What Sailing Taught Me!

A coaching client read my blog, Hell NO, I Don’t Want To Live Another 70 Years! They asked me about valuable lesson number nine: Learn to sail. Sailing has taught me more about life than any job, hobby, or sport. They asked me to explain what I had learned from sailing.

Sailing is a blend of ballet, sport, and art. “A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.” – Webb Chiles

I learned to sail at Woodland Trails Scout Reservation, the summer of 1969. I purchased the waterfront director’s Windmill sailboat at the end of summer camp. The Windmill was the first of four one-design sailboats I owned from 1969 – 2009.

I learned when you purchase and own something valuable, you take better care of it than something given to you. It’s important to care and inspect sails, lines, centerboard, rudder/tiller, tools, and trailer regularly. Replacing sails and other parts is expensive! If you take care of them, they will reciprocate and take care of you! The Windmill was a wooden boat and required attention to maintenance. I refinished the hull of that boat and learned to paint with care and precision! Doing the little things well makes a big difference.

Learn to take care of your body. Sailing one-design sailboats requires agility, flexibility, and strength. Stay in good physical shape. If you ignore your health, it will go away!

Sailing Chesapeake Bay 1986

Learn to be prepared. Check the weather! Don’t assume. Wear the correct clothing and non-slip shoes. Always wear a flotation device, no matter how good a swimmer you are! Have a change of clothing for after the sail. It isn’t fun to drive home in wet clothing after sailing.

When you are in a sailing regatta, you need purpose and direction to stay the course. Learn to use a compass and map and read the wind indicator. This applies to a well-lived life. Check the water for possible wind changes. Watch other boats and their wind indicators, and learn what they are doing to reach the next mark or finish line.

Learn to understand who has the right of way. Safety is always the priority on the water as well as life. Navigating a boat is different from driving a car. Other boats can come at you from any direction. There are no divided lines, signs, or traffic signals on the water. There are red markers you keep on your right (red-right-return) and green you keep on your left. Like driving, save the alcohol for later.

My Thistle – Carrpe Diem!

Three of my one-design sailboats required two or more people to sail the boat. Learn teamwork, communications, collaboration, cooperation, and celebration. It’s the crew who wins the race, not the captain! Bodies need to shift to get the proper stability to help maximize speed. Lines and centerboards need to be constantly adjusted. Pay attention to commands from the captain, the leader. When you come about, everyone needs to hear the captain so they don’t get hit by the mainsail’s boom! The captain also needs to hear input from crew members on what they see and are experiencing. Celebrate the little things like coming about well and making quick adjustments. What gets celebrated gets repeated!

Sailing requires patience and adaptability. Very seldom are you able to sail straight to your desired mark. There are wind and current shifts. Dealing with change is constant. It’s not the strongest or most intelligent sailor who wins the race. The winning sailor is the one most adaptable to change.

Working the coffee grinder on Stars and Stripes!

You are not a real sailor until you capsize and turn turtle. Learn to deal with failure and mistakes. Learn to fail forward! Failing teaches lessons and gives valuable learning lessons. I’ve learned more from my failures and mistakes than my successes.

Learn to be a part of community. One of my favorite times of sailing was after the sail and derigging the boat. Other sailors would come over to help, ask questions, give advice, share stories and a beverage. There was a sense of community, bonding and belonging. We are meant to be in connection with others and not go out into life alone.

Are you ready to learn to sail?

Hell No, I Don’t Want To Live Another 70 Years!

When our financial counselor told me he expected me to live to be 90, I told him I expected to live to 78! My father died at 61, and my mother died at 88. I believe I can beat the law of averages by three years!

Our son, Brett, asked me to officiate his and his wife, Abby, wedding on December 31, 2021. I was honored, and it is one of the highlights of my life. I have asked him to return the favor by officiating my memorial (I’ve written out) at an Asheville, NC craft brewery. Everyone who attends will get a ticket for a beer or glass of wine!

