Transitions

At the top of this post, is a picture of a place that was a sanctuary during the pandemic. It is approximately a 2-mile walk from my home. I would come here and look at the flowers, the gazebo, and the trees. I would ponder life and meditate. Today, I came here to do the same. I wanted to teach a class here but never did.

A little over a week ago, I gave my last lecture. Today will be my last class session. In lieu of a final exam, we will watch student-made videos and say goodbye.

This will be one of many transitions that will take place in the coming days. Seniors will be graduating from the institution I have loved for the past 16 years. Most will move into jobs and careers while others will matriculate to graduate school. Those not graduating will transition out of the dorms to home or other summer living arrangements. Many will transition from school to summer work and/or internships. And finally, many students and colleagues will transition out of Augustana into another phase of life (retirement, another school, work).

For me, I will continue my life change. I am moving out of academia back into the private sector (decisions will be made tomorrow). Next week, I will move back into our remodeled home. I will travel to see friends and places not seen for a couple of years (and a few new ones). My wife will transition to one year older and I will follow if a few weeks.

Today, I am pondering all of those transitions and wishing my students and colleagues the best. I hope we can remain connected but I understand that often life takes us in different directions.

I’m not attending any of the graduation festivities this weekend and my office is clean. When I leave Augustana today, it will be the last time as faculty. In the past, I often wondered how I would feel on this day. Joy? Sadness? Relief? Excitement? Mixed emotions? As I sit here on the bench looking at the gazebo, I have the answer. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Harris out.

The Last Lecture

Today I will give my final lecture at Augustana. After 16 years, it is time to move on. I am not the same person who began teaching 16 years ago nor is Augustana the same institution it was 16 years ago. This is neither good nor bad. Change happens.

In recent weeks, I have thought a lot about my final semester and my final days as a professor. Last night I watched much of Randy Pausch’s last lecture.  (I watched the entire short version (here is the short version) At a minimum, you should watch the short version (10 minutes). If you are curious, you would watch the long version (approximately 85 minutes).

In class today, I will talk about intellectual property and criminal law. I will talk about the value of brand and ideas. It won’t be perfect but there were a few stories. I hope the students learn. I have always hoped they learned.

Yet I don’t want my last lecture to be about Cody the Cow. I wanted my last words at Augie to be more. Though I wasn’t asked to give the last lecture, I prepared one anyway.  I might even record it and put it up. I give this last lecture to and for my students, my colleagues, and anyone else who cares to listen. My title is “Believe, Be Curious, and Let It Be.

So please imagine I was delivering this lecture to all of my students in person.

Thank you for coming to my last lecture. I hope you enjoy it and take something away from it. To my students, you have taught me more than you will ever know. You have taught me patience, humility, clarity, compassion, and gratitude. You have taught me to ask questions before jumping to conclusions. You taught to me think the best of people. I have not been perfect and made mistakes. I have tried to hold you accountable while showing compassion.

I hope that I have taught you something in our time together. Mostly, I hope I taught you to believe.  Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Believe in your dreams. Believe you can be better and do more. I know life is tiring and you will need to rest. Rest if you must but don’t stop believing. If you could just believe in yourself as much as I believe in you – Oh, the places you will go and the things you will do. You have no idea what you are capable of achieving unless you believe.

Think about it for a moment. If I can graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, argue a case before the South Dakota Supreme Court two years after law school graduation, become a college professor, lose 60 pounds in 4 months, and walk at least 10,000 steps every day for over two years, you can do anything.

So, do us all a favor and set your goals high and work towards them every day. Believe you can do it and go for it. I believe you can do it.  Do you?

Next, I want you to be curious. Ever spent any time with a 6-year-old? Many six-year-olds are curious. They are constantly asking questions. They want to learn for the sake of learning. They aren’t angling for a grade, a job, a promotion, a raise, or fame. They just want to know!

