Patrick's triumph-faves book montage

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny
Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box
Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves
Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization
Who Moved My Cheese?
The One Minute Manager
The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey
The Greatest Salesman In The World
The Richest Man in Babylon
The Screwtape Letters
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
The Great and Terrible Fury & Light
How to Master the Art of Selling
Man's Search for Meaning
Outliers: The Story of Success
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary
The Present : The Secret to Enjoying Your Work And Life, Now!
Think and Grow Rich

Patrick Laing's favorite books »

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Epitome of Triumph: My Hero

You know, there a lot of different kinds of Triumph in the world. Successes in business, kids doing well in school, disabilities being overcome and challenges being challenged. We see examples every day: inspiring stories / people / programs and marriages that--despite the odds--keep surviving and even beating the odds. The list goes on and we've touched on many of these in The Triumph Times. We all have experienced, observed and likely participated in our own share.

What I've learned in my own life, especially this past few years, is that few Triumphs are cut-and-dried, black and white, simple or "cookie-cutter clean." Most are steeped in trial and pain, frustration and disappointment, struggles, set-backs and a large dose of growing and learning. That has certainly been the case for me. This past year has been one of the toughest and also one of the best in my 43 years. It's been a year of highest-highs and lowest-lows. It's been a period of heart-ache, heart-burn and many different happinesses blended into one. It's been a year of Triumph--a year of growth and reflection, adjustment and adaptation. In many respects, it's been a year of "reconnection" and, at the very least, a year I'll not soon be forgetting.

Speaking of reunions, I wanted to announce (if you haven't heard already) that I got remarried on March 17th of this year (2012)--Saint Patrick's Day! To make a long story short, my best friend from a decade ago, my former fiancé that "didn't work out" the first time around, came back into the picture and she and I reconnected late last fall and over the holidays (2012). We reignited the spark that first saw light many years ago. We "re-began" a journey we both have missed, even in silence, for a long time now.

Her name is Tessha, formerly Tessha THOMAS, and she'll tell you that ten years ago she thought we were just "postponing" our engagement--"putting it on hold," as it were, while she finished her last semester of college. I thought we were breaking up (I'm a little bit slow sometimes....). It was a pretty big breakdown in communication, to say the least. But, as a result, I went on to marry Emily, my former wife and the mother of my children, and stayed married for 9 years. I became a dad to five great kids, for which I'll always be grateful. When Emily and I divorced, Tessha and I reconnected. And now? We're married ... and we even got married on St. Patrick's Day (imagine that). :0) I guess what I'm saying is, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I never imagined us back together again--but here we are and we're very happy to be here. We're grateful to have finally "figured it out," even a little later than we originally planned.

As the old saying goes, "Better Late Than Never." It's very true in our case. All I know is, from the moment she came back into my life, it's felt like old times all over again, like we never went our separate ways. We've picked up where we left off; at least, it's certainly felt that way. And now, we're working out the kinks and curls that make up a new marriage, we're working on parenthood and step-parenthood, fatherhood and "bonus-mom-hood" to five teens and preteens ... and dealing with the complexities of making it all work. It's been an adventure thus far and it's just getting started. What can I say, it's a story of Triumph ... and Tessha is my Hero.

She is triumphing over 10 years of loneliness, confusion, and in many ways, regret. She's forgiving and forgetting and moving forward, in faith. She's getting to know my children and doing an amazing job serving them, figuring them out and trying to love them each in their own way for who they each are. She's Triumphing over the challenge of it all, and the complexities inherent therein. She triumphs, in my mind, every time she seeks to serve, work well with and get to know my ex wife. Their dynamics and relationship, like any blended family, are a work in progress and can be challenging at times. But, I'm impressed with both of them and especially Tessh and how she / they are learning to work together, compromise and communicate well.

Tessha's really great. She is the most loving, most selfless, kind and patient person I've known--and not just with me and the kids, but with everyone she meets. Every time I turn around, it seems, she's serving someone, thinking of them, helping others to Triumph over what they're going through. Whether it's a friend of ours with heart problems or another who just lost her husband; whether it's her dad and his health or her mom and her burdens ... or total strangers who just need a friend, a guide, a comforting word or a morsel of bread ... Tessha just serves them and reminds me of what true Triumph means--"Triumphing" over selfishness, pettiness--basically, anything that gets in the way of true, unconditional service. She's a great example to me, not only of Triumph, but also of Truth. She's as authentic, as genuine and as honest, as they get.

Okay ... so, I'm probably sounding too sappy, too personal, so I'll stop. I just wanted you to meet her. The eldest of 10 children ... my best friend ... a great "bonus mom" to my kids: she is the primary reason these last 12 months have had their share of "ups" along with the "downs." I really think she saved me this past year, in many respects. I just wanted her to know how much it's meant and how much she and all of it continues to mean.

Tessha ... I love you. I appreciate you very much. This tribute is for you, baby. I can't imagine going through the next ten years, not to mention the forty after them, without you by my side. I look forward to TRIUMPHING over whatever life throws at us, and doing so together. Thanks for believing in me.

Here's to you, Tessherina.