Besides writing out my memorial service, I’ve also written my obituary. It is as follows:

I was born on October 23, 1953, to incredible loving parents, John and Joyce. I share my birthday with several famous people including:

My purpose in life has been to create safe, nurturing, inclusive communities.

The operating system I have tried to live by and hold myself accountable to is from Micah 6:8

  • compassion
  • justice
  • humility

Besides being called David… I’ve also been called:

  • Charlie Brown
  • Austin
  • The Tidy Bowl Man
  • The Corporate Onion Peeler
  • Dad
  • Granddad
  • Leever

I have been a…

  • A collaborator in God’s creation and I pray well with others of different faiths, including atheists
  • an Eagle Scout
  • an artist, a jeweler, a window washer, a newspaper columnist,
  • Experience-based facilitator in organizational and leadership development, leadership coach
  • author of 3 books – What’s On Your Rear End?, 65 at 65, David Carr By The Numbers
  • ordained minister of the Universal Life Church
  • Grandfather to Zander, Lily, and Everett
  • AND I am most proud of being a partner to Terri and a father to Erin and Brett

Here are just a few of the people who made a memorable difference in my life:

  • Larry Lemser, Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 516, Centerville, OH, inspired me to become an Eagle Scout and always reminded me to leave the campsite, people, and places better than I found them.
  • Mrs. Schreiber, my high school Latin teacher, taught me continuous practice was part of a life well-lived.
  • DePauw University Anthropology Professor Robert Fornaro, taught me the value of critical thinking. Questions are more important than answers. Questions reveal curiosity. Answers reveal judgment.
  • My sister-in-law, Kathy Sumner, showed me not to fear death.
  • Bob Schellenberg, reminded me not to wait until someone close to me dies to get together.
  • Lee Reading, gave me my dream job at Camp Joy and helped me overcome my fear of heights!
  • Lyne Watts made me aware of the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in my life and challenged me to do something about it!
  • My Westminster, Dayton, OH, men’s small group of 28 years, my band of brothers from different mothers who have each other’s backs.
  • My son, Brett told his mother and me, “You raised me right!”
  • Terri Carr, who made me feel worthy after a failed marriage and loved me even though I drove a station wagon whose scent was cherry urinal blocks 45 years ago!

Five books that changed my life and might change yours:

Here are a few valuable lessons I’ve learned and wish to share…

  1. It’s okay to feel weird about being the same age as old people.
  2. Life is good when you stop trying to be young and thin!
  3. The best things in life are rescued.
  4. Let a dog share your bed. You will live longer!
  5. Bacon will keep you from being a vegetarian.
  6. Gluten is not a crime.
  7. Golf is something you do with your hands while you talk. Sipping a good bourbon will not only do the same thing, but there are no bad shots, missed putts, lost balls, or yelling “FORE” at the top of your lungs!
  8. Sipping good bourbon is a form of yoga!
  9. Learn to sail. Sailing has taught me more about life than any job, hobby, or sport.
  10. You are the five people you are closest to. Choose wisely.
  11. You are what you watch, look at, read, think, eat, and drink. Be mindful.
  12. Whatever you do, give 100% unless it’s blood.
  13. Vote or be ruled.
  14. It’s a fact: vaccines have been safe and effective since 1796. Get vaccinated, not for yourself, but for your neighbor.
  15. Stop trying to be everyone’s cup of tea and focus on being a few people’s shot of tequila.
  16. The answer to “Can people really be that stupid?” is always yes.
  17. The true, real seven wonders of the world are: to see, hear, touch, taste, feel, laugh, and love.
  18. Say, “I love you!” to those you care about, beginning with yourself with all your warts, scars, mistakes, failures, and imperfections.

I have lived an incredible and blessed life! What has made my life incredible has been Terri Carr. I thank her! I am blessed to have shared a major part of life with her. She has helped make me a better version of myself than when she met me!

