Friday, March 4, 2016

A Child Is Born...

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses

                                     ~ Alphonse Kerr

It was several years ago when I came into my house after working in the yard on a hot summer day.

I wanted a cold drink and I knew that there was a full pitcher of iced tea in my refrigerator.

As I pulled the plastic pitcher out of the refrigerator, it slipped from my hand and went crashing to the floor spilling its contents throughout the kitchen.

I immediately grabbed a towel and on hands and knees, started mopping Floor Washingup the mess, when out of the corner of my eye, a small body appeared before me.

As I looked up from the floor, I saw my then 4-year old daughter, Sarah. Her hands were on her hips as she looked me straight in the eyes...

"WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE!", she proclaimed at the top of her squeaky, yet authoritative voice.

I looked at her, wanted to burst out laughing, but replied sheepishly, "I’m sorry... the pitcher just slipped out of my hand".

"Well... you need to clean up this mess before you go back outside..."

...and with that, Sarah pivoted on one foot and left the room to go back to her unfinished picture book.

As I continued to clean up the spilled tea, half of me was laughing hysterically at the course of events those last few moments, while the other half was wondering when exactly did my 4-year old grow up into an adult... mimicking what I would have most likely said to her if the roles had been reversed that afternoon... including the hands on the hips gestures!

Children are a product of their environment. They innately learn to imitate their parents, siblings and other adults not because they know... but rather because they don’t know.

They didn’t choose to be born in America or China or India or Egypt... they didn’t select their name... their religion... their birth order... their gender... their social status.

They were born into these things with a roll of the dice.

A baby with basically the same genetic make-up, born into a different teachenvironment, will be indoctrinated with a completely different belief system than that of someone else in a different environment.

That baby will become the product of that environment...

That child will grow to become a part of the same religion that was practiced in the home, adopt the same customs and culture, speak the same native language, eat the same foods, support the same sports teams, have the same attitude about money, politics, and racial tolerance and intolerance.

As a child... they have little choice... their brains are incapable of reason and logic.

They believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy... because that’s what their parents told them... how do they know any different?

Our parents and families gave us their opinions on everything and everyone. The difference between right and wrong, a complete set of values and ethics, and what we should believe or what we should question.

Babies are not born into this world belonging to any political party or labor union... they aren’t racist, homophobic, elitist, war mongers or peaceniks... they don’t have a theory of why poverty exists, or know how to produce anything (other than bodily waste from one end of the body and wailing sounds from other). They don’t have inadequacy issues, fears of rejection, hang-ups about money or bad relationships.

Children assimilate into their environments. They are given love and affection for saying and doing the right things in the eyes of the adults around them. They don’t know any better... for them it’s simply a primal survival instinct.

Agreement gives them acceptance and praise... disagreement gives them a time-out in their room (or worse). These positive and negative reinforcements helps to engrain those beliefs into habits that are almost impossible to break later in life.

Sometimes those beliefs and habits are simply wrong, but as a young person, they don’t have the mental capacity or an environmental support system to distill fact from fiction.

All of these ideas are programmed into their brains at a very early age.

And by the time our brains have the capacity to understand reason and logic, our belief system is already too entrenched to allow ourselves to change and adapt.

By continually thinking and doing the same thing over and over, we condition our brains through neuro-pathways. So each time we think or do the same thing, the beliefs in our sub-conscience brain become stronger and stronger not allowing us to deviate from the habits that we created for ourselves over the years.

These habits become our second nature and our go-to default position.

One day, we might recognize that we are perhaps living our lives going in the wrong direction, but doing something to change the direction becomes too difficult so we fall back into our old habits, old behaviors, and old beliefs.

To truly change ourselves, we need to find a way to break through to eliminate our old habits and adopt a new belief system... one that helps us to become less of the person we are... and more of the person we want to be.

The first step in this transformation, is to surround yourself with a better support system that reinforces the person you want to be... not the person you are...

