“I don’t know what the future holds — but I do know who holds the future.“ ― John Wooden (quoting his father)
Today, kicking out is somewhat of a lost art in surfing.
It’s not often I see a surfer cleanly exit the wave they are riding while going over the backside to get a glimpse of any waves coming; positioning for a quick paddle back out. A good kick out leaves you in control of your destiny, but it is not a simple maneuver.
Kicking out at Playa Linda, Costa Rica (2019)
Prior to the advent of the surf leash and subsequent shortboard revolution in the late 1960s (see: Surfing Without A Leash), knowing how to kick out was a fundamental requirement for serious surfing. One had to master it to get back out into the lineup after a ride without losing your board. Diving off your board into the white water (something I see all too often today) was absolutely not an option in those days.
‘Senior Boys’ getting briefed before a heat in the 1964 San Onofre Surfing Club contest
While competing in the San Onofre Surfing Contest in the 1960s I learned the judges rewarded a surfer who could properly execute a clean and controlled kick out. This indicated good judgment to ride the wave to its proper ending while demonstrating control of your board and vision for your next ride. In those days, that was styling and the judges liked it.
Today professional surfers competing in the World Surf League are awarded points for a kick out based upon the degree of difficulty as well as how innovative and progressive it is. The following are some fun (insane!) shots from the 2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti (52-second video).
2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti — Air is IN!
Kicking out too early
Sometimes I kick out of a wave too early, anticipating a better wave behind. It is a gamble as I ride over the crest of the wave scanning the horizon for a bigger set coming. I realize that I should have enjoyed the wave I was on, and feel a sense of a wasted opportunity to think something better was coming.
On May 9th of this year a 26-year-old Santa Cruz surfer kicked out too early in life. Ben Kelly was fatally attacked by a shark while surfing at Sand Dollar, just south of Manresa State Beach. I was at work when I got word that a surfer had died from a shark attack at Sand Dollar. Since my son Matthew and I surf there (he had been there the day before), I immediately called his cell phone. It went to voicemail. I then called his work and after what felt like an eternity on hold, he picked up the phone and greeted me.
Thinking it was my son, even if just for a minute, gave me insight into the unimaginable pain of Ben’s family and friends.
I was touched by Ben’s story as more came out about his life. Ben was a seasoned surfer and board shaper who started his own surfboard company in Santa Cruz (Ben Kelly Surfboards). He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Vanguard University in Southern California where he was awarded the McNaughton Award, its highest honor for business and management students. He had recently celebrated his third wedding anniversary with his wife Katie, whom he met at Vanguard. Together they had founded a social media marketing company (Authentic Approach, Inc).
Ben was active in the Capitola Village Business Improvement Association, Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, Calvary Chapel in Capitola, and even selling surfboards at one point to support mission’s work in Africa. Ben was stoked about the life God had given him.
Ben and Katie Kelly
On May 21st a memorial service and paddle out was held in San Clemente to honor Ben on his 27th birthday (amazingly, my daughter Marisa was celebrating her 27th birthday that same day). The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors declared that May 21 would be “Ben Kelly Day”. The proclamation stated:
“Ben practiced his belief that surfing was so much more than just catching waves — it was about the people he met and the continuous grand adventures that made it fun while blessing others along the way.”
Walking the Talk
Ben’s love of Jesus was front and center. He did not just talk about his faith; he exemplified it by his character. In the words of a close friend, “Ben lived the way Christ wanted us to live”. His opening line About himself in LinkedIn boldly calls out his love for his Savior:
“Hello my name is Ben Kelly. Some of my life passions include: a love for my Savior Jesus Christ …”
Ben was not hiding who he believed was going to save him on his day of reckoning. Here’s one tribute from the Ben Kelly Memorial Fund website (fundraiser for his wife Katie):
“The most memorable thing about Ben was his unashamed, unrelenting passion for his faith and his relationship with Jesus. I don’t say this to somehow selfishly reassure myself or others that he’s passed on to Heaven. I don’t have to wonder whether he knew Jesus, or whether his faith was secure. It was. Everybody knew it. He truly lived his faith out. In nearly every conversation I ever had with him, he tied God and the redeeming love of Jesus into it.”
― Zachary Shull
My son Matthew at Sand Dollar reading the inscriptions on a driftwood memorial to Ben
In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke about the importance of doing God’s will to reveal His love and presence in the world:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” ― Matthew 7:21
Jesus called us to act on the words of the Bible, to embrace them as our own so they are central to our day-to-day living. He said true wisdom is about actions of love, mercy and peace (James 3:17-18). It is not enough to say “Lord, Lord”. Ben Kelly has both inspired and challenged me in this respect. I find myself asking if this is how I am living out my faith. If my eternal day of reckoning came today, how confident am I?
Though he never saw it coming, Ben Kelly kicked out of this life with full control over his destiny. His future was secure. I believe Ben is now surfing in heaven. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for each one of us in heaven (John 14:2), and that great rewards are waiting for us there (Matthew 5:12). Surely the God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) could arrange for a little surfing. What awaits us in heaven is far greater than we can let our imaginations explore (1Corinthians 2:9).
Ben loved the ocean and surfing. He had that surfer’s “stoke” about him. Some called it his good vibes. But those close to him knew it was fed by his faith. Ben hoped in a God who created the heavens and the earth. He wanted to live his life honoring God, knowing his rewards would be in heaven.
I praise God for the example Ben Kelly set for us.
