The Changing Of The Season Affects My Mood

Photo by Michael Competielle

The changing of the season from summer to fall is the perfect time for forest walks and fall foliage drives. As the leaves change colors from green to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges and the temperatures are still marginally warm and bearable.

Yet something is lurking in the shadows of fall. A cold and evil darkness is beginning to set in. As the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, the seasons change to winter will bring on a sense of sadness.

The winter days sun is hardly reminiscent of the sun of the warmer seasons. Brightly shining with a warmth that fuels our souls and tones our flesh. Our bodies are energized on the long journey of a summer day. 

The darkening of fall will lead to the dead of winter. A season lacking in birdsong, vibrancy and light. Annually I begin to sadden as I will feel imprisoned to the indoors to avoid the harshness of winters chill.

As of late, I’ve learned to overcome the sadness of dark frigid days by keeping my mind in check. I’ve learned to stack the decks against the disconnect from the great outdoors. By using my mind to fuel my soul, and adjusting my activity and motivation the changing of the season to winter has become pleasant. 

Dressing warmly I’ll trudge outside to embrace the difference in the sounds of winter. The lack of leaves and ground brush changes the pitch and character of common sounds. 

The feeling of the cold winters air has a bite that reminds me that I have a fire inside. An internal light that needs to be fueled and nurtured. The glowing embers of energy that I need to keep stoking to maintain my sanity. 

Embracing the days and fortifying my passion to learn and experience, I’ve learned to love each day and fill it with love and life. The sadness of the cold and dark is overshadowed by the fire in my heart and power of my mind. 

With controlled breath and pure thoughts I realign my mind to fulfillment. This day may not be that picturesque scene we would love to paint yet it is the perfect opportunity to reconnect my mind to my soul. 

With breathing and focus the changing of the season can be enjoyed. With pure thoughts and an open mind, we can embrace this time for learning and expression. 

Looking back we see where we were, and looking forward may be too far away. So by nurturing this thought in this moment for the fire shall rage to overcome the sadness of the cold and dark days ahead. 

Packing My Life Into A Backpack

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Past

When the Communists entered my grandparent’s Austrian homestead, they were forced to pack up and leave. They were only allowed one truck amongst the family and were required to pack within the hour and head out onto the road. 

Often I try to imagine the feeling of being forced to pack within one hour everything that matters to me into a trunk and carry it away. The remainder of my belongings never to be seen again. 

What would I deem important? Are some of my worldly possessions not going to fit, easily replaceable or nonessential? For the most part yes. 

With the false sense of security feeling, this will never happen to me I can simply disregard the notion and not worry. But history has a tendency to repeat itself, and even if it will never happen, what do I really possess that could fill that trunk?

In war-torn 1940’s Europe, I’d say clothing, food, blankets and some photographs. Not much more would really matter. Discarded and left behind as I’m certain many felt lucky they were escaping with their lives.

Stuffing Your Life in a Backpack

So my experiment is what items are of essential importance to my daily needs? The backpack concept comes from a desire to travel to more remote destinations where I would need to minimize my packs. 

My passion to travel has never been stronger and my quest to document these experiences is the single most important objective. 

My pack will include a camera to capture the scenery and experience as I attempt to seize the moment and freeze it in time. 

The sound of environments has become my latest experiment and therefore I must bring along my audio recording gear. 

Recently I’ve come to the realization that I’m also a writer. Pen to paper not so much as I write on an iPad or laptop. Seems that also needs to go into the pack.

I’m looking into a lightweight Buddhist prayer rug so I can sit close to the earth and become connected to my environment.

Clothing, some snacks, and water I’m thinking the pack is full and going to be heavy.

Lightening the Load

My iPhone can actually handle most of the tasks mentioned above, photography and video, sound recording, writing, and even a few ebooks I would feel relatively complete. 

Any of the other equipment would need to improve the capabilities of my cellphone or else their value begins to fade after hours of humping the heavy pack through the paths of travel.

What about all we left behind

So now I begin to question everything I’ve left behind. Is anything essential? As a collective of physical content much of the things I own I’d say yes. However if I was forced to pack them into a trunk, never to see the items left behind could I survive? Am I willing to walk away from the clutter of life and feel complete and whole? 

One day I’m certain to find out. Be it my quest for enlightened travel or my placement into my eternal place of rest. 