Here's to Triumph.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Man, the Myth, the Legend--the Father of a Nation

This last week marked the "end" of an incomparable legacy of service, strength and character. My grandfather, Charles William ("Bill") Laing, of whom I've written previously, finally "graduated" peacefully and passed away August 9th, 2012. We celebrated his life at a beautiful service last Monday that was both touching and inspiring. It was a perfect reminder of a man who spent his whole life quietly triumphant--my biggest hero and idol (next to my dad, of course, Grandpa's eldest son, which makes sense if you think about it; they're cut from the same cloth, as anyone who knows them will attest). 

I won't make this too long but I did want to quickly reference a thought one of my uncles shared during his tribute to Grandpa at the funeral. He spoke of George Washington, the first U.S. president, and compared him to my grand dad, speaking of Grandpa as the "father of our 'nation,'" our "Laing Family Nation." He went on to  mention several ways in which George Washington was  key to the success of this country. We refer to GW as the Father of our Nation, with good reason. My grandpa, Charles William, embodies the same characteristics. Here are 3 examples of many, 3 ways in which made an impact and so deservedly enjoy this title of respect. 

1.  Example: George Washington led by example. He didn't just talk about standing up to the British. He didn't just stand on a soap box and preach against taxation without representation. He led, suffered, and overcame together with his troops. His was "faith in action," not just rhetoric or indignation. He was a great leader but perhaps the best thing he did, as most Umphers do, was lead by example. He "Did," he didn't just "Talk." As commander in chief of the Continental Army, he wasn't afraid to get into the trenches and get dirty when he had to. The nation showed him their thanks by electing him unanimously as our first U.S. President in 1788 and naming our Capitol and the State of Washington after him; he served for two consecutive terms. 

2.  The second way George Washington made such an impact, in my opinion, as did my grandpa, was with their faith. We've all heard stories of GW praying with his troops, of humbly petitioning help, and of him turning to the Lord for guidance in the face of their almost insurmountable odds. One of my favorite GW prints hangs in our home--the picture above--of him praying in Valley Forge by his horse. I just love the imagery, and the message. George Washington reminded us that we are watched over by and dependent upon, as he saw it, a Father above--one who had a literal hand in the establishment of this nation, where freedom of religion, speech and so many others could finally exist.

As one of our nation's founding fathers he helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and set up a nation FOUNDED upon the lasting principles espoused therein. True, we've strayed from them in ways, today. But, GW and his compatriots gave us the roadmap, the "blue print," for success. George Washington knew that faith in God and adherence to his principles was and needed to be at the very heart of our nation's success. My Grandfather Bill taught his family the same things--and his six boys and one daughter have passed those principles along to me and all the cousins, grand children, great grand kids and (just recently) one great-GREAT grand daughter baby girl. We continue to benefit from his example. 

3.  The third way I feel George Washington--and my grandfather, as well--led so valiantly throughout both of their lives, was by speaking up, by bearing witness when they could and by sharing their convictions whenever the opportunity to do so presented itself. President Washington obviously did this--he spoke out against tyranny, he helped draft the Declaration, he stood up for what he knew to be good and true and right. He never backed down, and he inspired a nation in the process. That, more than anything, I believe, is the mark of an Triumphant leader. Not only do you lead by example, not only do you do the right thing--but you inspire OTHERS to do the same, to FOLLOW your example, and to "take up arms" with you if they must. A truly Triumphant leader is just that--a LEADER, a mentor, someone who inspires you to follow ... a leader who through his or her examples inspires you to live your life the same way.

My Grandpa Bill did this same thing throughout his life. And he did so very quietly. He didn't need a bull-horn or a soap box. He spoke and people listened; even in a whisper, even in his last few hours, after cancer had ravaged his body. It's hard to explain, but you couldn't help but want to stop and pay attention to him, whenever he spoke. Now, I obviously never knew George Washington the way I knew my Grandpa Bill, but I can imagine that he was much the same, a man who caught your attention whenever he spoke or even walked into a room. He didn't demand your respect; people just gave it to him, freely. You knew you could trust him, that he had your best interest at heart; you knew he could teach you and mold you into a better man or woman, or country. And he did exactly that.

Obviously, I'm guessing here. I didn't know GW though I've studied his life and have continually been impressed by the example and the legacy that he left. And, it is a legacy that continues to shine forth as a beacon of hope to the world to this day. My grandpa's legacy, though not nearly as vast or well-known, shines brightly as well, with a family of well adjusted, contributing, and decent descendants dotting the globe. We too have been touched by him and we too are overcoming ... his legacy lives on, and I will be ever grateful to be a part of it all.

Thank you, Grandpa. We'll never forget you. We ARE you, and we're truly grateful every day.

As mentioned before, my grandpa was told he had just a few short months to live almost 2 1/2  years ago. He never gave up easily; he went down fighting and, just as always, he inspired us all as he did. His was a legacy of which all of us are ever proud. He was a true Umpher, a triumphant father, grandfather, neighbor, bishop and friend. I'll always be grateful for his example, his faith and his conviction.