In lieu of flowers, please spend money on building bridges with others, creating longer tables that include more people who don’t look or think like you, and doing an act of kindness for some troubled soul. Please write your Congress person and tell them to do away with Daylight Savings Time and get back to real-time.

Comments from readers:

Austin, I love it!! I really didn’t want to read it because it gave me the heebee jeebies, but so glad I did. Once I started I couldn’t stop! I love it all and the warts comment made me laugh out loud! I loved your comment about Burbie! C.H.

So here comes the usual response…is your health okay?  Is your Spirit okay? D.B.

I hope you live long enough to add more grandchildren to that list, to author another book, to find more books you want to recommend, to fall in love even more deeply with life and others and to not have any expectation as to how long you will live. J.W

Everyone manages face the thoughts of their own deaths in their own way, as you are doing. I hope that you don’t set an expiration date for yourself, but live until you die, instead of until you expect to. G.D.

At some point I’m going to respond.  Like what you’re doing. M.A

Brilliant! T.B.

Thank you for sending your thoughts and wishes for your obituary. I have read it many times and still cry each time. It kind of took my breath away when I saw Bob’s name and the message was so true and heartwarming. You are such a great writer. I also laughed at some of your valuable lessons. S.S.

This was fun to read. Your zest for life is inspiring to me. Thank you. I’m glad to have you-and your perspective-in my life. B.M.

Happy birthday Mr. Carr. I loved learning more about you before you leave this world. But the bourbon part I already knew, as did most everyone. Stay golden! D.D.

David, you are a very interesting fella! I cannot believe we are so far apart philosophically/spiritually, yet kindred spirits of sorts when nurturing communities. Congratulations to Brett! D.J.

Soulfully Strong People: 7 Things They Do Well*

Having coached leaders and worked with many teams, the most obvious work needed to overcome is dysfunctionality! This is the work of the soul. It’s that fourth edge of the saw we need to keep sharp. It’s part of the 7th habit of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which Covey refers to as spirituality. It’s the core of emotional intelligence. Our psychological and social well-being are connected to the spiritual. In keeping with Covey’s seven themes, here are my observations of seven things soulfully strong people do well.

1.) They know themselves and accept themselves just as they are including their imperfections. They know they are a bundle of habits, some good some not so good. They acknowledge their weaknesses and let it go. They focus on their strengths, seeking to grow them and live into them. Their strengths are their gifts. They know that to “love their neighbor just as yourself,” they really do have to love themselves! Thus, they have skin in the game of life. They avoid comparing themselves to others and don’t live in wishful thinking. They live into an affair of the heart.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”     – Buddha

2.) While they know themselves, they also are able to forgive themselves. They recognize shame as “I’m not worthy,” and recognize they are worthy even with warts, scars, and imperfections. They see themselves as a work in progress, making mistakes as part of life’s journey, not taking themselves too seriously, forgiving themselves, and asking for forgiveness. By living with this, they are able to forgive others. Thus, they laugh more especially at themselves, and experience the “thin spaces” more fully.

3.) They don’t take things personally. They recognize there is another side to the story that they don’t know. They question the ugly story they begin to create. They avoid climbing the ladder of inference. They recognize what they can control and what they cannot control. They don’t try to change or control other people. Their expectations are realistic, they grow their wisdom and they seek to live in truth.

4.) They work at connecting with others and accepting others just as they are. They suspend judgment and extend curiosity towards others. They know even the least of us is worthy of connection. They live string theory. To-do lists are not nearly as important as to-be lists. To-do is about success. To-be is about significance. They find more joy in being than doing. Being connects back to their purpose in life, to make connections and build bridges.

5.) They live in the now. They work on being mindful and fully present. They acknowledge the past has lessons. The failures of the past are lessons learned. They recognize that who they are at this moment is because of where they have been. The past cannot be changed nor should it be changed. The past is what it is. The future is yet to be determined. No one knows what in is the future.

