Follow the Research

I’ve been writing and researching stories for over 20 years, and in that time I have gotten pretty good at researching the truth and finding facts that have long since alluded others. No matter who you are, you have a trail and unless you live off the grid, no matter how careful you are, you have associates and connections. Fifteen years in broadcast news and broadcasting taught the value of good research and asking questions. What if…is always my best start to an inquisitive nature. And often those who are the most uncomfortable are those who have something to lose with the truth.

Everyone has a story to tell, whether they want to tell it or not. And if you look closely at the cracks, in between the this and that, lining up the stitches and connecting the dots – you can find it. But it’s also more than that. It’s talking to people, paying attention, listening to what they say – and don’t say – and reading body language. Everyone has tells. And if you look close, you can find them.

Some people are offended at being underestimated or considered a bit flakey. But not me. I love it. Because then people put their guard down. Really, why would you need tp protect yourself against someone you think is harmless?

And so in back rooms with dirty handshakes on secret deals, looking the other way, and even getting upset at innocent questions in neighborhood meetings, the tells tell the tales of the liars holding their breath before those thoughts can escape through their lips.

Research pulls it all together like breadcrumbs leading the way through a complex labyrinth of mirrors. All you have to do is … follow it….

Live life Out Loud

A good friend had this as one of his tag lines for his company, and I always always loved it. But what does it mean? Well, I think the definition can vary depending on the individual, but for me it simply means to live your life honestly, in full throttle, and with integrity. To be authentic, and to go after what you want honestly. And do it with 100% of your soul. Simply put – don’t half-ass life.

But let’s break it down even further. You cannot get what you want if you are not willing to be honest about whatever that is. And go after it unapologetically, with passion and fire. Because we only have this one life and today is not a dress rehearsal. There are no do overs, so while you do not have to do everything perfectly, you should do your best because you may not get another chance to travel that road.

And whatever you do, have the discipline to be dedicated. If you want to travel, travel and enjoy every moment. Balance that out with quiet nights on the couch, snuggling with the one you love. Be present and not distracted. Laugh with your whole body, love with your whole heart, have fun, be loud sometimes, be quiet, but give yourself completely to the mystery, the adventure, the magic of this life.

But the most important thing, I think, is to be honest and have integrity. There are so many who keep secrets, or to try to run a parallel life. And I don’t understand that mentality, because it takes so much energy to run that many secrets and keep all of the lies straight. My memory is not good enough and surely it would lead to a lot of stress. Think of the wonderful things that could be done with all of that energy?

And what happens to all of those secrets when they die, if they pass away before it’s all sorted? Loved ones are left shocked and further traumatized by learning things that they didn’t know. And it makes you doubt who that person was to you, to their life, to your life, makes you doubt everything they ever said to you, makes you wonder what else you don’t know, and can even make you suspicious of other people. It is a terrible legacy to leave behind. I’ve know people that found out about siblings, spouses, property, tax issues, houses, cars, bank accounts, businesses. And it’s beyond unfair because those left behind have no way to question or confront their loved one. That leaves a mark. And if you are going to have an impact on the lives of others, it should be a positive one.

We have all done things for which we are not proud and all of us have chapters in our lives we would rather read alone. We all have things we keep to ourselves. But there are normal things, and then things that hurt others. And if we live our lives out loud, honestly, authentically, and with integrity, we will hurt a lot less people.

I also think that living out loud means celebrating who you are – faults, scars, and all. It is our faults that make us our most human, and it is our scars that make us our most beautiful. I once had someone tell me that they hated getting older, they hated how their body looked at it aged and how it felt. I told him that yes, getting old is hard, but it is a privilege denied to many. So while we may not like getting older, there is nothing we can do about it, so we might as well make peace with it and celebrate it. Yes, celebrate that wrinkle or that bum that is drooping with gravity. Why not? It is better than the alternative, and hating it isn’t going to stop it. Even having a aging body is a gift, because so many never get the chance to grow old. So celebrate it, out loud.

Life is short, so live it out loud. Laugh, run, play, work, love. Do all of it, and celebrate all of it. Because you are here, we are here, and that is is gift. So even if life isn’t perfect, and it rarely is, that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be perfect to celebrate it, love it, live, and be happy with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to be perfect, to live life out loud.

Great Consciousness of Life

I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life. – Jack Kerouac

It is always shocking when a close friend passes away, especially when it is sudden. And Thursday I received a message that no one wants to get, or give – a good friend was gone. He passed peacefully in his sleep after a short trip. And I immediately felt gutted at the news.

I had just seen him, a month before. He owned a local bourbon distillery and tasting room where I loved to visit to catch up. I almost text messaged him that night, to say hello and see how he was doing, but I was tired and got distracted. I wish now I had sent that text, even if would have not been answered. He always had something interesting to say and I often messaged him to talk about politics or the state of the world. He was kind, funny and a gentle soul. He was artistic and creative and just one of my favorite people.

We met through a mutual friend 12 years ago in Atlanta when he owned an art gallery, and I asked asked him to paint a picture of my parents for their anniversary. He had me take pictures of them, then he chose his favorite one to paint from. To say my parents loved their portrait would be an understatement. It soon became one of their most treasured things, and it became a family heirloom after they passed away.

We talked often about a variety of things. He often talked to me about grief after losing his father, knowing I had lost both of my parents. We talked about cancer after he was diagnosed. We talked about whiskey and he sometimes listened to my suggestions on things to do with his tasting room. He was an amazingly talented artist, and many have posted his paintings. It is a delight to see so many things that he did.

I will miss him, my dear friend. It seems strange that he is no longer with us. It seems strange that I will never again go to the tasting room to say hello and catch up over one of his custom drinks. It seems strange that we will never again have conversations about politics, books, history, or random things.

I am glad that I saw him when I did and that I hugged him tightly before I left. I am glad that I told him I had missed him, and that it was so good to see him again. I am glad for that one last visit, which was such a gift.

And it has reminded me to never take for granted that your friends and family will always be around. Hug your loved ones, tell them you love them. Call your friends, catch up with them and be not distracted with phones and technology. Be present with them.

Life is short – too short sometimes. And I have been reminded once again to live life out loud and full throttle. I was blessed to know him and call him friend. And we should all be so lucky to pass peacefully in our sleep. Thank you for your friendship, the laughter, the conversations, the painting and more. Rest in peace my dear friend.

A Michael Leidel original: