Are there jigsaw puzzles in heaven?

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on personal blog, November 25, 2012 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

So who the heck is watching over me?

Are there jigsaw puzzles in heaven? Too many distractions up there keeping my angels busy? I’m not sure how else to explain the complete lack of assistance I got controlling mother nature recently. Unless all of my angels are up there laughing at me – and I think that would be worse! I was less than 5 minutes away from having our 20’x10’ pool completely drained & towel dried, disassembled and ready to bring indoors for the season when the rain hit. This is the second time I’ve completely dried it this fall. I had Colleen and Christopher out helping me take the pool apart as fast as we could because I knew rain was forecast in a few hours. The sky wasn’t that cloudy, I had done my weather homework. You know how sometimes you feel a drop or two and then you get a gradual build up to a gentle rain? Or you know how sometimes the rain is warm and feels healing and soothing? Well…this was neither of those…it started as an instant burst of a cold downpour. At the point it dumped on us we had already taken out three of the four long support beams (Colleen & Christopher were holding each end up of the heavy last side) so there was no way I could set the pool back up to easily dry it again. I only needed 5 minutes to be all done. That’s all. This was the start of four straight days of rain…followed by cold Minnesota weather.

I should have at least three angels looking after me.

I can understand how God is too busy to focus on everyone and to worry about little problems but what else do Katherine and Grandma & Grandpa T have to do up there? Finishing puzzles, going on bike rides, playing cards, and making fiber flowers & casseroles 😉 Help me out. Delay that rain just a few minutes. Create a dry pocket for me. Anything. A little help here. Are there rules for angel interventions? Do they only get a limited number? Do they have to learn how to use their powers? Do they save them for ‘signs’ versus actually helping us out? Can they team up and combine powers?

Or maybe I need to pay attention more.

Maybe they help all the time and I’m too busy to notice. Or I don’t give them credit. Or I take countless mini-interventions for granted. Maybe they’re busy all day long saving me from car crashes, house fires and other life changing disasters. Maybe they’re helping out with an extended green traffic light every so often, or moving my car keys where I can easily find them. Maybe they helped me get to see one of my Make-A-Wish children one last time before he died. Maybe it was my angels who helped us when Megan started choking recently while we were out to dinner (I think my heart has finally settled back into a normal rhythm a few weeks later). Life gets so busy it’s sadly way too easy to miss these every day blessings.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Or maybe they’re watching and deciding not to jump in so that maybe one day I’ll learn once and for all not to sweat the small stuff. They’re giving me ongoing reminders about what really matters and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Who cares about my frustrations with this silly pool? It is a fun memory with the kids while the rain dumped on us and I made them continue to stand there holding the ends of the pool regardless of the futility of the situation. We were soaked in a matter of seconds and laughing while daddy was helpless against the rain.

Everyday miracles

Maybe they can’t change the course of things but instead can use their powers to send signs. And maybe I’m too busy to notice these too. Or I’m waiting for something so grand and life-changing that I’m missing minor miracles every day. Maybe someday this will all make sense to me. Or maybe not. Until then I’ll continue to wait for that special day when the orchid in my office blooms again and I find the last state quarter to fill my collector book.

“Help me today to enjoy every moment. No matter what I deal with today help me to walk with a smile and enjoy this moment. This time and this day. I will never see it again. I will be thankful!” -DL Watson

Quoted quote with a quote as I reflect on Katherine and this past year

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on personal blog, March 26, 2013 (exactly one year after the death of his sister, Katherine)

Think positively

When I traveled to Spain with friends years ago we learned a valuable life lesson. It was a long trip (and an awesome, incredible, amazing trip with great friends) but we had a few stressful points so at one point I started saying “ sucks” (I’m sure one of them remembers specifically what sucky part brought this on – another detail I’ve forgotten over the years). We soon realized the more we said that the more it really did suck and the more things went wrong. So we stopped saying it. We started thinking positively. Things got better. The trip turned out awesome! This lesson applies to each of us every day. The books The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking capitalize on this.

Spread good vibes

I try to be positive. I’ve made great strides the last several years – and I try to share those good vibes. In the spirit of that, last February (2012) I wrote a blog post entitled “Good things happen to good people” – that whole post was about positive things. Oh, the irony. The whole post was about ‘how great Spain was’ – all good stuff. Amazing how that same world can be completely turned upside-down a month later. It makes me think of that great Woody Allen quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Assume good things are always happening

Don’t read too much into any of that. God isn’t laughing at us, and I’m not cynical to positive thinking. But I doubt you’ll see another completely, totally, absolutely positive post from me about all the great things happening. Even if and when they are happening I’m not sharing so blatantly – you can just assume it’s always happening, ok?