If you want to become healthier... find friends who are already family runliving a healthy lifestyle. Your unhealthy friends won’t want to do healthy things... so you need new friends who will encourage you, not disparage you.

Secondly... you need to actually start doing (or not doing) the thing you want to do. You won’t change your life or your habits by reading a book, watching a video, or going to a seminar. You need to over-come the resistance and get to it...

It’s okay to supplement your new life style with positive reading or listening... but remember... we only make changes when we "do"... not thinking about doing... not preparing to "do"... but simply to "do".

Third... you have spent an entire lifetime with your old habits... they can’t be erased magically overnight... we will fail at some and succeed at some... but the most important thing is that we must never give up trying...

...trying to become the best person we can be...

Overcoming the years of habits engrained into us by people we typically love...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse as we continue each day to try and get a little better.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Breaking It Down...

When I went to school, they asked me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up... I wrote down "happy"... they said I didn’t understand the assignment... I told them that they didn’t understand life...

                                          ~John Lennon

As many of the long-time readers of the OptiFuse blog are aware, I happen to be an avid cyclist.

What people may not know, however, is that I only ride about six months of the year - those months consisting Bike Rideof Daylight Savings - with a goal of riding about  5,000 miles from March through October.

As we all know, March is soon approaching and those 5,000 miles are now looming on my horizon.

When I look down at that number of miles on my list of 2016 goals, frankly, that number scares me. It represents a lot of time and energy... resources that I could be putting into other things...

I do really enjoy riding... and there are a lot of benefits in doing so...

Riding keeps me healthy... (as long as I don’t crash again)... my resting heart rate is reduced and my weight stays in check...

It often lets me be alone in my thoughts when riding solo or spending quality time with great friends when I ride with small groups...

I’ve also had the opportunity to visit some great places and see some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth all while traveling at an average speed of 16 MPH.

The cycling season culminates in October with an annual ride down the spectacular coast of California while I raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation.

...but still... that goal of 5,000 miles seems awfully daunting at this point in time...

A long time ago, I learned the great secret of accomplishing giant goals (sometimes called BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals)...

Now some coaches will tell us that we need to write down our goals and review them every day... staying focused on the numbers.

While writing goals down is a good practice... I believe that reviewing them on a daily basis can actually be disastrous.

Seeing a large looming number in front of us can cause us to give up before we even start... there is a great deal of reluctance to even begin knowing that the mountain in front of us is humongous.

So what I do is on March 1st, I reset the odometer on my Garmin bike GPS to read zero... then I simply start riding... starting very small and increasing the mileage little by little...

My first ride of the season is only about 10 miles, generally on a flat course... just enough to break a sweat (maybe 45 minutes at the most).

Now almost anyone can ride their bike 45 minutes along a flat course... but the most important thing is that the first ride is in the books... it’s done!

The next day I may increase the mileage ever so slightly... and then it’s back and forth commuting to the office (when I’m not traveling).

I will ride like this for several months... and then finally... sometime in June... I’ll take a look at the overall odometer to see how many miles that I’ve actually ridden... whatever the number... it’ll be substantially greater than zero (the number I first started out with)...

At that point, I’ll feel a true sense of accomplishment... this will then motivate me to put in more time and effort as my goal is closer than ever.

Big goals are just a series of incremental gains...

If the goal is to lose 50 pounds (A big goal that can’t be accomplished in a week) - Weigh yourself once and record the result... then stop weighing yourself each day...

Forget about the number and just focus on making your very next meal a healthy choice... once you’ve done that, then it’s time to think about the next meal after that... and the meal after that... never fully depriving yourself... but just eating a bit better each time. 

Then perhaps think about walking around the block in the morning after arriving at the office before sitting down at your desk, then again at lunchtime, and at the end of the day before leaving work. 

Breaking down the goal into easy daily routines... but never getting too far ahead of ourselves.

It’s just one small step after another... putting in a small amount of work toward your goal each day.

