How well do you know yourself?

I am rarely shocked. Here’s why: I work in the stock market, my best friend is Mark, I am an Indians fan (remember the ’97 World Series?), I served on the Danville City Council, and I am Russ Souza’s son. So needless to say, my shock meter is seldom activated. However, it was triggered tonight.

One of my clients stopped in the office and brought her daughter with. I used to work with the daughter at the bank. She told the story of when her mom had first met with me. Her mom asked what she knew about me. She told her that when I was looking for my first car out of college I researched the hell out of it. That is what she remembered about me 16 years ago. I guess that I’m grateful THAT is what she remembers about me. The thinking was that if I was that rigorous then, I would surely take investing with the same great detailed care.

I thought it was funny, so I shared it with my wife. When I told her that I was surprised she remembers me as a “research” guy that would put so much effort into buying a car. Jen started laughing, “Yea, BIG shock there.” I said, “What? I have never put that much effort into car buying.” “Are you kidding me?”, was her reply. “You put hours into every car you have ever bought?” That was when I should have just shut up. I started to plead my case, only to have every point shot down. We came up with the phrase for me: calculated spontaneity.

The thing that ticks me off is that she’s dead on. I AM that guy. That was my shock. I thought I knew myself, guess not. Then tonight I’m sitting here on the sun-porch listening to the Tribe game and reflecting on things. I research almost everything I do to the point of nausea. I never realized that until tonight. Wow, almost 39 years old and I’m still learning about myself. I almost want to go to a dealership tomorrow and trade cars just to show Jen up. If only I hadn’t done so much research on this car….damn, there I go again.

Big Picture life

Putting it all in perspective.

perspective - burning man 2007Priorities, sometimes they get screwed up, sometimes they’re in perfect alignment. I have always been a fairly level-headed person (no comments from the peanut gallery). What I mean is that I have always tried to think about the consequences of my actions. Putting into perspective the “bigger picture”. It’s helped me make better choices.

When I was 19-years-old, I went off to SIU. I joined a fraternity, I blew off class, I enjoyed the bar age in Carbondale being 18. Bottom line: I took in all the college experience. After one semester, I was on told that if my grades didn’t improve, I would be booted from the School of Business (SOB). I came back in the spring and picked up where I had left off; Thursday Night Club at the Tap, the weekend begins on Tuesday, FAC (Friday afternoon club), etc, etc, etc. At the end of the year, I got my grades, along with a letter from the SOB telling me that I was officially in the category of “Undeclared Major”, as I had been kicked out of their group. Then I got the letter from SIU that said, “If my grades did not improve in the next semester, I would be asked to leave campus.” Wow, kicked out of my major and put on academic probation, I’m making good choices now.

I will never forget getting that letter. I showed it to my dad and in typical Russ-fashion. He said, “Son, there is no shame in coming back and working at the bank. If you want to be a teller all your life, that is your choice. If you want more than that, you have some work to do.” That’s my dad. No, red-faced, “What the hell is this letter?” No sobbing. Just tell it like it is. The choice I made right there and then is that I didn’t want to be a teller all my life (no offense to career tellers, you are the most important people at any bank).

I went back to school, watched “Where there’s a will, there’s an A.”, got a job on campus, pleaded with the dean to let me back into the SOB (she did), studied, and made the Dean’s list every semester after that. My dad put it in perspective for me with one conversation. I’m forever grateful that my parents always helped me put things in perspective. In a small part, I think that’s what my blog has become. I am amazed at how many of my friends read this and tell me they get something out of it. I’m thankful to all of you.I was approached by three different people last night that told me they enjoy what I write. That tells me to keep writing (no surprise I’m posting the morning after those kind words).

Life gets crazy sometimes. We all have careers, kids, kids activities, houses to maintain, bills to pay. But don’t be afraid to take a step back, and think about things and make some big picture choices for your betterment, down the road. Be it a diet, quitting smoking, ending a bad relationship, or moving forward on a good one (as afraid as you might be). It won’t always work out as planned, and guess what? That’s ok. But you at least gave it a fighting chance by thinking it through and moving forward on what’s important for you.