Finally finding peace with my sister’s death

I read God Never Blinks this week – it’s a collection of short newspaper publications by the author, Regina Brett. She had a chapter titled “It’s okay to be angry with God. He can take it.” That made me laugh & relate to it. My range of emotions this year have been all over the place. It took me a long time to understand and accept that Katherine didn’t have a choice – she had an illness that took over and left her no other options. It took me a long, long time to let her know that I understand and hope that she’s in a better spot for her and at peace. And for me to tell her that. I don’t like it but I can’t change it. Of all places and people, it took a night in a bar, with the spouse of a friend directly in my face sharing a crazy-unreal, goose pimple-inducing story and then asking what felt like were awkward and personal questions to make it click with me and change my thoughts.

Here come the quotes…

I’m not sure that I’m ready for the messages in all of the quotes that follow, and I’m not always ready to focus on the future, but I will continue to ponder and learn from these quotes.

This same book goes on to say,

“You don’t need a cancer verdict to start living more fully. Every day, light a candle. What a great reminder that life is short, that the only time that matters is now. Walk out of boring movies. Close any book that doesn’t dazzle you. Greet every morning with open arms and say thanks every night with a full heart. Each day is a precious gift to be savored and used, not left unopened and hoarded for a future that may never come.”

I also read Beauty Beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope After Crisis, by Cheryl McGuinness today. Her husband was the pilot of one of the planes that hit the towers on 911. She has a strong religious focus that I won’t go into but I did like these lessons from one of the chapters.

(1) Life goes on. As unfair, unreasonable, and impossible it seems, we still have work to do after a tragedy occurs. We still have roles to fill. We still have responsibility to family and others. The stuff of life may pause for a while, but it doesn’t stop. Fair or not, that’s reality. (2) Healing requires active participation. If we can summon the strength to take the first steps, the healing will come that much sooner. If we don’t take those first steps and participate with God in our healing process, we die while we are still alive. God tells us to trust him, get up, and take one more step of faith toward healing – in spite of our feelings. (3) Many details about the future remain unknown. Walking with Jesus involves walking by faith. Our attempts to control the future are fruitless. Those of us who have suffered loss understand only too well that we control very little in our lives. The promise of tomorrow is given to no one. We need to appreciate each day as a special Gift from God and focus our hearts on him, seeking to know and understand his will on a day-by-day basis. We need to take God’s Word to heart when he tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” My prayer is that you will also come to know hope, not despair; courage, not fear; love, not hate.

Yes, I’ve been busy reading this week. Here’s a similar thought from Suicide and Its Aftermath, by editors: Edward J Dunne, John L. McIntosh, and Karen Dunne-Maxim.

“Moving on does not mean forgetting. It means gaining freedom through closure and giving up feeling victimized. It means going on with our lives, with each other, with our living sons and their families, with other relationships, and with life as it really is, not as we would like it to be. It means eventually being able to move beyond the event of suicide to remember and celebrating the life of our daughter. We are facing our future with a greater sense of who we are. Our awareness to increased divorce rates to parents of suicide recommits us to working through our thoughts, feelings, and differences, determined that our bonds of loving and struggling should not be broken. We now know that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can take charge of how we respond. We can no longer change the destiny of our beloved daughter, but we can be sure that our lives will be more meaningful, purposeful, compassionate, forgiving and loving. My life has changed and I will never again have the same innocence. But perhaps there is hope for others more newly bereaved in the fact that life has continued on with a new awareness of the fragility of life, with a deepened spirit and commitment to life and with the certainty that, although life is not perfect, it is good.”

Ok, one more…Suicide: Why? by Adina Wrobleski says something similar:

“While we cannot bring the person back, and while there are no second chances with the person who died, there are many second chances with the living. There is an opportunity to make up in the present what is desperately wished for in the past. The death of a loved one changes people; how they change is up to each individual.”

And just a few more quotes I’m still noodling over…not sure what I think of some of these…

I’ve come across this quote a crazy amount of times recently, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” -Philo of Alexandria or Plato or maybe somebody else. If only we knew about those battles.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” -John Milton

How about this one? “You got to go through hell before you get to heaven” – maybe this is taken out of context from what the Steve Miller Band meant, but after this hellacious year I’m taking this to mean that we’re all going to heaven.