As an undergraduate student, I was not very curious. Like many of you, I took classes to check a box as a requirement for graduation. I simply wanted to pass the class and move on. I didn’t give much thought to why the class was required or how it could help me in life. Just give me my C and move on because Cs get degrees!

I wish I would have taken the time to think about things and be curious. Ask questions. Look for solutions to the hard problems. Listen to others. What you can learn by just listening. Read books for fun. Travel frequently and to new places. Explore where you live. Find Walt Disney’s signature on the Augie campus and tell others to do the same.

Please spend part of each day growing your mind and learning something new. Read an article in a newspaper, magazine, or website. Read a chapter in a book.  Listen to a podcast or take a MOOC. Talk to an “expert.”  Ask questions. Explore nature.

Change and innovation happen through curiosity (along with hard work, luck, and failure). Innovation happens when a curious person asks, “Is there a better way to build a mousetrap?”, “Do we need a mousetrap?”, or “Perhaps mice are beneficial and shouldn’t be trapped?” Questions are powerful. Curiosity is powerful. You are powerful. Use your power for good.

Finally, accept things for what they are. One of my favorite Beatles songs is “Let It Be.” The melody is simple yet wonderful. The lyrics provide one of life’s best lessons. 

Here is a verse – And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.

In life, there are challenges.  There are moments, days, weeks, and months that do not go your way. This is part of life. Most of this will not be within your control. But roll with the punches. Get knocked down 7 times and get up 8. Keep moving forward.

There is very little in life you can control. You can control what you eat, drink, and wear (with some limitations). Mostly, you can control your thoughts and reactions.  Beyond that, it is out of your control. So, whatever happens, don’t label it good or bad – just let it be.

To those that have been a part of this journey over the last 16+ years, from the bottom of my heart thank you. You have all given me more than I could have imagined. While I am sad that I am leaving, I am so excited about my next chapter. Life is an adventure and a journey. Enjoy the ride. 

Gratitude

I try to live each day in gratitude. Some days are more challenging than others. Finding something to be grateful for improves my mood and attitude. When grateful, I am a better husband, father, friend, and person. Gratitude provides balance is in an uncertain world.

As many of you know, I like to take pictures. I first began taking pictures when I was younger (4th grade). I particularly enjoy taking pictures at athletic events. This was inspired by reading Sports Illustrated. I was always fascinated by the pictures of athletes in action.

About six years ago, I began taking pictures of my youngest son. I did this primarily for me – to calm my nerves while he played. Then I began taking pictures of his teammates and other players I knew. I would share these pictures with the players and their parents. Most seemed very appreciative. While it took hours to process the photographs, the gratitude that I felt in sharing it with others was worth of work.

I eventually branched out and began taking pictures of student-athletes at the University where I teach. I would share these pictures on social media and with the players. I didn’t do this to receive praise. Rather, I enjoyed taking the pictures and I enjoyed giving to the students. Student-athlete work so hard and get so little attention. (Note: My University is a Division II University not a top tier D1).

Last night, I was invited to attend the spirit squad season ending showcase event at my university. (I would’ve gone even if nobody had asked because several members of the spirit squad are students of mine and deserve faculty support.) It was a wonderful and fun event full of dance, cheer, and happiness. And of course, I brought my camera and took over 1000 pictures. I’m still processing them but some are posted on my Instagram and Facebook page. I’ll work on some more tonight.

Midway through the event, I was asked to come down to the floor. While they were initial hopes that I would become “a flyer” it was not to be. Rather, I was called to be recognized by the squad for my support of them. The certificate of appreciation states gratitude for my “continuous support, your genuine excitement and appreciation of our skills and talents and for capturing those moments on film.” There were other kind words spoken and the spirit squad cheered for me. What an honor.

So today, it’s easy to find my gratitude. I’m grateful for the spirit squad at my university and my students. I often forget how busy their lives are. I often forget how hard they have to work outside of the classroom. And many of these students receive very little recognition or support. I hope that my taking pictures and sharing helps them feel recognized, supported, and appreciated.

