A Tribute to Leo Tyson Dirr - A Powerful Light in The Universe

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Last night I found out that my good long time friend Leo Tyson Dirr passed away. I was very saddened to learn that such a lovely soul and such a good force in the world had left. Anyone who knew Leo will feel the same way I do. When I learned that formal services will not be held to honor Leo, I sat dumbfounded that someone who devoted so much of their life to pouring good out into the universe, would not receive the reciprocated celebration and outpouring of goodness back at the close of his life. There are so many of us fortunate to have known him and lucky enough to call him a friend. 

I met Leo when we were just boys. Then he went by Tyson or just Dirr, and we were teammates on our mighty-mights football team in Ogden Utah. He was a fierce competitor and I always laughed at his zany sense of humor although at the time, my childhood naiveté did not appreciate the treasure Leo was. It wasn’t until later in High School that we became better friends, even if I am pretty sure he wasn’t sure how a guy like me even got my shoe-laces tied in the morning. I could always count on Leo to drop not so subtle jabs at me to keep me honest and introspective - always with that humor that was singularly Dirr. 

High Schoo with Dirr - Flexing into the light

High Schoo with Dirr - Flexing into the light

After high school, I always loved to see stories written by Leo as a journalist, or about Dirr in the Newspaper. Most of the time, Leo focused on the plight of humanity, especially those facing real hardship like being homeless, lonely and afraid. He had a real profound sense of empathy and a deep desire to help heal suffering in the world. Often though, he would use that clever humor of his to convey the message that we need to take action of goodness and positivity to make the future better. 

One of Leo’s most recent classically Dirr initiatives (one of my favorites) was his push to “Rock the White House” and get The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) elected in 2020 as POTUS. If you know Leo, you cannot help laughing when your read the articles because on one side, you know he knows the humor of the whole crazy idea, but on the other side, you know he is absolutely sincere and serious about why he wanted The Rock as president. He even went so far as to commission a painting, included below with The Rock, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon and Betty White as the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Maybe Betty White was 100%, Dirr’s humor coming out on the initiative, but she still was important in the message Leo wanted to send, and it highlighted how he lived; Fill the universe with kindness, the payback will be beautiful. 

The Rock, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon & Betty White “Rock the White House” Classic Dirr

The Rock, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon & Betty White “Rock the White House” Classic Dirr

If you didn’t get a chance to read the reporting on Leo about the “Rock the White House” campaign, check it out, https://www.ksl.com/?sid=45064346&nid=1205 you will have a good laugh. Below is a little taste.

(“People are visual, especially people on the internet — they’re bored, everything has to be fast, just quick visual representation of an idea that could catch people’s attention and draw people’s interest into the broader idea,” he said.

The connection to include Tom Hanks is clear from the Saturday Night Live skit. Fallon made the monument as Chief of Staff because of what Dirr described as a “very positive interview with The Rock,” which gave Dirr the “sense that those two were friends, so I threw him in there.”

“the most important part of painting is Betty White.” Dirr acknowledged that some people might question why White is featured on the painting as the Secretary of Booyah.

“For me, Betty White is what ties the whole thing together, because in my mind the common thread between those four individuals is they are all kind, decent human beings first and foremost, and Betty White is the poster girl for kindness and decency,” Dirr said.)

Recently, as men now in our 40’s, I had the fortune of seeing much more of Leo and far more of his good soul. I was touched by Leo’s gentile soul and far more appreciative of the friend I’d been fortunate enough to find as boy. Not long after his mom passed away, Leo and I had breakfast. She was incredibly important to him and her death was profoundly difficult. Her death was also a critical event that influenced Leo to ask how he wanted to shape the universe to be something better. He founded Generosity Engine and befittingly called himself the Chief Kindness Officer. When I asked him what the purpose of the company was, he said something to this effect, “There is a law or something in the universe that pays you back. I don’t know why it is, or what it is, but eventually it pays you back. I want to create a company that connects people who simply want to help other people, without any immediate promise. Eventually the universe will pay them back, but with a lot of interest.” I think this last legacy of Leo most completely describes who he was and what he was about. Today, tomorrow and all the days that follow, I hope to be a little more like Dirr, helping those around me find a little more joy, investing in the universe, I’ve already received payment - Leo was my friend.

Snow

The current season and seeing my girls play in the new snow has stirred memories of magical wintery days in my past. Especially those, lying in the freshly fallen powder- on dark winter nights as the snow continues to fall... happyspace_ I penned this poem in memory of nights just like tonight.

The current season and seeing my girls play in the new snow has stirred memories of magical wintery days in my past. Especially those, lying in the freshly fallen powder- on dark winter nights as the snow continues to fall... happyspace_ I penned this poem in memory of nights just like tonight.