Curing Myself To Make The World A Better Place

Photo by Michael Competielle

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference 

Reinhold Niebuhr

A photo of the above saying hung in our home when I was growing up. I remember reading it back then and thinking I understood it as I would force my will and opinions upon others. The World didn’t change and honestly neither did I. 

I’ve been blessed with the life I have been gifted and with every passing day, that fact is reconfirmed. The past year I’ve moved towards enlightenment by redesigning my life. I’ve accepted who everyone else is and how they fit into my world. 

Nothing Is Impossible 

Mind over matter as I daily make minor adjustments to myself and my lifestyle. For the most part I don’t do anything I don’t want to and make sure the things I do actually partake in I’m present and mindful. 

The challenges I had yesterday are in the past and how I deal with situations is in the present, where I’m focused and engaged. I seek the answers to problems first within myself before I attempt to modify my surroundings. 

Everyday obstacles are deemed insignificant as I refuse to become embroiled in the static of the problems I can not solve. My objective is to carve myself a path and follow my inspiration. 


I remember as a child when my parents asked me to do something I’d always respond with “why?” And the answer was always “don’t ask questions just do it” or “because I said so”. Not really great advice and certainly not very enlightening. 

I ask myself why? in most everything I do. And the answers, when honest are life-changing. No longer do I waste time watching the news or reading about things that I can not change. My concentration is finely tuned to the things that affect me and my effect on others. 

I’m a work in progress and it’s an uphill battle to redesign my thoughts and interactions with the world. I’ve made lifestyle changes to my diet by going Whole Food Plant Based, and I’m mindful of my impact on the environment. 

I don’t any longer take nature for granted and I cherish the beauty of each passing day. Every hour is maximized in a very selfish way as I make sure I’m doing the things I need to do for me. My world revolves around me and when I arrive and interact with others it’s with purity I can interact becomes I feel complete. 

The stresses of life still exist and I still will lose my cool with others when I see they’ve given up or are defeated, often before they’ve ever started or tried. 

Every day I work on my redesign and self-development, looking deeper into myself and further out onto the horizons. With all certainty I know I can get there and so my quest to fulfillment has become easy. 

With each passing day, I do a reflection and determine my status. I’m pleased with my results yet recognize I have a long way to go. The journey to curing myself has been my greatest achievement. I keep moving the goal line as I travel deeper and deeper into my own potential and reap the rewards. 

Reimagining The Perfect Life

Taking your favorite aspects of your life and making them better

Photo by Michael Competielle

Just to be perfectly clear I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination about my current life. For all intent and purposes, it’s a perfect life. I have an amazing wife, great kids, wonderful dogs, a brilliant career, inspirational side hustles, and good health.

So why reimagine the perfect life?

What exactly is our actual purpose? To survive? To work, save and die?

Not long ago I reread the obituary of a visionary designer, restaurateur, and community leader. His style and visions have molded the inspiration of how and what I do daily.

Every day I awaken and ensure that I create something. Often my creations are as simple as breakfast or determining details on an architectural project. But often they are larger such as finishing films, inspiring photography or recording unique sounds.

My current carbon footprint is relatively small in comparison to many others yet I’m always thinking of ways to reduce my waste and stop the purchasing of frivolous non-necessities. My impact on the environment and my use of the Earth’s precious resources has moved to the head of the line of self-importance.

Every morning I’m working on Living My Legacy as I have less fear of dying than I do not living.

Michael Competielle

My perfect life consists of detachment as I want to detach myself from material things and nurture my relationships with loved ones and the Earth. I want to travel to the places that create my food to experience the challenges of growing these crops.

Photo by Michael Competielle

I want to pick bananas and avocados and work on a coffee plantation. I want to taste the sweat and feel the pain in my body after a hard day’s work. I want to sit by a warm fire and listen to stories about the lives of the people that really matter, the stewards of the land.

I want to listen to the sounds of animals in their natural habitat and recognize we are in this world together. I want to sleep on a beach and listen to the waves roll in as I watch the sunset.

I want to climb the highest mountains as a sherpa and learn how to breathe with limited oxygen. I want to know that on my descent from the mountain’s summit I’ll respect and cherish every new fresh breath.

I want to rebuild damaged lands and become a steward to our Mother Earth. I want to learn how to recreate biodiversity and sustainability and be a part of the rebirth of our depleted natural resources.

I want to listen to the birdsong and recognize their tunes as I watch our precious bees pollinate our lifeblood… Our food.

I want to taste the earth and hear her song. From the highest mountains to the calmest oceans. I envision myself a shepherd to our planet and become her faithful servant.