6.) Gratitude is a state of mind for the soulfully strong. They acknowledge their blessings including the blessing of pain and suffering that has revealed its gifts. They know pain is inevitable but misery is optional. Consequently, their gratitude becomes the font of their happiness. Thanksgiving is a daily occurrence rather than once a year.

7.) They love more and consume less. They recognize love as the greatest force on earth and the arch-rival of fear. Their courage is girded by love. As darkness is the absence of light, as cold is the absence of heat, fear is the absence of love. Thus, their biggest battle is overcoming fear in themselves and helping others to battle their fears.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to increase my workouts…soul workouts!

*Originally published November 2013 and updated.

Is Christianity Going to the Dogs?

On a recent men’s retreat, one of the conversations was about our relationship with God and our Christian faith. Every man shared concerns and uneasiness in their faith journey. All I could say was, “Me too.”

Brian McLaren is experiencing this Christian uneasiness and has written about it in Do I Stay Christian? I found this book to be rich in opportunities for conversation. As I indicated at my retreat, I think you will find it quite thought-provoking.

I first met McLaren at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC, in July 2013. McLaren, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Diana Butler Bass, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sara Miles, and Barbara Brown-Taylor are some of the others who touched my soul, my faith, my purpose, and my core values at these annual Wild Goose Festivals. I’ve read many of their books.

McLaren‘s latest book, Do I Stay Christian?, has gotten my attention. He addresses the holy chaos we are experiencing in these times, including the historical, institutional, pragmatic, moral, missional, political, and social connections of the Christian faith in our lives.

McLaren has broken Do I Stay Christian? into three parts: Part I, ten reasons to leave Christianity; Part II, ten reasons to stay with Christianity; Part III, how to transcend and move forward, including the need to stay human.

Watch his YouTube interview (3:15 minutes) to learn more about this book.

Beginning Wednesday, November 1, at 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM, I will facilitate a six-week discussion on this book. We will meet via Zoom on the following Wednesdays: November 8th, 15th, 28th, December 6th, and 13th.

I will limit this book discussion group to twelve participants. If you are interested, email me at carrpe.diem@gmail.com, and I will put you on the list and send you the Zoom link.

Please purchase a copy of Do I Stay Christian? and read it rather than an audible or electronic version so we can all be on the same page and make easy references in our discussion.

How Are You Dealing With the VUCAs?

In the 7th edition of The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner address the VUCAs (page 213) under the practice of Enabling Others to Act. I first encountered the term VUCA while attending an educator’s boot camp at Paris Island MCRD in 2013.

Back in the 1990’s, the military added the acronym, VUCA to its vocabulary. VUCA stands for:

Volatility – change is coming at a faster pace and dealing with transition can be messy.

Uncertainty – our ability to predict the future is becoming less meaningful and trustworthy.

Complexity – is increasing including knowledge, communication channels, and distraction leading to increased confusion (Note: I believe the C should include Chaos and Confusion, as misinformation and disinformation are a norm in our society.)

Ambiguity – made up of assumptions, poor communications, fuzzy rules, and false readings leading to fog.

VUCA is code for acknowledging the root cause of stress, frustration, indecisiveness, bad behavior, poor performance, weak execution, short outcomes, and incomplete strategic plans.

As VUCA’s come upon us, the cry becomes, “I/we don’t have enough ___________!” Blame-storming ensues. Shortcuts are taken. Ethics are ignored. Greed increases.

What do you do to minimize, reduce, or eliminate VUCAs?

Make time. The time issue always becomes apparent when working with a group during an experience-based initiative. The initiative that includes a time allotment, creates stress, generates anxiety, and becomes an enemy to positive outcomes. Make time an ally! Use your resources more effectively by breaking groups into smaller groups to flush out fresh, unique ideas. Do not be quick to throw water on an idea that goes against your thinking or the current process. Instead of a “Yes, but…” try a “Yes, and…”

I notice most organizations or teams (as well as individuals) who go through a strategic planning process seldom discuss the “what ifs’…” as in:

  • What if a key member(s) of the team leaves or dies?
  • What if a natural disaster hits like a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire?
  • What if served with a lawsuit?
  • What if the economy tanks?
  • What if ___________________?

