April 2011

A Tornado Hit My House

On May 27, 2001 an F2 tornado hit my house while I was inside. The tornado was 200 ft wide and had winds of up to 120 miles per hour. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

However, the past two days have unleashed horror on some folks in Alabama where Tornado’s have claimed at least 247 lives, as of this writing, and these events keep bringing me back to that day when the tornado hit my house. That day looked like this:

It was a warm, sunny day and family and friends were at my parent’s house. Some people were outside barbecuing, some were in my brother’s room hanging out (room facing the front of the house), and I was in my room with my cousins (room facing the back of the house). We were all chatting, joking around, doing what anyone would do during a house party and then it happened..

My brother and his friends started sprinting down the stairs screaming “tornado, tornado…get in the basement.” My entire room cleared out and my cousins quickly followed suit.

For whatever reason that I still cannot describe to this day, I didn’t run down the stairs right away. Instead, I made my way to my brother’s room to see what exactly was going on.

As I took a step towards his door, the air pressure changed. My ears started to pop as if I were on a plane. A very depressurized plane. Explosion-like sounds started going off in succession all around the house. From room to room it sounded like dynamite going off. Those sounds finally knocked sense in to me and within seconds I made it down to the basement, but by the time I got downstairs it was all over.

After waiting about a minute or so, and after everything had calmed, I walked back upstairs to assess the damage starting with my bedroom. My room was virtually untouched. For whatever reason, my windows weren’t locked and the windows flew open to equalize the pressure.

My brother’s and sister’s room however didn’t have the same fortune. Their windows were locked, so in order for the pressure to equalize the windows imploded creating the explosion-like sounds. Their rooms were torn apart. I stuck my head outside my brother’s broken window and on the front lawn I could see my cousin’s van. It had been tossed upside down and thrown about 50 feet from the street onto our front lawn. I turned my head right to look at my neighbor’s house. Half of their roof was missing. Their front yard was destroyed.

I did some more assessment and walked around the house mesmerized by what had just occurred. As I made my way to the backyard I heard the sirens. At that point, I made my way to the front of the house to see the commotion and it looked like a war had just taken place on my block. An army of firetrucks and police cars all surrounded the block. By this time, the rest of our family, friends and neighbors also made it to the street and it looked like everyone was accounted for and ok. No missing people. No injuries. A lot of shock and disbelief.

In hindsight it is still very bizarre that I had this experience. Who would ever think a tornado could affect you (especially in New Jersey)?  Nonetheless, it happened and I’m fortunate to be able to tell the story.

So keep an open mind and always be on alert because you never know what can happen to you, until it does.

My thoughts and prayers are with the folks involved in these southern storms. Stay safe.

Side Note: If you or anyone you know has been involved in a tornado, please leave your story in the comments section.

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Quitting On Your Potential

Two U.S. Air Force members wrestling in a Grec...
Image via Wikipedia

In high school, I quit wrestling at the peak of my wrestling career. I had just come off a nice run at kid states taking first place at a big qualifying round, I was going to be made a captain of the varsity team, and I was just beginning to master some advanced techniques. Techniques that I learned at a wrestling clinic an hour away called the Edge, taught from 6 – 8pm, after already having high school practice from 2 – 5pm (not to mention school from 7am – 2pm – about a 15hr day all in). And during that time when I had all of that momentum, I flat-out quit.


At the time I realized that wrestling, for me, had a very low ceiling. Even if I became the best in my weight class, I wasn’t sure I liked the best case scenarios. I asked myself, “What if I were the best?” What would that mean for me? Wrestling at college? The olympics?” Those weren’t goals I wanted to pursue, even though they are very worthwhile and I commend those that have pursued that path. Instead, I quit and devoted that time to ski patrol and this year marks my 10th year on ski patrol. After I quit, people would joke around and call me names like “ski bunny” but I didn’t really mind because I knew it was the right decision for me. And in those years, I’ve had invaluable experiences and lessons. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have had equally as valuable lessons with wrestling (I’m sure I would have), but I am saying the lessons would have been very different and that difference was worth making the decision to quit wrestling at a time when I knew I still had a lot of potential.

Had I continued wrestling, I would certainly not be where I am today and I would certainly not have experienced some of the best moments of my life – like this.

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Academic Inflation

We are experiencing academic inflation. This is a theme I can’t seem to shake and its something that I think is only getting worse. Much worse, so long as our educational institutions keep up the status quo.

If you break it down, the logical train of thought should go something like this:

  1. Go to school
  2. Do well
  3. Graduate
  4. Get a job
  5. Make lots of money
  6. Live your life

Somewhere along the road we ended up at a place that looks something like this:

  1. Go to school – if you can even get in
  2. Take adderall to do well on tests
  3. Do well – assuming the class isn’t beaten up by a ridiculous curve
  4. Graduate
  5. Not qualified enough to get a high paying job so repeat steps 1 – 4 (or you just want more job security)
  6. Graduate
  7. No jobs, student loans, and you realized you were passionate about something completely unrelated to the previous 8 years of school
  8. Take a crappy job, make money and pay off your loans or pursue your dreams as an unemployed entrepreneur
  9. Live your life

I’m obviously exaggerating a bit (or am I) but you get the idea. I think we are at that moment in time when people are beginning to realize that education is more about practical experience and less about theoretical, mental gymnastics that spit out a piece of paper after 4 years.

This excerpt from a recent TechCrunch article called Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education. really spells it out and I really think Peter nails it.

“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

The post than goes on to say:

Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe.The excesses of both were always excused by a core national belief that no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated.

And this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask any recent college graduate and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Fortunately, there are some very smart people doing some very smart things in the educational field but at the end of the day, this will be a battle between cultural expectations and measurable results. After seeing innovations like the Khan Academy, which is in my opinion one the most important advancements in information technology and education, I’m confident we’ll move beyond the status quo and into an era that rewards results, innovation and happiness, and not elitism, cultural norms, and degrees.

Below is a video by Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy and perhaps one of the soon-to-be most important figures of our generation.

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