Author: Nick Partenope

A full time Firefighter Paramedic learning to make his dreams a reality, trying to help others do the same ...

“You can’t get advice on what you should do with your life …” – Will Smith

I was scrolling through Instagram a few days ago, when I stumbled on a video of Will Smith, whose insight and motivation have played no small part in his recent explosion back into the popular culture consciousness.  Now I say that I stumbled on it, despite the fact that I have been trying to curate Instagram in particular to shower me in motivation and positive thoughts.  And while I recommend that practice for at least one of most people’s many social media platforms, I also frequently try to take time away from social media to decompress, but none of that is why I brought up this particular video.

He starts with the eye catching statement above, and then goes on to clarify further, and I will try to add the video or at least a link below.  What most caught my attention however was the point he made, as it resonated with something I have been considering for most of the past week.  I have seen similar arguments more succinctly stated as “Don’t take the criticism of someone you wouldn’t go to for advice”.

Especially in this time of the democratization of opinion sharing, it is far too easy to have a multitude of opinions hurled down upon you from the peak of people’s ivory towers.  And while I appreciate the many voices that have risen to point out injustice and unfairness, and cast a light on many of the shadowy parts of our world, so too have come to light many voices wishing only to criticize and condemn even the most mundane opinions or expressions.  For so many of us who function from a place of consideration and empathy, it can be very hard to learn whose opinion to take to heart. 

Even for all those people who are well meaning, and just want you to avoid some of the pitfalls they faced along the way, you have to learn at some point to “Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway’.  That quote is from Robert Downey Jr. and I am honestly surprised so many quotes about this topic are coming to my mind so readily.  But I guess it goes to show how long I have spent pondering the dilemma of taking advice.  Hell, even my Dad and I were having a conversation about this topic just after Christmas. 

And what it finally comes down to, is that no one else is running your race … no one else has been through what you have … and no one else understand your goals, your hopes, your dreams to the level you do.  Even good advice, from someone you would appreciate it from, should still be put through the filter of your own mind.  And at the end of the day, as you have to deal with the repercussions anyway, choose your own life and you’ll find you love living with the consequences regardless. 

To wrap up, here’s the link to the video of Will Smith talking about taking advice

As well as Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech, which sums up this idea even better …


Memories & Gratitude

I can remember standing on the dilapidated front porch of my off campus during my super senior year of college.  I had to stay an extra year because I waited until my senior year of college to fail the only class I failed in my entire scholastic career.  I was mad at myself for the failure … I was mad at myself for having to move from an awesome off campus house to this one that smelled like dog and stale smoke … I was mad at myself for being out of shape, despite existing with limited exercise and a typical college diet .. and I was mad at myself because despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t find a girl.  My memory on that porch is of telling my best friend that I would know I made it, when I woke up happy with a beautiful girl next to me.  Even now, I can feel how desperately I wanted someone to love, who would love me in return.  And after more than a decade now, the combination of some monthly challenges during October and November, combined with planning a wedding during a pandemic, brought this memory back to light.  And despite everything I still want to do … to buy a house, to get married, children eventually, and definitely a golden retriever puppy … being reminded of that memory reminded me that I already have what, at the time, was all I ever wanted.  Despite all the challenges and nonsense of this year, thinking of that memory and how it has been fulfilled, has kept me the most grounded in gratitude I can remember being in my 34 years on this planet.  That year was the roughest year of my college career, possibly of my young life up to that point, but it was also the year that gave me the epiphanies and realizations I needed to start down the path of truly making my life my own. 

On a group Zoom call tonight, men from the Uncivilized Nation, a group I just joined last week after attempting some of their challenges this fall, discussed the Uncivilized Ethos Number 5 … Know your deepest gifts grow in the garden of your wounds.  That extra year of college was a rough year, kind of like this one, but I have the memory of the wonderful things that came from the change of mindset that year created.  I can only imagine the amount of growth we will all be capable of after all the chaos and anguish this year has thrown at us.

P.S. Thank you Jenny, for being the one who made my dream come true …

The saddest thing in life is wasted talent

I have been thinking a lot lately, and one particular theme keeps popping up … choosing your own life.  Not just going with the flow of what’s expected of you … but really making your own decisions, even hard ones, and making sure that the life you live is one you chose for yourself.  This can require a lot of introspection, so you can avoid even sub conscious influence of the expectations of others, but I have found that the more I have moved towards things I truly want, and away from outside expectation, the happier I have become.  And bear with me here, but I have a story which I think exemplifies this idea well, even if it is a fictional story.