Take time today to be grateful for one thing and share your gratitude with others.

Spring and hope

In season one of the hit series Ted Lasso, the main character gives a locker room talk about hope. My take away is hope sustains us and gives us reason to move forward. Hope gives us reason to believe that things are possible.

Yesterday, while spending too much time on social media, I found a picture of the “first bloom” of our state flower. The picture is above.

The picture triggered a flood of thoughts and emotions. Instantly, I was transported to my hometown. I was reminded of the joy that spring flowers bring. The beauty of the lavender, yellow and green tones against the brown pine needles are stunning. It has been many years since I have seen this bloom. I would love to see it again.

The picture reminded me of the hope that spring brings. Winter in South Dakota can be harsh. It often teases you by warming up for brief periods in February and March only to get cold and snowing again. There is very little color present. But slowly, The colors begin to emerge. And with the reemergence of color comes hope.

Finally, I was reminded of my mother. When I was a young child I would go outside of our house to pick several of these flowers and make a spring bouquet for my mother. She always acted like it was the best gift she had ever received. The flowers would quickly die and wither. I would pick another bouquet. (I note it is illegal to pick the state flower on public property).

So on this first day of April when many play jokes on each other, take time to be hopeful because spring is here and new opportunities occur.

Gratitude and Identity

This will be a short post. Today I am feeling extremely grateful. As background, many of you know I have been a professor at a university for the last 15+ years. A perk of the job is free admission to most of the sports and cultural events. For the past 15 years, I have attended most of the home basketball games. In the early years, I took my sons with me. It was a wonderful father-son experience. In the later years, I went alone. My children grew up and became busy with other things. To watch this program grow from mediocre to excellent (Division II National Champions 2016), has been an incredible experience. It has been fun to get to know the coaches, the players and the fans.

Over the last few days, this program has hosted the regional NCAA basketball tournament. The team won its first two games to advance to the regional final (Sweet 16). Last night the team played on its homecourt with a chance to advance to the Elite 8. It was an amazing game between two excellent teams. The arena was full, people were cheering, pep bands were playing and spirit squads were dancing, cheering and stunting. “My” team did not win. It is not the result I desired. For seven seniors, their college basketball careers end.

But here is the thing, even though it wasn’t the end result I wanted, I am so happy today. I am grateful for the journey. I am grateful for this season and all the previous ones. I am grateful for each of the coaches and players I have interacted with over the years. I am grateful for the experience of the last four days. To see the players, the coaches, the spirit squad, the students, the band, and the fans come together for a couple of hours was wonderful. It is something I have not felt since before the pandemic. So today, I am grateful for all that is the Augustana Basketball program. I am grateful for all who make it fantastic. While it is no longer my identity, it is a major part of who I am. What are you are you grateful for today?

Day 30 of Gratitude Challenge

As so today it ends. 30 days of gratitude. So many things to be grateful for in life. Throughout this challenge, I have tried to focus on at least one thing every day to be grateful for. Though there has been some overlap, there have been 30 unique things. Though initially, I struggled with new ideas, the reality is there is much to be grateful about.

For today, I have saved my best for last. The attached picture is of my greatest gratitude. She is the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. She is the last thing I think of before I go to sleep. She is constantly on my mind. She is my most ardent supporter and most vocal critic. She loyal, caring, and compassionate. She has her flaws but they don’t really matter to me.

To be clear, she is the person on the right in this picture. We have been together for over 20 years. Today I am grateful for my best friend and wife.

Today is also “Giving Tuesday” in the United States. This is an opportunity to support charities with gifts. Over the holiday season, I plan to make gifts to several charities and challenge all of you to do the same.

I am giving to Dakotabilities – This is where my brother lives and receives service. My oldest brother also received services here until his passing. It is an excellent organization.