We’ll get through this together

It’s been a tough day but cherish those memories and we’ll continue to get through this together. Love to you all. Rest in peace my beautiful sister.

I Remember

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on personal blog, April 12, 2012 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)


I remember your smile, your laughter, your love of life.

You seemed so content and happy and enjoying the life that you had made, and focused on the future.

Your family is so beautiful. You were doing such a great job with your family and career and navigating your way through life as we all do. It isn’t always easy but we all were making it.

Just a few weeks prior you told me that summer was getting closer and that we needed to plan our Grand Marais, MN trip – and we did. And we were just starting to talk about your plans for a Disney trip with all of our families in the summer of 2014. I was so excited to have a week of hanging out up in Grand Marais – talking and taking it easy – getting away from the rest of the world for a bit – especially given how serious last year was at times with dad’s health.

I look at the photos of us as children and wonder what I should have done differently as a big brother to protect you and help you. I wish you would have shared more and given so many of us a chance to help you.

I will miss sharing my stories with you. I was always so happy to get your blog responses – I will miss that and swapping stories as we raised our children. I am so glad I started my blog when I did and that I do have so many comments from you. I was always so proud to get your “approval” of all the happenings in my life and that we shared an appreciation of “simple” values and memories from our childhood. Maybe I never said it enough, but I was so thankful for all that you did to help out mom and dad last year. Your trips up to help dad (and mom) were so important – that’s what families are all about and now I’m especially glad you got to spend that time with them. I’m glad I made a special trip to New Hampshire last year – the intent was to see dad but if his health hadn’t been an issue then I likely wouldn’t have seen you either. You tried to get to MN every few years – I always so looked forward to seeing you and just getting to hang out and catch up on things and show off our kids to each other. It was always so great to see how excited you were to get out here and see and hold and play with and have fun with my kids – I loved that about you.

I often thought about how you, Dan, and I would grow closer and find time for trips way down the road – just like what mom and dad have done with their siblings. But first we had to get through diapers, grade school, dating, college, and moving our kids back out of our house – and then this would happen. It was going to be the three of us laughing and crying and sharing as we got older and bonding over memories of our parents and our childhood and our family history.

You had some great friends from childhood – you stuck together and shared so much over the years. Your friend Trish summed up some things about you that I absolutely agree with, “You were capable, reliable, efficient, independent, creative, determined, devoted, loyal, honest, loving, and kind. Your smile and laugh will remain with me forever. I can’t remember a time when you didn’t see the humor in life. Your friendship was a gift to me and to all who were blessed to have you in their lives.” And Stacie added this one too, “I will always remember her one of a kind smile and laughter with an occasional snort mixed in for the really funny moments that life brought.” This was you – we all saw it and felt it.

I have fun, silly memories of you. I won’t forget them.

I loved that you said “wicked”, and “awesome”, and “wicked awesome”. I’m sure I told you that every other phone call.

I remember at our place when we were having corn for dinner and you started singing “shuck a corn, shuck a corn”, just like Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. I’ve said that with a smile ever since. I still will.

I remember you bought me a rabbit wine opener. You were so excited to show me what it was and how it worked. You opened the box fast, we got a bottle of wine, and you immediately started cranking on the lever to push the corkscrew down into the cork of a bottle of red wine I chose. In your hurried excitement you didn’t notice that there was a rubber stopper on the end of the corkscrew – so as you cranked down on the lever the rabbit ended up pushing the cork into the bottle…which proceeded to shoot a high pressure stream of red wine straight up at my ceiling. Hee hee. We laughed and laughed at that one. It made me think of the time mom and her sisters decided to open a bag of potato chips by having one of them hold the top and bottom of the bag while the other one slammed it with both hands coming together in the middle of the bag…not sure what they thought would happen but I remember chips flying in every direction. I laughed that you got some of their common sense genes 🙂

I remember watching “The Dream Team” (1986, Michael Keaton) and how you laughed and laughed at a scene with them singing in the back of the bus. Your love of life and laughter were contagious. It was always a goal to say something funny enough to get to see that sparkle in your eyes and hear your genuine laughter.

I remember when you came out to Minnesota and we went to the Children’s museum. There were a bunch of hand puppets…and you found the momma and baby possum puppets. But you hadn’t quite realized that they were puppets…so you were doing some sort of odd birthing show that traumatized all the kids around us. The look on your face (followed by that crazy laughter) that resulted from me explaining to you that they were puppets and not reproductive props was priceless. I’m still not sure if we ever decided if they are possums or opossums.