SNOW

Remembering
Lying flat on my back,
Eyes straight heavenward,
Despite the snow, my body - warm,
Enveloped in my thick puffy parka, snow pants, gloves.
Furling white flakes - crystals, appear from blackness,
I'd have to blink when they landed just right.
Then, with eyes closed, I listen - stillness.
The frosty feathers land lightly upon my cheeks,
Reflections click and twitch at the contact.
A million falling stars. I lived those days.
I heard the silent snow, muffled, talk in my ear.
The mysteries of the heavens revealed.
Crusty crystal castles, reigning atop another,
Time stopped. Everything stopped.
But the flakes, they continue to fall.
Nothing else moved.
Just the soft heave of my chest
And the twitch on my face when the snow touched just right.
The flakes, my chest and the twitch of my cheek.
In my old gray stuffed parka, hat, gloves, snow pants, boots.
My eyes and heart stark, shooting skyward.
The silent sky fell. 
The flakes, they spoke.
Time stood still.  

Changed by Gratitude

I don't believe in magic, but I love magical stuff. Not just a nifty card trick or even a grand illusion (although I do love a good rabbit in the hat), but more specifically those subtle tricks in life that on the surface may seem counter-intuitive, even paradoxical, but when executed create a powerful result. Gratitude is like that.

Here we are bumping around on earth, tiny specks on this infinitesimally small spinning ball in the vastness of the cosmos. A large percentage of our days are filled with the mundane: Work may feel unrewarding, family life is often messy and chaotic, financial pressures can be overwhelming. It's no wonder that sometimes we lie sleeplessly staring at the ceiling wondering what it is all for. And then there is the hard stuff and the down right devastating: Unemployment, divorce, depression, abuse, illness/injury, suicide/death.... the list is long and sobering. These are intensely bitter sorrows - the kinds that inspired Shakespeare's weary lines: "Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone, Save that, to die, I leave my love alone."

In a little more modern twist, Rocky puts it like this: "The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life"

With life hitting as hard as it sometimes can, the immediate natural and logical response feels like it should be to ask "what's in it for me?" or "what's life done for me lately?" The problem with this mindset is that it creates a perpetual loop of waiting for an external force to stimulate gratification. If we do this, we are just putting our will in the hands of chaos hoping things will "go exactly as planned" so that we can find meaning and happiness. The problem is that in chaos, things often go far different than planned and even when they do, eventually that stimulus erodes and we are left waiting to fill the hole that remains. We are then back to waiting, our attention acutely locked on getting that next fix to make everything right in the world. This is rarely satisfying and never sustainable.

The magic of gratitude is that it is transformative - it changes us right where we stand even while our circumstances remain unchanged. This change obliterates the "waiting on the world" loop because our perspective shifts and suddenly every day, each moment, is full of exactly "what is in it for" each of us - everything we need in order to choose happiness. The paradox is that, to the observer, nothing has changed. Somehow amidst the same mundaneness, the same challenges and the same pain is real joy, bright opportunity and enduring happiness - the stuff that makes life truly meaningful. Gratitude magically flips the source of happiness from an external wanting to internal engine of recognition and realization that will fuel life for as long as it lasts. Maybe even longer as our legacy lives on.

Gratitude does not equal complacency, if anything, it is the opposite. Gratitude is a rigorous, active volition, where an individual takes full control of her will and consciously chooses to find meaning in the present. This attitude is precisely the optimal state of mind and state of action that will empower that individual to bring about plans of progress and improvement in the future.

Just like any well performed magic, the key to becoming expert at gratitude is in the practice of it - and the practice is hard work. It is very easy to get into a rut and focus on what is missing, uncomfortable and wrong in our individual worlds. It is much harder to shift our focus and see all the good things that are happening for us. Harder still is to recognize everything amazing that we take for granted every day. And hardest of all is find value and meaning in the very challenges that are making life uncomfortable.

A great place to start is with one very simple thing every morning. Maybe it is those first few deep breaths of clean air that you take in. Perhaps it is light of the sun just barely cracking against the horizon. Maybe it is the sound of someone you love still snoozing or jostling around in the kitchen. Focus on that one thing and find genuine thanks in your heart. Then, like a flame, let that attitude spread to something else and then something else. At last take a moment an vocalize that gratitude to someone and enjoy.

In the spirit of gratitude, I've included two incredible videos that stimulated some personal reflection in me and challenged me to consider some practical ways to be changed by gratitude on a daily basis. I hope you will join me, and make each day a happyspace_ by allowing gratitude to transform you.

Liberation

One of my all time favorite statements, sometimes called “Our Deepest Fear,” comes from Marianne Williamson. Her words hit squarely on that voice of doubt that can rear its ugly head inside our heads, especially when it comes to letting our light shine or when we are poised to step out of our comfort zones into uncharted territory.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My favorite part is the end: “…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” The subtle truth here is absolutely beautiful and truly powerful.

