How Spilling Ice Tea Taught Me To Live My Values

The other day I was bringing lunch to a customer of mine.  Usually I have it delivered, but on this day, they requested a local burger place that wasn’t set up for delivery.  As I loaded the lunch in my car, I realized the 6 fountain drinks were going to cause me trouble.  Top heavy and flimsy, the drinks looked almost “eager” to tip.  Corner after corner, I drove timidly and very deliberate.  I was already running late, but didn’t care.  My objective wasn’t customer focus, make the sale, or go above and beyond. My objective was to NOT spill the drinks.  As I was nearing their office, the driver of the car in front of me was spooked by a yellow light and slammed on his brakes.  Normally, it’s not a big deal to come to a quick stop, but today was different.  I was out of sorts and balancing something new.  The drinks went sliding

English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...

English: An artist’s depiction of the rat race in reference to the work and life balance. See Made with following images: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

across the floor of my car soaking my floor with Ice Tea.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what living a  balanced life looks like.  Not the “business book” balanced life of “work-life balance” where you somehow are happy because you don’t work too much, but the appropriate balancing of the stuff that matters.

I discovered, for me, that living intentionally also means living for purpose and doing the things that matter.

This means having a clear vision on what my values mean to me.  My values are clear and aligned to my living, rather than my living aligned to my values.  As part of “faith” we go to church, but we would have done that anyway.  Every week on our way to church, I have had  a gnawing sense that we could be doing more to incorporate faith into our lives.  Until recently, most of the time my values were “touched” in the way I lived my week, but that was mostly by chance.  Mediocrity, however, is the only result we can expect from living by chance.  Awesomeness comes from intentional living. Without clear direction, I was unbalanced in living my values, taking the “bumps” of life timidly and defensively trying not to stray too far.  While I’ve been busy living the ins and outs of life, checking a lot of boxes, I was not clear on how to LIVE my values.   I have discovered that to do this, I need clear specifics defining what those values look like in action.  Faith goes beyond “living a Catholic life”, and drills down to “praying nightly, prayer before meals, mass every Sunday” and much more.  With this I am able to intentionally pull specifics and plug into my weekly planning and measure my accomplishments against.  Instead of the careful balancing act of chance, I am able to aggressively incorporate the stuff that makes my values real and a part of the life i’m living intentionally.

How do you stay balanced and live an awesome value centered life?


Rocco De Leo

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It’s About Time: Live your values not your work

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and watch movies even less.  I have this crazy tendency to want to do way too many things, and the idea of sitting for two full hours on one task that is not in my “project” Notebook in Evernote seems like a waste of time. The other day, however, watching a movie was more of “spending time with my wife” than actually watching a movie.  As we kicked off our shoes, shut down the iPad, and I even put down my current book, Jamie found “It’s About Time” on demand.  This is a romantic comedy about a twenty something named Tim who discovers he has the power to travel back in time as himself.  While the majority of the story was a build up toward his relationship with the love of his life, another, much more profound message snuck up on us as the movie ended.  Tim discovers that even the ability to travel through time can’t fix everything and guarantee a happy and fulfilling life.  He ultimately learns to live life of purpose, being intentional to notice the things that are easy to miss; like most of life.

Smelling the roses

Smelling the roses (Photo credit: Ed.ward)

Earlier in the day, I had been frustrated, even grumpy,  that I had been unable to run my typical long run for the week.  We slept in and had a packed day of birthday celebrating for our 6-year-old.  We brought the kids along with us for a slow-paced two-mile run/walk.  In my infinite crankiness, I even murmured to myself a narrative that blamed the kids for my potential future fatness by undoing my years of running routines.  The message I discovered from “Its about Time”, reminded me of my single dad “surviving days” when a scene of a mom and dad pushing a jogging stroller along side two boys on scooters with oversized helmets, and a little girl riding a beautiful purple bike was the envious picture of perfection. Here I was, painted into the picture of everything I ever wanted, and I wanted to be somewhere else.

The downside of clarity and the intentional life can be seen in our inability to handle the vast power it gives us.
Like the nearsighted man who discovers  prescription glasses for the first time, the scene of clarity is overwhelming at first. Our perspective needs some time to adjust.  I currently have 34 live “projects” in action in Evernote.  I know, without a doubt, that I will complete everything in those folders within the time frames allotted.  The tendency is to feel “driven”, to put our heads down and be happy, even fulfilled with the ability to complete stuff.  From remembering to back up my Mac, to writing my book, I will get my stuff done. What about my values and my purpose?  If my Evernote Notebook “Values” had a note that said writing my book and back up my computer are my “values”, or even if it said “stuff”, then I would be spot on.  This, however, is not the case. My values, embraced in my Family Mission Statement center on Faith, Family Togetherness, Education, and Healthy Living.  All is not lost.  As I recently wrote, awareness is such a great gift.  Seeing our path twisting and winding is an opportunity to right the curves and even learn as we grow through the recovery.

