to wakeboard.  And yet, I’m sure the first time we take her to the zoo she’ll dart off to the monkey cage without us and I’ll reminisce of the days when she cuddled in my arms all day.


We all do it.  You’re either looking forward to having more time for yourself once your kids get older, or you’re looking back to the days when you had a closer relationship with your kids.  Or you’re hoping to retire one day with a full pension, or you’re wishing you could trade your retirement years for the health you once had. 


Goldilocks, as you recall, wasn’t “just right” for long.  The bears came home, chased her out of their home, and she never returned to the forest.  I suggest we all take Emily’s advice.  Don’t wish for your ideal Goldilocks phase because you’ll miss the great things right in front of you.  Cherish and embrace today, because you can’t go back to yesterday and you can’t control tomorrow.

October 2005: Words Aren’t Enough

Did you miss me?  During the time when I’m normally writing my monthly letter to you last month, Mary and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our baby girl.  And while we thought pregnancy would never end, the waiting ceased at 3:47 PM on September 2nd.  Maddison Alexandra Sundermier came screaming into this world as a healthy and beautiful treasure in our lives.  Shortly after Maddison was born, I had an excess of emotions and a shortage on words to describe them.  At that point, a thought I have recently contemplated was answered… 


I always thought it humorous that everyone always asks you how much your baby weighs at birth.  Of all things to ask about such a miraculous event, why is the weight so fascinating?  Well, now that I’ve been through the experience myself, I think I know why it is such a classic question (Maddison was 7 pounds & 13 ounces, by the way).


Someone once told me a baby is born every six seconds.  I don’t know how accurate that is, but its often enough to make it fairly commonplace.  Yet, when it’s your baby, you feel that it has never happened before.  It’s unprecedented, it’s unbelievable, and it’s an absolute miracle.  The emotions are so intense you can’t describe them.  That’s why I believe those wiser than you know to ask the weight of the baby.  Yes, it’s a safe question, but more importantly it’s also an answer a new parent can communicate.  Everything else is indescribable.  As much as I want to articulate the feelings of being a father, watching Mary be an incredible mother, and witnessing a new life enter this world, but no words can justify them.  Sometimes words just aren’t enough.


Think of the last experience you had where words weren’t enough.  Was it a happy time?  Was it a sad time?  Both immense joy and sadness are often difficult to describe.  Its my opinion these indescribable moments are the ones that make us most alive.  How unfortunate that the most monumental times in our lives cannot be adequately shared with others through our words.  But, I guess that’s why we give gifts to those we love, why we take cameras with us on vacations, and why we cry at funerals.  Yes, words are powerful, but they’re very ineffective in describing the most powerful experiences we have as human beings.