I don’t want to care about money, politics or world peace. For in my reimagined world we all nurture and cherish each other and our Mother Earth.

Inventing New Ways to Gain Results

Photo by Michael Competielle

Recently I was asked how I had the ability and willpower to turn down some birthday cake. Being a vegan for over one year now most of the ingredients in the birthday cake I don’t eat. Eggs, milk, processed sugar, butter and who knows what else. As I listened back to the question in my mind of what I had just heard I believe they were saying “I don’t have to willpower to say no to cake”.

Certainly this is a person that lacks in self control and discipline.

Daily I’ll turn down food options that I’ve previously eaten and even enjoyed in my quest to maintain my new lifestyle. Is this the correct option for me? That’s a question I can not answer however it currently is working.

Am I on a diet? Not exactly. I’ve decided to make a large change in my philosophy that drives my life decisions. Empathy towards animals, environmental issues of factory farming and lastly my personal health. Is anyone one reason more pertinent than the other? Not really.

Is it a fad diet? Good god no. I feel sorry for the fad diet types, convincing themselves this is the best thing since sliced bread, only to dropout days or weeks later citing a list of reasons why they could hack it. Why not? Because they probably didn’t make the diet a lifestyle change, and the reasoning behind the diet was probably superfluous and selfish.

Is there a magic bullet that will change your life and make it perfect? Nope. Is my life perfect? Nope. Do I want it to be? Not really?

With environmental issues, sustainability problems and corporate greed, we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a mess. The environmental impact of over populating the planet, over using the natural resources and not really caring have us in a downward spiral as we race to the bottom.

Do I have the answers? Nope and you shouldn’t listen to me anyway. What you should do is look in the mirror and take an honest assessment of yourself. Is there anything you can change? Is there any way you can make a minor adjustment that can incrementally have a large impact?

Are you in control of yourself? If your lacking willpower to not eat cake what exactly can you be in charge of? Are you faking your way thru life cheating and lying to yourself. I’ll guess the answer is yes.

Am I perfect? Fuck no far from it. Do I daily try to address my issues and make modifications. Absofuckinglutely. Will I be someone different tommorrow or next week? Gosh I hope so.

Currently I’m questioning my daily diet and the impact of my bananas and avocados. Are they sustainable and what impact are these foods having on the environment? Probably not a great one however I can tell you I don’t buy a lot of imported single use plastic crap.

I used to take mass transporation to work and for the last eight years I work 5 miles from home. Do I walk or bike to work? Nope as a car is a requirement for my job however would I? You bet your ass.

I’m of the BIFL movement. Buy It For Life. These products include:

Vitamix, Magimix, Jeep Wrangler, Mazzer, Sennheiser

I could go on for quite some time however I’m assured if you’ve bought any of the products on my list…. you already know.

Am I functioning in an environmentally friendly way. I certainly make a concentrated effort to.

“Five percent of the people think; 
ten percent of the people think they think; 
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

So how exactly do I invent things to get ahead? Think Thomas Edison…

Photos by Michael Competielle

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

Thinking like Edison and having the courage and willpower to try something. See if it works, if it does hooray for you, move on. And if it doesn’t work, don’t give up try something else. It’s only after you’ve exhausted every option can you finally saw there isn’t a solution.

Image if Thomas Edison gave up after his first failure. Would we have the incandescent light? The Phonograph? The Movie Camera? And the list goes on.

What does it take to invent something? Tenacity.

Every day I try something new. I’ll expand myself by taking on new challenges and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Have a failed? The real question is have I ever succeeded? For the most part the answer is no. I’ve gotten things done, received a few accolades but am I complete or complacent? Nope. Not by a long shot.

What is my legacy? I’m building it daily, constantly expanding my network of life’s works. Does anyone really care? Not really, or at least not presently. Will they? Probably when I’m long gone. Does that depress me? Nope it makes me push my self harder and farther.

Looking back at my achievements there a lot of small cumlative efforts that combined equal something. Am I successful? You bet your ass. Do you know why? Because nobody has to push or drive me to take risks and succeed. My inner inventive voice does that for me.

The Freedom of Creating and Putting Yourself Out There

Photo by Michael Competielle

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.”

— Japanese Proverb

There is nothing that I fear. Not judgement, failure or vulnerability. Everyday I’ll rise to the occasion to take charge of my life and take risks. I’m a decision maker in which 95% of my decisions are good and 5% are brutally horrendous however I stand behind every decision 100% always.