Thank you for listening and my apologies for how long it's been since I last wrote. A divorce last year, a new marriage this year, a new position at work, two funerals and five busy kids. As I'm sure you understand, time gets away from you.

I'll try to do better.


JP River

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

September 11, 2001: it's a day none of us of this generation will forget anytime soon ... our own Pearl Harbor, and right in our front yard--New York City. I can still remember sitting on the couch that morning, watching the news, barely breathing, practically motionless as I listened to the reports, shocked that it was actually happening here in the U.S. of A.

I was in Anchorage, Alaska that day ... a whole continent away. The whole day left me speechless, reeling and (like most of us) very much in shock. Even with all I felt and experienced, I can hardly imagine what it must have felt like to be a resident of New York that day. Our hearts--those of the whole nation--went out to our brothers and sisters there, and still do. I still marvel and wonder, considering the burdens I'm sure they carry, and probably will for a very long time to come.

Tonight I'm in Atlanta, traveling as usual, for my job as a national sales trainer. I decided to catch a movie after my work day last night and I went and saw the recent Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock film, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." While it isn't a film about 9/11, per se, it does tell the story of a young boy who loses his father (Tom Hanks) in the collapse of one of the Twin Towers. He goes on a journey of self-discovery as he searches all over New York City trying to find the lock for a key his late father left behind. It is a touching and thought provoking journey, and also--I thought--a remarkable acting job for a young, new actor ... the 2010 Jeopardy! Kids Week winner, Thomas Horn.

Besides the fact that the film had some wonderful shots of New York City, not to mention some powerful acting by all involved (Max Von Sydow, for example, was amazing as the boy, Oskar's, neighbor), what struck me the most was the way the movie evolved and addressed the mourning so many New Yorkers have had to deal with and are probably still struggling with in ways today. It did bring Oskar closure in the end, I felt, but it also had a far deeper, farther-reaching and more universal effect. It reached out and touched everyone, including the audience. It certainly touched me in the process.

Triumph is so often an difficult and cathartic experience, whether it's the positive kind (like achieving a success) or the more trying kind (working through a tragedy like this). My own opinion is that both kinds of triumph are positive because both bring about change and growth; both initiate coming to know ourselves better. I think that's why most of us love coming of age films, underdog movies and dramas or tragedies that end up inspirational in the end. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" was all three of these for me. It made me appreciate more all that New York and its citizens have gone through, on a much deeper level. It also made me look at grief and the grief process differently as well, I think. It helped me understand Triumph on a whole different level as well. I think the film made me more sensitive in ways. What can I say but that I'm very grateful I saw it.

You might disagree. You might find it a little slow and even contrived at times; it's both of these in ways. But, I also found it insightful and triumphant. I hope you'll go see it and see for yourself. Please post a comment if you do and let me know what you thought of it. It's "extremely poignant," if nothing else.


Enjoy and here's to LIVING LIFE, the good days and the bad days, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close!"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tennyson, Travel, Tessha and Triumph

I'm going to make this post short because I'm running out the door to go teach a training class to a bunch of Jacuzzi walk-in bathtub reps here Dallas, Texas. In the last 3 weeks I've been in Denver, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Little Rock and of course home in Portland, Oregon to see my kids between each trip. In the next 3 weeks I'll be in Portland, Seattle WA, Indianapolis, Atlanta, DC and ... who knows where else? Needless to say, I'm racking up the air miles. And, you know? I'm enjoying the solitude, the time to myself, to write, the seeing new places and meeting new people. I'm enjoying the TRAVEL, though I do miss my kids and miss seeing my girlfriend. It does wear me out every few days or so. 

Skyping with my kids
Like I said in my last post, Emily (my "former wife") and I are getting along pretty well ... the children are doing great ... my job is going well and I'm dating [once again] my sweetheart from over a decade ago. That couldn't be going better (my 5 year old said to her the other day he wants her to "be ours step mom someday."  [sic] She liked the thought.... :0) The kids really seem to like her a lot. We'll see where it goes.... By the way, her name is Tessha.

Alfred Lord Tennyson
As I mentioned, I need to hurry, but let me share with you three quotes I just love that I feel are appropo' to everything going on right now in my life. I hope they are for you as well. Have a great day and "here's to Triumph in all we do."

Jack London
Personally? I know you'll do just fine ... whatever you, yourself, are going through. We're not quitters, right? And tomorrow, a new day, is just a night away.

"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier.'" Alfred Lord Tennyson

"Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club." Jack London.

What a great reminder. And finally....

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." Albert Camus.

Albert Camus
I love all three of these Triumph quotes. Have hope ... don't be afraid ... and realize just what you are capable of and just what "lies within you." You can do it. I just know it. The stuff of Triumph.... it's what we're ALL made of. It lies within us ALL. We each have divine potential within. 

Trust me. It is absolutely true.

Until next time ... Patrick-Riv

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Back On the Big, Bad, Beautiful Blog

So ... if you've been wondering what became of me, I decided to take a break. I focused on the holidays, my children, licking a few wounds and launching the New Year together with my kids these last few weeks. It's been almost two months since I last posted on this Triumph blog, I am embarassed to admit, and I've gotta tell you: I've missed keeping it up and I have missed hearing your feedback and encouragement a lot.

