Dare to be intentional with today!
Dare to be intentional with today!
I’ve learned several lessons about airline travel in the past few years. My job requires me to travel, not extensively, but enough that I have gotten quite good at the process. In no particular order:
I’ve love to hear YOUR flying tips!
One of the hardest parts of parenting is being consistent. After a tough day at work, one might find themselves either too exhausted to battle wills with or very short with a child. I sat down early one Saturday morning and wrote out a list of House Rules that apply to everyone in the household, and made a copy for everyone and placed a copy on the fridge for everyone’s viewing pleasure. I’ve had to add some addenda over time.
After implementing these, life in the house became much less stressful and I highly recommend parents (and children) come up with their own list of house expectations.
I found out that I’m dying. How’s that for an opening line? I found this out about 40 years ago, when my great grandmother, Emma, passed away and I attended my very first funeral. At 5 years old, I quickly caught on that dying was not a great thing. It was the first time I had seen my mom cry and it scared me. I associated death as a bad thing at that point.
Over the next few years, I lost several more relatives, including my 16 year old cousin Carla when I was 10. She had kidney disease and the doctors told her parents that she wouldn’t live to see her 16th birthday. She proved them wrong by passing away early in the morning the very day she turned 16. That death still hurts me 35 years later. Carla was my baby sitter and best friend, if you can consider your cousin your friend. As an only child, I would beg my mom to let her come over during the summer when I wasn’t staying with my grandparents. She taught me how to play Monopoly, as well as how to properly pronounce it. It’s funny that I can still here her voice just as if I had heard her on the phone 10 minutes ago.
I’ve since lost most of my family including my parents and all grandparents.
It was an odd, almost surreal, feeling when I became the patriarch of my family line. There was no family member left to turn to for advice or to share my childhood memories with. Almost out of instinct, I still pick up the phone to call my grandmother, who passed from this world over 10 years ago, whenever I get the urge to speak to her. And I’m consumed with grief when I realize, after the clock tics a few times, that she’s not here anymore. Why do I do that?
Strangely enough, I’m prepared for my own death. Notice I didn’t say I’m in a HURRY for it, but just prepared. My wife hates it when I talk about it because she’s 10 years younger and odds are she will outlive me by at least 15 years and who would want a life without me in it, right? I have no fear of death…maybe a little fear surrounding HOW I will die, but not death itself. It’s a road we will all cross to our judgement. I don’t fear judgement, but that’s a conversation for another time.
That being said, I don’t think I’m ready to die just yet. If I look at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s siblings age when they died, I can expect I will live to be in my late 80’s. My grandfather and all but one of his siblings died in their 90’s. At 45, I’m thinking I’m right at the half way point in my life. That might be a little audacious to think because I’m 75 pounds overweight, but I’m working on that.
I’m not ready to die just yet because I’m not finished living out the purpose God put me here for. I have paintings to paint, hugs to give, books to write, friends to make, jokes to laugh at, babies to hold, photos to take, advice to give, questions to ask, teams to coach…I could go on and on.
There’s little chance I’m going to change the world with any of the above, but at a minimum, I’ll leave a ripple, maybe even a wave. Traditional thinking would say, at 45 “your chances are fading.” I would offer an alternate and less jaded opinion that says I have more to offer in the way of “wisdom” now that ever before. Why would I have started writing about a life yet lived? I’ve built quite a resume of life exposure over the last 45 years that will benefit someone along my path.
And in the end, like the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean, if help one person along this journey, I’ve change that person’s world. That’s my life purpose and I firmly believe we all share that same mission – to change the world by helping those we come in contact with. It could be something as simple as a smile to someone having a bad day, or putting dent in your bank account to help that young couple at church that just lost both their jobs and found out they are having a baby. You can find a way to make one person’s world better without looking far.
So until my work is finished, I’ll stand by my statement…I’m prepared, but not in a hurry, to die.