“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23)
– Surfing in Heaven (Part I) – if you are wondering what it would be like, I wrote these two blogs from a vision I had of my entry into eternity. Surely this vision falls far short of the divine joy and beauty that awaits us there, but it felt right to dream about what it might be like.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” Mark Twain
Like the marathon, life can have its challenges as you enter the second half.
A good comparison is my 1970s vintage Infinity surfboard. It now requires extra resin and fiberglass between surf sessions to keep going. It still rides fine, just takes a bit more nurturing.
It’s naptime for Redwood when the ding repair kit comes out …
With all of the running miles I have pounded out over the years, I have to confess that my body is starting to show some wear and tear. I’ve had to put my fair share of resin and fiberglass (and DMSO!) on to keep things going. In 2005 I ran a half marathon that was somewhat prophetic in this respect. Here’s the story exactly as it happened.
On a seasonably cool October Monterey morning in 2005 I was approaching mile “11” in the Big Sur Half Marathon when my view on life after 50 was about to be jolted. Big Sur is a relatively fast half marathon for time (it does not have the hills its name might imply), and it is extremely well organized for a race of its size. I had run a relatively fast first 10 miles and was struggling to regain my focus for the final push while simultaneously ignoring the red flares my body was sending to SLOW DOWN. I had turned 50 earlier in the year and was intent on proving that I could still run fast. Ha.
Oblivious to the serene setting of sailboats moored along quiet coves on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, I pulled up to a tall and lanky runner who had been in my sight for the past mile or so. He was running well, so I latched on to his side to keep pace with him to try and regain some composure for a strong finish. We had covered a half mile or so side-by-side when he suddenly blurted out to me:
“How old are you?”.
Wait, WHAT !!??…
I’m struggling for oxygen, and this guy is asking me my age?
Clearly, this was not a time to be conversing. We were both breathing hard and pretty well spent. If I had the grit to initiate anything (and I didn’t), I might have squeezed out a one-way, “good job”, or “nice work”, or “hang tough”.
But “How old are you?” just hit me wrong …
I took time to respond as we bumped shoulders while moving onto the street at Cannery Row for a long straight stretch on the open pavement. He appeared to be sizing me up; maybe thinking that I was a threat in his age division? Finally, I found it in myself to respond, mostly out of the angst of having to say anything at this point of the race:
“50!” “How old are YOU!?”.
“59”, came his immediate reply.
And nothing else, as we both continued to push hard to keep the pace.
I was glimpsing the finish line banner less than a mile ahead, so I decided to put on a final kick to get in. As he faded 25 yards or so behind me, I was suddenly hit with what seemed like a cannon shot from the back:
“A Lotta Shit Between 50 and 59!!!”.
As my mom would say, “How rude!!” He said it with such purpose and conviction that it really hit me. I found myself pondering it as I crossed the finish line, suddenly unaware of the time that I had worked so hard for. Why the heck did he have to say that? What did he mean? Was he mad at me? Who is this guy!? …
I wandered through the finishing chute with the masses looking like a lost zombie without any sign of him as I looked around. I mentioned it to my friends at the finish line party and we all had a good laugh as we slurped down our hard earned post-race rewards while listening to the rock band that is powered by people riding exercise bicycles. Big Sur throws a fantastic finish line party!
But we really didn’t think much about the true meaning of “A Lotta Shit …”.
Post-race rewards at the 2007 Big Sur Half Marathon (with fellow criminals Doug Atler & Mike Benkert)
Fast-forward nine years to age 59, and I knew exactly!
LOL. “A lotta shit…” pretty well sums it up.
That story has become legendary among my running community as we kid each other about the various ailments we experience as we continue to push our bodies to untold extremes in various sporting escapades. The joke on the track when someone is injured is simply to say:
“Be faithful, and leave the results to God.” Amish Proverb
In between surf sessions, I love to run.
Low tide recreation at Punta Pequena (Baja) circa 1984
The physical joy and mental relief running has provided me over the years is immeasurable. Going out on a run provides the perfect sanctuary. My Silicon Valley career was built around those early morning runs in Rancho San Antonio and noontime runs on the Baylands Trails around San Francisco Bay. It is during those runs that I am able to be alone to let my mind go from immediate concerns to discover the deep inner joy of pushing my physical limits while soaking in the fresh air and nature around me. Running has deeply enriched my life!
I caught the marathon bug in the late 1970s when the running boom was hitting full stride. I started running a couple of marathons a year while slowly shaving down my times to qualify for the renowned Boston Marathon, where my running idol Bill Rodgers was racking up the victories. Running Boston is the ultimate prize for the “average Joe” marathoner. You feel like a rock star for all 26.2 miles.
Meeting Bill Rodgers after the 1995 Boston Marathon was a personal highlight!
Most runners would probably agree that the marathon is the ultimate challenge in running. Imagine hitting each of your legs with a hammer for every one of the 55,000 footsteps it takes to cover 26.2 miles. By the time you reach the 20-mile point (in my view, “halfway”), a bear jumps onto your back to add to the experience. The triumphant joy and subsequent relief you feel upon finally crossing that finish line is indescribable. It can cause me to ball like a baby. Nothing compares to it.
Speed Kills Our life is a marathon. I see two important similarities between life here on earth and the marathon. First is speed. If you go out too fast, eventually you will blow up. I will bet on it. One must maintain a steady pace that matches an intended (and realistic) finishing time, or else… The goal is to keep that pace for the entire 26.2 miles, which is harder than it sounds. My worst example of this was the 1994 California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento where I ran the first 20 miles nearly 30 seconds per mile faster than my targeted pace. I decided I was having a good day. LOL. I stopped for a cup of water at mile 20 and that was it. I was done … until about mile 25, when a friend (Paul Fick) encouraged me to shuffle it in for the home stretch. I think I had two bears on my back! At one point a guy called out to me from the balcony of his home:
“Dude, You’re going to need a new pair of shoes before you finish if you keep that up!”
I did not think that was funny. I was a physical wreck for several days after. The experience completely humbled me.
This pacing principle also applies to life. Life is not a sprint; but more of a marathon. However, most today will admit to going too fast. Even kids realize this. Technology is stealing any margins we have had and enabling us to do more than our bodies (and brains) were designed for. Like the marathon, if we don’t Slow Down, eventually we crash. I’ve seen it many times over my career, and often it is not a pretty sight.
One well-documented version of this was a story told by former Google CIO Douglas C. Merrill in his book, “Getting Organized in the Google Era”. Douglas was in charge of taking Google public with their IPO in 2004, where he admitted to overworking and not taking care of his physical needs; he was too busy for that. In spite of all the warning signs his body was giving him (intense headaches, vertigo, not sleeping well, and losing 35 pounds), it was not until the day Google rang the bell on Wall Street after their IPO that Douglas realized he had crashed. As he told the story in his book, he was getting into a cab on Wall Street with two female colleagues when they looked at him in horror, “as if his eyes were bleeding”. One of them immediately handed him her compact mirror, and the blood vessels in his eyes actually had burst and his eyes were in fact bleeding! In his words, “it was a miracle my brain did not burst.” Needless to say, he took an extended leave from Google after that.
As a professional life coach, my passion is to improve the capacity of my client to integrate work and life, while adjusting to a pace they can maintain for the long-term view. It is mostly about slowing down. I found out myself just how difficult that can be when I was riding my own express-train-to-success. I see now that there is no slowing that train down; I had to get off! Getting “downsized” was not exactly how I would have planned it, but I now look back and view that as a gift from God. (see “Taking off the leash in life” for that story).
The Finish Line Second is our focus on the all-important finish line. The marathon requires a singular focus on the finish line banner. Nothing else can matter. All the rewards of your efforts are waiting for you there. The euphoria of crossing that line is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into it. You need to run as if you are a racehorse with blinders on. To look at or think about anything beyond is simply a distraction that can cause you to lose concentration and potentially crash. Gabriela Andersen-Schiess’ (Switzerland) staggering finish in the inaugural Women’s Marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles exemplifies this extraordinary effort: click “Watch on YouTube”
I have never felt more joy and love at the end of the marathon than I did when my son Matthew and I embraced at the finish of the 2016 St. George Marathon (his first!). The tears were flowing. It was a wondrous moment as we bear hugged each other drenched in the sweat of our efforts. We savored the victory together. Marathon’s don’t get any better than that.
War hero’s at the 2016 St. George Marathon (“Finished!”)
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” C.S. Lewis
What awaits me at the finish line of life will be way beyond anything I can experience here on earth. My heart’s desire is to cross that finish line in this life and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23 NIV). I wrote about it in Opening Day in Paradise. That triumph of crossing the finish line into heaven is something I can only wonder about. In the words of Randy Alcorn, author of the book titled “Heaven”:
“The day I die will be the best day I ever lived.”
How can I know this?
It just boils down to faith. Marathon Faith.
I view it as a sure thing. The Bible is very clear on Heaven, it is mentioned over 500 times. The book of Revelation paints a particularly stunning description at the end of the Bible when heaven and earth come together as one. Heaven is as clear a finish line at the end of life as the 26.2-mile banner is to the marathoner. I refuse to think about any other option. I have my horse blinders on. Heaven is the finish line that really matters. Life here on earth is simply a dress rehearsal for the production that will go on forever in heaven.
If you are a bit skeptical, I have compiled a short list of books (Books on Heaven-v5.5), which might help. They are written by people who claim to have visited heaven and received a glimpse of what God has in store for us. They are fascinating reads, regardless of your views on the Bible. I recommend reading them as fictional novels (versus non-fiction), and think you will find that they offer hope and intrigue of what lies beyond our conscious life here on earth. It is a mystery that these experiences happen to people. The Bible is our only source of truth. For me, these stories are fun to read and allow my imagination to run on what will it be like to cross that finish line.
Prior to the 1984 summer Olympics in L.A., there was no women’s marathon in the Olympics. Long distance endurance events were determined to be too strenuous for women (see: The Fight To Establish The Women’s Race). I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles and witnessed Joan Benoit’s (U.S.A.) shocking victory as she literally blew by us at mile 13, demonstrating that racehorse-with-blinders focus and determination (pictures I took below). Benoit and Grete Waitz were the top two women marathoner’s in the world coming into the Olympic marathon in L.A. They had even traded world record times in the London and Boston marathons in 1983 (one day apart!).
Joan Benoit picking up water at mile 13 of the Women’s Olympic Marathon in Marina del Ray
Benoit surprised everyone by making her move at the 3-mile mark near the first of five designated water stations (as I remember it, she bypassed that water stop to gain ground on the pack). Grete Waitz (Norway; silver metal; 1:26 behind) felt certain she would catch Benoit before re-entering the Coliseum as the temperatures in L.A. were approaching 80 degrees. Waitz was a five-time New York City Marathon champion at the time and had won every marathon she had entered up to that day.