I remember on another trip to Minnesota that you and Heather got fake nose piercings at the Mall of America and tried to scare Beth and me into thinking they were real. And that you got pulled over in Beth’s car and you both were in pajamas and you didn’t have your driver’s license with you. Hee hee.

And the memories of you buying Christopher a whoopee cushion for the rehearsal dinner at your wedding. You wanted it done your way…you made sure they each had gifts waiting for them ahead of that long night…you wanted them to have fun…and boy did he have a blast with that. We all did. You loved watching him go to practically everybody that night and making them act the part and feign surprise. That’s the magic you brought to a room – you trusted your instinct and it always worked out and made us enjoy life even more.

You were the best present buyer for me ever. You knew exactly what I liked – and you put thought into your gifts. I knew anything you bought me for clothing would be perfect for me – you just knew. I remember when I was a consultant working in Pittsburgh that you sent me a shirt for my birthday and that I was so excited to get it from you that I wore it the next day to work. I remember one of the ladies asking me if the wrinkly look was the new style on the east coast – it didn’t seem that bad to me but I never gave it a second thought not to wear it (guess I could have given some thought to ironing it though).

I wear your “Katherine’s Movement” t-shirts all the time (mostly to the fire station on calls). Every time I have worn those over the years I always thought about you – every single time. I tried to put one on again last week – I couldn’t quite do it yet – but I will again in time. I always found it odd that I didn’t get more comments from my fellow fire fighters when I was wearing a bright orange Crohn’s shirt (from a Crohn’s walk I did out here), or the Katherine’s Movement shirt with the guy & girl restroom-ish sign on back. But I wore those proudly and welcomed any questions/comments.

It was fun to get you a little mad. When you made up your mind, you stuck by it. I didn’t always understand why you got so attached to some things or how you made your decisions (and you probably thought the same about things that I have done) – but I admired your dedication & ready defense. Your cars are a great example of something you made up your decision on and defended to no end – which made it all the more fun to pick on 🙂 Buying a house that was built two centuries ago (not something I would ever, ever, ever have the stomach for). Anything racial was another taboo topic that made it all the more fun for me to get you going on, and your choice of some of your old neighborhoods was another easy button to push. But you stuck by these things, and held to your values, and stood by your decisions, and everything always seemed to work out for you.

And I have some very random memories of you. That Alice in Wonderland Syndrome or bizarre case of some form of mononucleosis that you had. I was away from home at the time (college or working by then) but I remember mom and dad saying you were in some other world – for instance, sitting in the car sideways in a seat with your feet hanging out the door and telling them they could drive away. And that when you finally snapped out of it, it was something like 3:00 a.m. and you asked for eggs so they made you a big bowl of them. Not sure if any of that is true – but that’s what I remember 🙂 And us dancing to a Monster Mash record (yes, record) on the hardwood floors in our NJ apartment. And you getting some sort of Indian name from one of our cousins (and hearing Erik’s self-proclaimed Indian name after that). And how Erik could make you laugh and laugh. And you loving River Phoenix as a kid. And sharing that back bedroom at Grandma and Grandpa T’s house and playing with the same toys there year after year (that week or two each summer seemed soooooo loooooong). And that you threw up in the same city in Indiana two or three years in a row less than an hour into our 16+ hour drive back home (mom said it was because you were so excited to see your friends – I could never figure out why they still gave you orange juice again before we got in the car that 2nd and 3rd year). Or that you went on some kind of crazy shopping spree with an old friend after their CDs and other things were stolen and you had the entire insurance check to spend.

And you had some obsessions. You were a jigsaw puzzle savant. A jigsaw puzzling fool. No puzzle was impossible with you around. I have to stare at the puzzle and the picture and the pieces…I don’t think you even liked to have the picture visible, and you could pretty much just walk past the scattered pieces on the table and almost instantly grab a piece and put it where it belonged in one try. And you loved books – not necessarily reading them, but possessing a hard-cover of your favorites sitting on a shelf seemed to make you happy. And you were a dancer – as a little girl and as you got older. I remember you laughing talking about getting to be in a recital while over 30. And the Nutcracker – don’t mess with the Nutcracker – that was your special ballet and time of the year. And it’s so easy to picture you sitting on the floor in flannel pajamas, with a jigsaw puzzle on the table, and kids crawling around. This was you – loving the simple things in life and loving your family.

