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Life of no regret


Saying Goodbye to Our Man of Steel

Marty Finstein (January 9, 1927 - December 11, 2015) Our Man of Steel

Marty Finstein (January 9, 1927 - December 11, 2015) Our Man of Steel

I would go to my childhood house every once in awhile only to discover my dad Marty in the attic. Not a normal attic that you can simply climb a set of stairs to get up to, but the kind that you have to pull a ladder down from the ceiling and climb up into cramped quarters. At 80 years old, when most guys his age were letting others do the heavy lifting, moving and schlepping, Marty wanted to do all of that himself.

Me - “What are you doing up there Marty?”

Marty - “I’m cleaning it out up here. When I’m dead, I don’t want your mother to have to deal with all this crap.”

Me - “Ok, do you want some help?”

Marty - “No, I better do this myself. You won’t know what you are looking at, probably will hurt yourself, and then your mother would be pissed at me.”

Me - “Makes sense. I’ll stay down here.”

Marty - “Hey, let me ask you something,  are you sticking around for a while? I have some questions about the computer. Yahoo moved something and I can’t seem to find where they put it.”

Me - “Sure thing, what got moved?”

Marty - “Alix (granddaughter) was over and messed up the internet. I’m not letting her get on the computer anymore. Effing kids.”

And so it goes.

On several visits, the conversation progressed into a series of lessons that, at the time, did not appear to be tutelage at all. But looking back, this patchwork quilt of sage but unconventional teachings, made up of a collection of lesson swatches, when stitched together, became the cloak of fatherhood, a la Marty. These lessons, in addition to his expressions, have shaped me and my siblings into what we are today. I sometimes hear myself using these “Marty-isms” and smile. I especially love hearing these expressions used by my kids. I get choked up just thinking about the word, “Truly!”

Marty didn’t just live life on his terms, he died on his terms as well.

In Marty’s unique manner, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. Not the type of lessons a father would sit down with his son and say, “Son, get good grades and work hard at school and you will go far in life.” He’d say things like, “When I was 10 my dad gave me a carton of cigarettes and a bowie knife that I could carry in my boot. I’d skip school and run away from the truant officer.” He’d release a belly laugh and get on with his day. The moral of the story was up to my own creativity. It was sort of like Marty exclaiming, “Take what you want from this lesson buffet, you ask too many questions Doug. Don’t you have someplace to be?”

As the patriarch of the family, this man of steel carried many of life’s lessons in a tin box. When I first learned of the tin box, I played it off, making light of its necessity, thinking the explanation of the contents, and the carrying out of the instructions within, could wait. This immortal man of steel, my Mom’s Superman, would outlive us all, I’d thought. Marty knew better. Of course, like everything else in his life, Marty was practical, he was a realist and he knew his clock was ticking.

This patchwork quilt of sage but unconventional teachings, made up of a collection of lesson swatches, when stitched together, became the cloak of fatherhood, a la Marty.

As I open the tin box now, the lessons come at me like dice on a craps table, each come-out roll being a winning seven turn of the dice. Marty, speaking to all of us from that new place his energy resides as the contents of the box speaks to me, like the croupier yelling, “Winner, winner!” As I pull out the papers one at a time, I am reminded of the lessons Marty teaches me about life, fatherhood and the human spirit.  The contents include:

His VA papers - Dedication to his country that he was so proud. Fight for what you believe in.

His Passport - Never stop taking adventures. Life is full of things to see and places to go.

His Last Will and Testament - Leave behind a legacy that you can be proud of and that further define who you really are.  

His Stocks and Bond Statements - Live your life responsibly, take care of your own and prepare for your later years.

His Listing of Friends that have Died - Realize your own mortality, respect others that have departed before you and keep their memories as a blessing to you.

His Marriage Certificate -  What truer way to celebrate life than to celebrate with someone you love. He loves my mother, continues to protect her even to this day and if there was a way to come back to earth if someone messes with her, Marty would find the way.

His Burial Plot Papers - Be a realist, live optimistically, but know that your life is a project, a long list of things that will eventually have an end. Enjoy the journey but know there is a conclusion.

A Picture of His Mother - Always have a soft spot for compassion, empathy and kindness. Make your life one that even your mom would be proud of.

As I pull out the papers one at a time, I am reminded of the lessons Marty teaches me about life, fatherhood and the human spirit.

Marty didn’t just live life on his terms, he died on his terms as well.  As painful as it is to think about, these last few months have been very tough for all of us. But Marty made sure he eased the burden of his passing, miraculously coming back from an episode with a ventilator to make his own choice to move to hospice care, not leaving that difficult decision to his family, selecting a place that I feel he thought Mom would be most comfortable. He selected a place with a good view, good food and lots of love. His joking and carrying on with nurses and family while in hospice care, continued right up to a day or so before he died. With my Mom right there with him, he exited this world, his final moments early Friday morning.

Our man of steel, with a tin box, our father, our husband, our grandfather, our great grandfather, our uncle, our cousin, our teacher, our builder, our protector, our Marty, our Superman, we love you, we miss you.





15 ways to live a life of no regret

Midlife does a lot for a guy. While I don’t feel like someone who is at a midpoint to anything, “they” tell me 50 is the official halfway point in life (crazy to think I will live to be 100, but who am I to argue). I still feel like a kid, and ask anyone that knows me, they would tell you I still act like a kid. So when I turn the big five 0 next week, it gives me a reason to pause, examine what has been, what hasn’t been and what’s going to be. And while I don’t profess to be a wise man, I do know there are certain things I wish I had done differently, should be doing more of, or should be avoiding completely.