Grete Waitz leading the chase pack at mile 13; betting that Benoit will blow up
A timeline leading up to the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon demonstrates how remarkable Benoit’s achievement was, including her shocking win at the Olympic Trials Marathon, just 17 days after arthroscopic surgery on her knee:
April 17, 1983: Grete Waitz sets the world record at the London Marathon in 2:25:28
April 18, 1983: Joan Benoit sets a new world record at the Boston Marathon in 2:22:43 (+1 day)
April 25, 1984: Joan Benoit underwent arthroscopic surgery on her right knee (“unable to run”)
May 12, 1984: Joan Benoit wins the women’s Olympic Trials marathon in 2:31:04 (+17 days)
August 5, 1984: Joan Benoit wins the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon in 2:24:52
Gabriela Andersen-Schiess ran for her home country Switzerland, even though she was living in Sun Valley, Idaho (as a ski instructor) where she continues to lead an active lifestyle today. She finished the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon in 37th place out of 44 finishers (2:48:42) and admitted to missing the 5th (final) water station. She suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration but was not hospitalized. Gabriela won her two previous marathons coming into the Olympic Marathon (just two months apart):
Joan Benoit held the fastest time for an American woman in the marathon for 32 years after winning the 1985 Chicago Marathon in 2:21:21. Her world record in the 1983 Boston Marathon was the fastest time by an American woman at that race for 28 years. On the 40th anniversary of her first Boston Marathon win, Joan ran the 2019 Boston Marathon (with her daughter Anna) in 3:04:00, finishing first in the female 60-64 age group by nearly nine minutes.
Grete Waitz won 13 out of 20 Marathons she entered, including nine NYC Marathons, two London Marathons, and five World Cross Country Championships. She completed her last marathon (New York City Marathon) in 1992 with her friend Fred Lebow, in celebration of his 60th birthday, after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Waitz also died of cancer on April 19, 2011, at the age of 57.
Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon by John Brant This book covers the agony and ecstasy of the marathon race in excruciating detail. John Brant chronicles the 1982 Boston Marathon from start to finish where American’s Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley fought it out side-by-side in one of the most epic marathon battles of all time. The first half of the book covers their struggles of getting to the starting line, and the second half reviews how each of their lives was permanently impacted by their extreme efforts on that hot and muggy Patriots Day in 1982.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKEby Phil Knight Plain and simple, this book is a fantastic read about how Phil Knight founded and launched Nike into one of the world’s most recognized brands. But inside that story are a lot of wonderful details about how the Eugene became TrackTown USA in the 1960s, soon after Phil ran for the University of Oregon under the tutelage of Bob Bowerman, who became Phil’s business partner. Bowerman in my mind is the hero of the story and gets my vote as the single person most responsible for inspiring the 1970s running boom.
A Life God Rewards, Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever by Bruce Wilkinson
The Bible teaches that everything I do in my life here on this earth is impacting my life in Heaven for eternity. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a wonderful book on this topic. He connects the dots between what you are doing today and what you will experience after you die. It is a quick read and guaranteed to get you thinking more about how what you do today really matters. Forever!
I wrote more on this topic in Heaven Can’t Wait.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:3
God was setting an important example for us when he rested after six days of work in the opening book of the Bible.Work is a critical element to life here on Earth, as well the life we will live in Heaven (Matthew 25:23).Even after creating man, God immediately put him to work in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).
I would like to propose a new perspective on how to approach the challenge of balancing work with the rest of our life, by contemplating our death.
While I am passionate about the need for balance in work and life, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no quick fix to the many challenges we all face today in this area.There are plenty of books, articles and videos telling us how to solve it.Here’s a “top 15” list I compiled just in case you want the quick fix:
Set boundaries with email
Ask for support
Concentrate on one thing at a time (get present)
Make time for loved ones
Let go of perfectionism
Work smarter, not longer
Don’t compromise on your sleep
Set life goals
Learn how to say “no”
Make relaxation and breaks a priority
Exercise and meditate
My 2nd favorite: Hire a personal coach
And my favorite (it really works): Unplug!
Check out my Circle of Life quiz, which provides a quick view of the current state in balancing your life:
This work/life balance thing is a very tough nut to crack in our non-stop 24/7 economy that is being driven by a mobile device that seems to travel everywhere with us.Rebecca Zucker writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled: “How to Achieve Work/Life Balance”:
“… I now work as an executive coach, and work-life balance is an issue that my clients frequently grapple with, as they face the new work demands that come with technological advances. For example, one client in San Francisco who works for a fast-growing tech company shared that she gets up at 4am to work. She has anxiety about the possibility of missing an e-mail at midnight. “Is this normal?” she asked.“
I don’t think it’s “normal”, but I do know it is happening more and more as an increasing number of us are now sleeping with these little mobile “devils”, beyond just getting us up at 4am to keep up.Fortune magazine recently reported that 71% of us sleep with their own smartphones either on a nightstand or in their bed!
At times I wish I could beam my family back to the 1960’s when I was growing up in Corona del Marspending summers on the beach without a thought in the world, other than what was going on right then in front of me.It did create some challenges with surfing however, as we actually had to go to the beach to look at the waves to see if it was worth going out.Today you simply push a button on your iPhone – and magically the tides, wind, swell and even a video appear for that day; that moment…What!?
This cover shot from Matt Warsaw’s “History of Surfing” captures my memories of growing up at the beach in CdM – except the waves were not that good!
When my wife and I started our high tech careers at ROLM there was no Internet, no cell phones, no voice mail, and no way of carrying your “days work” around in your pocket.When we left work, we were done for the day.The only thing waiting the next day when one arrived to work [possibly] was a pink slip or two.Not the pink slip that dismissed you from your job, but a pink form someone filled in when a phone call came in for you while you were out of the office. The workday started when you arrived at the facility.