Years of experience doing things wrong, failing and being judged has toughened my skin to create a resilience to critique. My inner self questions my thoughts and path as my gut tells me “just do it”.

Recently I was mentoring a colleague where a work situation went wrong, I let the problem fester a bit and when the moment was right I corrected the situation. My colleague was perturbed at how I’d left them vulnerable in this scenario and my reaction was “ remember how you felt in that moment. Your heart racing and chest sunken. When you feel that way again you now know how to react and direct yourself out of this situation”.

“If you give a man a fish, he will be hungry tomorrow. If you teach a man to fish, he will be richer forever.” Indian Proverb

It works, when I get that gut feeling or emotional moment I recognize I’ve been there before, make a fine adjustment to counteract the situation and move on.

When I was a kid my uncle and father taught me to play pool. I didn’t have great strength nor dexterity to effectively break the tightly racked balls. When it was my turn to shoot, I’d miss three or four times until I’d realize I was about to lose. I’d focus on what I was doing and patiently plan my next shot. Knowing I was about to be beaten I’d concentrate on the speed, angle and trajectory of the shot while planning the next.

With a firm crack I’d hit in one ball after another in a 2–3 ball run and usually catch up. I wouldn’t always win but my abilities and confidence increased with the pressures of possibly loosing.

With focus and determination I’d put my mind into a state of flow.

Throughout my life when I find myself in a creative state and need to push thru and finish, I’ll focus on my vision of the completed project and get there. Hitting the send button at the completion of any project once I feel I’m complete I do so with the confidence I’m at my best.

I’m never questioning if I’ve done wrong or missed the point, I’ll hit send based on my ability to take risks and ward off criticism. My objective is to keep creating more and more content. Occasionally I’ll miss the mark however my next attempt will be better than every and an improvement on the previous iteration.

Zen and the Art of Lasts

Appreciate life experiences as if it’s your last

Photo by Michael Competielle

Sitting helplessly in a electric chair I watched my fathers motor skills diminish rapidly. A former draftsman, artist and entrepreneur with perfect penmanship, he struggled to hold a pen to write the word hello.

His Multiple System Atrophy was affecting what little was left of his physical being. Trapped inside his sunken body was his mind, still detailed and sharp like a tack.

Months earlier I questioned him on why he was giving up, not writing his memoirs, explaining his life. He had gotten to a point where he had given up the fight.

We had collectively made decisions as a family on his future care and how he wanted to live out what weeks or days he had left. Forced to eating through a feeding tube, stuck in an electric chair, cherrypicked into his bed he refused to live out his days in a hospital. He wanted to stay home surrounded by his belonging.

An avid book reader, he had a massive library of leather bound literature, fine furnishings and artwork, all material possessions he believed completed him. I made my most noble attempt to teach him mindfulness and practice however he only saw the pain of his decline and his last few years he missed the moments.

Recently I was talking to a best friend of mine about the situation. He’s currently going through a similar scenario with his beloved sister. My only advice is to live in the moment and treat every experience as if it were your last.

Stepping out of the plane in a foreign place, embrace the experience. What does the air smell like, Listen to the sounds. Walking along city streets recognize the people, their expressions, the vibe.

Stepping out onto that amazing beach, listen to the surf, smell the salty air and watch that stunning sunset as if you’ll never see another again.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Always one to be in a rush my mother and my wife would yell at me to chew my food, taste it and enjoy it. They are correct, one day you won’t be able to chew or eat certain foods, and you’ll wish that you could eat a steak just one last time. But what if this next time your eating that steak you take your time? You slowly chew and taste the flavors, the texture and add that experience to your memory banks. When you next are asked about your favorite meal, you’ll remember it in vibrant detail which you could describe.

When I travel now I no longer plan specific details, just going with the flow of the journey. Weather doesn’t change my plans as rain, wind or even hurricanes can be a once in a lifetime experience. Instead I embrace the uniqueness of the scenario and program each detail into my memory banks. I’ll use most or all of my senses to log the event.

The last day I saw my father alive, we both knew it. We often struggled in our relationship to express to each other how we felt, however I saw it in his eyes. As I left and headed to the airport I told my wife with absolute certainty that was the last time we would see him alive. Unfortunately I was right.

The irony of this is I’m complacent with how it ended. We were in our own terms, and shared our last moment. Not a day goes by I don’t think of my father, often not in the best regards and often with bitterness.

What if he had listened to me by embracing those last years of his life present and in the moment.