My hope for you is that you realize it is never too late to make these changes.

So, as I wax philosophical, I provide below an outline of some of the important ways in which you can live a life of no regret. While I have not yet perfected many of the actions that follow, I can assure you I am working at each and every item below. My hope for you is that you realize it is never too late, no matter your age, level of intelligence or station in life.

  1. You will never get to your deathbed wishing you spent another day at the office. During the summer of 1995, my dad went into hospice care, losing his battle to cancer just 4 months later. During a visit one day in the final stage of his life, he dropped those words on me. I had one toddler already and another child on the way and although I heard the words, I was too busy making a living to make a life. Work hard at working less, life is far more important than a balance sheet. Play is an important part of life.
  2. Say "I love you" more frequently, to those in your life. If you are not an emotional person and those words don't come easy to you, there are other ways to say I love you. A handwritten note, hand delivered is a great way to express yourself. No matter how you do it, do it frequently. You will be amazed at the positive changes in your relationships when you say those magic words.
  3. Believe in yourself. You are unique, special and better at being you than anyone else. Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is taken." If you understand the concept of your uniqueness you will know that you are the best you you have to offer the world. You must believe in yourself to live to your fullest potential.
  4. Forgive anyone that has wronged you. Holding onto negative feelings will only make you bitter. Release the grip, do not hold a grudge and move on with your life. "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Buddha
  5. Let your creativity be your guide to determine your passion. Everyone has a spark of creativity. Use that spark to ignite a fire within you. Once lit, keep it fueled daily. Life is so much more enjoyable when you can express your creative side.
  6. Do not stay at a job that has no room for growth. A job that provides no opportunity for advancement creates a dead end in your career and also in your happiness. It may be a challenge to move on but you must. Embrace change, swallow hard and move on, which brings me to the next way to live without regret.
  7. Step outside your comfort zone. You know you are in a good place when your next step is a bit shaky. Take your dreams and make them a reality. In order to have the life you dream of you will need to do new things. The actions required will sometimes feel uncomfortable. Don't let the fear stand in your way, take action.
  8. Stop letting life happen and make life happen. Set goals for your personal and professional life. If you are like me, this can be a difficult step. Break it into smaller bite size pieces. It's the small daily actions that will move you towards huge long term results.
  9. Celebrate the little victories. Reward yourself for each success you achieve. Danielle Couick, a highly successful and sought after event planner in D.C. (yes, I'm biased), doesn't reserve champagne for only her clients' events. She will pop a cork to celebrate a great phone call, a visit with a girlfriend or milestone events as well.
  10. You need relationships in your life. Work harder at the relationships you cherish most in your life. Turn the focus of the relationship onto what you can add to the relationship to make it better. Pick up the phone more often, send a note just because, and most importantly, take stock in having that person in your life. If you feel as though you need closer relationships, take it upon yourself to make that happen. Do not wait for someone else to make the first move. It's up to you.
  11. Take better care of yourself. You have one body, one brain and one life to live. The average American spends 34 hours a week watching television. Just the sound of that is depressing. I challenge you to cut the cable. I left TV in the dust 3 years ago and have not looked back. I go on more frequent walks, spend more time reading, building my brain. I have a chance to do more dream building than ever before. One final note, make better choices with what you put in your body as well. Processed foods, sugar and chemicals will reduce your life expectancy and increase your chance for disease. You've got plenty of life to live, so do it the healthy way.
  12. Learn to show more gratitude. About a year ago I wrote a blog on the importance of saying "thank you." A sincere, genuine, heartfelt appreciation for a job well done or a task completed. People gravitate towards others that appreciate them. The best way to build amazing relationships is by appreciating those in your life.
  13. Live in the present. Don't go through life always thinking what's next. You will miss everything going on in the here and now. Also, when you are with someone, give them 100% of your attention. We all know of someone that lives for the "beep." Every time their phone beeps they look at it no matter where they are. Put the phone away, turn the ringer on silent and focus your attention.
  14. Listen to those people smarter and wiser than you. Make it a daily habit, supply your brain with information that will help it expand. Listen to podcasts, YouTube videos, TED talks and examine successful people who are experts in their field. Early in my career, a mentor told me to find someone that has achieved goals that I wanted to achieve and study what they did in order to be successful. It was advice that has served me very well over the last 30 plus years.
  15. Finally, never stop learning, never stop growing and always be curious about life. Life is not a game that can be played standing still. You are either moving forward or you are moving backward. Successful people are constantly educating themselves, making moves in a positive direction and are thirsty for knowledge.
The average American spends 34 hours a week watching television. Just the sound of that is depressing.

To live a life without regret takes effort. Along with effort some changes will need to be made. Although I do not for a moment feel I have mastered this list, I know, with certainty, that I have learned a lot from my first 50 years on this earth. It's hard not to learn some valuable lessons over 438,000 hours even though I spent nearly 100,000 of those hours sleeping. Don't go one more day without taking action. Fix what you can and never stop trying to fix what you think is broken or bent. Whether you are 18 or 89, it's never too late.

How will you live your life without regret? I welcome your comments and invite you to share this post with others on your favorite social channel. Thanks for your support and encouragement.