I worked hard and had days when I worked late, or when I would come in on a Saturday to get caught up.But when I was not at work I was focused on my life outside of work, whether that was family, friends, fitness, or just relaxing and watching the surf to see if I could anticipate a swell on the rise.
Since we’re not beaming back to the 60’s anytime soon, lets agree there seems to be no stopping this lightening bolt of progress.Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D. summed it up well in his book Margin when he asked:
“If we are enjoying so much progress, why is everyone so worn out?“
So let’s pause on all that progress for a moment and talk about what happens at “the end”. You know, when we die.
Steven Covey, in his best selling book: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was the first to gain widespread attention with “Begin with the end in mind” (Habit #2)”.Covey asks us to question whether we are approaching life in a manner that reflects our values and beliefs.To make his point, he included a very insightful exercise that impacted me immensely.He asks you to find a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted to visualize attending your own funeral – three years from now.Covey then asks you to write the speech of four people who were important in your life and who will speak at your funeral: a family member, a close friend, a co-worker, and a member of your church or community.What do you want them to say about your life?
Here is a reprint of it (Covey_End-In-Mind_Exercise)to try it out.I have used this as a self-reflection exercise in my coaching.It powerfully demonstrates how you are prioritizing your time, and helps to seriously re-examine your priorities.As the old adage goes, you never do hear anyone say from their deathbed that they wished they had worked more. In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware cites the number two regret (of five) as: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.
Suddenly, another thought creeps into my head. Suppose I die.The odds are about 100% that eventually that will happen. And people then [hopefully] say nice things about me at my funeral.
Being a Christian, Heaven is a given after life on Earth. But, what does that really mean?What will it be like?What will my body be like?Will I know anyone?Will I still be able to surf?There are a thousand other questions I could ask.If I am going to be in Heaven for an eternity, I’d like to know a little more.
As mentioned earlier (About surfing and my Christian faith), I did not become a Christian until I my mid-thirties.Prior to that, I had a real fear of death.It was something I called “permanent lights-out”. This thought of complete nothingness would envelop me.It was my biggest fear.By far.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971) has a few verses that speak to this way of thinking.It is a beautiful song.But pay attention to what it really is saying.
“Imagine there’s no Heaven It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people — living for today”
He’s talking about permanent LIGHTS OUT!
Most research tells us roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they actually do believe in Heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.”Most of us really do want to go to Heaven, and I believe God desires for us to use our imagination to anticipate the beauty and wonder and joy of what awaits us there.In Matthew 6:19-21, God commands us to set our hearts and minds on heaven above.Jesus was consistently very clear about that in the Bible:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When Jesus met with his disciples for their last meal together before his death, he did not use the time to review the strategic plan on how to move his ministry forward after He’s gone.That’s what I probably would have done.But instead, Jesus speaks about Heaven, and gives them a picture of hope around the place he is preparing for each of them:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Chip Ingram makes the following comment about this in his book “The Real Heaven”:
“Jesus knew that a crystal clear view of eternity and of their future home in Heaven would sustain them through the most difficult of times.When life would get hard and when persecution would come, the hope of Heaven would motivate them to persevere.”
When I became a Christian no one handed me a brochure on Heaven.It remained a mystery not discussed much in church or Bible studies. I wanted to know more and thus began a wonderful study for me.It all started with the Bible.
I will see you in paradise
A disclaimer here: I am not a professional theologian, pastor or trained biblical scholar.These writings are based on my research solely and do involve some conjecture on my part.I am not the expert, but I do reference a few books (including the Bible) for those who want to learn more.
While I have studied the Bible and attended church fairly consistently over the past 30 years, I did not have a very clear picture of Heaven.It had always been present in discussions about life after death, but I never felt I had much of a grasp on what it was.
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of Heaven (622 times according to Google), and hands-down, Jesus speaks of Heaven more than any other.
Another useful resource on Heaven is Randy Alcorn’s book appropriately called “Heaven”.Alcorn has spent over 25 years researching what the Bible says about it, and he attempts to answer some challenging questions, such as understanding the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth).I don’t want to get to that level, but highly recommend it.
I also have referenced my notes and materials from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).BSF is an international Christian interdenominational structured Bible study (begun in 1959) I have been participating in for the past 12 years.BSF is a wonderful program for anyone wanting to learn more about the Bible.
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
One of my favorite verses on Heaven in the Bible is this one, where Jesus refers to Heaven as “paradise”, in almost the last words he spoke on Earth before his death. He said this to a dying thief who was being crucified next to him on the cross.As the thief accepted Christ as his Lord and Master he was assured of his place in Heaven.
So just exactly what is this “paradise” that awaits us that Jesus is referring to? According to Jesus, they were going to be there “today”! As I have studied Heaven, it has given me great purpose for my life here on Earth.The Bible is crystal clear about what awaits us by accepting Jesus as our Lord and savior.Heaven is a real, physical place Christians know to be the final destination, where we will enjoy life with God for eternity.
Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation in the Bible represents heaven as a place where there is no more sin, death or sorrow.Heaven will have indescribable beauty beyond our wildest imagination from what we know here on Earth.We will rejoice with those we knew in life on Earth when we are in Heaven.We will be home with God with a sense of peace and joy that everything is as it should be.In Heaven we will have real physical bodies, will eat and drink and wear clothes like we do here on Earth.In Heaven we will be able to do physical things just like we do here on Earth today. Like having a tasty barbecue with your good friends on the beach.
As Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he made a point to eat with them and asked them to touch him and see that he was a physical being (Luke 24:36-43).He even prepared a breakfast fish barbecue on the beach for his disciples to demonstrate to them that he was himself (John 21:1-15).I know this is hard to imagine for us here on Earth.Nobody of course understands the mystery of how God works all his miracles, but the Bible is very clear on all of it.
The resurrected Jesus barbecued a fish breakfast on the beach for his disciples (Luke 24:36-43)
From all the reading I have done, a life way better than we can imagine awaits us in Heaven.The very best we may have experienced here on Earth will surely pale in comparison to what God has planned.
Here is a quote from Randy Alcorn’s Heaven to frame this picture:
“All of our lives we’ve been dreaming of the New Earth.Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven.Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.”
While Heaven and Earth appear to be separated today, according to the Bible, in end times when Jesus returns to Earth, Heaven will come here onto a new Earth for eternity.The New Jerusalem comes down to the renewed Earth and there the redeemed will spend eternity with God on the renewed Earth.Revelation 21 contains a surprisingly detailed description of what this “New Jerusalem” will look like.
I purposely am avoiding further detail, and recommend Randy Alcorn’s Heaven if you want to learn more.But it is fun to use one’s imagination to provide an image of this wonderful world yet to come.
While all this is interesting, I found myself still wanting to know more about Heaven.I wanted to debunk this belief about Heaven being boring or anything we might get tired of.I even have one friend who half jokingly described it as a non-stop church service singing “Holy-Holy-Holy” … for eternity?
Gary Larson spoke to that well in his many comics on Heaven.
Stay tuned for my next post: “Opening day in paradise”.
This book was made into a movie in 2017, and I highly recommend both if you have any questions around the historical reliability of the New Testament, and/or claims made by Jesus Christ. Lee Strobel was a self-proclaimed atheist when he began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ after his wife’s conversion. As an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee pulled together all the facts about Jesus as if he were going to trial. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he became a Christian on November 8, 1981.
Date: January 19th at 3:51pm Subject: new beginnings I will be leaving Sun/Oracle effective today — time for new beginnings! It has been my very great pleasure to work with you all. THANK YOU — especially to Vijay Tatkar, who has been my inspirational & loyal leader these past few years. I look forward to staying in touch with you going forward.
Hired at Sun: April 1, 1999 Laid off at Oracle: Jan. 19, 2017
After 17+ years of employment at Sun / Oracle, the layoff bullet which I have been dodging for so many years finally caught me.
Official explanation:Corporate downsizing.
Above was the farewell email that went out on the day of my departure.
New beginnings for sure!
However, I need to mention that I am looking for a new job…
Please contact me if you know of anyone looking for a Marketing Leader who can make big things happen in a hurry.
Along with so many of us in Silicon Valley, I had been through the corporate downsizing exercise more times than I want to count.But finally, it was my turn to hear the official news from my boss, send out the “farewell” email to friends, and carry the cardboard box of belongings out to the car, feeling as if I had a bold “L” imprinted across my forehead (“Loser” or “Laid off”, take your pick!).
I had finally woken up in the wrong job on the wrong product at the wrong time, and it was now time for: “EXIT stage left — Audios amigo— C U Later — Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
Since I had recently celebrated my 62nd birthday, I felt prompted to come clean and write about my experience as a means of coping with the whole ordeal.According to Right Management, the outplacement firm Oracle provided to help ease my transition into the next phase of my career (and life), this is good therapy for me.
There’s definitely something to be said for having a little perspective when you take the plunge into a new phase of life.And although I am still in the job hunt in Silicon Valley (the mortgage payment did not disappear with the job), it feels pretty good to write about it.For what seems to me like an eternity of fighting the good battle here in the valley of good fortune, I have learned a thing or two in the midst of all those bumps and bruises I took over the years. And work/life balance is the one God has placed on my heart as the most important.
My final day at Oracle was quite memorable actually.When I scan over the many, many hundreds of days I have spent in the office over my career, this one might actually make the top 10 list!
Oracle painted the Sun Santa Clara campus red in a hurry following their acquisition in January of 2010
The day started with breakfast in the cafeteria (my usual spinach, onion & pepper scramble with house hash browns) where I could say goodbye to Mary, Julia and several others who had become close friends of mine in the Oracle cafeteria.Not that Oracle is buying me breakfast (there really is no such thing as a free lunch at Oracle), but seeing these folks every day had become an important part of my work routine that I now appreciated more than ever.
Then it was over to see Ricarda, whose cheery “Buenos Dias!” greeted me every day [to empty my office trash] when I always seemed to be just a little too focused on an email I was composing.I had several plants I’d been nursing, and asked her to take her favorite.My Spanish does not go much beyond “Donde esta la playa”, so I gave her the cut throat sign when she asked what I interpreted to be “why”? She got it right away and showed great compassion for me.
Then it was up to see one of my favorite team members, Meera, to give her another plant (a violet flowered BabyCenter), which she had been admiring every time it flowered.She gave me a big hug with tears.Oh my…I knew her pain.Not a good feeling to be one of the chosen few to hold the fort down while the others carted their belongings out.
Then my good friend Steve and I snuck out to our “private court” for a final game of tennis on the Oracle clock.He lost his entire team in the layoff (including his manager), but somehow survived himself.