For any other fans of The Office, I think you’ll enjoy this, but for those who have not yet enjoyed the frivolity and nonsense that is the characters and drama centered on the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, I cannot recommend the series more.  And one of the main story arcs through the 9 seasons was the relationship of Jim and Pam, which moved from Office friends, to star crossed lovers, to finally “It’s a date!”, love, marriage, and children.  It was a story line I personally loved, and related to quite a bit, as I’m sure did many people who watched the series from the start. 

In rounding out the characters, the show gives a lot of backstory and a lot of information of life outside the Office.  And over the course of the 9 seasons, you see the pair not only fall in love and start a family, but, I think, really start to choose their own life.  At the start of the series, both appear to have taken a path through life, and frankly, an Office job, purely out of following the expectations of others.  Whether that’s true or not, neither one seems in love with their life, and certainly not in love with their jobs  But the love and support they find in each other finally gives each the chance to chase their dreams and live a life of their own choosing rather than one of obligation.

Only once she is in a truly loving and supportive relationship with Jim, one in which she is fully supported to be herself, does Pam finally find the courage to pursue her true interests of art and design.  Even in failing out of art school, she at least fails at something she truly chose for herself and can live her life knowing she tried.  And while I’m sure those failures are painful, taking the chance is what allows her the freedom to incorporate her love of art into her life in other ways, as we see in the murals she paints in the final season.

It takes Jim a little longer, as he first builds his family, and then only surrounded by a loving family does Jim have the courage to invest and build his new business.  The growth of his family is at least part of his impetus to do something that, by his own admission, he has not done before … try!  Even his risk of starting his own business appears to be influenced by his memory of admitting his feelings to Pam, where if he hadn’t taken a leap, he certainly wouldn’t be where he is now.  It was rocky at the start, but following his heart, literally, and expressing his feelings opened up such a wonderful world of love and family to him, it has to be right again for the new job. 

This does not mean that things were perfect for them.  The start of that new business had a lot of challenges for them both. There was a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding.  But Jim adjusting his focus back to Pam, back to the first time he really chose his own path, showed Pam the power of making those kind of choices, and let them finally both take the leap together. 

I know this is a bit of an odd example, and some of you might not have followed it entirely, but whether were discussing fiction or reality, choosing your own life will always be the best answer.  There is only so much time were are granted in this world, and making sure you choose your own life is the best way I know of to ensure you don’t waste it.

Simple, but hard: Communication

Is it fair to have expectations of someone without also making those expectations known?  How is someone ever supposed to manage to meet those expectations, except by random chance?  If you ask for what you would like instead, you are much more likely to actually get it, and even if you don’t, you at least avoid the frustration leading from perpetually unmet expectations.

I always rolled my eyes when teachers or whomever would tell us that communication is paramount, as it seems such a trite thing to say.  But I’m finding in practice that learning how to communicate your desires and frustrations accurately and politely is so much harder than a trite aphorism can convey.  I do know the two tasks which always lead to my fiancé and I having the most meaningless and obtuse arguments, have to be either while setting up a campsite, or building a piece of furniture.  And it was only after this most recent camping trip that I really started to see how much that argument just revolves around poor communication. 

When I first started working as a Paramedic and was expected to take command of a medical emergency, things frequently did not go the way I expected them to.  And when a patient is the reason things go sideways, you can be understanding as they are facing a personal emergency and are sometimes too anxious to move things along properly.  But when it is your coworkers doing something unexpected and unanticipated, it can be much more frustrating … especially when you are already amped up by whatever emergency you are attempting to rectify.  But that was when I first realized it was unreasonable to expect someone to meet an expectation I had but have not verbalized.  It has taken some time and practice, and I still frequently miss the mark on this account, but I have started to get better on verbalizing my expectations to both my partners on the ambulance, the crew assisting, and the patient themselves.

And what this last camping trip has opened my eyes to is the steps I will need to take in my personal relationships, and with my fiancé specifically, to have more and better conversations around how I would like things to go.  I seem to frequently advise others that it never hurts to ask, so maybe it’s time I take some of my own advice and communicate.   

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”   -The Rolling Stones


Chores equal freedom

On return from camping the other weekend, my fiancé pointed out that we were both exhausted despite not doing much more than hanging out around a fire, and cooking.  We realized that we spent most of the weekend just moving on to each task that had to get done next, and that point cleared up something that has been nagging at my mind for a while.  I have spent a long while trying to find the time in the day to get to projects like this blog, and frequently found there wasn’t enough time in the day to also take care of all the little daily necessities that crop up.  And I think that is exactly why something like camping appeals to so many people.  Being out in the woods and away from things like heat or a kitchen stove forces you to focus on the here and now, on which task must be accomplished next.  There is no overarching fear of the future, or worry about what will happen later, as there are things that need to get done right now.  This is also the allure of living in the wilderness like those you see on all the Discovery channel shows that are so popular.  Yet for many people, myself included, finding the time to take care of new or bigger projects is just the thing they need to bring about a major change in their life … to start building a life set by their own intention.  But you will never have the time to do so until all our modern lives little necessities are taken care of.