Today is February 1st! It's my birthday month and I think it's going to be a big month and big year (for me and for each and every one of us, I hope). I'd be lying if I didn't say, I really am happy 2011 is done and over (it was the year from hell for me). I'd also be lying, though, if I didn't say, "I'm excited and looking forward to seeing what 2012 will bring."

As you know, if you've followed along, this blog's all about "beating the odds, overcoming challenges, and TRIUMPHING over whatever life may dish out." We've read of heros and heroines, athletes and artists. I've shared with you news stories, favorite quotes and even a few book and movie reviews along the way. Interwoven through them all has been that same, inspiring message: "We're not going to quit. Whatever you throw at us, we're going to catch it, maybe take a bite out of it, then we're going to throw it right back in your face."

I won't go into too much detail but suffice it to say that 2011 was tough ... if, for no other reason, than because my marriage came to a quick though not entirely unexpected end. After 9 years of marriage Emily and I divorced. It's a sad-but-good story in many ways. We separated in May and divorced in September 2011. I'm afraid, in this case, I can't write of "triumphing" over our challenges and working things out in the end. But I'll tell you what I can say ... we are succeeding in other ways. If nothing else, we're overcoming--both of us--the temptation to fight in front of the kids, to argue really at all, to, really, do anything to try to make life more difficult for the other than it already is or has to be. We're resisting the tendency so many divorced couples have of treating each other poorly, stabbing each other in the back, or throwing each other under the bus ... making the next however-many-years we're joined at the hip harder than they really have to be. We are instead focusing on co-parenting our 5 great kids ... and we're doing a really good job of it, a respectable job of it, if I don't say so myself. That is a Triumph in and of itself.

It helps a lot that Emily is an amazing Mom and is putting the children first in every way she can. I love them with all my heart ... and I know she feels the exact same way. Coming from a split marriage as a teen herself, Emily saw the impact, the hurt and the lingering effects that can come from long, vindictive divorces ... and she promised she would never put us or the children through that. She's keeping her promise for which I'm truly grateful. As I stated, we're doing things differently ... we're defining our new "relationship," co-parenting and supporting our kids, and, well ... we're making this up one day at a time but I really think we're doing okay. To her credit, when I'm in town, she lets me see the kids as often as I can. She tries to include me in their lives. She could be making this so much harder, so much more hurtful, but she has never come close. And the kids are thriving. They're "triumphing" in their own ways, or at least they seem to be. I know it's hard. I know it's been confusing and perplexing at times, especially for the younger ones. But ... they have each other, they have us, and they seem to be smiling most of the time. If I do say so myself, they all like coming to my house because I have X-Box Kinnect, tennis and a pool too. :0) You can see from the pictures that they still have a light in their eyes. As far as divorce goes, I think we're thriving through it and we're going to come out alright. I think they'll be okay, maybe even stronger in the end. I'd never encourage it. I'd never recommend divorce. But sometimes it turns out alright. I'm optimistic it can be for us. I really am proud of how Emily and I are dealing with it all. It's the only way I could imagine it working.

We may have failed as a married couple but I feel we are succeeding in our new roles. We're both trying...! [If you read this, Emily, just know how much I appreciate it. I'm sorry we weren't better together and couldn't make it work. But, I'm grateful for your understanding, your patience, and I'm grateful for the new opportunities ahead for us both. I'm grateful for our children ... and thankful to you for making me a daddy x 5. I always will be. Thank you again, my friend.

Today? We're working on new and better lives for us all. We're both dating. We're both working on school / work and trying to make a better future for ourselves and the kids. We're both trying to progress. Most of all, we're trying to work together well, to respect each other and be friendly and supportive for the most part. I feel optimistic we can do so. I feel hopeful that we'll survive. Thank you, Emily ... for your wisdom, maturity and patience through it all.

So ... back to The Triumph Times. 2011 was a hard year for me, I'm the first to admit. The divorce, in many respects, was just the tip of an iceberg much larger and more challenging in many ways. Work ... finances ... legal headaches ... the list goes on. There were good things happening as well, though: I mean, who hasn't loved following Jimmer Fredette of BYU and Sacramento, and the Denver icon, of course, Mr. Tim Tebow?! Lots of other Triumphant stories have followed: movies like Disney's, A Dolphin Tale, and the phenomenal Christian film, Courageous. The Iron Lady was good (Meryl Streep's amazing), We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon was inspiring and fun. I absolutely loved Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, The Outliers. The list goes on and on and on. As for the political campaign? Well, that's been entertaining (don't know about triumphant; we shall see how it all ends up). But the stories, the quotes, and inspirational news accounts keep pouring in. (I might have not been writing the last couple of months, but I've been accumulating a lot, and I have a long list of new subjects all ready to go). I'm really looking forward to writing more consistently again.