In middle school, we had field day once a year, usually in May, when students and teachers alike had pretty much wrapped the pretense of real work for the school year. When my eighth grade year rolled around, I was deep in puberty. My body was awkward and didn’t always respond the way I wanted to. Luckily, that was wrapping up toward the end of the year. When field day finally got here, I had mastered the use of my longer arms and legs. We did the normal decathalon(ish) things we had never tried before…shot put…javelin (not the best of ideas). At the end of the day, they grouped the boys together in pods for racing heats, 1/4 mile (1 lap) each. They took the top boy, regardless of grade, from each heat, and moved him to the next round. With over 1000 boys in my middle school, there were quite a few rounds. I easily won my first two heats, but struggled with less than a 1 second win in the third.
In the final heat, to determine the winner, I found myself as the only white kid in the pack. I got some ribbing by a couple of the other runners, but we had all grown up together, so it was all good natured. We lined up and Coach Morgan blew his whistle and off we went. Michael J. burst off the line and was 25 yards ahead of everyone before we hit the first turn. So at this point, it was a race to 2nd. Carl and I ran neck and neck through the final turn and he pulled a step ahead. There was a well of strength I didn’t know existed, and I tapped into it and passed the finish line a fraction of a second before him. Coach Morgan declared it a 0.1 second difference between us, but I think it was closer. I was the 2nd fastest kid in my middle school. Woohoo! (I’m sure I’m the ONLY person that still remembers that)
Fast forward 32 years. I’m 290, 75 pounds overweight, or more depending on which chart you use. I started learning to run again a few months ago. I fought multiple injuries because of my weight and non-use of any muscles not required for general living. I was within a day of hanging up my shoes and going back to the couch, when I read Ben Dempsey’s story. It inspired me to push through the frustration and pain.
I had registered for a 5K back in July when I started running and before all the injuries. Saturday was the KALB Duck and Run 5K in Athens, Alabama, the first of my career. The race was aptly named because it was POURING rain. I run in Vibram Five Finger Bikila’s so I didn’t have to worry about soggy socks or blisters, thankfully.
I drove up feeling somewhat lost. I had intentionally asked my wife not to go because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it and I didn’t want her to be there if I failed. I walked to the pavilion where several people were already gathered. Everyone was doing these strange moves. I thought I had walked into a free style yoga class for a minute. Apparently, I never learned how to stretch properly because these folks were in the most contorted positions I had ever seen. I wasn’t aware a leg could maneuver behind someone’s head while standing on their tip toes.
The second thing I noticed right away was everyone was extremely thin, anorexic almost. This tall guy walked by and I’m thinking one of my thighs is bigger than his waist. Somebody get this dude a milkshake.
I felt very out of place. What was I doing here? Really, who did I think I was? I’m at least 50 pounds heavier than the 2nd largest guy. At 45 years old, I’m too old to start something new. I tried to tune out the voices that were starting to amp up my fear.
Because of the rain, I decided to run in my Columbia rain jacket, more to protect my phone and wireless headset from getting wet. I always run listening to something upbeat and didn’t want to change that during my first run. Time was creeping closer and I zipped up my jacket. The director made the announcements and herded everyone to the start line.
Everyone packed in relatively tight and the director “quacked” his toy duck (sounds kind of dirty doesn’t it?) and everyone took off…in a big hurry. Where’s the fire? What’s the rush? The space in front of me cleared and I took off. Pace pace… what’s my pace? Because of the rain, I didn’t have my phone in my hand where I use an app to track my pace, distance, calories burned, etc. I let the crowd rush by and found something that felt somewhat comfortable.
I reached in my pocket and started my music and tried to settle in. The first turn was coming up and I glanced into the window of a parked car and luckily saw there were still people behind me. Not that I planned on winning, but I just didn’t want to be last. I passed someone walking…whew…good sign. There were police at each turn in the race and I wondered if I cut any corners would I be shot in the back? Crazy things go through your mind too, right?
About a minute after the turn a volunteer at the cross street keeping traffic blocked started clapping each time someone ran past. I hope there’s a special place in Heaven for that lady because she has no clue what that small gesture meant to me because even though I had only gone half a mile, I was starting to feel the first of many walls.
I completed 95% of my training and running on a track around the soccer fields in the community I live…a FLAT track. I had not prepared for the upcoming small hill and suddenly a little voice started whispering to me…”You’re not ready for this.” I started up the hill, shortening my already short stride, something that I had read in a book. I’m quite sure I looked ridiculous, but I didn’t get up at 4:45 AM and drive more than an hour to walk the race. I pushed up the hill. The next turn was at the top where a police officer stood, arms crossed. I kept looking at him to give me some encouragement. I just needed a little smile…SOMETHING. I might as well have been looking at his car. Nothing…he never met my gaze.