After some time (maybe a month or so)... get back on the scale... I suspect that you will have lost more than a couple of pounds (if you did the work)...

That success will motivate you to keep going one meal at a time...

It doesn’t matter what the big goal is.

If your goal is to be debt-free... then start by skipping that morning cup of designer coffee and depositing the savings back into your checking account ...

If your goal is to have a better relationship with your significant other... start with a short text message to them telling them how you appreciate them...

If your goal is to double your sales this year... then start by making one extra client appointment each day...

All of the little contributions add up and compound into something really big over time... what truly matters is doing something regularly and consistently.

Back to biking for a second...

By the end of the summer... I’m regularly pushing myself to complete 100-mile weekend rides...

Again... I don’t focus on the entire 100 miles... I only think about the very next mile... nothing more... nothing less...

Now, I’m not a racer so I’m never trying to complete a course against competitors or a clock...

Therefore, if I need to stop and take a rest every so often, I simply will... taking a break every so often is good... but I also know that I will need to get back on my bike and continue the ride... finishing what I started out to do...

The same thing will inevitably happen to all of us when we are trying to complete a big-time goal... we will have a set-back... or two... or three...

We may feel the need to take a break... which is fine...

The essential thing is that we need to get back on our metaphoric bikes... after our little break... and continue moving down the road...

In the end, this is the only way that we will eventually get to the place that we really want to go.

Thank you very much for joining our ride and your continuous support of OptiFuse as we inch forward each day.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are You Happy Yet?...

This week’s blog was written by Matt Salatino, an avid OptiFuse Blog reader who one day somehow found himself on our mailing list by sheer chance...

Since that time, Matt has written to me often offering critique and encouragement... becoming a dear friend (although we’ve never had the opportunity to meet in person as of yet).

I recently asked him if he’d be interested in penning a blog himself and he most graciously agreed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

A few years ago, my wife Cindy and I chose to retire and move aboard Mikhaya, our "Magic Carpet Ride"; a 28 year old, 42 foot, British-made cruising sailboat.

Over the past 4 years we’ve sailed the waters from Newport, RI to Trinidad, the most southern island in the Caribbean.

This cruising season we decided to take a risk and include Cuba in our itinerary.  Cindy and I wanted to go there before it became "spoiled" by the coming influx of American commercialism, as it will soon be opened freely to tourism and trade from the US. 

Currently, Americans, for the right reasons, are allowed to travel to Cuba on their own boats, and spend dollars in the country.
Americans are extremely fortunate to be born where we are, at this time in history.

We have modern conveniences such as cars, washing machines, microwaves, air conditioning, electronic computing and communication devices that fit neatly in our pockets. 

We enjoy an infrastructure that includes clean water, robust electrical power, decent roads on which to drive our vehicles, affordable healthcare, and world-class schools to teach our children.

Our grocery and hardware stores are teeming with more products than we can imagine.

Holding a US passport, many of us have the ability and freedom to travel to almost any place on the planet, on demand.

And if we happen to be a part of the less fortunate, there are a myriad of social programs to help house, educate, and feed us.

Fortunately for us, as Americans, our basic needs are more than met.

We should be happy beyond compare (I know Cindy and I are), yet there are so many people in our country who are depressed and / or unhappy.

The treatment of depression and sales of anti-depressants and "feel-good" drugs are billion-dollar industries.

Contrast what Americans have been given to those residing in Cuba.

The basic government salary for all Cuban citizens is between $20 and $25 per month, be they a waiter, pilot, doctor, or janitor.

One conundrum is that although expenses are low, basic needs are not met with this amount. Currently, it takes about $125 each month for a Cuban to make ends meet.

In many societies that have strictly controlled, highly regulated means of production and distribution, there is a thriving underground economy.  The "black market" exists because, as we’ve learned time and time again throughout history, few governments are expert at production and distribution.

If you know the right people, "grease" the right palms, you can buy eggs that aren’t to be found on the market shelves, procure beef, that is usually reserved for the elite and diplomatic community.

