You feel yourself start to fall; you try to catch your footing but you just can’t…
Words to think on
You feel yourself start to fall; you try to catch your footing but you just can’t…
There was a skit I saw years back; it revolved around a K-Tel style album ad (think Now That’s What I Call Music if you’re slightly younger). The tracks were the opening riffs of various rock songs, played by a guy who had only learned the first parts of songs; the album was called something like “Kyle’s Beginnings” (I may have the guy’s name wrong – it was a long time ago!).
That is kind of a thing with new guitarists – they tend to learn the cool opening riff and lose interest as the song gets deeper in. Most songs, when you break them down, have one or two musical passages that create the instrumental theme and then repeat it, maybe with some slight variation. For the guitarist who just wants to play cool tunes, it gets boring to play the in-between parts, and a lot of them move on to the next cool riff. Then they end up like Kyle – they can play a bunch of beginnings but no complete songs.
Alright, I bet I know where he’s going with this one…
Yeah, you probably do, but let’s find out, okay?
How many people do you know who (or how many times have you…) started a diet, a workout plan, something like that, and then it just petered out. Yeah, it’s a lot like Kyle and his beginnings. They jump into something shiny and new and they are gonna make it happen. This time for sure!
Only it doesn’t work out. Why is that? There’s more than one answer, of course. Sometimes it’s that they lose their mojo and move on to the next cool riff, the next fad diet or exercise. That’s the thing about fads – if you build your plan on a shaky base, it’s not going to hold up.
Sometimes they didn’t have a full plan to start with. Much like the underpants gnomes (all rights owned by Southpark, Matt Stone, and Trey Parker – not me! Oh, and totally different Kyle by the way!), they had a beginning, and they knew their end goal.
But the plan to get from Phase 1 to Phase 3, the steps to take in the middle to get there? No idea! So the plan struggles and founders and falls apart.
So look, let me be clear: I’m being a little silly with these images, yes, but it’s not to make fun of anyone. I’ve done the same things myself. It takes a lot to hold it together and make it to your goal – only to find out that the plan can’t end there.
In the end, that’s really why these fads and master plans and “one crazy thing that will change your life” don’t work. There IS no end to the journey. You have to keep plugging away and change your life, change your lifestyle – and change them for good – to see real and lasting differences in your fitness and wellness.
A lot of times life happens along the way and messes with your plans, too.
This shit is hard sometimes.
There’s a quote I’ve seen attributed to Mozart, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copeland – hell, just about every composer at some point:
The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.– Who said it? Who knows.
Kyle just wanted to play cool songs. The truth of it is, the artist makes the song special. I love live music, and I love a good cover song; my favorite part of both is when the artist takes something you know inside and out, and makes it into something completely new. Transform a song, change the rhythm, change the style, and you can turn a happy melody into a dirge, or a sad song into one of hope.
Here’s the catch: Kyle was learning to play those beginnings note for note, but not exploring his own music and finding his own way to interpret it. Check it, Kyle, I can play the Smoke on the Water riff too. But what if I take the notes and the silence and create something that’s just me? I can open up a whole new world, a whole new idea. After all, it’s the in-between parts that make it your own.
Make your life sing. Put a message out there to others and let them sing their song back to you.
Yes, it’s scary.
Yes, it’s hard.
But it is so worth it!
I had this post half written in my head. I knew what I wanted to say, where I wanted to go with it… then I got busy with life stuff and didn’t get it down on paper. Along the way, this image popped up in a memory. I posted it a year ago, and reposted it. People laughed as intended, but the more I looked at it, the more it struck me.
Who of us hasn’t fixated on the issue and lost the thread, the ability to find the answer? Look, our minds are annoying things sometimes. We lock in on the problem, on the negative, and ignore the positives. I’ve talked about this before, of course, and will again. It’s something we all deal with. It’s never going to go completely away – we just have to learn to put it in its place.
We put ourselves in a box and struggle to get out of it. The language we use when we speak to ourselves is a key part of the issue. The more I looked at this picture, the more I thought about “can’t”.
I could never count of the number of times I’ve said “I can’t” in the last couple years, much less ever. I hear it all the time, too. So let’s start with some of my all time hits:
I can’t work out, I’m too busy.
I can’t run.
I can’t do that right now, I need to rest for a few minutes. (This was a common refrain after mowing the lawn – with a self-propelled mower I might add – and The Boy wanted to do, well, anything.)
The list goes on, of course. Maybe you see some of your faves in there. Look, let’s be real – a lot of the time when we knee jerk with “I can’t,” what we are really saying is “I don’t want to” or “I’m not willing to.” Of course, we will never admit that to ourselves or others, so it’s easier to say “I can’t.”