Tennis buddies at lunch
Next was a goodbye to Max and Rick and the Club Oracle recreation center staff. As I would often tell them when I walked out the door, “Thanks guys, that was the highlight of my day!”People used to tell me they could not understand how I could find time to go to the gym every day.And I would reply that I could not understand how they could not!It made a amazing difference in my productivity and attitude and overall energy at work.
I will miss my “room with a view” …
There were several others I could mention, but suffice to say, it was an emotionally draining day.And being 62 just accentuated that feeling.I’ve been told more than a few times that my next Silicon Valley job is not so easy to land when you are my age, and unemployed – no matter how good you are!I’ve also been told I should try a little Grecian Formula on my hair and maybe a pair of cool looking glasses.
When it was finally done and I was walking out to the parking lot with my box, the looks I got from those who kept their jobs brought back many fresh memories of the times I had been in their shoes.I know for a fact that the workload always increased exponentially to fill the many gaps left by all those leaving. The sense of guilt over why you got to stay when someone equal to you was walking out, was confusing.
As it turned out, the door didn’t hit me in the butt on the way out and nobody yelled out “Hasta la vista baby!”.The drive home was actually a bit more upbeat than I expected.Windows rolled down with the sunroof open, there was a feeling of freedom creeping in on me.No question that the breakup with Larry Ellison was not something I would lose any sleep over – but I was sensing that this could be good.Maybe even great!
The family and I had decided to head straight to Shoreline Theater for an early showing of Moana, which turned out to be the perfect anecdote.Included with Moana was a Disney short film (called “Inner Workings”) that set the tone for my day perfectly. It followed the internal organs (brain, heart, lungs, stomach, etc..) of Paul, a man living in 1980s California, as he awakened on a typical day of work. Paul and dozens of other employees sat at desks and entered data into their computers, moving in monotonous unison while his brain takes notice of the dreary routine of his life, and comes to realize that this cycle will eventually lead to his death as a sad, miserable, lonely man.I won’t give away the story, but of course, Paul looked to be about 62, and I felt God was sending me a personal message.
I felt like a new man to be out from under my job for the first time in almost 30 years.It really was refreshing!This 1-minute video provides a glimpse of that:
What to do when you get laid off at 62…
On a more serious note, I could write about how life changes when you are unemployed. But in so many ways, nothing really changes.For everyone around me, life continues on just as it did when I was working.The world keeps turning and of course, the bills keep coming in…
I’d be lying to say there weren’t some challenging adjustments. One of those was figuring out where to go in the morning.After all those years of “going to work”, I suddenly felt very lost.With both kids and my wife at home, I knew I had to get out of the house, but where to go…?
Another big one has been planning my days of the workweek so that my calendar is not completely vacant.I quickly found out having a day wide open was not necessarily a good thing.In truth, I have had days go by where I could not even remember what I did at the end of the day!? It did not really matter what those commitments on my calendar were (tennis works great!), but I quickly realized the importance of keeping myself busy to stay in a healthy state of mind as I search for my next step.
Now I leave home to hangout at public libraries, coffee shops, city parks, and restaurants; anywhere with free, high-performance Wi-Fi.Each day is a bit of an adventure.My favorite coffee spot is Philz in downtown Sunnyvale.I am actually on a first-name basis there with the manager Travis, who has given me a Philz mug, and calls out my order before I get to the front of the line.He has no idea how much that means to me right now!
Of course, I do lots of 1:1 networking meetings over coffee and tea and lunch.I’ve even joined some networking groups who meet regularly to exchange ideas on how to attack this unemployment thing.The good news is that my Linked-In connections are now at an all-time high.The bad news is that I am becoming a Peets/Starbucks/Philz Junkie.
I’ve also learned to carry a lunch box with me in the car for wherever I end up that day.You can burn up a lot of dough eating outside the corporate subsidized cafeterias of Silicon Valley.And even if your networking group charges $5 and says, “lunch provided”, I’ve discovered that unlike the many lavish lunch meetings I had at Oracle, it will likely not be enough food to feed a bird! Often I end up eating my lunch in city parks with the homeless folks.It has truly been humbling to see that side of life going on outside the walls of corporate America.
And, there are some days where I just plain get depressed.
It really has taught me a lot about the importance I place on my job in determining my value to society.But like all things, those cycles come and go.
There have been adjustments, also many upsides too.
I have had sufficient daily margin to enjoy a rich time of prayer and meditation and contemplation in this new phase of life.I believe God has great plans for my focus on work/life balance and I am excited to experience it.This time away from the daily routine of work is surely a blessing from God as part of that plan.It is a direct answer to prayer.
As mentioned above, William Finnegan truly inspired me with this story of his life-long obsession with surfing, after a long career as a staff writer at The New Yorker and well-known author. It is a remarkable collection of surf stories from his escapades of traveling around the world from the 1960’s up to present day. But what makes this book so remarkable is that it is so very well written. Pick up any surfing magazine and you will quickly agree that [in general] surfer’s are terrible writers. But Finnegan debunks that myth with a detailed analysis of every surf spot he sees (including San Onofre, which I thought he nailed) in a way that makes it interesting to even a non-surfing audience (hence, the Pulitzer Prize!)
June 20, 2016
This post is in honor of our father, grandfather, and good friend,
Jack B Mulkey *
U.S. Navy recruit for WWII Jack B Mulkey
On the night of a full Strawberry Moon, Kona Jack, as he was known on the big island of Hawaii for the past 27 years, passed away peacefully in his sleep, just 4 months shy of his 90th birthday, and after spending Father’s Day with his daughter Terry, and her husband, Bob Hankenson. He was in fact doing fantastic that entire week, still living the independent life he loved at the Keahou Surf and Racquet Club in unit #29. But he always told us that he never did want to reach 90.