Every day we encounter people who are captive. Captive as a result of their own self doubt - family members, friends, co-workers, strangers. They may not even be conscious of it, but over the years, the voices of doubters began echoing too loudly in their hearts and minds and they just stopped believing that they were destined to greatness. As children, they may have believed they were unstoppable, that their existence on earth was truly singular and that they had unique value to create in the world. Since then, this belief has been displaced and now they feel bound by a hundred different false ideas about themselves. They have been convinced that they are average, or worse, worthless - and they feel that blending in with the status quo is the safest and best approach. They have likely become complacent about trying to stand out, and now the inertia of being “common” or “ordinary” may even feel comfortable.

Perhaps, a long the way, you also have been convinced that you are average or even inadequate. You may have even grown comfortable with that idea. 

This is a lie! We weren’t made for that kind of mediocrity - we were made for far greater things. The uniqueness of our creation gives each of us a singular power to be something special - something great. What is more, there are people all around us, in our homes, in our workplaces and in the world that are just waiting for us to come and ignite their light - hoping to be liberated.

In the Home - There is no greater place to do the work of liberating others than the intimate space of our own home, with family. If you are married, your spouse is there - maybe weighed down with the mundaneness of the “daily grind” or beat down from the struggles at a "job" that feels like a road to nowhere. If you have children, you have fledgling souls with bright eyes fixed on changing the world, but that may already have planted seeds of doubt because of a bully, or a inadequate teacher, or maybe a lack of meaningful interaction at home. Maybe you have siblings or parents who have lost the fire of excellence for a any number of different reasons. Finding and stoking the fire of your unique passions and sharing them with your family will illicit introspection in them. When they see you confidently sharing your passion with the world, it will ignite a feeling of self-belief in them. Then, with your additional encouragement, they too may find the courage to follow their own passions, share them with their personal unique touch and begin changing the world - even if only in small ways at first. 

In the Workplace - With the average individual spending between 35% to 40% of a 24 hour day working, there is likely nothing in our life that gets more of our bandwidth than our work. At work, we encounter all kinds of people with all kinds of personalities. We spend more time with these people than we do with anyone else. We coordinate with them on projects, we pass them in the hall, we eat lunch and dinner together, we manage them, we report to them, we collaborate with them and occasionally with disagree or argue with them. Unfortunately, a large percentage of our coworkers feel unsatisfied with their work, inadequate in their position, or afraid to take risks. There is a high likelihood that many of them are achieving far less than their potential, because they doubt themselves, they are afraid they will fail and feel incapable of getting results.

Regardless of your position at work, you can be a catalyst for courage. Your genuine belief that you were hired to make an impact and your confidence that your efforts will generate the results you envision will stimulate confidence in your peers, and in your organization. This will occur especially when you convey your belief in your peers and encourage their success. This is what your company expected when it hired YOU - that you would make a difference within the company, so that it would be better capable of creating value in the industry and better able to generate a profit from its products and services. The company won't be nearly as successful if you act or think small. The organization will not be better off if you try not to make waves and just fit in. Position yourself where your passions and unique skills will be best utilized and shine bright - your team, your peers and your company will thank you for it.  

If you happen to be in a work environment that does not empower you to use your unique skills and does not encourage you to make an impact on the organization, its customers and the industry as a whole, then find a way out and move on. Life is too short and the time you spend at work occupies too much of your life to play small. The world needs you and your unique light to be creating value - every day.

In the World - In a day and age where technology has the power to connect us in so many ways, we are just as likely to interact with our neighbor as with some total stranger on the other side of the globe. The reality however is that trouble abounds both near and far, and a huge percentage of the people in the world feel stuck, alone and discouraged. For many, life is all about survival - just one day at a time. 

There is real work to be done that will have a real meaningful impact on how others experience and overcome pain, loss, defeat, poverty and despair. You and I have distinct experiences and unique perspectives on life that impact how we approach it. If, despite our own challenges, doubts and discouragements, we are able use those experiences to fuel our passions and make our light shine bright for others, we can stimulate optimism, happiness and courage in others. By shining brightly in the world, unafraid of ourselves, we might just unknowingly strike a chord in some total stranger, resonate a vision of clarity within them and light a path that leads them to liberation.

 ___________________

Before finishing up, I want to invite you to take a second to do an activity.

1. Grab a piece of paper
2. Write your name at the top
3. Think about what makes you unique and write it down
4. In the middle in big letters write these words. “I am me and that makes me powerful”
5. Read it out loud
6. Internalize it and say it again nodding
7. Believe it

If you skipped the activity [because you are too cool ;)] - reconsider.  