I was at a run club last week; one of the guys was talking about his legs being tight and sore. Apparently a couple of weeks earlier he was advised to do stretching and foam rolling; his answer was, “I don’t want to do the work though.” While I’ll give him props for his honesty, the leg stretch fairy isn’t going to take care of it for you… So you can do the work or deal with the soreness.
So many times I hear things like “I can’t run” – when what they really mean is “I can’t run like that person” or “I can’t run as fast as I want to” – and that’s where our brains really get in the way. We put unfair standards on ourselves and see someone running six minute miles (looking at you guys, Joe and Aaron), so if we don’t do that, we’re failing. Then, once we’ve “tried” and failed (to meet unreasonable standards), we can let ourselves off the hook.
Usain Bolt (you may have heard of him) said “I trained 4 years to run 9 seconds. Some people don’t see results in 2 months and give up.” I love this quote; believe me I fully understand that he’s a gifted athlete and I could train for 40 years and not run like he does. The point is, though, that this doesn’t happen overnight. We talk about goals and intermediate steps a lot; little wins along the way keep you motivated.
The next time you start to say, “I can’t” – just pause for a second and think about the standard you are trying to reach. “I can’t run like Eliud Kipchoge” is not the same as “I can’t run.” If you run for 30 seconds today, you are a runner. You can run. Now try for 45 seconds tomorrow. Build your stamina and your pace. You can run – so get that out of your head!
I need room to breathe, I work for the goals that I set
Wasted time weighs on my mind
You can bet
I can’t wait one minute more– CIV, Can’t Wait One Minute More
The other “can’t” I want to touch on is the procrastination one. Yes, you have a ton going on. You can’t do it right now. But you can! You find time to read some lousy blog post (easy now…) for five minutes, or check in on Julietta Whoeverthefuck’s Facebook posts, or do whatever you do. You can make it happen if it matters to you. Stop making excuses, stop wasting precious minutes, and make it happen – or stop complaining about it!
Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story, to paraphrase John Barth. In reality, though, there is a thin line. A lot of us tend to play the victim, the tragic figure, with the odds stacked against us. Sure, it makes extra drama in the movies – but when you assume that role in your head, you can start to believe it. That’s where “I can’t” comes from – if truly the whole world is against you, then yes, it will be nearly impossible.
Take a moment, though, look around, and realize that you are not so alone. Who is your core, your tribe, your “ride or die”? If you don’t acknowledge their help and support, if you insist you are all alone, you are dissing them whether you mean to or not.
I love goal setting, so here’s my goal for you. Go one week without saying “I can’t” in any context. Just remove it from your vocabulary for one week. See how it feels. Trust yourself and your people. Now go out and live it! I
can’t can hardly wait to hear how it goes!
One of my good friends and fellow nuts was talking the other day about her personal trifecta of goals/achievements for the year. She’s flat out amazing, I must say, and has pushed herself to the highest levels. I get the honor of sharing the third part of that list with her in a few weeks.
All of this got me thinking about numbers. I’ve talked about numbers before, of course. If you know me, you know I am all about music. It’s 50/50 that I’m connecting what you just said to an obscure song lyric while we talk, for the record. And, not surprisingly as a music person, I have an affinity for numbers. After all, music is math out loud. I’m a #mathnerd, yes, and I enjoy stats and Excel files. It is who I am. If you know me you may know that about me as well.
When I see the meme on the web, “Add 28 + 47 – what’s the answer and how did your brain get there?” Well, for me, the answer is clearly 75 and I got there because… it just is. Can I do the “20 + 40 + 7 + 8” breakout or whatever? Sure I can. But the first time I saw those numbers it was just 75. These are things I can just do. On the flip side, I can follow all the steps for a plumbing project and it will still leak. Stupid plumbing…
Here’s something you may NOT know, though: I do this thing. Numbers “in the wild” as it were are there to be computed. If I see a string of numbers, I add it. When I see a license plate I convert the letters to numbers (A=1, E=5, J=10, etc.) and add the total up. I just do it, have for decades. If the total comes to, say, 42 on a particular plate, that’s somehow good in my head because it’s divisible by 3. Even better is if it’s divisible by 9. It just is.
Three runs throughout our culture and history. Good/bad things are said to happen in 3s. Christianity has the Trinity. The ancient Greeks thought 3 was the perfect number, symbolic of harmony, wisdom, and understanding. And, of course, there’s Schoolhouse Rock. If you’re in my age range, you likely remember this. “I’m Just A Bill,” “Conjunction Junction,” and this little ditty:
This is the original, not the Blind Melon cover. Yes, that’s a thing.