The music I normally let fuel my enthusiasm and energize my run was nothing but background noise. My self-talk was like walking into a football stadium and trying to isolate individual conversations. Where was my focus?
As I was coming down the hill, I crossed the one mile mark. Several people passed me around this time because I refused to open up going down. I had heard that a lot of injuries happen on downhills. As inexperienced as I am, someone could tell me most running injuries occur when putting on running shoes and I probably would believe it.
Things leveled out for the next portion of the run and I noticed the heat. Where was it coming from? It wasn’t hot outside, but I was burning up. Oh yes…I have my jacket zipped all the way up. As I pulled the zipper down, vaporized sweat burst out, temporarily blinding me, and frizzing my hair. I had been a moving sauna and didn’t know it. My shirt was completely soaked. The sudden coolness, however, gave me a (VERY) small burst of energy.
As I passed the two mile mark I found myself facing yet another hill. I was able to catch up to a child, about 6 or 7 years old. I couldn’t just pass him without offering him some encouragement. I pulled out my headset and as I pulled even, I told him “Great job big man!” I think there was a gasp between each word and it probably sounded like “Gra…GASP…ja…GASP…bi…GASP….ma…GASP!” He looked over and said “I haven’t stopped. Well, I did stop for a drink, but that’s all. My legs feel heavy. Do your legs feel heavy?”
I smiled and kept going. That voice was back, whispering…”your legs feel heavy, don’t they?”
I came into the town square where a police officer immediately averted my gaze. Dang it! Were they told it was poor etiquette to cheer? I needed something, anything to keep me going. I was fading quickly after that last hill.
After the square, thankfully, there was a nice downhill portion of about 300 yards. I thought to myself…ok…I got this. I saw the same clapping lady from the beginning of the race again and she was smiling big. I read her lips…I think she said… “You can do this.” I love that lady.
Then I turned left. There is was. The longest, steepest hill I had ever seen. I almost stopped right there. More voices joined the chorus… ”You didn’t train for hills” “You can’t do this fat boy” “Give it up old man”. I heard recently if we had coffee with someone that talked to us, like we talk to ourselves, we’d get up and walk out.
Things became very surreal. I can’t ever remember being this tired in my life. The previous hills had taken their toll. I kept moving, but took a moment to shut my eyes and clear the noise. I pulled out my ear-buds. When I opened my eyes, I glanced down at my feet and kept my focus right there. Nowhere else. I leaned into the hill.
I was only living in the moment and for the moment. Not this hill. Not this race. Just this step. Just this step. Just this step. Just this step.
In my head, I heard my late mom saying…”You can be anything.” I heard my wife saying “I’m so proud of you” I heard my supporting friends scattered all over the country “You are AWESOME!” Those voices became louder and louder until I couldn’t hear the other ones that were trying to fuel fear. Each voice gave me the strength for another step.
I crested the hill (felt like a MOUNTAIN) and staggered past the 3 mile mark. I never looked back up until I crossed the line. I glanced up at the clock and saw the time. It was about a minute longer than my practice runs on a flat track. I was in no way disappointed.
There were no ribbons or medals for the fattest guy running, nor was there any recognition for this being my first 5K. I posted a post-race photo on Facebook and I got something much better than any award…awesome words of encouragement from my friends. I wasn’t last. My only regret was that I didn’t turn around and cheer for the 8 people that finished after me. Next time.
By the way, I signed up for a 10K that night. I can’t wait.
Go face your hills.
I’ve coached sports for my kids for many years now, starting with my daughter’s softball team, my son’s football team, and now my step-son’s soccer team. I get more joy out of watching kids develop and seeing their face light up when they do something that didn’t think they could do than just about anything.
Last year, the soccer team I was co-coaching was pretty good. We had lost a few games through the year, but nothing larger than a margin of 2 point. Because our town is so small and we were the only team in our age group, we were able to represent our town in the area tournament.