If you follow the Navy Seal Jocko Willink, have read his books or listened to any of his podcasts, you will have heard something about his tenet of “Discipline equals freedom”.  It sounds likes such an oxymoron, but that is also part of its appeal.  It shouldn’t be true, but it is the sweet truth at the center of what I am talking about above.  When you are disciplined, and life’s little everyday tasks are simply completed as they need to be, all the rest of your time can be spent however you like … on all the projects you have been putting off because you don’t think you have the time. 

And you can see this apply in almost every arena, which is why you also hear it from a lot of other people.  My friend Richie talked about it with me, when we were discussing improving my personal finance and some books he has read on the topic, as he pointed out that once your savings and bills were taken care of, then all the remaining money could be spent as you wish.  It took me a few weeks to months to start to see things that way, but as this has become clear, it was the focus I needed to really start to apply some discipline to my finances.  Gary Vee also talks about a similar idea when someone asks him how to start a side hustle, and his first question is how they spend their time from 4 -10 pm.  You may have to work a particular job, even one you can’t stand, because you have to take care of your bills, but what do you do with the eight hours you aren’t working or sleeping?  Once your required tasks are taken care of, you have the freedom to work on anything … what are you doing with that time?

Less than $100 to survive a pandemic

I cannot believe how deeply this self isolation has affected me.  I used to joke that going home to spend time with your family was the biggest test someone who has grown emotionally can face, but this tested my resolve for much longer than one weekend.  I thought I was starting to get my shit together, but it turns out the only things I got together were a bunch of excellent coping mechanisms.  Once regular exercise, my jiu jitsu class, or even the ability to just socialize at some of my favorite places was taken away, it is remarkable how quickly some old demons arose from the ashes.  My only saving grace was having opened my eyes widely enough to eventually recognize some of my own bullshit, and take what steps I could within the confines of self isolation to mitigate my attitude. 

Taking the time to force myself into even short, outdoor workouts, consisting of mostly push ups and air squats, helped me to clear away some of the cobwebs.  I also added in more bike rides around downtown Annapolis, and found that anything which helped me break a sweat also helped me clear my head.  But I even missed simple things, like having time to drive places and listen to my podcasts.  Tim Ferriss repeatedly asks his guests which purchase of less than $100 has most greatly impacted their lives, and I would have to say that downloading a free podcast app would be mine.  I don’t think until now that I have appropriately grasped the benefit of having intelligent and positive people in my ear for anywhere from 10 minutes to hours a day.

There are thousands of podcasts out there, and even dozens of excellent ones, despite the medium being full of a bunch of people like me who are just trying to put their own thoughts together for the first time.  I have several podcasts I use to keep up to date on work related research, as well as a couple that help with my motivation and positivity, and a few that are just plain fun.  The best part of downloading the Overcast app and downloading all these podcasts is that I always have someone in my ear reminding me to smile, to think just a little bit differently, or to keep working hard at the things I have decided that really matter.  I have realized recently that for those of us who built some poor trains of thought, it takes a lot of reps and new thoughts to move those tracks, and having smart people in your ear helping you to move them over can really help build some new tracks.  Makes me think of the old analogy about how to eat an elephant … one bite at a time!

Unstuck by Vaynerchuk

I have learned so much from Gary Vee in the few years I have been following him.  His strong motivational capacity is blended wonderfully with a strong bullshit meter, including the rare gift of measuring his own bullshit.  He really came to me in a time when I was professionally floundering somewhat, having done okay for myself but starting to stagnate in what was supposed to be a stepping stone.  The first video of his that I can remember was his Monday morning video, where he goes on to explain that if you are hating Monday morning, then something in your world in inherently flawed.  If you find yourself trying to drive away the Sunday Scaries, then you are clearly spending 5/7 of your week going through the motions when you could be hustling and making great thing happen for yourself.   

His motivation and his example of hustle were just the start, because then I learned about his desire to build the Honey Empire.  Gary’s goal is to build one of the biggest businesses in the world, but in doing so, he has absolutely zero desire in seeing other businesses fall just to truss his up.  His is the more honest and inspiring way, of simply building the biggest business.  I can probably go onto several different tangents on this point, as I love it so much, but mostly, I just loved to see such an honest born capitalist recognizing the financial and spiritual value of putting your employees truly first.   

Gary’s honesty and forthrightness won me over to him very rapidly, and I began to consume a large amount of his social media.  Gary’s main company is a social media marketing giant, and a lot of his advice and inspiration is in that vein.  I actually largely ignored most of his social media advice, as I had no real goals of growing my small Facebook and Instagram accounts into something that would make me use the word Influencer to describe myself.  But what Gary’s advice really gave me was a way to build this blog without feeling like a completely egotistical asshole.  I’ve already written two posts about some of my motivations for starting this, but now I hope I have found a way to write here regularly, and still avoid the trap of pretending I know or have learned more than I do. 