Simplify. Simplify stuff. Simply processes. Simplify lifestyles.

Lean into flexibility. The tree that bends in the wind will survive over the tree that is stiff and rigid.

When you go out into the world, will you watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together?

This blog was originally written in December 2011 and has been updated. This blog was posted on LinkedIn on Friday, September 15, 2023. Jim Kouzes comment:


What Are You Addicted To?

I am a fan and regular listener of the podcast Hidden Brain.

In the recent two-part podcast, The Paradox of Pleasure and The Path To Enough, host Shankar Vedantam interviews Dr. Anna Lembke, medical director of Stanford Addiction Medicine and author of Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence. This book should be required reading.

We are wired to seek pleasure. We are all addicted to something: drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, pornography, texting, TikToking, Instagramming, Facebooking, YouTubing, tweeting (or now Xing). The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7. We have all become vulnerable to compulsive overconsumption.

The problem is that the relentless pursuit of pleasure leads to pain. We must learn how to keep dopamine in check by managing our consumption.

If you say, “Thank God, I don’t have that problem!” you are addicted to denial!

We Are Coming To Asheville. What Do You Recommend?

We get phone calls and emails from friends, friends of friends, clients, and blog readers who say, “We are coming to Asheville. What do you recommend?” We have so many choices and so little time! Click on Asheville for a link to a map of downtown Asheville.

I began this blog back in September 2015 and I update as we experience more of Asheville and Western North Carolina. For example, today we had lunch at Mother Bakery, Wine Shop, and Cafe. I had the most incredible egg salad sandwich ever!

Click on this link to get updates on where to go, what to drink, what to eat, and where to stay in the Asheville area!

Wait! What? Blaine Greenfield Interviews Me!

Blaine Greenfield interviewed me on his podcast, “Blainesworld.” Blaine and I first met in 2010 through  Leadership Asheville. We discuss my blog, the Art of asking questions, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Camp Joy, my book, “What’s On Your Rear End?,” PetchaKutcha, Braver Angels, leaving a legacy, and tattoos!

When Do You Stop Needing A Coach?

I have benefited from having coaches, mentors, sponsors, and therapists. These people have helped my development and growth. They have led me to “pay it forward” to become a mentor and leadership coach. While mentoring has no time limit, coaching does have a limit. The question is, “When do you stop needing a coach?”

Whenever I begin coaching a client, we spend the first session getting to know one another. We see if we can dance with one another without stepping on toes. We seek to see if the vibe between us works.

It is important to be clear on the client’s desired outcomes. My coaching focuses on helping clients develop skills to improve performance, increase effectiveness, and raise emotional intelligence. These are fundamental behaviors for good leadership. Perhaps there is a desired behavior change of overcoming a bad habit with a new habit. While some coaches seek a successful outcome with better efficiencies, I seek to help the coaching client to be more effective by being more significant with others, which impacts their ability to lead themselves and others. After all, leadership is about relationships.

Early in the process, I do a SWOT where clients acknowledge their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Discovering opportunities and threats can help with developing needed skills. I help clients to imagine they will be on the front cover of Today’s Leader magazine three years from today. What will be the headline? What will be the significant accomplishments, notable quotes, and key learnings? I ask the client to project their legacy and the future they wish to create.

When does coaching reach its end?

Every one of us is a continual work in progress dealing with our imperfections, warts, scars, mistakes, and failures. When we reach a state of loving ourselves just as we are, accepting our imperfections, having a good practice of self-compassion, and can laugh at ourselves, perhaps it’s time to stop coaching. Confidence has been achieved.