I will give to Lifescape – Lifescape is a similar to Dakotabilities. It provides services to adults and children with disabilities. I have been on the Board of Directors at Lifescape for several years serving the last two years as the chair of the board. Tomorrow, I will chair my final meeting before passing the gavel to someone else.

I will give to The Center for Western Studies – I serve on Board of Trustees for this organization which is focused on “Improving the quality of social and cultural life in the Northern Plains … achieving a better understanding of the region, its heritage and its resources … and stimulating interest in the solution to regional problems through the application of knowledge areas of concern to the Center for Western Studies.”

You may give to any organization you wish but I challenge you to give AND post about it. Not to brag but to encourage others to give. I truly believe that gratitude and giving is contagious.

Day 29 of Gratitude Challenge

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” – Mitch Albom

Those that know me, know this topic is a bit more complex for me than others. Though I am unbelievably grateful for my birth mother, this post will focus on my adoptive mother.

The picture above is of my mother long before she ever knew I would be a part of her life. My mother was an amazing woman. While growing up, she was always there for our family. She always put our needs ahead of hers. She did so many things but mostly she made me feel safe and loved. Today, I am grateful for my mother. Take time today to be grateful for your mother. Focus on the good.

Day 28 of Gratitude Challenge

First, I would like to say how happy and thankful I am that Michigan beat Ohio State yesterday. I truly don’t measure the value of my life based on a sporting event, but it felt good to cheer them on to victory. Pair it with a Minnesota Vikings win over the Green Packers a week ago – GOOD WEEK.

Yesterday I wrote about my gratitude for pictures. They capture moments and trigger memories. The picture attached to this post is of my father at the helm of his sailboat. What strikes me about this picture is the joy and happiness in his face. Clearly sailing was one of his joys. I wonder what he is thinking about in this picture?

However, this is not the father I remember. My father was a strict perfectionist. He demanded a great deal from us. But he never demanded more from us than he demanded of himself. Growing up with him was very stressful. Unfortunately, some of these traits have passed on to me (I am sorry to my family).

That said, my father gave his all for our family. He loved us deeply and was driven by a need to provide for us. He didn’t always express his love in a positive way. He taught me many lessons and played a major role in shaping me into the person I am today. There is no doubt I am a far better person because of my father. I wish he was still here. I could chose to focus on the negative aspects of my father. Today (and hopefully other days going foward), I choose to focus on the positive impact my father had on my life. I am grateful for my father. The good, the bad and the ugly. Take time to grateful for your father today.

Day 27 of Gratitude Challenge

There are are only a few days left in the gratitude challenge. Back on Day 4, I asked you to be grateful for happy moments or memories in your life. The last couple of days we focused on family.

Today, I am grateful for pictures. Pictures can capture moments reminding of us memories. The picture with this post captures a funny moment in my life. For whatever reason, we thought it would be a good idea for my sister to curl my hair. The picture was taken by mom with her beloved Polaroid instant camera (this was a big deal in the 70s). Honestly, for a long time I was embarrassed by this picture – perhaps I still should be. But when I saw yesterday, I smiled.

Today, I am grateful for pictures. I am grateful for the moments that pictures capture. Take time today to find a favorite picture (or two). Post the pictures and tell us why you are grateful.

Day 25 of Gratitude Challenge

Today is Thanksgiving. It is a day where we celebrate the blessings of the last year. I plan to spend the day eating with my family, watching football, and cleaning the house for The Gathering. I’m going to take several moments to be grateful for the gifts of the last year.

Here are a few things I am grateful for, over the last year:

  1. Family
  2. 20 years of marriage
  3. Family
  4. Graduation of youngest son
  5. Visiting oldest son several times
  6. Youngest so goes to college
  7. Improved health
  8. Return to the classroom
  9. Return to the office
  10. 1st shot
  11. 2nd Shot
  12. Booster shot
  13. Ginger – The best mini golden doodle

I am grateful for those who read this blog. What are you grateful for? Today, I challenge you to make a gratitude list and post it.