In Cuba, a lot of things "fall off the back of the truck", ending up in the black market.

Cindy and I recently took a trip into the capital city of Havana, about 12 miles from Marina Hemingway.

There are several transportation alternatives to get there with prices ranging from about US $3.00 to $30, depending on the gullibility of the tourist.

We found a middle-of-the-road solution for $10... a machina (ma-kee-na), a vintage 1950’s American automobile, Taxi - oldtimetypically used as a public taxi, picked us up at the Marina gate, later dropping us off in Old Havana (Habana Vieja).

For the driver of the taxi, our ride is a "windfall" fare, as his typical short fares earn him about 80 cents.

The young machina driver told us (all in Spanish) "I love Cuba."

Our driver is happy... well-fed... educated... and healthy.

He has a car and makes good money with it.

He has a beautiful wife and two healthy children, who are both in school.

Born well after the Cuban Revolution, he knows of no other way of life. He’s successful in his country and in his life.

The young man has a sense of worth and pride from his job, his efforts, and his rewards.

He is happy and grateful for all that he has.

While I’m certain that there must be those that are depressed in Cuba, just as anywhere else, but it doesn’t seem to be at any higher rate despite all that they lack in comparison with the rest of the Western world.

Two years ago Cindy and I sailed to Ile a Vache in Haiti. 

Baie a Feret is beautiful; one of our favorite pristine harbors, lined with the small homes (okay not homes... shacks really).

Many of the locals there make their living from the sea or performing odd jobs for the occasional cruiser.

Ile a Vache is an Island, about 3 by 6 miles, mostly a farming and fishing community. It has no infrastructure; no roads, cars, electricity, running water, or sewer.  The government there does very little to develop the economy or help its people to thrive.

There are no security blankets or assistance programs provided by the government should someone be in need.

The people are pretty much left to their own devices to get by.

The people of this small island find safety and security by being cut off from the mainland’s crime and corruption. The land and sea, through the hard work and efforts of the people who live there, provides them nourishment. No one goes hungry.

While there, we met Sam, an ambitious, mid-20’s shop keeper, selling small food and hardware items from the brightly painted front room of his small shack.

Sam started out as a boat boy, performing odd jobs for visiting cruisers. He worked hard to learn English, to better serve his clientele.

His shack has a car battery that is charged via a small solar panel by day, to charge his cell phone, Android tablet, and run a few 12 volt lights during the evening.

Sam otherwise has very little. He earns his way by being the local version of a retailer. He lives very close to friends and family, has a beautiful girlfriend. He is respected in his small community. He is happy.

Meanwhile back in Cuba, what will happen once the island nation is allowed to once again host American tourists and open it markets to American trade?

The byproduct of this new cooperation between governments will bring a higher standard of living, availability of products on the market shelves, rising prices, rising expectations, and rising demand for more creature comforts...

Will all this bring more happiness to the Cubans?

"Things" don’t bring happiness.

Achievement and accomplishment brings happiness.

Sense of community brings happiness.

Love, of family and friends, brings happiness.

Self-worth, respect, and pride in one’s work brings happiness...

So my question to you is... are you happy yet?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Matt Salatino and his beautiful bride, Cindy, retired to pursue their common dream: To cruise in warm climates Matt Salatinoon their sailboat, Mikhaya.

During hurricane season when they’re not sailing, Cindy and Matt make their home on their horse farm near Charlotte, North Carolina.

When the leaves start to turn, they head for warmer weather, either aboard Mikhaya, or to their quaint waterfront condo in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Prior to retiring, Cindy made her career as a Software Engineer, working over the years for Martin-Marietta, IBM, and Dassault Systemes (French).

Matt also worked in the Electronics industry for most of his career, and his most recent professional accomplishment is delivering the first prototype to Apple for the fingerprint reader that is now ubiquitous in the iPhone and iPad.

His name is on many of the patents for the reader.

Comments can be forwarded directly to Matt at