While projects, stuff, and even people come and go, your values remain relatively constant (especially after having kids).
Be intentional about defining values and writing them down.  Anchor yourself to your values. You’ll have the confidence to find your way back to your purpose if and when you go astray.  It’s About Time, shook me  from my “life hypnosis”.  It certainly was “about time” I realized that picture perfect painting of family was only perfect because it was commissioned by my values and had me colored into the heart of it.
How will you intentionally “stop to smell the roses”?  Do something intentionally today and tomorrow.
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Focus on the [Blended] Family?

Christmas with The Brady Bunch

Christmas with The Brady Bunch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kids are a lot of work.  They demand tons of attention and care.  Not the level of attention a fine rose garden needs, not even the level of small house pets. Kids need that special kind of attention and care that involves focus and of course love.  This need never goes away.  In fact, it has an inverse reaction to the parent’s ability to give. The less you have, the more they need.  I found this unforgiving truth to be my reality 5 years ago when my ex wife made choices that removed her from our lives.  As a single dad  of then a 12 year old girl, 5 year old boy, and 3 year old girl, my attention was well spoken for.

For 5 years I have learned to survive and now thrive as a dad, focused primarily on being a dad.  Now I am engaged and this focus must once again change.  My focus must  be on my wife; my new wife.  Many people believe divorced parents should not re-marry until the kids are adults.  It’s a reasonable opinion and I disagree. The value a mother and father (biological or not) bring together is exponential when compared to solo parenting.  I have been thinking about the necessities and managing this dynamic for a while. Here are a few important things to consider as you move into remarriage with kids:

1. Money: It’s not your money, it’s not her money…it all belongs to the kids. Kids break their arms, get the flu, need cars, college, birthday parties, etc.  Don’t keep score, you will lose.

2. Be careful with opinions of his/her ex spouse.  She has emotional memories that don’t include you.  She experiences moments (arguments, misunderstandings, etc) with different perspectives than you.

3. God:  As a person of faith, I can’t imagine having a blended family with different religions in the house. Some people can manage a multi faith home, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

4. Discipline: However you dish it, talk about it early and often.  Disciplining someone elses’ child feels very different.  Children, bring “history” into every situation, as a “late arrival” the new step parent hasn’t shared those experiences.  Discuss this with your partner and periodically check in.  Be courageous and don’t sugar coat.  Resentment can build between you if you feel like you have to “defend” your kids or someone isn’t carrying his or her weight with discipline.  There’s no perfect formula, but at least have a one.

5.  Labels suck.  Don’t stress over things like “my kids” or “your kids”.   A lot of new experiences, emotions, and worries are coming forth, stressing labels is ridiculous.

6. Sex:  You better have sex!  Do everything possible to keep the kids from interrupting intimacy.  Bed time routines, consistent rules, and communication are key here.  Establish early on that sex occurs when either partner wants it.  Don’t wait for perfect moments or for both people to be perfectly aligned and in the mood, that rarely happens.  Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote a great book on this called Real Marriage: the truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life together. Buy two copies and read it on date night.

7. It’s not supposed to be easy. Don’t worry that it’s difficult at times.  Good things are worth working for.

The common denominator here is communication and intimacy.  Our kids are special and a huge part of who we are, but they grow up and leave.  My spouse should be my best friend.  I plan on sitting on rocking chairs watching waves hit the beach on my 90th birthday. I plan on my wife being there with me and us actually having something to talk about.

Rocco De Leo

Me and Mom: A special post of lessons by Jamie Volbrecht

English: Behemoth , roller coaster at Canada's...

English: Behemoth , roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland. Français : Behemoth , montagnes russes à Canada’s Wonderland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in a very loving home; there were plenty of hugs and kisses but the basics for a child’s development such as discipline, boundaries and knowledge were absent. The trade off has been unfortunate, as a hug won’t teach you about preserving your innocence and a kiss won’t convey consequences. Around the age of 14, I started experimenting with sex, drugs and rock and roll. My teachers,my peers, other teenage girls, not even old enough to drive yet they were experts in sexual homeruns and recreational drug use. My mother always assumed that if I wasn’t talking about it, then I wasn’t doing it, however, on the contrary, she also believed that if she talked about it then that was an invitation to experiment.

As a young and very influential girl, I needed to know why we should preserve sexual intercourse for marriage or what permanent affects drugs can do to your body and mind.

I was impressionable and ready to take on the world

Unfortunately, I was about to enter high school alone and completely vulnerable as I had already closed off my relationship with my mom.