Kona Jack ready for sunset at the Keahou Surf & Racquet Club
I should add that his Father’s Day included Terry washing his feet (they needed it!), his favorite meal, fish and chips; and his favorite cocktail, a Rob Roy, served “up with a twist”. He even completed the day’s crossword puzzle in the Honolulu Advertiser!
It’s safe to say he passed on exactly as he would have wanted.
Father and daughter out for breakfast just a few days before Father’s Day.
Today’s Crossword Puzzle
* Dad will be laid to rest in a ceremony at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery on Friday, October 28th (9am). A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, October 29th at the Keahou Surf & Racquet Club in the late afternoon. Please let me know if you would like to join us! (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dad and the 1936 Ford Cabriolet Convertible he used working for a fried chicken delivery business following the war
The following obituary ran in the Hawaii local newspapers on July 15, 2016:
Jack “Kona Jack” B Mulkey, 89, of Keauhou died June 20 at home. Born Oct. 30 in Santa Monica, Calif., he was a maintenance helper for the Keauhou Surf & Racquet Club, retired right of way agent for General Telephone Co. in California, surfing pioneer and U.S. Navy World War II veteran. Service information at surfingforbalance.com. For info, call 650-799-3292 or 805-252-5376. Survived by daughter, Terry (Robert) Hankenson of California; son, Michael (Marla) Mulkey of California; four grandchildren. Arrangements by Cremation Services of West Hawaii.
These blog posts below are dedicated to dad’s memory, for all the wonderful lessons in life I learned from him through the sport of surfing and balancing life. If you would like to read more about the blog, click on “About”. And if you would like to read more on dad’s history with surfing in California, click on “Malibu and The Greatest Generation”.
Dad was a huge John Wooden fan from the day he took the helm as head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team in 1948 when dad was attending there on the GI bill from WWII. As I was looking through some of the hand-written notes dad had sent me over the years, I found this one in response to reading one of Wooden’s books I had sent to him:
“Mike: It all boils down to preparation, details and work, work, work. No wonder I was never successful! Everything the man says makes so much sense that I can’t believe so few coaches have followed his philosophy. I suspect because it involves too much work.”
This post below (Peace of Mind) was in queue for dad’s review at the time of his passing.
I am publishing it today in his memory.
“Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.” Coach John Wooden
Prologue (Part 4 of 4)
The intent of this final prologue is to briefly review my 25+ years in Silicon Valley to provide a glimpse into the viewpoints I carry into this blog. This starts with a quick summary of how I ended up here from my roots in Southern California.
Somehow, I decided to leave the surfer’s paradise of Corona del Mar for what turned out to be a wonderful four years of college for me at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I majored in Sports Management in the “Recreation & Leisure Studies” department, which was predicted to be the “boom” industry of the future, as the emergence of the computer in the late 1970’s would soon provide the baby boomer generation with an over abundance of free time. Ha! Well, not quite.
My dream job coming out of college was to find a tennis club in Southern California where I could spend my workday lounging in tennis clothes, while socializing and hitting tennis balls with club members on my breaks. And as fate would have it, I landed that very job as General Manager of the Covina Hills Racquet Club in West Covina. However, it wasn’t quite as good as it had sounded, as my days were some of the longest I have ever worked (we were open 6am – 10pm), and I seemed to always be at the club when everyone else was off (weekends, holidays and evenings). Balance went right out the window, even if I was wearing tennis clothes all day!
Marketing for new members at the tennis club
After 2-years at the Covina Hills Racquet Club, I switched careers and made my debut at an emerging Silicon Valley telecommunications firm by the name of ROLM. As the government mandated breakup of AT&T’s monopoly of telephone service in the U.S. was taking shape, companies like ROLM were hiring and investing heavily in technical training of their work force to get a jump on the new opportunity. This was perfect for me, as my skills did not go much beyond washing tennis courts and counting tennis balls in the Pro Shop; I did not know the slightest thing about computers! Best of all, I met the love of my life at ROLM, and we soon moved up to ROLM’s headquarters in Santa Clara following our marriage in Newport Beach. There we put our roots into the ground, raised our two children, and began to call Mountain View home.
My first impressions of Silicon Valley in 1991 are best summarized with three questions, which seemed to slap me in the face when we first arrived:
– How COLD is the water at the beach?
– What does everyone do in their free time if they aren’t going to the beach?
– Why is everyone at work so much!?
From Tennis Clubs to Silicon Valley
It took me 5 years to brave the cold water in Santa Cruz and realize that Silicon Valley had access to some of the best surfing on the California coast, less than an hour from our doorstep in Mountain View. As soon as I surfed Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz at low tide on a winter pacific swell, I realized home base had officially moved up north. With the right conditions, Steamers Lane is a world-class wave, which can provide a longer and more exhilarating ride than any wave I’ve experienced in California. It was a dream of a discovery for me, and has been pivotal to keep me in balance while struggling to maintain my career in the fast lane of Silicon Valley high technology companies.
Following are four short stories to help explain a few experiences that have shaped my beliefs over these past 25 years in Silicon Valley.
For those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of the ROLM story, this book is a must have. And for those just curious to understand how ROLM set the stage in Silicon Valley as a center of innovation years before Apple, Google, Facebook and others came along, it is a good lesson in computer history. But most of all for me, the stories of the personalities who worked at ROLM are wonderfully captured. It truly was an amazing company.