“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”  Henry David Thoreau

The offshore fishing team is 13 people, including me as captain. My cousin-in-law Steve drives the boat to our first stop, about an hour away. He also drives back to Perdido Pass, the entrance to our home port in Terry Cove. On this trip, thanks to the driving duty of first mate Steve, I actually take more time to talk to other passengers. One conversation is completely unexpected, unbelievable and totally rewarding. I will get to that later. Back at our beach condo, my conclusion comes easily.  I need to do this more often.  It feels good, natural.  And, a fishing excursion is not the only platform.  Simple principles for successful living.  Talk. Listen. Learn.

My iPhone (unexpectedly) is low in battery power on the way out to our first fishing stop. I ask granddaughter Caroline, who is on the trip with two of her high school friends, to plug my phone into a charger down below. Once connected, it remains in the salon for the rest of the fishing trip. This is a first.  Only after we dock do I retrieve it. Wow! An entire fishing trip without a glance at the screen, without a text and without a call on the ‘smart,’ intrusive, distracting electronic device – my iPhone. Since my wife Carol is on this trip, there’s no need to call her to tell her The Great Gab-Sea is passing under the Perdido Pass Bridge. Hmmm. Talk. Listen. Learn.

Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite authors, wrote in his classic book Walden: “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”  Living in a modernized society, we could easily select the word mechanical and replace it with electronic. And, as far as being awakened by electronic devices, we can all agree that interruption would be a more accurate portrayal. How can we awaken ourselves to the lives we want to live, when we are constantly surrounded by disruptions that consume us at a rapid pace?

Recently, in my blog titled, PhubbingI wrote about negative outcomes (based on scientific research) caused by the constant distraction of portable communication devices within a social setting.   Hopefully my readers understand that as an author, I am also on this journey. What I write about at times defines my struggles. My ambition to recreate a world less dependent upon electronic distractions is not finished.  I am a work-in-progress. My port destination is still out there, but closer.

What is the incredible conversation I enjoyed on this fishing trip? I had an opportunity to spend time with Mark Bollinger, a friend who is handling deckhand work today. He tells me that in the near future he will be unavailable for boat trips for a period of time.  The reason for his absence is because he is donating a kidney to a 71-year old friend from his church. For a moment, I am speechless. I say nothing. This conversation is totally unexpected.   I do not even know how to take in this new information. I have known Mark for a couple of years – apparently not as well as I do at this moment. I now know something awesome and unbelievable. He is a live kidney donor. He is not one in a million – he is one in many millions.  Generous and selfless at a level that most of us just cannot comprehend.

I could have been on my iPhone, or even doing what I normally do – at the helm of my boat. Instead, fortunately, I am listening to the inspiring words of a friend.

Thoreau continued … “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate himself by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or, to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look . . . Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”   Powerfully, this is an extraordinary hour in Mark’s life as well as for his recipient. He is carving out something permanent and life-changing for his friend. In so doing, he is forever changing his own life.  I am a witness to this transformative event.

Today is the next day. My thoughts are racing.  I cannot get out of my mind the fact that I know someone who is a live kidney donor. Generosity and selflessness have new meaning for me.

My phone is in the other room; therefore, I see no screen and hear no sounds. It is uncommonly quiet. No electronic distraction. My thoughts from multiple fishing trip conversations consume me.  Carol comes into the room and asks, “Do you want to go with me to walk the dog?” 

Unbound by any electronic gadget, I immediately say Yes! As we depart for the door, my mind is exploding with thoughts. I have been the beneficiary of inspiring conversations the last two days. Because I took the time. Today, in a 15-minute canine stroll, Carol and I will talk, listen and learn from each other. No electronics will get in the way.   

Simple principles for living a successful life:

Talk. Listen. Learn.

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