Good coaching sessions have a flow where conversations go deep, challenge thinking, and create AHAs! When those conversations no longer happen, that may be a sign that coaching has run its course. At the heart of coaching are the questions that get asked. When the coaching client can ask themselves better questions than I am asking, coaching is no longer needed.

One size fits one. – Tom Peters

There is also a need to end coaching when the client is no longer committed to doing the work they need to do. I usually send a pre-work email to clients on issues to discuss and give them homework assignments to help them prepare for the upcoming discussion. It’s time to stop coaching when the client doesn’t do the pre-work and gives excuses.

There are some skills I am very good at in coaching others. There are other skill sets I am not good at. If the coaching client could use a coach with stronger skill sets in an area I am weak, I refer them. I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am that shot of whiskey for some!

If coaching discussion moves from discussing skills to issues around unhealthy relationships (i.e., marriage), regulating emotions (i.e., anger management), unhealthy coping skills (i.e., addictions), processing a traumatic event (i.e., PTSD), or mental illness, I recommend the client find a therapist.

What has led to you telling a coach, “Thank you! I no longer need you.”

What has led a coach to tell you, “I don’t think you need my coaching any longer.”

Are You The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are?

“Treat people as though they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” -Goethe

A while back, there was a print ad for Twenty Things You Should Do in This Lifetime. It listed such things as riding in a gondola in Venice, standing on the Great Wall of China, seeing the sunrise over the ruins at Machu Picchu, seeing an opera at La Scala in Milan, and since it was an ad for BMW, owning a BMW.

The ad got me thinking about Twenty Things You Should Be in This Lifetime.

Here is my list.

1 Be loving. 99% of whom and what we are cannot be seen. Learn to love yourself and realize there is no one exactly like you. When you do, you will be at peace. Love begins with you.
2 Be a role model. Thunder makes all the noise, but lightning does all the work! Role models keep commitments.
3 Be a giver. Give 10% of your time, talent, and treasure to others. You reap what you sow. Give blood.
4 Be part of a community. It is within the community we can share our ideas as well as our pain and vulnerability without fear. A team is a community.
5 Be a saver. Save 10% of everything and anything, you earn. Rainy days will come and your savings will provide a rainbow.
6 Be curious. Great leaders are great readers. Study your life. When you go to bed, ask yourself, “What do I know tonight that I didn’t know this morning?”
7 Be compassionate. Random acts of kindness are not just a good practice they are good medicine.
8 Be passionate. A job is something you do with your hands. Work is something you do with your hands and mind. Passion is what you do with your hands, mind, and heart.
9 Be ethical. There is the easy way and the right way. The right way is ethically based.
10 Be spiritual. You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in the seed.
11 Be timeless. Our medieval ancestors had no concept of time, but we are in danger of being controlled by the clock. Time is the only resource you cannot save. Learn to use time more wisely.
12 Be healthy. Get enough sleep. Eat sensibly. Get 4 to 5 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions every week. Wash your hands often. If you ignore your health, it will go away.
13 Be able to laugh. Laughter is the only cure for grief. If you cannot laugh at yourself, you leave the job to others.
14 Be responsible. The United States is full of angry people. We confront and point fingers forgetting that three fingers always point back to us!
15 Be there. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Sound travels at 1,100 feet per second. Slow down and listen! Learn to be still. Be a caring parent. Be a caring friend. Just be there.
16 Be simple. Choosing to be simple and simplifying, your life reduces stress, conflict, and problems. Practice KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!
17 Be humble. Instead of thinking, I am better; learn to think, I am different. The differences we have make us stronger together.
18 Be forgiving and forgetting. Learn to forgive yourself for your own shortcomings. Forgive others for their shortcomings. Build a bridge and get over it.
19 Be fearless. The opposite of love is fear, not hate. Fear causes real pain in life including war, crime, drug use, and other forms of destruction. Battle your fears constantly.
20 Be creative. Whenever you encounter a challenge, learn to identify as many resources as possible. Act and be willing to fail forward.

What would your dog add to this list?