I'm probably not done getting "stretched" or "molded" as I have been. I'm sure there are still more hard things to deal with (it's pretty inevitable; after all, it's LIFE). Who really knows what the Lord has in store for me in 2012? I just want you to know that I personally won't ever give up. I personally have every intention of just pressing forward and being "Triumphant" over it all. Despite the heartache, I feel grateful. Despite the hard times, I feel truly blessed. Despite our break-up, the kids are happy ... Em and I are doing well enough ... I'm dating a good woman again, one I first fell in love with many years ago. Things are looking up. What else can you do but keep your chin up and your shoulder to the wheel, right? When times get you down, you just have to keep trying. I don't really know what else to do but I really don't think I even know how to give up.

I'm rambling now. Thank you for reading, despite the meandering. I am going to try to write a little more consistently from here on out. The kids have had lots of daddy time, which I think they really needed. We've had fun, connected, enjoyed Christmas and the New Year and now were back to school, work and traveling (me, as a trainer and speaker) again. Vacation is over for the next little while. I'm looking forward to what 2012 is going to bring.

I appreciate your readership. Talk again soon.

Patrick "River" Laing

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back on the Balance Beam: First in State

So, my goal at one time was to write at least 3 times per week in this blog. I don't know if that's better or worse than it was when I was trying to write every night. (It's worse; it didn't happen. In fact, my blog fell apart for awhile I hate to admit). The problem with not writing all of the time is that, before I realize it, the week is half over and I haven't written a single post. My apologies one and all.

It's been a busy household around the Laing home this week, most importantly because Brighten had her State gymnastics finals this week. Only 72 gymnasts made it to State this year and she was one of those selected, even though it's only her first year as a gymnast; I'm not proud at all. Ya right. I couldn't be more proud.

The awesome thing, and the thing I wanted to mention today if nothing else, is that Brighten proved the point I tried making in my earlier post about the rewards of getting back up on that "horse" (or in this case, that balance beam).

Get this: in every meet this year, including Sectionals two weeks ago, she did well ... she placed, she won medals, she even got a handful of first and second finishes. But, the balance beam has continued to be elusive for her. She fell in every 2011 meet. However, as I wrote previously, she didn't let it get her down, bouncing right back up whenever she fell; in fact, at one meet she STILL got a 9.025, even with a fall (which is pretty unheard of). She never wasted time commiserating, worrying, or getting upset. [As I posted before, "it isn't just 'getting back up' that counts; it's doing so quickly, without wasting time or letting yourself get down, and stay down."]

So ... she fell during the beam event in every single meet ... except this last Saturday's. Our little girl, in her first year of gymnastics (did I already say that?), executed flawlessly and SHE TOOK FIRST PLACE IN THE BEAM! She won 6th overall--6th in the whole State--even with a stumble on her bars event (she did really good there as well, but tripped on a crack in the pad that wasn't taped down very well). 1st in Beam and 6th overall! Not bad for a little 4-foot nothing pipsqueak who didn't even know what a balance beam was not 13 months ago.

Obviously we can learn several different lessons from Brighty's example:

1.  When you fall or stumble, don't hesitate; get right back up.
2.  Every time you fail, learn ... grow ... get better; your day will come.
3.  Apply yourself if you want success (trust me ... Brighten spends more time on her hands and head it seems than on her feet these days; she practices on everything. Are you doing the same?)
4.  Have faith, keep trying and never give up. It isn't always easy but it's worth it.
5.  Find your passion--eat, drink and breathe it, and be willing to sacrifice to make it come to pass.

(These kind of all sound like the same lesson told 5 different ways; oh well ... it's late and I'm too excited to think straight).

You can see in the picture that SHE isn't proud at all either. Ya, right. She's bursting at the seams, as she should be ... and her ol' dad is too. Nice job, Brighty Boo. I'm very proud of you. You are an inspiration to us all.

Never stop soaring. I love you dearly.....


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big Year: A Surprising Gem

I watched a movie a short while ago called "The Big Year" that I really enjoyed and I've been wanting to write a Triumph post about it. Though the critics' reviews have been mixed (it has a B- on Rotten Tomatoes), I found it entertaining, enlightening and also poignant in its own way.

It was entertaining because, with not just one or two but THREE comedic powerhouses starring in the film--Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black--you could expect to be entertained, and they did the job well. The comedy wasn't slapstick or crude at all (despite the two younger headliners and their normal repertoires). It was tasteful and creative and pretty darn funny, I thought. It was also thoughtful; but I'll talk about that more in a minute.

The film was enlightening because it tells the tale of three "birders" (bird watching enthusiasts) who set out to outdo each other in the so-called "Big Year" race, an annual U.S. competition among birders to see who can view the most different bird species in a single year. Enlightening? Educational? Informative? It was all of these and more. I think I enjoyed it mostly because it was a subject I know little about, and the "Triumphant editor" in me of course enjoyed seeing how passionate many of the participants in the contest were. I came away with my eyes opened to a new and intriguing hobby (I actually found the whole sport quite interesting). And much of the cinematography they shot in the film was absolutely gorgeous, ranging from Maine to Alaska and everything in-between.