As I look back upon my youth, there were two events that profoundly shaped my future, the day I replaced my mother with invaluable fascinations and the day I stopped trusting her.

I remember the last day of my innocence, the day I detached from my mother. It was the summer before freshman year, and my mother decided to take me to the movies. As we walked into the mall we were holding hands, as we always did. I remember seeing other teenage girls without their parents. It was a day no different from any other, however, that day I was different. For the first time, I saw independence seeping from these girls and I was immediately attracted to their youthful complexity. At that moment I was captivated by what I saw, and at that moment I let go of my mother’s hand, and to this day, I have never been able to re connect with her.

The second event occurred one year later. I had been at an amusement park all day with my best friend and when I got home, my mom approached us to ask about the day. I remember her blank stare mid way through our conversation. Pointing to my neck, she sternly asked “Jamie, what is on your neck?” I didn’t know what she was referring to so I responded, that I had no idea. My mother left the room and my friend informed me that I had a hickey on my neck. You see, earlier in the day at the amusement park, my friend and I met up with two boys. This was one of the first times I explored my my sexual promiscuity and since I never spoke with my mom about sex, I didn’t know about these bruise-like marks caused by kissing. After my friend left, my mother and I yelled at each other. She told me how disappointed she was in me and I responded with anxious rebellion. A few days later my mother left a note for me on my dresser informing me that she didn’t know who I was anymore and she was in disbelief learning about my sexual activity. She disclosed to me that she read my diary because she felt like that was the only way she was going to find out who I was. That was the moment I lost respect for her and no longer trusted her, this comepletely ruined our relationship and too it to the point of unsalvageable hope.

She didn’t know who I had become; she assumed she knew me. She didn’t teach me about life and consequences, she didn’t give me the tools I needed to make healthy choices. It’s not neccesarily her fault because she may not have realized what she was or wasn’t doing. I believe she was doing her best as single mom. With that said we as parents need to do the best we can. When you know what you need to do to make sure your children become well adjusted adults, don’t ignore it.

I look back on these two events and where my mother could have taken this opportunity to communicate with me about what I was feeling. When I let go of her hand, I’m sure she was crushed, this is when she should have had a conversation with me about self-development, instead, she grabbed on even tighter.

As I sit here writing this blog, I’m multitasking as most mothers do. I’m typing on my laptop with my right hand while feeding my 5-week-old daughter with a bottle in my left hand. As I look at her, I hope to have a different type of mother-daughter relationship. I hope for respect, trust and communication. I believe that my mother did the best she could and as parents we always do the best we can. We also need to take what we have learned from our own relationships with our parents and use it toward our own parenting. I constantly communicate with my 5 year old son, I teach him emotional vocabulary so he can communicate his feelings. With both of my children, I will talk to them about everything regardless of what they are doing.

If you are out with your children and you see someone smoking talk to them about the affects of cigarette smoke to your body. If you are watching a movie and there is a scene with fighting, talk to them, tell then how you want them to handle confrontations with their peers. Just yesterday my son and I were listening to some country music and I took a moment to explain to him that the song was a love song. In the song the guy and the girl miss each other because they love each other.

It just takes a second to talk, even if it seems like a trivial lesson.

A few months ago I was on a hike with my son and we both smelled marjajuana. He asked me about the it. I was truthful. If I’m honest with him, he will be honest with me. I told him it was a drug called marijuana, also referred to as pot and weed and when you smoke it, it compromises your ability to act rational, I told him it basically makes you act silly and its not good for your body. I told him that if he is ever offered it, to say no and then talk to his dad or me. I think about what my mother would have said to me of this same situation happened to me when I was a little girl and I have to think that she would have told me that she didn’t know or it was the smell of the tall redwood trees that hovered over us.

Jamie Volbrecht

A Life Well Lived

As someone who values productivity and efficiency, I decided to get a head start on some future projects.   Here is a letter I am writing to address the many,  requests I assume I will get asking me how I became amazingly successful in achieving all my goals.

Worm's Head

Worm’s Head (Photo credit: Calidenism)

I want to get a head start on this since I’ll be busy fishing on Lake Tahoe, or surfing in Hawaii, or playing with great grandkids. Inspired by Eugene O’kelly‘s heart wrenching end of life memoir,  Chasing Daylight, I am sharing with you my perspective on my life,: a life well lived.