If I’m honest, I’m not big on numerology or anything like that. However, if I’m honest, I’ve become more aware and accepting of things I don’t really understand over the last few years. Just because it doesn’t sync with me right now doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or isn’t true. Maybe I just haven’t found my way to it yet.
3 though (and 9 too), there’s something about it that clicks for me. I have completed two Spartan trifectas. In October I will run my 3rd half marathon with my sister and help her achieve her goal. Is 3 really a magic number? I can’t say for sure, but it feels pretty special to me.
Last year the world stopped and I didn’t hit my Spartan trifecta… but this year we will get back on track. My friend will complete her personal trifecta in grand style, I believe that. I will be there with her and crush a few goals of my own. There may even be a few 3s along the way. Let’s get to it!
At the beginning of June, I ran a brand new obstacle course race. The Battle of the Lions series has 4 scheduled events: Dallas was the Grip course, with a variety of obstacles to test your grip – hangs, climbs, etc; in August, Oklahoma City will be Endurance; then October has Little Rock, listed as “Standard” – which based on these course designers and their unique ideas and obstacles, is going to be far from standard for most humans.
Olathe/Kansas City, though, was the Strength course. To give an idea, we left the start line with 50 pounds of gravel in a bucket, down the hill and back up again for a quarter mile before setting the bucket down and going to the next obstacle. Solid opener!
It was warm and humid (hello, Kansas!) and I was trying to hustle through as The Boy was about to play a ballgame on the north side of town, 45 minutes away. I did my best, and was proud of the outcome. It was a real test of strength, and I think I held up well.
For me, most of the obstacles (most of them, I said) weren’t individually too tough. But they added up as we went along; sure I can carry this concrete weight or drag that sandbag, but as the muscles wear down and the race goes on, they each felt a little heavier than they really were. When it goes that way, you need to find strength and push on the best you can.
Life is like that too. Sometimes, it’s the small thing that seems to send you over the edge. In reality, of course, it’s all the other things that have piled up along the way – but the final trigger can be something that seems relatively insignificant by comparison.
Your true supporters will understand and not just think you are overreacting; they are the ones who will help provide you that strength. Stick with them and let the other folks go on their way.
Comic is property of www.theawkwardyeti.com and well worth the time suck to check it out!
At the end of the race, after 3+ miles of building muscle fatigue, we finished with a tough rig going over and under bars, hanging off T-hooks, moving through the path. I knew what I needed to do, but 2/3 of the way across my arms were just… done. So I ended up on the ground; the volunteer asked “you okay, sir?”. Yes, I said, standing up and dusting off, just annoyed. “I understand!”
So I jogged to the end, this hexagonal monstrosity that we had to “roll” back and forth using an iron bar through the spokes. Not entirely sure what it weighed, but it wasn’t light. Finished that and the race was done. Was I well-tested? Hell yes I was. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Wherever you find your strength, there are going to be days that are tougher. It adds up and piles on – so you have to know when to put down that weight. You do what you can as long as you can, catch your breath, then you find the next challenge and face it head on. What other option is there, after all??
Just remember this – strength takes a lot of forms. Arnold Schwarzenegger with muscles popping is only one way. That person next to you in the store, pushing their cart along, dragging the invisible crap of their daily life – they may be the strongest person you ever meet, but you’d never know it. Give them a smile and let them know you admire their toughness. Draw a little of your own strength from the smile they give back, and move on to the next thing.
Sunday is my long run day (like a lot of you). Last week it rained a little on my run… OK maybe more than a little.
Today, though, no rain. Still I woke up tired, it was humid, sore blah blah blah – I just didn’t wanna. Doesn’t matter, the work needs to get done so I dragged my butt out there for 8 miles. I stayed away from the above trail figuring it wasn’t dried out yet (it kept raining all week) and crafted my route. Yes, I got my miles in. It wasn’t a PR, I did walk a couple times, it wasn’t my best work, but I got it done, dammit.
For the record, I’m well aware that listening to someone break down their run is just about the worst. Sorry. Bear with me!
I came out of the gate strong; mile 2 was fairly downhill… then the fade started. The worst was mile 7, where I was going back uphill on the mile 2 territory. I was over a minute slower than mile 6. Mind you, for a long run for me the overall pace was solid and I was happy with what I did. I toughed out mile 8, matching my mile 6 pace for that finisher – that’s good, right?