I also found the film to be poignant and thought provoking, primarily because of three main reasons in particular. First, I enjoy stories that remind us of how success requires focus and focus usually requires passion; the guys in the movie were certainly a passionate, if not borderline-fanatic, trio. Second, the movie reminds us that, even when tempted, we can't afford to abandon our values, even when competing or working toward a goal. It isn't good enough to "win" if we leave what's most important behind; Triumph, true triumph, demands a certain moral code, a code I'm pretty sure we're all familiar with. And then there's the third highlight, Sacrifice. I won't ruin the story, but suffice it to say, the movie does a good job paralleling life with their hobby / pursuit and reminding us of the costs that so often accompany our pursuits of excellence. It reminds us to be cognizant of all that's required, and ask if, in the end, it's worth it. Sometimes it is; sometimes it just isn't. Whatever the case, I know from experience that it usually isn't an easy, downhill stroll. Most things that matter rarely are. The movie, like I said, does an excellent job reiterating this point--the demand and the price that are usually required. I found it to be a timely reminder for myself and my family, and maybe the rest of you as well.

Anyway. That's about it.... I do recommend The Big Year, whether or not you're a movie buff. It's one of those films I could go rent and watch again, even tonight. It's, well ... it's different, but in a good way; I personally thought it was fantastic.

Here's to you ... whatever your hobbies, passions or aspirations are. I hope they too are entertaining, enlightening and poignant for you and yours and that this year has been your "Big Year" and that 2012 will be even bigger still. Best of luck and skill...! Patrick-Riv

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wintley Phipps: Amazing Grace

It's been a couple weeks since I last wrote in this blog. Can I just say ... OUCH! Time flies by when you're, let's see, co-parenting five busy children, launching a new Internet business, doing a F/T job, being under the weather a little and celebrating Thanksgiving all at the same time. My apologies to those of you who follow The Triumph Times daily / weekly and have been checking back for new material. It's amazing how fast the missed days can add up.

You should know that I've thought of you and the next few subjects I'm going to write on literally dozens of times--at least several times each day. I'm constantly running across new material, subjects, questions and topics. Hardly a day goes by without me thinking, "I need to blog about that." Isn't it amazing, if you really stop to think about it, how much TRIUMPH we're all surrounded by? I know, I know.... the economy stinks, unemployment is up, jobs down, not to mention spirits. I'm well aware of all this. But I'm not down and I hope you aren't either. So many of us are still persevering. So many of us are like the intrepid explorers, soldiers, adventurers and more of yesteryear, who stared into the eye of the storm or the enemy and said, "Give Us Your Worst. We Will Not Back Down, No Matter What You Try Throwing at Us, We Are Stronger Than You!"

As I look back on my own life, many, many examples come to mind of resilience for which I am very grateful (it is Thanksgiving week, after all). Three quick examples:

Dan O'Steen, a wonderful sales manager of mine with Trendwest Resorts many years ago, is a true gentleman who reminded me "people don't care what you know until they truly know you care." He also used to say, "you don't have to be high pressure to be highly effective." Dan, my hat is off to you. You're a great man, a great manager, and also one heck of a saxophone player (Danno's band, Blues Union, is simply amazing).

A second example that comes to mind is Dan's counterpart, Rick Winings, the Project Director of the Alaska TRI office. Among many things, Rick taught us that "if you're not enjoying life, if you're not making the most of every day and truly "sucking the marrow out of it," you're missing the point." I can still remember him, with his feet up on his desk, a glass of wine in his hand, telling funny stories. He's often say, "You're not getting any younger, Patrick." At 50, he's still a big kid, and I love it.

And then there's Mel Horowitz, a dear friend of mine who is practically bursting with enthusiasm pretty much every time you see him. In his mid-70's, he lives life to its FULLEST, staying healthy, keeping busy, pretty much loving every minute. Lately he's been selling loads of stuff on eBay ... last month he was working in a Costco Warehouse collecting leads for LeafGuard NW (the well-known rain gutter company). Mel doesn't need the money; he's retired many times over and is paying to take 45+ people on a Bahamas cruise tomorrow ... (his entire family + his ex-wife and her husband; how's that for Triumphing [over sadness / divorce]?) Mel, more than just about anyone I know, teaches me often how to "Triumph over adversity." His example is inspiring to us all.

Speaking of inspiring, I wanted to share with you a clip and story from another powerful example, Wintley Phipps, real quick. Whether you're Christian or not, religious or not, or even a spiritual person or not, it doesn't really matter. I think you'll be touched by his story and song.

Wintley Phipps is the founder of U.S. Dream Academy, Inc., a non-profit organization which helps children who have had a family member behind bars. They're doing some really neat things, helping these kids Triumph over their set of circumstances and thrive. If you'll watch the YouTube clip below, you'll see three things that stood out to me and probably others that will have a similar or even greater effect on you:

1. Did you know most African American spirituals are played using only the black keys of the piano? I found that very interesting. The haunting feel of an all-black-key melody is mesmerizing, and interestingly appropriate.

2. Wintley is a world-renowned vocalist and performs one of the most stirring renditions of Amazing Grace I've ever heard. (Did you know Amazing Grace is the best selling / highest grossing black spiritual of all time)? *

3. Lastly, did you know the timeless hymn, Amazing Grace, was written by a former captain of a slave ship, John Newton? His story is touching, and very aptly portrayed in the movie, Amazing Grace, starring Ioan Gruffud and Albert Finney.

