When I was in 5th grade, we as students had to make a decision which foreign language we were going to take in middle school. The route most students chose was Spanish, for obvious reasons. It's an easier language to learn. Most of the parents had taken Spanish growing up and felt like they could better help their kids—mine included. But I didn't want to take Spanish. I wanted to take French.
Why did I want to take French? Well, when I was in 5th grade I was positively sure I was going to become a professional hockey player. It wouldn't be long, I thought, before I found a foster family in Canada, lived a rigorous life of training on and off the ice, and fast-tracked my way to becoming the captain of the Detroit Red Wings (my favorite team growing up).
I wish I could say I was joking, but this was truly my thought process. And everyone knows that in order to be a hockey player in Canada, one must speak French.
"I took Spanish growing up, and I still speak a little. I will be able to help you," my father said, sitting with me in front of his brand new 1998 Macintosh computer. We were looking up foreign language textbooks online, preparing for the big leap into middle school.
I shook my head.
"Dad, if I am ever going to make it to the NHL, then I need to play in Canada. Which means I need to be able to speak French. I've already made up my mind," I said.
He encouraged me to rethink my decision, reminding me of the long-term consequences of choosing the wrong language to study at such a young age. But I insisted.
French it was.
I proceeded to spend the next 9 years studying the language—although "studying" here implies that I took the learning process with even an ounce of sincerity, wherein there was none. The truth is, I loved the idea of being a French speaking Canadian hockey player much more than I actually enjoyed sitting down and learning how to conjugate verbs in the foreign language. I hated it, hated the whole thing. I took French for all three years of middle school, all four years of high school, and then another year in college to satisfy my credit requirements. It was horrible. Do I wish I had studied Spanish instead? Not particularly—I think I would have struggled with that language just as much.
But still, throughout that entire journey (of which I learned so little that I might as well have quit after the first year), I did find the whole French culture to be quite fascinating. I enjoyed listening to the language. I found crêpes to be exquisite (before I found out I had to eat gluten free). And most of all, I did want to visit Paris. Of what I had seen in textbooks and classroom movies, it was nothing short of magnificent.
I think this is my issue with organized education, and why I always struggled to care about what I was learning when seated in front of a textbook. Because for nine years, I couldn't get myself to take interest in the French language. But the moment I found myself standing outside of the Louvre, I was in love. I didn't want to leave. The entire city was so rich with art and history. Every building seemed like a work of art in itself. And even getting in and out of cabs and realizing that I could understand what the drivers were saying in French, it made me want to speak, and learn, and use the language.
As I mentioned in #CoffeeWithCole Episode 4, what made this trip to Paris so special is that I finally got to visit this city on my own—not as part of a school trip abroad or a family vacation. That's not to discount those experiences at all, but there is a different level of appreciation that happens when you travel by yourself, or with a group of friends (as I had during this Europe tour).
Of the three places we visited—Budapest, Amsterdam, and Paris—I can say, without question, Paris was not only the most enjoyable, but somewhere I could actually see myself living at some point. Maybe you thought I wouldn't Airbnb a spot for three months and go write a novel about a man wearing a chapeau...
Also, I have been doing daily mini vlogs on Instagram Stories, if you want to see more of the day to day.
Now, here's all the content you missed:
What I'm Currently Reading
Lately I have been juggling a lot of different opportunities, and was having trouble blocking off sufficient amounts of time in my schedule to work on my most important projects. Whenever I fall into this sort of schedule, I love re-reading this book: Manage Your Day-To-Day.
In short, it's basically a quick read full of helpful reminders of how important it is to be disciplined with your time in order to truly be creative. It's a bad cliché thinking that creative people just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. That's really not how it works. The truly creative ones, and those who end up building successful careers for themselves, structure their daily schedule around time spent practicing their craft.
If you are feeling out of flow, or like you're chasing too many pursuits, I highly suggest giving this a read. It will help remind you of what's most important.
I'll be recording my Entrepreneur On Fire episode here in less than a week!
Also, starting to get everything ready for my next book launch, How To Leap. Still very early here, but I will be holding a private book launch event in Chicago. If you have been a long-time reader and want to come, shoot me an e-mail and I will put you on the list. It'll be a party. There will be a book signing, a reading, and will take place at a cool restaurant so drinks and food will be available.