Well, yeah, but here I am the rest of the day and all I keep thinking about is mile 7… and being annoyed with myself for doing that. Why would I pick out the one bad mile and ignore seven better? What’s up with that thinking?
Have you ever had a week of… anything – diet, exercise, work, laundry, whatever the case may be – where you crushed 6 days. The other day, it just didn’t get done – or it barely got done, just enough to get by. At the end of the week, did you remember the 6 great days? Or were you hung up on the one bad one? Yeah, I get it.
As frustrating as it is, it’s the simple reality that we focus more on our negatives than our positives. I’ve written about this before – science says you should tell yourself 5 positives for every 1 negative. I’m sure we all do that, right? In a world that loves to knock us down, why would we go out of our way to do the same to ourselves or the ones we love?
Clearly I’m not excluding myself; I do it too. I can make arguments about “trying to get better” and “focusing on the areas I need to improve”, and yes there is something to that. For about ten minutes. You think about the good and bad, you determine what you want to focus on next time, make notes if that’s part of your routine, and you move on. At this writing, I finished that run 7 hours ago – still annoyed about mile 7. Dude, let it go.
Change is scary. That’s the simple truth. The longer you’ve been doing the same thing, the harder it is to make a move. Ask yourself this, though – is it working for you? If the answer is yes, then you’re good. If not, well, I’ve got news for you: if nothing changes, then nothing is going to change.
Read that again: if nothing changes, then nothing is going to change.
If you need to make a move for you, for your health (mental, physical, emotional), then nothing is going to happen until you make it happen. If you beat yourself up over the one bad instead of focusing on all the good, you need to find a way to change that. Assign yourself a task to look in the mirror and tell yourself you are awesome every day, multiple times. Spend 5 minutes celebrating the targets you hit each day. PR your bench press, you earned a happy dance. Hit your step goal, high five someone. Who cares if they think you are weird – you set a goal and hit it.
We spend too much time on the bad and don’t celebrate the good often enough. So cut yourself a break and enjoy every mile – especially the good ones!
I wrote this on my birthday. Then all hell broke loose with my hosting provider. Again. I’m not naming names here, but I would NOT recommend using these people.
I’m supposed to be feeling maudlin, go into a big retrospective, or just panic. After all, this is a scary one, right? You see, I turned the big 5-0.
Here’s the thing, though – I’m really not bothered. I know, I know, he doth protest too much. I’m just covering that it IS a big deal, right? Otherwise I wouldn’t bring it up! Nah, I’m good.
I’ve been told when you’re an adult, birthdays are just another day. I don’t buy that; life gives us reasons to celebrate, we should take advantage! I celebrated by running 8 miles for mine. Next weekend I’m doing a double Savage Race, and there’s more planned for the rest of the year. I’m having a pretty good year, stronger and more fit than I’ve ever been.
Goals are a popular topic around these parts, as well as “progress not perfection.” You can’t get where you want to go unless you know where you came from. One reason to celebrate is when we look back on our journey and see the things we’ve accomplished. So no, I’m not opposed to a good retrospective.
Satchel Paige was… well, if you don’t know who Satchel was, stop reading this right now and go find out about him. The man is a legend. Did he really do the things he is credited with (often he credited himself), or have the stories grown over the years? Who the hell cares? It’s a series of entertaining stories. If the man pitched in the World Series at (at least) age 42 and threw three scoreless innings in the majors when he was (at least) 59 – he was plenty good.
Satchel is credited with saying a lot of things. This, though, is his most famous quote. My interpretation? Eyes forward, all the time. If you spend your time worrying about the past you can’t change, you aren’t focusing on what you can change.
Yes, I turned 50. No, I’m not worried. In fact, to quote my friend and business partner, I’m pretty sure the best is yet to come!
It’s a classic childhood road trip story; each summer we would load up and drive to northern Minnesota for a week at the lake. It was a ten-hour drive, give or take, but as a kid it felt like forever. The first year was, frankly, awful. We were in the Caprice Classic, and my older sister and I made each other (and our parents) miserable the entire trip. Every year after, we borrowed the grandparents’ Winnebago, which provided some separation space and prevented wholesale bloodshed. We still managed to get all over each other’s nerves and the journey would drag on and on.
Knowing we had a destination helped; we could spot the landmarks and know we were getting closer. Towns like Cloquet (we always loved that name), Virginia, then finally Tower would tick past us, and the end was in sight. Our goal was reached!