Like I said, it doesn't really matter your background, your belief-system or your philosophy: you can't help but be moved by this man and his rendition of this song. I'm spiritual but not terribly religious, per se. I have faith, believe in a higher being, consider myself a good Christian, and try to do what's right ... but I'm not usually a big fan of the evangelic, "tent revival" type of worship. Be that as it may, this performance touched me deeply. I hope it does the same for you.

Mr. Phipps' mission, his message and his organization are impressive. You can learn more about them at And Happy Thanksgiving, whoever you are.

Be grateful.....


P.S. I'm going to do my best to write at least 3 times each week, if not more, from here forward. This way, if I miss a day or two, it's not the end of the world. I might be able to put a little more meat into the posts as well. From the feedback I hear, folks seem to be enjoying them and I'm enjoying doing this. I hope you're getting a lot out of them.

I appreciate your reading. Please spread the word and come back and visit real soon. JPL

Wintley Phipps has performed for American Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Glinto, George W. Bush and Barack Obama at severl National Prayer Breakfast events and other distinguished celebrations. He performed for: the 1984]], and 1988 National Democratic Conventions, Rosa Parks' 77th Birthday gala at the Kennedy Center, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and President Nelson Mandela. He has appeared on various programs such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. television special, Dr. Robert Schuller's Hour of Power Telecast, the Billy Graham Crusades, at the Vatican, was guest soloist at Diana Ross' wedding ceremony in Switzerland, and on Saturday Night Live, Soul Train, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has also conducted lectures in Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa and North and South America.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Boldness Has Genius, Power and Magic In It"

I stayed up way too late last night trying to write about Abraham Lincoln, his Gettysburg Address and the timeless principle of "less is usually more." I struggled with the post (sometimes it just flows and other times it doesn't; kind of like life). I hope you enjoyed the write-up.

Tonight I'm going to try to go to bed a little earlier. As such, I'm going to follow Abe's example and try to stick to brevity in this evening's post. I promise only 1 or 2 "more lengthy" postings each week. In between, I'll try to share something like the quote below (I've always loved it). Even in quotes, less is usually more.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the genius of modern German literature, penned the words:

     "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it.
     Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
     Begin it now." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A truer commentary on the "seeds" of Triumph there probably never was. There is so much opportunity and excitement and experience available to be had. It's just waiting for us; all we have to do is get started and then not easily give up. Half the battle is so often just taking that first step ... then another ... and then a few more, until you look around and realize you're already half-way up the hill.

I'll let you go for now. Just know my thoughts are with you and I am proud of your efforts.... 

Onward and upward, 

J Patrick "River" Laing 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Lasting Principle: "Less is More"

I've spoken on this blog about leadership and courage. I've also mentioned brevity and how one of my personal goals is to learn to communicate, and live, more succinctly. I've come to believe that it adds little to the value of what we say or do when we wax verbose or long-winded in the process. It's a challenge for me, and for many of us, I think. "Less is more," though, or so they say ... but applying it in our lives can be challenging and elusive. (I once made a goal to keep emails I wrote to 100 words or less. It was tough; it was harder than just free-writing. I liked it, though, and I think folks appreciated it more; I may have to have a go at the goal again....).

Why is it exactly that less is usually more? How do we get there? I personally believe it's valuable in a lot of different areas: acquiring, consuming, even in our hobbies and our past-times. Lack of balance is rarely becoming; excessive behavior rarely leads to joy. We've all seen good and bad examples of this in our lives. The question is, are we learning from our own and others' experiences and mistakes?

"Less might be more" when our career or business is so demanding we find ourselves neglecting those most important to us. "Less might be more" when we spend too much time on the road ... or on the golf course ... or maybe at our favorite casino or fishing hole. Less is almost certainly more when it comes to more or less time with our kids (they say "it's all quality time to our children.") I really can't think of anything that counters this thought. Even less wealth or success may be desirable at times. (I can think of many high profile celebrities or entrepreneurs who would love to have the paparazzi disappear).

A bumper sticker I once saw echoes this premise: "You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it." This concept applies both in life as well as in writing. Personally, I appreciate brevity and Hemingway's to-the-point approach, though I fall in the trap of Faulkner's more verbose style; it bothers me and is something I'm working to change. Hemingway's succinctness is a breath of fresh air and something I admire a great deal. I often tell my sales people to "take more out" rather than "add more in" (to their sales presentations). I need to follow my own advice. It's a better approach and a goal we should all seek after more in our lives.

One of the most memorable examples of brevity (and leadership) was given to us on November 19, 1863, the day Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. Just 1196 words long and it's one of the most famous speeches and documents of our time. And it is obviously to the point. It's actually a bit ironic, because Lincoln himself says in the speech that the world "will little note, nor long remember what we say here." He got that part wrong: the day and the document live indelibly in our minds.