Right away we faced a team that beat us in the regular season and, again, they beat us and put us in the losers bracket of the tournament. This team was extremely aggressive and fast. They played right at the line of unsportsmanlike like, pushing and throwing elbows when the referees weren’t looking. Alas, it’s one part of the game I do not like, but it’s not altogether uncommon in some towns.
We managed to win the remaining games and late that Saturday night, we faced the undefeated team yet again. We lost to them in the regular season, and earlier in the day. To say that confidence wasn’t high would be an understatement. They were big, fast, and skilled…and a little bit mean too.
I’m not going to drag the story out because it’s only setting the stage. We beat the team by one goal. Our kids played the game of their lives, every one playing above their skill level. Unfortunately, the evening had a stain on it. The coach of the other team was livid. He yelled and screamed at his kids the entire time. I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to inspire 8 and 9 year old kids that way. To top it off, after the game he refused to line up to shake hands and to sign the official scorecard. Wow.
Fast forward to the first game of this season, two weeks ago. Coach Angryman brought his team to our humble field for the season opener. The game was never in contention. We won 10-2. Again, he showed his proverbial rear-end by getting into a verbal altercation with the referee about missing an off-sides call that I couldn’t have made where I was standing, and Coach Angryman was 30 yards further away than I was. To make matters worse, one of our players decided to dish out a little of what he had been receiving all game (against our wishes) and Coach Angryman said some not so nice words to him after the game. Not wanting things to escalate any further, I gave the young man a quick lecture about being the better person, and to ignore the other coach. I had to fight my own inner Angryman not to Crane-Kick him, Daniel Larusso style.
This past weekend, we traveled to Mr. Angryman’s city to play another team. When we were walking to drop our gear on the sidelines, we saw him walking toward us. The other coach leaned in and whispered, “Here he comes.”
He reached out his hand and immediately said, “I’m so sorry about how I acted. I don’t handle frustration well and I was more than frustrated with my own team. I wanted to apologize to you and the young man I said something to. Where is he?” We called him over and the coach stuck out his hand and offered his apology to him, saying he was a great soccer player and he should never have said anything to him.
Talk about a total transformation. My opinion of this guy went from lower than dog poop, to respect, not because he apologized to me and the other coach, but because he humbled himself in front of an 11 year old boy. He could have asked us to tell him he was sorry, instead he chose to do it himself.
When we realize that we’ve done something inappropriate to someone else, how motivated are we to chase down someone and fall face first on the ground asking for forgiveness? Someone doesn’t have to apologize to be forgiven. But it’s awesome to see someone grow by lowering themselves, even old Angrymen…even me.
Right this moment, whether you realize it or not, you are in a war. The enemy uses guerrilla tactics to distract you from personal greatness. That enemy is constantly pulling you toward the TV, to your email. It prompts you to check Facebook, ESPN, your favorite new site. You can’t help being sucked into wanting the latest and greatest smartphone, tablet, laptop.
When is the last time you sat down and read a book for an afternoon? What are you listening to during your 30 minute commute every day? Can you name 5 things you did out of pure kindness (not as part of your job) for others yesterday? This week? This month? (unless you are a #START person and then your list is long).
Our society is overwhelmed with stimuli from every direction. We focus more on what’s going on with our weekly crime-drama than we do in our own lives. We spend an inordinate amount of time living is a virtual world while missing the real world all around us.
We are being “dumbed-down” as a society. If you don’t believe it, I dare you to watch MTV and feel more intelligent after 5 minutes. There is a force that is trying to keep you distracted so you can’t think, plan, and strategize for a prosperous future. I even find it harder now to concentrate on just reading a book for an hour without the phantom vibration of my smartphone causing me to reach for it, even though it’s been purposely left in the other room.
Steven Pressman talks about “The Resistance” in his book The War of Art. It’s that (evil) force within us that pulls us away from all things creative. The Resistance is working against us and wanting us to accept mediocrity. We, the free thinkers and philosophers, must fight back. You must have a strategy to fight the Resistance that’s keeping you down!
Here’s my personal list of tactics to keep myself from falling into mediocrity:
Never let the Resistance plant seeds in your mind.
The tactics change, but not the strategy. Write them down and form habits around them. Reward yourself for victories. I’ll write more about that in Habits Part 2, coming soon.
I’d love to hear your tactics as well.
Be awesome (and FIGHT)!