When I was a kid, there was a finality about things in life. I was going to do this, I was going to be that. Some people see landmarks and destinations as the reason for it all; they want the fancy car, the expensive house, things to show they are successful. If those things honestly makes you happy, okay, but if it’s just to show off and have others see how “happy” you are, you are masking your truth.
Before I finally committed to getting healthy, I tended to think of fitness as a landmark. “If I can just lose 50 pounds, I will be able to do <insert activity or event>.” Actually, if I’m honest, that continued during the journey, and sometimes still. That’s not entirely unexpected; a big part of this has been setting goals and reaching them. Those goals were landmarks along the way, to be sure, but not the end game. This was never “one and done,” to hit some target and then go back to the way it was before.
No, this is about long term change and being my best me. I definitely envision some things about life three years, five years, ten years down the line, but less specific. More than anything, it’s about the way I feel. We had our monthly meeting with Mary Lee, our scholarship recipient, and she was talking about how many miles she ran this month, etc.
Numbers like that matter; benchmarks and measurables show progress in an objective way. She was disappointed in some of the numbers. That can happen – but how do you feel? Do you feel healthier, stronger, more confident? If so, then it’s working like it should. You can change your shape and clothes size without changing the scale. You can love yourself and who you are today without running a PR mile. The subjective matters – in some ways it’s even more important.
Hunter S. Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Now, I don’t recommend all of his techniques – but the point stands. Make it a journey worth taking, a life worth looking back on with no regrets. A life that saw you make the best of even your worst mistakes.
Your destination may not be, say, a 110-foot long hockey stick, but it still matters. How you get there, who you travel with, and how you feel when you arrive make it worth the journey. Don’t ignore the details – but don’t miss the ride, either!
World’s Largest Freestanding Hockey Stick, Eveleth, MN https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/8743
If you are truly ALL IN on your goals, your commitment shows. Find what drives you, what helps you commit fully, and go after it with everything you have.
OK, I’m just going to say it – I think in some ways, the pandemic has been good for me. That’s right, I said it. You’re thinking, “What the hell is this guy talking about?!” Hang with me for a couple minutes.
For a while now, I’ve been doing certain things because I felt I was supposed to, or because I thought others expected me to. Today is Selection Sunday, and the NCAA tournament is back. There was a 30 year stretch where I hosted a bracket pool every year; at one point we had around 150 entries – and this was pre-internet.
In the beginning, I did the scoring manually because, well, there was no other alternative. Over time, I tried to go digital, but I wouldn’t give up my special rules. Finally, I found a software that let me do it. The problem was, it had a crappy interface that was confusing. People started falling off, because there were easier pools to play.
Then came last year; the tournament was cancelled and I didn’t run a pool for the first time since the late 80s. You know what? I kind of liked it! I realized the fun hobby had become like a job, which I made worse because, well, I’m stubborn AF. This year I made the easy call to not run a pool. It’s honestly kind of freeing. I can just watch basketball if I want (and have time) and not worry about anything else.
I dropped another hobby for the same reason; it was no longer fun. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really enjoy it any more either. With The Boy hitting high school, work, and the Foundation… I don’t want to commit my limited extra time to something if it isn’t fun and fulfilling.
How many times a week do you hear someone talk about the box – thinking outside the box, getting outside the box, etc. It’s used freely, but what does it really mean? The box is limiting, right? The box is keeping you from exploring your best you and thinking about the bigger picture. Is it really, though? Or are you dealing with the wrong box? If this proverbial box is so limiting and small, ask yourself this: who built it?
Being trapped by other people’s expectations, or your perception of their expectations, sucks. It limits your growth, prevents your progress. But a box is not inherently a bad thing. Cats, for example, love boxes of all types. There’s a comfort level being in a safe space. Humans aren’t so different.
Adults aren’t any different. A little fear isn’t a horrible thing when it challenges you – but having no net can be terrifying and keep you from fully committing to your goals. What’s so awful about having some parts of your life in the right place? You didn’t get here overnight, so you don’t have to change it all over night. One step at a time!
Now, this may sound out of place from the guy who talks about challenging yourself, pushing yourself, taking risks, setting big hairy ass goals. Suddenly I’m all in favor of playing it safe? No, that’s not what I’m saying. You still need to challenge yourself, but there is a way to do that by eliminating other variables – you can be in a box but not have the lid closed, after all.
When you or someone else is setting limits that are holding you back, preventing you from growing, you absolutely should push yourself forward and break out of that box. On the other hand, if you are dealing with your issues and giving yourself a chance to grow while defending you and yours against other issues – that’s a whole different game. In that case, you are putting yourself in the best place to grow safely. And that, my friends, is the best way to use the box.