The battle and President Lincoln's speech have long been remembered. The sacrifices that were made and the change in the war they affected were dedicated and consecrated by President's Lincoln's few short words. It did not take him thousands of pages to do it justice. He didn't wax long or eloquent trying to drive home his point. On the contrary, the simplicity of the speech is much of what helped to make it so strong. Extra verbiage would have muddied the water and likely detracted from the message. They would have tarnished the delivery, much like too much make-up or extra baggy clothing can often detract from an otherwise attractive woman.

I hope you enjoy the speech. I certainly did. I've read it before but it's been many, many years. I don't know if you've read it yourself or if it's been awhile as well. It's listed below in case you'd like to do so. It's short--less than 1,200 words, as I mentioned--yet powerful and unforgettable. It is quoted, referenced, remembered and revered. I've always loved it. This Friday last I was reminded of a couple of reasons why.

I won't go into details but suffice it to say that I was at my attorney's on Friday, finalizing the closure of a company I've owned and loved for the last few years. It's been 2 1/2 years since I started shutting it down following its demise due to the economy in early 2009. (Trust me: I speak from experience when I talk about resiliency and overcoming odds on this blog). So, I was reflecting on how hard I had worked at the business ... on all that it cost me ... and I looked up and saw the Gettysburg Address hanging on the wall; also this picture of President Lincoln. I was reminded once again that "less is usually more." More toys and accolades and appreciation or rewards will rarely add up to lasting peace and happiness in the end. In fact, on the contrary, I've found it is more often true that Triumph is missed when we inundate it with excess baggage. I hope to better emulate this truth.

It's late and I have certainly gone on long enough, exceeding Lincoln's address by several hundred words, even as I discuss the subject of brevity. Again, I'm trying to learn my own lessons.... Thanks for being patient while I figure it out.

Happy reading,

JP River

The Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. ~ Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. ~ But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Even in Weakness: What's Your Excuse?

Yesterday's post was a proper tribute, I felt, to a young man who--even in weakness, even with a challenging disability (austism)--has chosen to adapt and overcome. He hasn't let his achilles heel slow him down. Instead, he's decided to Triumph over his affliction. It's a great reminder to us all of how we should not and cannot let life overwhelm us. All of the stories on this blog, the movies, books reviews, the people and examples, say the same thing: you can't beat us ... you won't get us down ... we won't let you kill us, no matter how hard you make it.

It's not easy. Sure, it's all well and good to talk about resiliency and achievement and principles like this when the skies are blue and the birds are singing. But, what about in the middle of the flood, when the rains are coming down, and your house is sliding into the creek? This is the time when our mettle is tested; this is the essence of our resolve.

What's great is that we are surrounded, even inundated, especially if we look for them, by examples that remind, inspire and encourage us to do the same. That's the whole reason I started this blog: I am amazed almost daily by the courage, strength and stamina of so many. They inspire me and make me want to do more myself, more to be courageous and strong.

Real quick, I want to share with you a movie clip from the recent block buster, Captain America: The First Avenger, starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers [Captain America]. It teaches us a valuable lesson on how to Triumph even when we're not the strongest, smartest or most impressive in the bunch. Even when weak, we can still make a difference. I absolutely loved this scene.

The movie in general, I thought, was pretty well done. Like other Marvel Comic tales, it's a little superfluous at times, but the action was engaging and the filming quite interesting. Set in World War II, it's the story of a once-sickly soldier and his experience becoming Captain America, the "first super hero." What stood out to me during the film, and the reason I wanted to mention it here today, was a scene in which Colonel Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci, are debating over who will be the best choice for their Top Secret program, Project Rebirth. Colonel Chester sees only Steve's frail health and slight build and is still not convinced he's the right choice. Dr. Erskine on the other hand believes otherwise, convinced that the young private has the right stuff, the inner strength and character, they need and have been searching for.

So ... what is the right stuff, exactly? What is it, do you think, that really makes the biggest difference? Is it being taller, stronger, more handsome or charismatic? Is that what's most important? Dr. E doesn't think so and neither do I. He wants what he sees in Private Steven Rogers ... quiet, humble courage and commitment, not to mention unselfishness--three elements that show up in many of our Triumph Times examples. 

The question is answered and the movie line established when Steve , the "weakling," jumps on what he thinks to be a live grenade to shield it with his own body from his Army boot camp buddies. With zero thought for himself, he willingly sacrifices his own life to protect his friends, or at least he tries to. (Seems a recurring theme in our discussions as well, doesn't it ... the willingness to sacrifice our own desires for a greater good). The incident was actually a test to determine the merits of Steve and the rest of the bunch. The comparison between weak and skinny Steve Rogers and the others is even more pronounced when the other soldiers run or jump out of the way with little to no thought for anyone but themselves. 

Dr. Erskine teaches one of the most important lessons of all, when it comes to Triumph and success, when he says : "The weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power." Even in weakness ... even when we're afraid or overwhelmed ... we can overcome and stand strong. In fact, more often than not, it is in our weakness and humanity that we usually prevail. It's the stuff that Triumph eats, drinks, breathes and thrives on. It's the stuff most real heroes, in my experience, are made of.

I liked the movie. I loved this scene. Check it out at

Take care and thanks for checking in,

JP Triumph 

Here's the full Captain America movie trailer. It's worth watching. Enjoy!