Big Picture life

Rotary Memorial Way

Rotary Memorial Way
Rotary Memorial Way

Every year in Danville, the Danville Rotary Club lines Vermilion Street with flags over Memorial Day weekend.  If you have been in Danville over Memorial Day weekend, you probably know what I’m talking about.  The club has kicked off their flag sales for this year.

Starting at the Vermilion County War Museum (the former Danville Public Library) and going as far north as we can, we line flags with the names of soldiers on them every few feet.  Last year, we sold almost 1400 flags.  It stretched about 3 miles.  Our goal this year is to sell 1800 flags.  I serve as President of our club and would love to see us surpass last years total.

If you would like to sponsor a flag, it only costs $5.  Simply fill out this form and mail it, with your money to the address on the form. Please help us meet our goal.  Thanks.

Big Picture life

Teach your kids not to suck.

special2.jpgTo say that growing up I was nice to every kid that I came into contact with would be a flat-out lie. I think that me and some of my classmates could have put a couple of kids in therapy later in life. I was not a bully. I have never been in a fight in my life. My quick tongue kept me out of those. I did pick on kids that were different from me. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.

My 5th grade teacher taught me a lesson one day. We made fun of some girl in our class, don’t ask me why maybe she said something silly or whatever. Our teacher said, “You guys are making fun of her?” He then proceeded to pick something off each one of us. Me? He said,”Souza, you got a big booger hanging out of your nose, maybe we should call you Booger-Nose.” Now, by today’s standard, I could have him brought up on charges, but then, it did what it was meant to do; Put me in my place.

I have a simple request for all parents: Teach your kids not to suck. (Underlying message: Teach them some acceptance.) When you see a child with Downs Syndrome, tell your child not to stare. When you see someone in a wheelchair, explain to your child that they use a chair because they can’t walk. Explain to them that just because they look different from you, that they have the same feelings as you. Don’t use the term “retard”, it degrading. Special Olympics has started a campaign to end the use of the “R-Word.”

When my son sits down next to your kids and they scoot away and say “eeewwww.” It hurts. I’m not naive enough to think that kids will stop being kids, but if you can teach your kids that we are all God’s creatures, we will go a lot further on this planet.

life Web Stuff

Pause button….for 20 years.

pause.jpgAhhhh, the Facebook. A place to connect with friends of old and new. A place to see what is going on in your friends life. A place to upload drunk pictures from your phone.

I believe that the greatest aspect to FB is the ability to reconnect with long-lost friends. Over the past year, I have reconnected with the two people (outside of mom and dad) that I have known since I was 4 years old. While not all my relationships go back that far, I have shot over the 400 friend mark thanks in large part to my high school/college friends.

Of course, the first things that you ask each other, “What have you been up to?” Wow, take a second to think about that. If you had not seen someone for 20+ years, how do you summarize you life. Do you simply focus on your personal life? (Got married, have x kids, run marathons) Maybe professional life? (Worked for XYZ Corp, started my own business, etc.) Maybe you just take the highlights of both.

I think what I’m going to do is to write up my bio in short form to be able to let people know what I’m up to. Maybe take a page from Twitter and summarize it in 140 characters. Here’s my first attempt:

SIU grad, worked at bank, went into investments, married Jennifer, one son: Truce(has autism), started Souza Financial, try to write more

That’s 137 characters, enough to fit in a Twitter window. But I didn’t say anything about living in Hoopeston, getting engaged and married on the same day in Las Vegas, my Indians tattoo, anything about my parents or brothers.

I just found an old friend the other day on FB and his question was, “Do you still listen to Anthrax?” Understand that my license plate used to read ANTHRX 2. Boy, hit the pause button for 20 years and that’s what he remembered? It’s who I was, but I almost felt like a sell-out to say that I still like them, but don’t listen on the regular. It’s funny to look back 20 years and think of all that you have been through and to summarize that in 2 or 3 sentences. When I get the 140 character bio perfected, I will post it here.