As kids we believed we were unstoppable - we would tell ourselves this out loud. When someone told us "you can't do that", we would say, "just watch me". If someone said, that is too hard for you, we said, "get out of my way". We are that same being - endowed with the will to achieve.

The doubters will continue to exist and may even get louder as your light shines brighter. There is a chance that some of those that are eventually liberated by your courage, initially tell you to "get back in line." Use those voices as motivation to stand apart with even greater courage.

You are powerful - an unmoved mover. Create your happyspace_, shine bright and liberate the world!

about me & my happyspace_

About Me
Since this is my inaugural post, a quick bit about me. My name is Nate Gardner. I am 37 years old, husband to the woman of my dreams and father to 5 wonderful kids. Experiencing the rigor of building a close-knit family, with all of its crazy dynamics, imperfections and celebrations is my most cherished experience. I love life and the people I meet in it. I have built and deeply love the relationships forged with siblings, friends, companions and work mates. These bonds are more dear to me than any possession and have brought me countless happy memories. I believe in God and His son Jesus Christ - I love them. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress, and a true believer that Jesus' life makes that progress possible. Finally, I love building awesome companies. Over the years, It's been my great fortune to help build some very cool companies from their early beginnings. At Costa Vida I was CEO, while we grew to over 30 locations and am currently a shareholder as the company scales to over 70. Now, as an executive at MX (previously MoneyDesktop), I oversee the full life cycle of our rapidly growing client/partner relationships - the adventures at MX are exhilarating! As I look back on the road traveled and then forward on the path ahead, I feel like I am just getting started, and I am looking forward to many more extraordinary things to come. There you have it - a pretty good snapshot of me. Oh... and one more thing. I have a big gap in my teeth :)

About this blog
When I was a kid, there was always pressure from my peers to “get my teeth fixed.” The massive gap that allowed me to squirt water a distance of 20 ft. (which I thought this was pretty cool) was apparently not cool and I felt the pressure to change. Junior High was a brutal time for me and even though I tried hard to "fit in" with the crowd, it felt like I was always very much on the outside looking in. I was especially self conscious in 7th and 8th grade and I pled with my parents several times to get braces to fix my gap. To this day, I wonder if my parents planned a way to squash my hopes, by convincing the Dentist to persuade me from doing so (orthodontia is expensive after all). The Dentist would tell me that the procedure would require the fracturing of my jaw, with subsequent wiring, cutting and then braces for a looooong time. Visions of a torture table, a lot of pain and an endless duration with a robotic looking mouth-gear-head-set created sufficient anxiety that I ditched the idea and decided to “live with my blemish”. It turns out that it wasn't my gap that needed fixing...

The summer before my 9th grade turned out to be a pivotal time for me, where I made decisions that have forever changed the way a look at myself, the world and others. I was incredibly lucky to have my oldest brother, Tom, living at home. He had just finished a 2 year service mission and would live at home until he headed off to college for fall semester. We became very close, spent a lot of time hanging out, talking and laughing. My personal insecurities must have been obvious, so he coached me on some key lessons he had learned while serving as a missionary in Mexico. These principles have been some of the most brilliant diamonds of knowledge I have ever received.

1. Get comfortable laughing at yourself... Genuinely laughing! - I have this saying "everyone poops and everyone's poop stinks". We all have quirks, oddities, weaknesses - the things that make us imperfect. It is good to be okay with those quirks and even better to find real, genuine humor in them. This also makes it nearly impossible for others to make you feel bad about them. What's more, they may just love you for those quirks.
2. Everyone else is worried about what others think of them, so they are likely not thinking about you - This means that you can immediately stop worrying about what everyone else thinks about you (cause it isn't happening anyway) and get focused on the real meaningful work of improving yourself while helping others become better versions of themselves and building value in the world.
3. The characteristics (physical & non-physical) that make you unique are exactly what the world needs - Each person is beautifully unique and capable of extraordinary things. Identify your unique skills, talents and passions and let them shine. Don’t mask or hide them, use them do differentiate, innovate and make the world a better place.

These were very difficult principles to apply, especially at 14, but heading into 9th grade I consciously applied them. This required diligent work, but over time I began to embrace the gap in my teeth, shrug off the desire to “fit in”, and got busy living comfortably in my skin. This is the way I live today and there isn’t anyone I would rather be than me - and yes my gap is larger than ever.

Over the years, "the gap" in my teeth has become a personal metaphor and a reminder to let my unique light beam brightly in the world and to create a happyspace that is my very own. I share that symbol with you, the reader, and invite you to join me - find and create your happyspace_.

Subscribe or check back often. My hope is that I will inspire ideas that:
1) Generate a spark in readers to identify those characteristics that make them unique and share it with the world.
2) Inspire readers to choose happiness.

Get busy creating your happyspace_!