I loved some of the silly things you and Erik did that brought out the fun in life. Things I probably never would have done, but that part of my envies. Owning chickens…having a boat and going lobster fishing…getting tattoos/piercings (I still stick with my story that I pierced one of your ears in our upstairs bathroom – wonder if anyone else knew about that??). Part of me wants some of these things and I loved hearing about your latest antics. I still laugh at the fact that you complained so much when I worked at the fish market (the smell when I got home, and you couldn’t stand to eat seafood – and I could bring it home every night to eat) – and then later in life you changed your mind/tastes and liked seafood – that was an ironic twist that made me laugh over the years.

I loved that you clung to an old-fashioned view of the world at times and aligned your values with that. You were the one to have Grandma and Grandpa T fill out memory books. You were the one who went to Indiana and sat for hours while Grandpa T went through all the slides from the trip to Alaska. You were the only one who got dubbed as anybody’s favorite cousin. Your pressure of hanging your memory box on your wall (albeit empty!) helped push me to get mine done. You had a professional photographer take so many pictures of your kids and family – she was such a good find on your part.

You never wanted a fancy life – but to be content with your family and friends. I always loved that about you. Family (and friends – new & old) is important and that’s how you lived your life. I always felt the love – through your visits, and cards, and responses on my blog post. You used to talk about wanting to be a mom when you grew up. And having kids. That’s what you wanted. That’s it. And you did it – and you were great at it. You were so caring and thoughtful and kind and giving. I’ll remember. And I’ll miss all these things about you.

You do something about it – you don’t just wait

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, October 31, 2014

My advice for anyone asking more about the concepts I follow related to actively pursuing and achieving dreams throughout the year is to first create a long list of dreams (aka Bucket List). 100 dreams is a nice round number to target. 100 forces you out of your comfort zone. 100 makes you put some effort into this. 100 makes you write down things that you think about but don’t want to write down (Too silly? Too far-fetched? Too personal? Too much effort? Too much money? Too much of facing the reality that you may not achieve all of your dreams?). 100 pushes you in many ways that I think are good for you. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. REALLY tried it.

Next, pick some top dreams and take steps toward achieving them. Yep, that’s it. Simple. Genius – I know. Don’t worry about all the steps after your first step. Don’t worry about creating a SMART goal or whatever other trendy acronym is out there. Just take that first step. Take it confidently. Enjoy that step. You can worry about the next step tomorrow (enjoy that step too, and the next one, and the next one). Step by step – every day – they add up and take you places you never ever dreamed possible. But you’ve got to take that first step. Don’t wait any longer to take it.

And then I have lots of advice on next steps and tools…dream storming sessions, accountability partners, making weekly progress, how to handle roadblocks, how to tackle dreams that aren’t clear or that aren’t measurable, and on and on. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me if you want to know more. I’ve been blessed (or cursed?) with over-thinking things, being detail-oriented, uncontrollably tracking data, and getting pleasure from digging into struggles we all face every day. I am always happy to apply what I’ve learned along the way to helping others.

Regardless of your approach the whole point is to find things you believe in and live life TODAY. Don’t wait. Don’t keep pushing things off. Don’t wander around too long in life without finding some sort of focus. Having a list of dreams that you are actively pursuing helps with all of those things.

A cool video surfaced in the last few weeks about a dream on my wife’s list. She is 2 1/2 years into a five year Ph. D program in genetics at the University of Minnesota. She only has a few items on her dream list but her dreams are big! This video is about her boss (Dr. Jakub Tolar, who does amazing things with pediatric blood and marrow transplants) being introduced by Eddie Vedder and getting to speak at a Pearl Jam concert on October 19th. I hope it inspires you to add a few items to your dream list TODAY.

Here’s a link to the video and also the comments he makes in the video:

VIDEO 1: Cause The Wave: EB Research Pearl Jam Xcel St Paul MN 10/19/14

“You have no idea how the 30,000 of you boil down to a single kid that Ed had in his hands in my hospital yesterday. He’s the real thing. When you listen to his music, his lyrics, you know that it goes to your brain, your heart, to your marrow. I am a bone marrow transplant physician and what I do for a living has lots to do with what he does for a living. What we both do is give people hope. And that is why almost immediately we understood each other because he’s the real stuff…When you go back home to your loved ones remember that this is a man who understands that the essential is invisible – it’s down, down here (heart & inside you) and he gets what we all need to know which is if you want to fight a disease like EB, you go to and you do something about it. You don’t just wait. Thank you!” -Dr. Jakub Tolar, Pearl Jam concert, Oct 19, 2014

Here’s another video on this topic. As Dr. Tolar says…do something about it…don’t just wait.

VIDEO 2: Cause The Wave: Eddie Vedder and the EB Research Partnership

Believe in your dreams – live life with passion and focus every day – make your dreams happen!