The advice Gary gives most often to people who want to have more of an impact, or who want to grow their social media, but feel like they haven’t experienced enough to start talking so much, is simple … Document, don’t create!  Such a simple point, but such a better way to go about this little project of mine.  I may have learned a thing or two in my 33 some odd years of life thus far, but if I have, it has only been by making a ton of mistakes and having several misadventures along the way.  So my intention for this blog is to be as honest as I can, and to always come from as true of a place as I know how.  I want to document the times I have screwed up, or gotten in my own way, especially when I was later able to turn that around and learn something from the experience.  Hopefully that is something people can relate to, and hopefully some of my hard lessons can help someone else manage their own mischief too. 

CrossFit, a cop, and the Sisu Way

In an attempt not to waste my entire raise after becoming a Paramedic, as well as work off too many months of having Wawa for dinner, I decided to join a CrossFIt box (please check out CrossFit Threefold if you’re in the Allentown, PA area).  The mental clarity I felt after my first workout was astounding, and I started to love how I felt after those intense workouts.  I started doing more research into the founder, his definition of fitness, the growth of this fitness “cult”, and eventually found the Wodcast Podcast.  It was a hilarious combination of a professional comedian, a full time SWAT Police Officer, and a CrossFit box owner, all from California, and all with interesting perspectives.  And while the interplay of those three personalities made the podcast so great to listen to, the person who taught me the most was the cop, Scott McGee.  I even followed him when he started his own personal podcast, titled The Sisu Way, after the Finnish word for Stoic determination and grit (the whole definition takes much longer to explain).

Now Scott teaches many wonderful things on his podcast, and I highly recommend subscribing, and following his social media, but it was his reasoning around starting his own podcast which was one of my main motivations for starting this blog.  In addition to wanting to share many of the great lessons he has learned as a cop and a father with the world, as do I, Scott also has always said that his podcast is for his children.  Instead of arguing about the benefits or ills of the worldwide spread of social media, Scott chose to find a way to use these mediums to spread his awesome message, as well as preserve his stories and lesson for his two boys.  And while I do not have any children of my own yet, I too want to preserve some of myself for them to find one day.  As Scott has also quoted repeatedly “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be.  Be one”.  I do not disagree that social media can have negative repercussions for some, myself included sometimes … but what I would rather focus on is my ability to save some of the understanding I have developed for my children in the future. 

This in no way should mean that I think I have it all figured out … far from it.  Instead, I want to save what lessons I have learned, and then record others I learn along the way.  And whether my kids find this when they’re 5 or 50, they will always have some memory of me saved to look back on.  This pandemic has opened quite a few people’s eyes to how fickle fate can truly be, and how quickly anyone can be taken from this world.  And while my main intention is to write this as if I am writing it to my son or daughter in the future, if anyone else realizes they’re not alone, or learns from some mistake of mine before making it themselves, then the effort will have been worth it. 

Why start a blog now?

There are a few people who have inspired me and motivated me into not only putting down my thoughts coherently, but into posting those on a blog for anyone and everyone, and I will likely break down what each of those people have taught me into separate posts of their own. But for now, the largest reason I have for doing this is that I’m genuinely terrified of the idea.  I’m not exactly sure why, but the idea of someone actually reading this gets my heart racing and has scared me enough to get me to keep my mouth shut … or fingers away from the keyboard … until now.  But I follow too many motivational people, and read too many books and articles and posts about making your life your own to remain scared and quiet.  I used to have a background on my computer at work which showed the quote:

I used to think that my twenty seconds of insane courage was deciding to move away from home for college, but there were too many other people and societal expectations involved in that decision.  Then I thought that my twenty seconds of insane courage was deciding to leave my college degree leaning up against the wall under my desk to pursue a career as a Firefighter and EMT, and as much as telling my parents about that decision scared me more than any burning building, it still didn’t feel quite like this.  And I fully recognize that it is silly to feel more courageous for writing a blog that most people likely won’t read, but it still terrifies me to subject myself to something so likely to embarrass me.  I have been thinking about doing this for years now, and it has taken me moving into a new Fire Department, and then almost a month of self isolation during the Corona virus pandemic, to realize that I fear other people’s opinion of me more than almost anything else. 

But I have spent the last dozen years building a life I can be proud of … a life truly built on my own decisions, in which I can suffer the defeats, as being defeated in something you chose for yourself always brings more peace than succeeding in something someone else chose for you.  So here goes nothing … or maybe everything …

Either way, at least I can say I tried …