All experiences good or bad are experiences. We choose what details and emotion we extract from a given moment. By focusing on the positive details and embracing those who share them with us, your last’s will be your bests.

I’m writing daily to chronicle my thoughts, perspective and interests. Daily I challenge myself to do more than the day before. I’ll someday leave behind a long legacy of myself, uncertain if it’ll matter to anyone besides myself. One day I’ll return to my projects, writings, photos, films and life to recollect myself.

My mind won’t stay sharp forever and so therefore I’ll need to document my last’s as I feel I’ll have many. Daily I look at the details in everything I see and touch and often wonder why I never noticed them before. The life cycle of a flower, the growth of the baby fawn, the sounds of a summer rain.

My quests for quiet places is for self reflection and immersion, determined to not follow in my fathers footsteps missing out on the last years of his life.

I’m present, in the moment and spontaneous. I don’t generally make plans for the future as future is unknown and not predetermined. I’d rather stay right here, in this moment and hope it never ends. Cataloging every detail as if it’s the last.

Michael Competielle

The Soul of a Tree is the Secret to Life

Photo by Michael Competielle

A slight breeze blows through the forests upper canopy as the foliage uniformly dances to her breath. The crunch of decaying leaves that have fallen to rejuvenate the earthen soil. The forests ecosystem is home to flora, insects, birds, owls and deer.

Fall is coming and the leaves are changing into vibrant colors like a evening campfire. Birds singing as they fly branch to branch looking for the days meal.

Finding a rock in which I can sit down I quietly reach for the record button as I monitor the forests sounds thru my headphones. Bird song and cool breeze… so peaceful and serene. I begin to slip into a meditative state of Mindfulness as I’m completely immersed in the present moment, the worlds distractions are distant.

Looking at each tree as a unique living being I begin to think about teh miracle of the forests existence. The foliage protecting the habitat below providing a natural cooling effect. Some trees live a beautiful life as they grow in a perfect fertile environment stretching tall to capture the sun rays to synthesize carbon dioxide into oxygen.

I slowly breathe in… hold… and breathe out the rich forest air.

My mind begins to wander as my thoughts focus on our current environmental issues we are creating through deforestation. In the Amazon alone we have lost 17 percent of the forest in the last 50 years. Entire species of animals extinct from the removal of their habitat to make room for developments and farms.

Forest woods are used for furniture, building materials, fuel, paper and packing materials. Trees produce fruits, nuts, rubber and maple syrup that can be extracted without destruction to the tree. Carefully removing a tree from a forest is not an issue as a seedling can be planted in its place and the circle of life continues.

Trees are the ultimate renewable resource while the removal of an entire forest is not.

Simply put, we cannot survive on this planet without forests. In a sense, they breathe for the Earth, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and producing the oxygen we require in return. And by storing that carbon, forests help to regulate the global climate, absorbing nearly 40 percent of the fossil-fuel emissions we humans preoduce. Rainforest Alliance

Photo by Jennifer Competielle

Coming from a family of cabinetmakers for generations, I’ve been around wood and woodworking tools my entire life. Cutting and shaping trees into cabinetry, moldings, structures and trinkets. I savor my scraps reusing them as blocking, shims or dunnage until I’m down to the smallest piece I feel comfortable to discard.

Feeling a tree shouldn’t be killed without responsibly using its resources for making sustainable and renewable products.I’ve always tried to get the most use I could out of the woods.

It wasn’t until I happened to visit the wood shop of Master furniture builder George Nakashima that I began to understand that trees have a soul. A unique life form that needs to be recognized and understood.

As I toured the showroom, wood storage and shop I began to realize the philosophy utilized in the creation of Nakashima’s works. Each piece of wood is carefully chosen to determine how it will be shaped and tooled into a new unique existence.

In the true Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi, the natural characteristics and flaws are accentuated, often where slpits in the wood are locked from further splited with butterfly joints.

Photo by Michael Competielle

I purchased a copy of George’s manifesto The Soul of a Tree: A Master Woodworkers Reflections which I had George’s daughter Mira, who now runs the business carrying on the Nakashima legacy, sign my book.With a deep philosophical understanding that the respectful use of a trees woods gives the tree renewed life and purpose. I learned to honor the trees soul.

When trees mature, it is fair and moral that they are cut for man’s use, as they would soon decay and return to the earth. Trees have a yearning to live again, perhaps to provide the beauty, strength and utility to serve man, even to become and object of great artistic worth.

George Nakashima