Dream YOUR Dreams

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, September 19, 2013

My roommate freshman through junior years in college knows how to dream big and chase down crazy adventures. In college he was the one who ended up in Alaska during the summers removing barnacles from boats. Last year his holiday email started with “I thought I’d share a bit about this year’s adventure, a backpacking trip. I had always wanted to visit China. I also dreamed of hiking the Himalayas. With scores of frequent flyer miles, and ample downtime, the timing seemed perfect.” That was the start of a 2-month solo trip through many countries. Once he got back to the states he started his own consulting company (“I don’t have much more than a nifty logo and generic web content at the moment. I’m hopeful, nonetheless.”). Soon after that he got the urge to help a friend raise some money which started an 8-week, 4000 mile solo bike ride across the country from San Diego to Virginia Beach. Similar to Forrest Gump, once he reached Virginia Beach he said “I’ve always wanted to see Maine…”, so he biked up the coast…and then decided since he’d made it that far he might as well bike back home to Indiana. Finally, this week ended his 4 1/2 months, 7,000+ miles of biking solo around the U.S.

When I hear about people and dreams like this I tend to have a moment of self-doubt that my dreams are way too boring and safe by comparison. Are his dreams better? Do great dreams require adventure and risk and spontaneity and pushing you way beyond your comfort zone? Nope, and sometimes. His dreams are great – for him. My dreams are great – for me. All of our dreams and goals should be about pursuing happiness and living life with no regrets. Even Bil acknowledges his freedom comes with “serious trade-offs, both personally and professionally”. That’s why it is so important to write down and pursue dreams that are meaningful to YOU and incorporate all aspects of your life.

Here are things we can all apply from Bil’s latest adventure to some of our dreams:

  • dreams require a lot of hard work and preparation;
  • he shared his dream publicly and had a support network throughout the journey – people who were constantly rooting for him and checking in on him;
  • there were many opportunities for spontaneity but he had clear objectives and goals;
  • it connected to a higher level purposegiving back to a cause that he believed in;
  • having a positive attitude is very important to get you through all sorts of unexpected obstacles;
  • and, the journey was clearly as much a part of this as the destination.

Dream YOUR dreams!!!

Who’s Your Monkey?

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, May 17, 2013

I saw Dr. Henry Cloud present last week at the Chic-fil-A leadercast conference. He was a great speaker and told of an experiment where monkeys were placed in cages and subject (without harming them) to intense scare tactics including flashing lights, loud noises, shaking the cages, etc. The monkey’s brain activity was monitored and their stress levels spiked (wouldn’t yours?!?!?).

Next the researches added another monkey to the cage that was a companion to the first monkey. They put the monkeys through the same intensity yet this time the stress levels didn’t rise even half as much. Having a companion with you keeps you calm, comforted, focused, and increases the positive energy.

Dr. Henry Cloud challenged us to “find our monkey”.

Who brings you comfort, security, and support? Who do you want in the cage with you as you navigate life’s challenges and adventures? He said our brains are wired for achieving happiness and emphasized the importance of creating structures that build and support relationships and connections. I think having a dream list and chasing down your goals in life is perfect for bringing monkeys together! Share those dreams. Find an accountability monkey (uh…partner). Share the journey.

(connecting with others reduces impacts of depression….I should do more research here…)

Homework assignment: Ask at least one person, “Will you be my monkey?” in the next week!

Path to Awesome

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, February 24, 2013

Make-A-Wish originally sent me a link to the video “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You” but since then it has popped up all over the place. I’ve watched it many times now, and I still love it each time. Short and sweet, and straight to the point…he’s talking my language. Check it out, learn something, laugh, get moving, make a difference, enjoy it. Here are some nuggets from Kid President:

  • It’s time to do something.” (yep, agreed, go look at your dream list or add something to it, and then pick a few…go do it…it’s your time!)
  • But what if there really were two paths…I want to be on the one that leads to awesome.” (Me too! This is why I suggest creating a hopefully long list of dreams and goals – because until you REALLY think about your future/dreams, and write them down, you can’t even make the decision about what path you’re on. You’ve got to start somewhere…make that listyour list…choose YOUR path…what have you been putting off for way too long?…take those first steps…it could make all the difference)
  • Don’t stop believing… unless your dream is stupid…then you should get a better dream.” (Ha! Your accountability partner won’t judge you…your dream list won’t be offended…switch dreams as much as you need to…the point is to start moving and then stay moving – your dream list and focus will take care of itself). Believe in your dreams. Be sure to include dreams that help others and make connections with those around you. We’re all in this crazy life together, and we only become more fulfilled by genuinely believing in others and sharing all aspects (ups and downs) of our own journeys.
  • What will be your Space Jam? What will you create to make the world awesome? Nothin’ if you keep sittin’ there…you were made to be awesome.” (How can you resist this kid? You’ve been pep talked!!). You can do anything that you dream of…don’t worry about having a detailed plan to get there – believe in yourself and take that first step…the rest will come.

