233 – There Are Always Options

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There Are Always Options…

After a very long period of silence It is I, Alf Herigstad, back at the Being A Better Man Microphone.  It feels really great to be back.  It seems like a very long time since I recorded an episode and in reality it has been exactly 3 weeks.  21 days since I have released an episode.  That is the longest absence I have ever had and I was a little worried about what the consequences would be.  I was concerned that everyone would just go away and listenership would plummet.

I’m happy to report that during my absence 8,476 people still listened to the podcast.  That’s awesome.  Thank you all for hanging in there.

As I told you in the last episode, the reason for my absence is that I was going to the Burning Man festival with my wife, father, and uncle.  I was going to be separated from technology for  a while because I was going to be camping out in the Nevada desert.  Now I am back though, and I have some stories to tell.  Some insights to share.

The first thing I want to report is that we had an amazing time.  It was a fantastic experience with my dad and uncle who are both in their 80’s.  We saw epic art and we witnessed extreme cases of human innovation.  We met people from many countries and made a lot of new friends.  It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbow’s though.  There were some hard lessons to learn as well on this adventure.  Hard lessons are the best kind, because they teach you the most.

Before I continue with the rest of this episode I want you to take a wild guess about what I was wearing the whole time I was gone.  That’s right!  I was wearing Stump Town kilts…what else?  I took my black kilt and my green kilt to burning man with me, and I trashed them.  The black one was especially destroyed.  When I got home it was no longer black.  It had become so impregnated with dust and dirt that it was gray.  I thought it would never be the same but after it came out of the wash it looked black and beautiful again.

I’m telling you guys, these are the best kilts out there.  They are durable beyond measure, comfortable, and the unique design makes them extraordinarily useful as well.

Stump Town Kilts happens to be a sponsor of this show and if you go to their website:  stumptownkilts.com and pick out your new kilt you can receive 10% off your entire purchase by entering the code:  betterman, at checkout.  All lower case, all one word.  Check them out today at stumptownkilts.com and enter the code betterman to receive your discount.

The overriding lesson I learned from this experience is also the title of this podcast;  “There Are Always Options”.  As I go on you will understand what I mean by that. 

The plan was that my wife, dad and I would drive down from Washington to meet my uncle in Reno and then head up to the event.  We were in a 2004 Dodge Grand caravan and it was loaded well beyond capacity with all of our provisions.  Even the top was stacked up with about three feet of stuff. 

You need to take a lot of stuff to a thing like this because nothing is provided for you.  All of your infrastructure, food, water and other supplies are up to you.

Anyway, we were happily making our way towards Reno with no problems until we where about 20 miles from our destination.  That’s when our car threw a rod.  It started knocking like crazy and lost power.  We coasted down a mountain and limped into the hotel parking lot where my uncle waited.  We got a mechanic to come and give us an official diagnosis.  After looking at it he said the worst thing that he could have said.  He said we needed a new engine.

So there we were, 670 miles from home with a car that needed a new engine.  Not to mention all the stuff that was packed into that car.  Our hearts sunk…we didn’t know what we were going to do.

That is when I first started repeating the phrase that there are always options.  I was very concerned…don’t get me wrong.  I thought we might be in a world of crap but I also knew I had to keep my spirits up.  I knew there were options and until we explored every one it was way too early to throw in the towel.

We got on the internet and started looking for adequate replacement vehicles we could buy locally.  We found some, but they were all way out of our budget.  We drove around in my uncles pickup to several car lots and got the same result.

Then my dad and uncle had a suggestion.  They suggested we go to the local junk yard and see what they had for sale, because they sold cars too.  I was dubious, as was my wife.  Buying a car from a junkyard would have never entered our minds…but, it was one of the options that came up.  I had been chanting the fact that there were always options, there was always a solution to every situation and since this option presented itself, I had to explore it.

We went to the junkyard and every car for sale there was about $1,000.  We quickly ruled out several of them because they obviously wouldn’t work.  There was one car there that I found interesting though.  It was a 2003 Windstar mini van.  Essentially the same size and configuration as our broken car.

We started it up and it seemed to run fine.  The inside seemed clean and besides being low on brake fluid, we really couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  We decided to buy that car after talking them down to $750.  We transferred all the stuff from our old car to the new one and continued on our journey to Burning Man, we only lost one day on our itinerary.  We donated our old car to the same junk yard.

I gotta tell you, it was a bit stressful.  Now we were driving straight out into the desert in a car we bought from a junk yard.  We didn’t know if we would make it or not.  All we had was hope in that moment.  Hope, and the knowledge that whatever happened…there would still be options.

Magically, the car made it to the festival without a hitch.  We parked and set up our amazing camp and enjoyed the next few days as though nothing had happened.  It truly was an amazing few days.  We got to show my dad and uncle stuff they had never seen before.  I got to hear stories from them I had never heard and I told some stories they had never heard.  It was a once in a lifetime unique experience that I am very grateful for.

The thing about big experiences like this is that it’s hard to put it in words.  It’s very difficult to explain something that was so big and complex.  You cannot simultaneously recount every great thing that happened or explain every profound moment.  It takes a bit of time to sort it all out—to process it in your mind.

I’ve been home about four days now.  Yes, that junkyard car brought us safely all the way back home and I have been doing some very diligent processing.  I’m going to share the results of some of this high level pondering with you right now.  The main thing I came up with is that the stars of this whole experience were my dad Ron, and his brother Bob.  These guys were amazing.  Throughout my entire car crisis they never lost a step.  They stayed calm and upbeat, they were certain it would all work out.  Nothing rattled their cage.

They continued to joke and laugh and simply live in the moment regardless of what was going on around them.  Early in the festival the air conditioner quit working in my uncles RV and it was 107 degrees outside.  No problem…they would just drink more water.  I was proud to go with them into other camps and watch people admire their story and appreciate them for the men that they were.  I could see the admiration in the eyes of others as these two old guys dressed like cowboy’s just made friends everywhere they went.  It was all about Ron and Bob…I was just the nephew or the son, and I was happy to be.  Watching these guys reaffirmed in me that there is literally nothing in life worth getting upset over.  In 80 plus years they have seen it all;  tragedy, victory, pain, glory, triumph, death and life.  They reminded me that the world keeps spinning around regardless of what we do.  Getting bent out of shape about something does not change the outcome, so we may as well be as happy as we can in the meantime.

I have said before on this show that I continue to learn from my father, he continues to be my mentor and my example of what manhood is.  Now, being in the presence of these two brothers during this experience has made that statement even more true.  At 55 years old I still have so much to learn from my elders.  Regardless of your age or your station in life don’t forget that.  You still have much to learn.  We all still have so much to learn and the ones to teach us are those who have already gone through it. 

So I encourage everyone to seek out the wisdom of men older than you.  Wether they are family, a neighbor, or someone you meet on the street—take the time to hear them.  Take advantage of their stories and experience and put it to work in your own life. 

Utilizing the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of men older than you is a very effective human strategy, it has been working since our species began.  It’s also another tool to use while you are being a better man today than you were yesterday.

Hey remember to check me out on Facebook and Twitter.  Write me a letter at:  alf@beingbetter.men and tell me how much you missed me, or ask me a question or whatever you want, I love getting mail from you guys.  Don’t forget to get my book either if you haven’t.  

Now head out into the world and be ready to appreciate the wisdom of the older gentleman who have already done the things you hope to do.  Remember there are always options, and above all, keep on being a better man today than you were yesterday.

Hey remember to to check out my new book, Forging A Man, available right now on Amazon.

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