Family and Friends,
As I enter the sunset of my life, I am humbled to reflect upon the success I have in every aspect of my life. I have been seen by many as wise, entertaining, influential, and an all around awesome guy. My most coveted awards include “Best Dad Ever”,  “Best Grandpa Ever”, and “Husband of the Year”.  My personal life has been ever as successful as my professional life.  A corporate journey through success and innovation, as well as an award winning international speaker on topics ranging from relationships to productivity, my true professional joy has come from my many best selling fiction and non-fiction books.  Traveling the world sharing my stories has brought me close to the people, You!  Every day, I inspire people to live their dreams and live a life of love and adventure.  The best part of this all is that I have shared my life with a wonderful family. As I slowly fade from public figure to legend, I would be remise if I didn’t share the “secrets” to it all.  Here are 10 things to consider in living a life well lived.
1. Priorities in order:. God, wife, kids, myself, work, everyone else.
2. Do things to help others. Money and fame are side effects.
3. Surround yourself with trusted advisors who will keep you honest.
4. Happy family life equals happy work life.
6. Maintain Friendships and don’t keep score.
7. Wake up early and be passionate about every day.
8. Exercise with purpose. (I have ran at least 2 marathons per year since 2012).
9. Wake up early and don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
10.  Perfection has never been the goal.   Give maximum effort and the results will follow.
Rocco De Leo Ph.D.
President and CEO of DeLeo Enterprises International
May 29, 2060
How are you living well today?

I’m a Man: What does that Mean?

I am a man.  I have different body parts than my female counterparts.  I have some extra hair, a deeper voice and I can watch an entire baseball game without moving.  Men and women are different.  This concept is so profoud that Time Magazine put it on a 1992 cover.  What does it mean to be a man?  Jamie asked me a few months ago what I thought it meant to “be a man”.  I kept struggling with things like what I would do if something bad happened: ” I will defend my family…I will support my family…” Does this mean that women don’t do those things?  That’s ridiculous!  Women do these things and do them well.  So what does it mean to “be a man”.  I recently read John Eldgrege’s book Wild at Heart¨. Ironically, I picked up this book on audio about a week after I began pondering this question.  I am 37 years old and am challenged to answer a simple question of what it means to be a man.  John’s book did an excellent job openning up the conversation within my heart.  Here are a few things all men have burning within them that make them different than the ladies.  These are things they must engage in and their women must embrace.  Without them, men are doomed to mediocrity and unhappiness. Embrace them, and men will be proufoundly successful in living a fullfilling life.

1.  An Adventure.  Men are built to live adventure.  A sedentary life has never been in the mantra for man.  From the cave man days, to the revolutionary war, to today.  Man goes forth to find challenges to overcome.  Man is desgned to actively pursue.  This is as true in courting our women as it is in pursuing career aspirations.  The hunt is the fullfilling joy.

2. A battle to fight.  As men, we need a cause.  In fact, we need many causes.  This doesn’t mean that men must  be chaining themselves to trees at Green Peace rallies or doing PSAs for Darfur (although many do).  As men, we  have a much more personal battle to fight.  The greatest challenge in life is not fighting this battle, but discovering it.  Men like Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Pope John Paul II, had profound, world impacting battles to fight.  Civil rights, Civil War, and the evil communism are huge battles.  They are also obvious at this point.  What battles to we fight?  This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately and will discuss this much further in future posts.  For now, challenge yourself to discover your battles.  This must go beyond the “given” battles of protecting your teen age daughters from boys.  Every one does that.  Think BIG and Think DIFFERENT!

3.  Spiritual Leader of the family.  A recent study from Touchstone in Europe discusses fathers and church attendance.  If the father attends church with the mother, the children become regular church goers 33% of the time.  Without dad, that number is 3%. Dad leads the family to salvation.  This means dad must wake up early on Sunday and push the family to get ready on time.  Developing a fervent prayer life as a single man or starting now as a married father, this is a key component to being a man.  Daily prayer isn’t just for old ladies at daily Mass.  Remember the apostles with Christ were all men.

4. Strong and Confident.  Man must be of strong spirit.  Not all men are particularly strong physically, nor was that ever nature’s only intention.  A fulfilled man must, however have a strong spirit.  This starts with confidence, ability, and drive.  The era of feminism has emasculated many of our men.  Watch any TV commercial during the daytime and you’ll see images of weak, stupid men who can”t even back the car out of the garage without running over the sprinklers.  This distorted view of men, created by angry women who misunderstand men, shows man as wandering aimlessly without the heroic virtues of his woman who must do everything to protect the world from her stupid man.  This is a perfect image of a man without strength.  Man must be strong and couragous enough to balance his leadership within the home with his wife’s need to be valued and heard.  A strong man knows when to push and when to concede.  If he doesn’t know this, he will strive to learn.

5.  Creative and Creators:  As men, we have a creative spirit.  From the natural urge to create families to the urge to build things, we are creators.  As a little boy, I built a model of the classic cutter the “Cutty Sark”.  This was a beautiful and giant model of a grand sail boat.  I built forts, model airplanes, and go-carts.  Men must create and have “ownership”.  Without this sense of ownership, we are selling out on our manhood and fulfilling the feminist vision of “stupid man”.