Orange You Happy

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, January 29, 2013

Why do we create our dream lists? In it’s simplest form…happiness. That’s it. It all boils down to happiness. Putting that smile on our face, or someone else’s. Living life. Having some fun along the way. Helping others. Making connections. Who doesn’t want happiness?

A year ago I had never heard of or had a connection with the Samaritan’s group in Boston…but a lot can change in a year. They are focused on suicide awareness and prevention and they have a series of social experiments going on as part of their “Happier Boston” campaign. Their goals align perfectly with the power of how I pursue dreams:

“making sure that peoples’ voices are heard, we help them feel better about themselves and their lives. In our experience, when people are heard, they go from feeling overwhelmed to empowered, from discouraged to encouraged, from feeling all alone to being part of a bigger community

How many of you have felt varying degrees of being overwhelmed, discouraged, or alone when facing your dreams, goals, or any other challenges in life?

I’ve been there.

It’s frustrating at times. It’s hard to stay positive all the time. Things will get better. Your future is bigger and brighter than you can ever imagine. But we’ve got to get through today first.

Simple frameworks (such as suggested in The Dream Manager) can help…capturing dreams, sharing dreams, achieving dreams, meeting informally & regularly with a peer (accountability or dream partner) – they all help you feel better about yourself and your life…and empowered, encouraged, and connected to part of a bigger community. And this all leads back to happiness.

Here are some of the events the Samaritan’s are doing to help people find happiness every day:

  • Welcome parties at the T (subway) for Monday morning commuters in Boston
  • Asking people to list places that make people happy (“happy spots lead to happy thoughts”)
  • Singing a cappella to people in elevators (this one is my favorite)
  • Giving away oranges (“orange you happy”)
  • Hi Five in the 5th at Fenway Park (high 5’s to everyone around you in the 5th inning)

You can check out their videos here: They were also profiled on the Today show if you’re interested in seeing more about their activities. You can’t help but smile at these events – they engage you and make you happy.

Whether you add something on your dream list or just take the time to spread some happiness, I challenge you to think of how you can build connections and make someone around you smile EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. I won’t sing in the elevator but I’m definitely up for High Five Friday’s 🙂

Fire Starter Sessions

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, October 12, 2012

I’ve started some fires.


Burned a whole house down.

The fire department put it out seven times…but I lit that sucker eight times.

True story.

That’s my fire behind me.


It was an amazing day being a real fire starter. The energy, adrenaline, uncertaintly, risk, and intensity made for an incredible experience. Although Danielle LaPorte is talking about a different kind of fire starting in The Fire Starter Sessions it has a lot of the same feelings and emotions!

Her book is full of energy & in-your-face affirmations – you can’t help but get pumped up as you read it. She has some good questions and exercises. One of my favorites would be to answer these questions for every item on your dream list:

  • I want this because… (“repeat the thought until you feel like you’ve hit on the heart of the matter”)
  • How does (or will) this dream make me feel? Get to those true emotions & feelings. Stay focused on your feelings. This is true clarity. Open heart, open mind.

Understanding those questions about all of our dreams is so powerful. What are we chasing? Why do we want it? Why do we really want it? In her words…

Our dreams and desires define us, whether they are broken, scarcely remembered, on the verge of reality, or in full bloom. Dreams pilot our choices and shape the landscape of our lives. We get so many societal messages about what the Right Dream is that it gets hard to decipher what our own dream is. The pandemic that we have of over-consumption is directly related to this concept of dreaming big, bigger, biggest-possible big. Big can be bountiful, but what if your dream is to live simply – to have enough? Not more than enough – but enough. The trouble with dreams hinged to goals is that many goal-setting lists are as one-dimensional as shopping lists: get house by the water with hardwood floors; get married; have two kids, preferably twins; run a half marathon. Attaining these things could be the work of your soul or a mindless pursuit. Are your aspirations a vocational impulse or a competitive sport? Are you trying to impress your dead ancestors or leave your mark on the world? If your goals aren’t synched with the substance of your heart, then achieving them won’t matter much.

Make your dreams yours. Know why they are important to you. Chase them.

Just like my experience…it may take you eight attempts (or many more) to get that fire burning but you’ve got to keep after it! Here’s her final rah-rah speech from the book – enjoy. Now. 🙂

Now works. You’re here for a reason. And that reason is yours to define. Make it something amazing and really full of love and things that feel hot. Be unreasonable. Be scared if you need to be. Just keep moving. Feeling. Asking. Don’t take sh*t, and for the love of God, please don’t settle. Just keep choosing. Make lots and lots and lots of choices. You are writing the movie script of your life. Desire. Lights. Action! (Some tears.) You’re a hero on an adventure. This is it. This is the adventure. Creativity. Change. Livelihood. Art. People. Leadership. Legacy. Score. Money. Gain. Failure. Pride. Industry. Simple. Love. LOVE. Oh, love. It’s all about love in the end. And in the beginning. So start now, today, here. Let it be simple, easy, electric. Be surprised, be new, be true, be you. Now.

Keep pushing…always

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, September 25, 2012

I’ve wondered before if someone would have talked to me about dreams & goals in a way that related to me at an earlier age if I would have listened & if my life would have been different in any way. Or would I have given it the same limited attention as I did to career placement tests and guidance counselor input that never resonated or connect with me then. What would my dream list have looked like at the age of 20 versus 40, and what would already be accomplished? I gave all three of my kids dream books a year ago – it’s fun to see what they write or draw in there. They absolutely remind me to dream without boundaries and to keep it fun 🙂

Martin Dugard is an endurance athlete and world adventurer who shares life lessons as a high school track coach in To Be a Runner. I really liked this book. He focuses on pushing yourself and challenging personal limits as a regular part of your life, and continually reinforces his mantra of “Keep pushing…always”. He uses the term “quest” (or adventure or odyssey) instead of dream or goal – they’re all the same. Create a target – call it whatever you want – and then aim for it. Many of his lessons tie perfectly to a simple framework I’ve been doing such as is suggested in The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly:

  • “with so many in the world all too happy to bask in mediocrity – settling instead of pushing – those who learn to be the best version of themselves know the secret to a full life.”
  • At the start of each running season he has each runner write down 3 dreams which he gives back to them at the end of the season (one is personal, another for the team, and the third is where they see themselves in 10 years). He refers to the third dream as:
  • “a gut check, one that requires them to see the people they desire to become, exploring parts of themselves they reveal to few people – and maybe not even to themselves. You need to be honest with yourself and your desires, knowing in the back of your mind that controlling destiny is a fifty-fifty blend of aspiration and fate…It’s my wish that during the season they will have traveled so far as athletes and achieved so much that once seemed impossible, that they will have come to possess the building blocks of perseverance, determination and grit that will guide them to the fulfillment of those final dreams.”

    Wow – exactly what I believe having (and actively chasing) my list of goals and dreams does:

  • Getting to know yourself better. That’s why we work to create a list of 100 dreams, not 10 or 20, and why I ask so many thought provoking questions in the initial dream session. Stretch yourself and learn to be comfortable in your own skin! Keep working to get your dream list to 100!!
  • Building blocks. This is one of the key ways that I rationalize the support of personal dreams in the workplace. Learning to achieve personal dreams pays off by what employees can then get accomplished at work. It doesn’t matter where you get those building blocks – we can’t separate our personal from our professional. Develop great habits and you can’t help but apply them everywhere!

And here’s where it all comes together in Martin’s book:

Keep pushing is a reminder not to settle but to dream, to live, to sing, and sometimes it’s about letting go of the past to fulfill your destiny. Keep pushing is not about rituals, performance, accomplishment, achievement, or feeling guilty about taking a day off from the pursuit of a quest. It is a pursuit of that best possible version of ourselves, refusing to accept mediocrity, and waking up each day full of hope instead of fear. It’s having courage, taking a risk, staying focused on the important things in life. And it’s remembering that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to press forward despite your fears…Because Keep pushing…always is also a reminder that life is sometimes about letting go – even giving up a dream – without sacrificing the personal qualities that make those talents and aspirations possible…I figure as long as I live each day with that sort of mind-set, whatever random fears I have of settling or letting mediocrity seep into my life will be kept at bay just one more day – even if it means depending upon three simple words to find courage when I have none.”

What a great quote! Who’s got a personal mantra that reminds them to stay active and dreaming? Maybe I’ll add finding one to my dream list…until then…Keep pushing…always!